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Program in Theater


Timothy K. Vasen

Executive Committee

Michael W. Cadden, Lewis Center for the Arts

Jill S. Dolan, English, Lewis Center for the Arts

Jeffrey K. Eugenides, Lewis Center for the Arts, Creative Writing

Su Friedrich, Lewis Center for the Arts, Visual Arts

Judith Hamera, Lewis Center for the Arts, Dance

Brian E. Herrera, Lewis Center for the Arts

Jhumpa Lahiri, Lewis Center for the Arts, Creative Writing

Chang-rae Lee, Lewis Center for the Arts, Creative Writing

Susan Marshall, Lewis Center for the Arts, Dance

Paul B. Muldoon, Lewis Center for the Arts, Creative Writing

James Richardson, Lewis Center for the Arts, Creative Writing

Joseph S. Scanlan, Lewis Center for the Arts, Visual Arts

P. Adams Sitney, Lewis Center for the Arts, Visual Arts

Tracy K. Smith, Lewis Center for the Arts, Creative Writing

Susan Wheeler, Lewis Center for the Arts, Creative Writing

Edmund V. White, Lewis Center for the Arts, Creative Writing

Stacy E. Wolf, Lewis Center for the Arts


Jill S. Dolan, also English, Lewis Center for the Arts

Judith Hamera, Lewis Center for the Arts, Dance

Stacy E. Wolf, also Lewis Center for the Arts

Assistant Professor

Brian E. Herrera, also Lewis Center for the Arts

Senior Lecturer

Michael W. Cadden, also Lewis Center for the Arts


Robert N. Sandberg

Timothy K. Vasen

The Program in Theater, part of the Lewis Center for the Arts, allows students to work with professional artists and critics, as well as with scholars in the area of performance studies, to familiarize themselves with the nature of practical work in theater and the role theater has played and continues to play in various cultures at various times. The program offers courses in playwriting, acting, directing, design, dramaturgy, performance history, and criticism. The program also offers a full season of theatrical productions, under the supervision of professional artists and technicians, in order to allow students to bring the kinds of talents they develop in class to a wider audience. Visiting guest artists often offer workshops in their specialties, as well as directing students in productions or designing program shows. Program courses are open to all undergraduates interested in exploring the art of theater, but the program also offers the kinds of courses and co-curricular activities that will allow the student, upon graduation, to move into the best graduate conservatories to pursue advanced training.

Students looking for an opportunity to incorporate their theatrical studies into their concentrations might want to consider the Theater and Performance Studies track in the Department of English or Area D in the Department of Comparative Literature, but certificate students usually come from the full range of concentrations the University has to offer.

Admission to the Program

Courses are open to students pursuing work in any department, whether or not the student plans to earn the certificate. Introductory courses in the program, whether at the 200 or 300 level, usually have no prerequisites and fulfill the distribution requirement in Literature and the Arts (LA). Other 300 or 400 level courses require applications and/or interviews. 200 level courses have Pass/D/Fail option; selected 300 and 400 level courses are Pass/D/Fail only; all other courses in the program are letter graded.

Program of Study

Requirements for the Certificate in Theater:

1) Coursework:

A total of five courses in the Program in Theater. At least three must be studio courses chosen from offerings in acting, directing, playwriting, design, and dramaturgy. As acting is foundational to understanding the making of theater, it is assumed that one of these three or four will be an acting course.

At least one course in dramatic literature, performance history, performance studies, or criticism. Up to two courses in this area may be used toward the five-course requirement.

2) Senior Independent work:

This work might take the form of a studio project, such as the direction of a major production, the performance of a major role, the writing of a play, or the design or dramaturgy of a production, under the supervision of our faculty and professional staff either in our senior thesis season, independently, or in conjunction with another campus-producing organization.

Students may elect to do an independent performance studies project approved by and under the supervision of Program in Theater faculty.

If the student's department permits, he or she might choose to complete one part of the departmental independent work (senior thesis) on a topic approved by the Program in Theater faculty dealing with some facet of theater in relation to that department's subject matter. This independent work could take the form of a textual, cultural, or theoretical study; or it may be a combination of research and practical work supervised by the program faculty and the student's department.

3) A certain number of hours of technical work on theater productions staged by the program.

Certificate of Proficiency

Students who fulfill the requirements of the program receive a certificate of proficiency in theater upon graduation.

