(Re)Telling the Tale: Dramatizing Myth & Fable – IA 138
(Offered at Amherst College in the fall of 2016), this introductory course explores principles of playwriting by reimagining familiar fairytales, classic myths and personal narrative. Primary considerations are creating clear narrative arcs, rewriting traditional archetypes, developing dynamic characters, and cultivating a vocabulary for the critical analysis of dramatic literature. Assignments will include writing at least three original ten minute plays centering on the adaption of a classic parable, and one inspired by bio-mythography. Research and revision are vital aspects of the curriculum.
Opening the Instrument: An Introduction to Action – IA 243
This introductory course examines and applies principles of acting to contemporary monologues and scenes. Techniques include invoking imagination, relaxation and focus, sense memory, physical awareness, vocal expression, improvisation and critical analysis. As well as practical applications of the principles, they will be examined in at least four substantial written assignments. Due to the highly collaborative and experiential nature of this studio course, attendance and punctuality are essential: two absences, but no late arrivals will be permitted. This course satisfies ADM of Division I distribution requirements. Required text: An Actor Prepares by Konstantin Stanislavski. Recommended: A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman.
Real Characters, Imagined Events – IA 274
The primary focus of this intermediate playwriting course is drawing inspiration from historical figures for the construction of original one-act plays. In addition to developing and deepening our craft as playwrights – clarifying dramatic action, and creating more dynamic characters – we will deconstruct the work of several contemporary theatre makers including Lin Manuel Miranda, Katori Hall, Moises Kaufman, Charise Castro Smith and Doug Wright, all of whom are writing, staging and performing original dramas that are at once comedic, musical and absurd. A large part of our process will involve integrating critical theory and creative practice, and developing a vocabulary for the analysis of contemporary drama. Students working on plays already in process, as well as those starting new dramas, are invited to enroll in this workshop class. No prerequisites are required, but as the curriculum is driven by independent work and moves fairly quickly, some playwriting experience is useful.
Devising Through the Jazz Aesthetic – IA 245
This course explores the creation of interdisciplinary theatre through the lens of the jazz aesthetic. We will combine music, movement and non-linear narrative to create short dramatic pieces, and deconstruct the works of such theatre artists as Laurie Carlos, Sharon Bridgforth and Daniel Alexander Jones. The course seeks to develop a language for collaboration and experimentation between actors, dancers and musicians, and mine new directorial tools that mirror the characteristics of classic American jazz – particularly rhythm, syncopation, call-and-response, polyphony and improvisation. Prerequisite: Completion of at least one college level course in acting, directing, design, playwriting, devised theatre, dance or music is required to register for this course.
Making a Scene: Intermediate Acting – IA 268
This studio course applies introductory principles of acting to contemporary American scenes. Primary concerns are identifying and playing clear objectives, developing character through behavior, and cultivating a language for the critical analysis of contemporary drama. Assignments include workshopping and performing three contemporary American scenes, presenting two life studies, completing three written character analyses, and writing one theatre review. Due the highly collaborative and experiential nature of this studio course, attendance and punctuality are essential to successful participation in this class.
Professor Branner will be on sabbatical leave during the Spring and Fall of 2017.