Theatre Arts 275: Advanced Topics in Theatre
Professor Mazer
Fall 1998

Bennett Hall 305, x7382; cmazer@english.upenn. edu
Office Hours: Tu 11:00-Noon, 1:30-3:00; Th 1:30-3:00, and by appointment

This course is not organized on a tight schedule of weekly readings and occasional writing assignments. Rather, there will be regular in-class discussions of ongoing topics through the semester, with some of them cued to specific readings; and there will be regular assignments of succinct oral presentations (since much of the dramaturg's work in the theatre involves making succinct and persuasive oral presentations). One of the presentations (weekly) will be individual; the other two assignments (alternating weeks) will be team presentations (since virtually all of the dramaturg's work in the theatre involves collaboration as a team member). At the end of the semester, there will be a team writing assignment.

I. Discussion Topics and Readings.

Topics include: What is a dramaturg? What is the dramaturg's function? What is the dramaturg's function in relation to certain institutional structures, special tasks, ways of organizing rehearsals, etc.

Readings will be drawn, for the most part, from Dramaturgy in American Theater: A Source Book, ed. Susan Jonas, Geoffrey S. Proehl, and Michael Lupu. Essays to be read include:

Another topic for discussion will be the Lynn Thomson/Rent legal action. Documents relating to this case are available on line at:

II. oral presentation A): the Grab Bag (weekly, individual).

Each Tuesday, each student will draw a dramaturgical question at random from a hat. The following Tuesday, each student will make a brief presentation of the answer to the question, and will photocopy and distribute to the rest of the class the bibliographical (or electronic, or personal) sources of the answer.

III. Oral presentation B): Dramaturging the Season (biweekly, team).

The class will be divided into THREE dramaturgical teams. We will imagine that we are collectively serving as "production dramaturgs" for an ongoing hypothetical theatre season of three plays. For the first play, each team will be assigned two dramaturgical tasks, each of which will be reported on, orally, every second week; different tasks will be assigned TO each team for each of the other two plays (so that, by the end of the semester, each team will have worked on all six different tasks). The plays in our hypothetical season are:

Dramaturgical assignments include:

IV. Oral presentation C): Planning Next Season (biweekly, team).

Throughout the semester while we are collectively dramaturging our hypothetical three-play season, we will also be planning the repertoire of plays for a hypothetical five-play season for next year. In the first few weeks of the semester, we will establish the hypothetical criteria for the season (venue, budget, audience, artistic mission, etc.), and develop a list of about 100 plays that we wish to consider for this season. Every second week (alternating with the team production-dramaturgy reports), each team will make a brief presentation in which each member of each team (i.e. every student in the class) will be responsible for one play from the list, describing the play (its plot, theme and significance; its physical, budgetary, and personnel demands; etc.) and making a recommendation about its inclusion in the next season. At the end of the semester, we will collectively select the five plays for the hypothetical season, based on the individual and team recommendations.

V. The final writing assignment (team).

At the end of the semester (at a date to be announced) each team will present a set of written materials on a single play, including a) a program note about the playwright; b) a program note about the play and the (hypothetical) production; c) a packet of materials for a program insert or a subscriber bulletin; d) a packet of materials to be sent to the press; and e) a packet of materials to be sent to school groups.

Attendance and participation are mandatory. Persistent unexcused absences, especially an absence on a day of an individual or team presentation, will be reflected in your semester grade.

The books for the course (Dramaturgy in American Theater: A Source Book, The Cherry Orchard [in the van Itallie translation], The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Skin of our Teeth), are available for purchase in the Penn Book Center (either at their 3700 block of Walnut St. location, or their new 34th St. location, to be announced). There is no bulkpack for this course.

The listserv for this course is mazer275@english.upenn.e du. You have been subscribed automatically. If you do not seem to be on it, or if you drop the course and wish to be unsubscribed, please send a note to cmazer@english. You may wish to create aliases or listservs for your individual teams.