Advanced Creative Work. The Program in Theater offers certificate students with the appropriate course background the opportunity to do advanced creative work under the supervision of its faculty and staff. This work usually takes the form of a practical project, such as the writing of a play, the direction or design of a major production, or the study and performance of a major role. These projects may be pursued as extracurricular activities, or, as is more regularly the case, they may be used to fulfill the requirement for independent work in the certificate program. With permission of the student's department of concentration, such projects may also satisfy one of the requirements for independent work in the department, in which case it must consist of or be accompanied by written work, such as a scholarly or critical evaluation.

Related Courses. Various departments offer courses in dramatic literature, many in English and some in foreign languages. A list of such courses may be found on the program website. Additional topics are taught in seminars whose titles change yearly. For current descriptions, see listings under the appropriate departments.


THR 201 Beginning Studies in Acting: Scene Study   Fall, Spring LA

Designed to guide students in developing roles and exploring texts and characters. Work will begin with exercises and proceed to consideration of scenes, short sections of plays, and specific roles. S. Agins, T. Bersley, T. Vasen

THR 205 Introductory Playwriting   Spring LA

A workshop on the fundamentals of writing plays. Emphasis will be on solving problems of structure, plot development, and character through various writing exercises and theater improvisations. Ongoing work of students and instructor is read and discussed. R. Sandberg

THR 211 French Theater Workshop (see FRE 211)

THR 236 American Stages (also AMS 333)   Fall LA

This course investigates the history of theatre and performance in the United States during the past two centuries. Through archival excavations, bibliographic exercises, and close examinations of theatre history methodologies, and through a deep engagement with human and archival resources local to Princeton, this course undertakes an intensive introduction to the use of primary documents within both performance scholarship and performance practice (playwriting, directing, design, devised performance, etceteras). B. Herrera

THR 300 Acting, Being, Doing, and Making: Introduction to Performance Studies (also COM 359/ENG 373/ANT 359)   Not offered this year LA

The place of performance--for example, Greek tragedy, Noh drama, modern dance, opera, performance art, crossdressing--within the social, political, cultural, and religious structures it has served. Perspectives from theater and dance history, classical and contemporary theory, and ancient and modern practice. Prerequisite: fulfillment of writing requirement. Two 90-minute seminars. J. Dolan, S. Wolf

THR 301 Intermediate Studies in Acting: Scene Study II   Fall, Spring LA

A continuation and extension of 201. Prerequisite: 201. M. Nelson

THR 303 Ethnographic Playwriting (also AMS 330/SOC 350)   Fall LA

This course delves into a collaborative, ethnographic approach to making theater. We will read, watch and discuss the work of subculture theorists, theater-makers and other artists and thinkers, all of whom use staged conversations as the basis for characters, scenes and entire works. We will hash out ethics and responsibilities for those of us who engage communities outside our own.What does it mean to take responsibility for someone else's words, write them down, and give them back? What is it like to put the words of a stranger in your mouth? Finally, we will make theatrical material using this approach for an end of semester showing. Staff

THR 304 Christopher Durang: My Life in Art   Fall LA

This course will focus on the lifetime achievement of one of the nation's greatest playwrights, Christopher Durang, who will be participating in the class as the inaugural Roger S. Berlind '52 Playwright-in-Residence. We'll focus on Durang's writing and rehearsal process, the writers who have meant most to him, the joys and pains of theatrical collaboration, and the perils of writing comedy with a satiric edge. M. Cadden, C. Durang

THR 305 Playwriting II: Intermediate Playwriting   Spring LA

A continuation of work begun in Introductory Playwriting, focusing on the writing of a major play. Prerequisite: 205. Staff

THR 307 Devising Theater with Youth   LA

Devising Theater with Youth is a service learning course that will promote experiential learning for both Princeton University students and children from Community House, an on-campus afterschool program. This hands-on course will provide an opportunity for Princeton students to elicit the voices of children, interweave them into a theatrical play, and create a collaborative community event around the culminating performance. Students will learn and apply essential contemporary theories and foundational practices of community-based devising technique. E. Nagel

THR 308 Playing Against Type (also GSS 304/LAO 308)   Fall LA

This workshop course for actors, directors and scholars rehearses how to play with and against "type" in performance. The course uses scene- and monologue-study to press upon the limits of the conventions of typecasting. Course participants will experiment with cross-gender and cross-cultural casting; mask improvisation; conceptual casting; and performing across age, size, and ability. Throughout, the course engages relevant scholarly literature assessing the transformational act of taking on a role and uses in-class exercises, presentations and performances to press theory into practice (and vice versa). B. Herrera

