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EL 316 | American Drama Since 1900

(Spring 2017)

Live Theatre Near Whitworth

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American Drama Since 1900 examines a variety of plays written and produced since 1900, with particular attention to how direction, staging, and performance factors should affect our readings of dramatic texts. It’s been a rich century-plus in American drama, so the course can’t claim to be a comprehensive survey, but we will consider, as we go, how trends in American drama coincide with trends in American fiction. The course will challenge you to think not only about what might conceivably (and appropriately) be done with a play but also about what choices are most justifiable based on a close reading of the text itself. It will also ask you to consider how the reading and analysis of dramatic literature differs from the reading and analysis of other kinds of texts. What are the special affordances and demands of dramatic texts as a form? How is reading a play unlike reading fiction or poetry? How is it is it very much like reading fiction and poetry?

Writing/Composing Assignments to Anticipate



---- The Schedule ----

Week 1 (Feb. 3)

- General Note: Remember that you need to either PRINT online texts or have some way (Kindle? iPad? Laptop?) to view your electronic copy in class.

Some Theater History

The Provincetown Playhouse/Players
  • Day 1: No Class Yet
  • Day 2: Sill no class. Ugh. Boring.
  • Day 3: Course introduction. Talk about assignments, research philosophy, and drama as a literary form. Talk about reading plays and how that's different from reading most other sorts of things assigned in English courses. Talk about picking research subjects.
  • **Note that Monday's readings and next Wednesday's are a little lighter, giving you time to get ahead on your reading of The Adding Machine for next Friday.**

Week 2 (Feb. 6, 8, and 10)

- Due Monday: Self intro on course wiki (link above) before class.
- Due Friday: Sign up for research subject/playwright (on wiki) before Friday's class. (Sign up on the wiki no earlier than Thursday at 7:00 AM.)

- We'll be taking about research and writing tactics a little bit every day this week.

**Remember / Please Note**

(1) Your research subject also = your "Curated Collection" subject, and your curated collection is due on the day we begin discussing your subject playwright.
(2) Try out Evernote, Diigo, and Zotero. Learn about screenshots. These may be terrific assets as you tackle your research and writing this semester.
Eugene O'Neill's short play The Hairy Ape (1922) makes an interesting read next to Lefty, and Sophie Treadwell's Machinal (1928) would pair well with The Adding Machine. Speaking of adding machines, check this out.
  • Day 1: Trifles (Susan Glaspell, 1916) + Watt and Richardson on Am Drama, 1900-1950 (@Bb) + Read this from About.com (I know!) and this (cheesy PDF) from the "Burr and Burton" academy: Make sure you understand stage directions and positions.
  • Day 2: Waiting for Lefty (Clifford Odets, 1935) + Skim "Enter Up Center, Smiling Helpfully..." (Catron, 1999) + First Page of Streetcar (@Bb).
  • Day 3: The Adding Machine (Elmer Rice, 1923)

Week 3 (Sept. 13, 15, and 17)

- Due Friday at 5:00: Proof/Justification of ILL Requests (Inquiry Project)
- Due Friday at 5:00: Critical Response #1 (Any Play Up To/Including Salesman)

  • Day 1: You Can't Take It With You (Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman, 1936)
  • Day 2: Death of a Salesman, Act 1 (Arthur Miller, 1949)
  • Day 3: Death of a Salesman, Act 2

Week 4 (Feb. 20 and 22; No Friday Class)

- Don't Just Sit There: Keep Working on Your Inquiry Research (Inquiry Project)

  • Day 1: Long Day's Journey Into Night, Acts 1-2 (Eugene O'Neill, 1941/42)
  • <<Reading O'Neil is more like reading a novel than any playwright we've read so far. Plan/schedule accordingly.>>
  • Day 2: Long Day's Journey Into Night, Acts 3-4
  • Day 3: No Class (Faculty Development Day)

Week 5 (Feb. 27, Mar. 1 and 3)

- Don't Just Sit There: Keep Working on Your Inquiry Research (Inquiry Project)

- Due Friday at 5:00: Substantial Research Update Using Screenr (Inquiry Project)

  • Day 1: A Streetcar Named Desire, Scenes 1-6 (Tennessee Williams, 1947)
  • Day 2: A Streetcar Named Desire, Scenes 7 - 11)
  • Day 3: Readings on the Absurd: "Which Theatre is the Absurd One?" (Edward Albee, 1962) + "The Theatre of the Absurd" (Martin Eslin, 1960) (Both in Bb)

Week 6 (Mar. 6, 8, and 10)

- Due Friday NEXT MONDAY at 5:00: Critical Response 2 (Any Play Up To/Including Funnyhouse and Owl)

  • This Weekend
    Friday (10 am + 6 pm)
    Saturday (2 pm and 6 pm)
    Sunday (2 pm)

    Whitworth Theatre Presents Go, Dog, Go! Downtown at the Bing.
  • Day 1: The Zoo Story (1959) and The American Dream (1961) (Edward Albee)
  • Day 2: A Movie Star Has to Star in Black and White (1976) (Adrienne Kennedy)
  • Day 3: Funnyhouse of a Negro (1964) and The Owl Answers (1965) (Adrienne Kennedy)
  • <<You're required to see Go, Dog, Go! this weekend.>>

Week 7 (Mar. 13, 15, and 17)

- Midterm Exam is Friday!