THR 309 Theatre and Society (also AMS 327/ENG 361/GSS 307)   LA

Theatre and Society investigates the ways in which theater and performance speak into their cultural and historical moments. We'll look at self-avowed political drama or performance in various historical moments in American theatre; at plays or performances that caused controversy in various communities in which they were performed; at street performance within protest movements; and at community-based performance produced for specific reasons within its locale. We'll also discuss the role of the artist in society. What is the artist's responsibility to his or her nation? To his or her local community or identity groups? J. Dolan

THR 310 The Musical Theatre of Stephen Sondheim: Process to Production (also ENG 318/MUS 338)   LA

This seminar examines the musicals of Stephen Sondheim, from page to stage. Focusing on a different musical each week from Gypsy (1959) to Road Show (2009), we will ask, How do musical theatre's elements of music, lyrics, script, dance, and design cohere in Sondheim's musicals? We will explore influences on his art, both personal and cultural, his collaborators, and the historical and theatrical milieu. We'll study the musicals themselves by reading libretti, listening to music, seeing taped and live performances, researching production histories, and analyzing popular, critical, and scholarly reception. S. Wolf

THR 311 Intermediate Studies in Acting: Creating Character and Text   Not offered this year LA

Creation of an original theater piece in collaboration with a guest artist, leading to a public performance. Will include improvisations, exercises, study of dramatic texts, and scene study. Special attention will be given to the creation of character, both in dramatic texts and in improvisation. Prerequisite: 201. T. Bersley

THR 313 Dramaturgy Workshop: Hoodwinked (also AMS 343/ENG 381)   LA

This workshop explores the basic precepts of American theatre dramaturgy, using playwright/director Emily Mann's play-in-progress, Hoodwinked, as its example. We'll review the literature about dramaturgy as a production and literary method in American theatre, and apply those strategies to help develop the Hoodwinked text. The play addresses the massacre at Ft. Hood Army base in Killeen, Texas, in 2009, and investigates the political complications of terrorism and jihad. The course culminates in a staged reading of Hoodwinked and a one-day public symposium about its issues with invited guests. J. Dolan

THR 314 Creating Collaborative Theater (also VIS 314)   Spring LA

How are directors and actors the co-authors of a live performance, and how can anyone contribute text to a work that seeks its own unified vision? How can design play as integral a role as text? This class is open to people who are seasoned performers, writers, directors, composers, filmmakers and designers, as well as those who appreciate a good risk and are willing to take one now. Over the semester, we will work together to make something new, look at examples from theater and other disciplines of real collaborations and partnerships, and present in-progress what we have at the end of the semester. A. Landsman

THR 316 Modern Irish Theatre: Oscar Wilde to Martin McDonagh to Riverdance   LA

This course explores the many different ways in which the whole idea of a distinctively Irish theatre has been transformed every few decades, from Wilde and Shaw's subversions of England, to the search of Yeats and Synge for an authentic rural Ireland, to the often angry critiques of contemporary Ireland by Murphy, Friel and Carr. Plays of the Irish diaspora (O'Neill and McDonagh) are examined in this context. The course will also explore the ways in which ideas of physicality and performance, including the popular spectacle of Riverdance, have conflicted with and challenged Irish theatre's peculiar devotion to poetic language. F. O'Toole

THR 317 Costume Design (also VIS 372)   Not offered this year LA

An exploration of the various aspects of costume design. Emphasis will depend to some degree on instructor's area of interest and/or student interest. Studio projects will be designed to coincide with other theater and dance courses and currently scheduled productions. Critical discussion will explore the relationship between dramatic texts and design ideas. Two three-hour seminars or studio sessions. Staff

THR 318 Lighting Design (also VIS 318)   Spring LA

An introduction to the art and craft of lighting design for the stage and an exploration of light as a medium for expression. Students will develop an ability to observe lighting in the world and on the stage; to learn to make lighting choices based on text, space, research, and their own responses; to practice being creative, responsive and communicative under pressure and in company; to prepare well to create under pressure using the designer's visual toolbox; and to play well with others-working creatively and communicating with directors, writers, performers, fellow designers, the crew and others. J. Cox

THR 319 Scenic Design (also VIS 319)   Fall LA

An introduction to the art and craft of scenic design for the stage and and exploration of the use of space as a medium of textual interpretation. Students will develop an ability to think about scenography as a way deepening and reinforcing an interpretation of a play or other form of performance event. While no experience in scenic design is anticipated, students will learn to create model renderings in order to acquire the creative, theatrical vocabulary needed to work with collaborators to turn a vision of text into a fully articulated visual world. R. Hernández