- Due Friday at 5:00, Extensions Negotiable with Good Reasons: Inquiry Project

  • Day 1: Exam Prep / Go, Dog, Go! discussion (Book: Allison Gregory and Steve Dietz. Music: Michael Koerner)
  • Day 2: Exam Prep / Inquiry Project In-Class Work Day
  • Day 3: Midterm Exam

Week 8 (Mar. 20, 22, and 24)

  • Day 1: The Tooth of Crime (Sam Shepard, 1972) 
  • Day 2: True West (Sam Shepard, 1980)
  • Day 3: Watch: Sinise/Malkovich True West (Dir. Allan A. Goldstein, 1984)
  • <<Don't lose the thread over break! We've got The Odd Couple (which is funny travel reading!) due next Wednesday, and two important writing deadlines Friday after break.>>
  • <<But don't come to school next week! It's vacation time!>>

Week 9 (Apr. 3, 5, and 7)

- Due Friday at 5:00: Scene Analysis

- Due Friday at 5:00: Initial Claim/Project Idea (Critical Analysis)

  • Day 1: Writing Prep Day (In Class)
  • Day 2: The Odd Couple (Neil Simon, 1965)
  • Day 3: F.O.B. (David Henry Hwang, 1980)

Week 10 (April 10 and 12 + Easter Break)

- Get Cracking on your Middle Paragraphs...

  • Day 1: Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Act 1 (August Wilson, 1982)
  • Day 2: Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Act 2
  • Day 3: No Class (Easter Break)
  • <<Look out for the Middle Paragraph assignment!>>

Week 11 (Easter Break + April 19 and 21)

- Due Wednesday in Class: Middle Paragraphs (Critical Analysis)

- Due Friday at Midnight: Mid Paragraph Critiques (Critical Analysis)

  • Day 1: No Class (Easter Break)
  • Day 2: Zoot Suit  (Read it All) (Luis Valdez, 1981)
  • Day 3: Zoot Suit: Scenes from the Film...

Week 12 (Apr. 24, 26, and 28)

- Any Revised Critical Responses Due by Friday at 5:00

  • Day 1: The Sisters Rosensweig, Act I (Wendy Wasserstein, 1992)
  • Day 2: The Sisters Rosensweig, Act 2
  • Day 1: Parks: Essays + Pickling (@Bb)

Week 13 (May 1, 3, and 5)

- Due Friday @5:00: Critical Analysis <<NAH! Let's take until next Wednesday on this.

  • Day 1: Topdog/Underdog, Scenes 1-4 (Suzan-Lori Parks, 2001)
  • Day 2: Topdog/Underdog, to end
  • Day 3: Anna Deavere Smith, Excerpts:
    (1) "War Zone" section of Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 (1994) (@Bb)
    (2) Anna Deavere Smith Video from TED: "Writer and actor Anna Deavere Smith gives life to author Studs Terkel, convict Paulette Jenkins, a Korean shopkeeper and a bull rider, excerpts from her solo show On the Road: A Search for American Character."

Week 14 (May 8, 10, and 12) (The Blockbuster Week of Very Recent Plays)

- Critical Analysis Due Date Moved to WEDS of this week. Submit at Bb.

- Due Friday at 5:00: Reflective Reading Response, Including Commentary on at Least One Play Assigned Since the Midterm.

  • Day 1: 4.000 Miles (Amy Herzog, 2011)
  • Day 2: Eurydice (Sarah Ruhl, 2003) 
  • Day 3: Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo (Rajiv Joseph, 2009) Also: Revised Critical Responses Due, if you choose to do them.

Week 15 (May 15 + Exam)

  • Day 1: Brilliantly well-informed class discussion of what it takes to be a super-sharp reader of plays. Homework: Bring a well-considered list of five principles that are useful/important for readers of drama. High scores will go to lists that show real thought and clarity, but don't go crazy writing long paragraphs for each point. I'm looking for five well selected and well formed principles, each expressed in 1-3 good sentences. 20 quiz points.
  • EXAM 2: Thurs., May 18,  3:30-5:30 PM



----Some Author Links----

(Alphabetical Order)

Edward Albee (b. 1928)

The Zoo Story

More Links

Susan Glaspell

Trifles

Adrienne Kennedy (b. 1931)

A Movie Star Has to Star in Black and White

Funnyhouse of a Negro

More Links

David Mamet

Links

Clifford Odets

Waiting for Lefty

Eugene O'Neill

The Hairy Ape

More Links

Sarah Ruhl (b. 1974)

Eurydice (Premiere: 2003)

More Links

Sam Shepard (b. 1943)

The Tooth of Crime (Premiere: 1972)

True West (Premiere: 1980)

A Lie of the Mind (Premiere: 1985)

More Links

Tennessee Williams (1911-1983)

A Streetcar Named Desire

Night of the Iguana

More Links

August Wilson (1945-2005)

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (Premiere: 1984)






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A Few Other Plays Considered for this Course (or Previously Taught)


Links for Future Consideration



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