THR 320 Sound Design (also MUS 313)   LA

An opportunity to explore what theatrical sound design is, how to look at a text from the point of view of sound, how to launch your creative process, and how to take the ideas based on that creative process and turn them into sounds to be used in a show. Students will also learn how to communicate their ideas, palate, and the arc of their design in a way that demonstrates to directors how they will fulfull the director's vision while embracing their own artistry and response to the text. R. Kaplowitz

THR 321 Special Topics in Contemporary Practice (see DAN 304)

THR 322 Introduction to Musical Theater Writing (also MUS 381)   Fall LA

This workshop will introduce students to the craft of writing words and music for the musical theatre. In addition to weekly and in-class practical assignments in technique and skill-building, the course will explore key moments in musical theatre history, criticism and to place students' work in a larger context. Readings will illuminate how the specific areas of craft addressed have been handled by masters in different areas of musical theatre. Because collaboration is central to the creation of musical theatre, students will work in different teams during the semester. The workshop will culminate with a presentation of works-in-progress. S. Wolf

THR 323 The Arts of Urban Transition (see DAN 310)

THR 324 Staging Identity: Strategies for Surviving the American Stage (see AMS 314)

THR 325 Artistic Entrepeneurship: Creating and Producing Live Performance   LA

This course looks critically at existing and possible creative and producing strategies for emerging artists in dance and theater. Combining workshop sessions on students' performance works with practical skills for getting live art funded, produced and seen in the professional world, the course asks students to think of the two sides of their artistic lives as part of a whole, rather than aspects of a split personality. Once you're in the real world, how can you best support the way you want to work? What are the myths and what are the realities about how you support the work you want to make? A. Landsman

THR 326 Criticism Workshop (also ENG 314)   Fall LA

A workshop devoted to the development of the student's critical sensibility. Through extensive in-class analysis of their own reviews of professional theater and dance productions and through the study of past and present models, students will learn what makes a good critic of the performing arts. One three-hour seminar. Staff

THR 327 Locked Up: Theatre, Literature and Cinema of Coercive Confinement in Ireland (also ENG 337)   Spring LA

From the 1920s until the 1950s Ireland locked up people who did not fit the state's desired image in a vast complex of institutions - Magdalene laundries for women deemed to be in "moral danger"; industrial schools for children regarded as potentially unruly; mental hospitals for adults who were socially deviant-all of whom were vulnerable both to effective enslavement and to physical and sexual abuse. Revelation of these abuses has shaken Irish society and the Irish church. In this course we consider how this system was reflected in plays, fiction and film, sometimes in direct testimony by survivors, sometimes in the most surprising ways. F. O'Toole

THR 330 Special Topics in Performance Practice (also COM 368/SLA 383)   Spring LA

A special topics course designed to build upon and/or enhance existing program courses, taking into consideration the strengths and interests of program concentrators and the availability of appropriate instructors. Topics, prerequisites, and formats will vary from year to year. M. Cadden

THR 331 Special Topics in Performance History and Theory (also ENG 398/COM 311)   Spring LA

Designed to provide students with an opportunity to study theater and/or dance from a historical or theoretical perspective. Topics, prerequisites, and formats will vary from year to year. S. Wolf

THR 334 The Nature of Theatrical Reinvention   Fall LA

This seminar explores how iconic pieces of theatre can be re-explored for modern audiences. The course will examine various aspects of how an artist can think out-of-the-box and the mechanisms the artist can use to do so. There will be discussions, theatre visits, possible access to theatre practitioners and assignments which will encourage the participant to explore their own imaginative approach to storytelling. The course is designed for performers, directors, designers but would also be of interest to dancers, writers and those interested in how theatre can be challenging and relevant. Staff

THR 335 Development of the Multi-Skilled Performer (also MUS 303)   Fall LA

A practical class. This is a workshop based class for those interested in multi-skilled performance and in how performance skills can illuminate new forms of theatre making. Ideally participants should have musical skills and be able to bring an instrument to work with. A lack of instrument would not preclude somebody from participating. It is helpful, but not necessary if students can read music. The course is also open to those interested in directing or other aspects of storytelling. It is also available to music students who are interested in all aspects of performance. Staff

THR 337 Community-Based Performance   Spring LA

This hands-on seminar will explore contemporary theories and practices of community-based performance, investigating contemporary theatre, dance, and music groups that use these methods. The course will also interrogate the sometimes fraught politics of community-based performance, including questions of authorship, authority, authenticity, and artistry. Offered in partnership with the Community-Based Learning Initiative, this course will offer hands-on experience in the process of creating community-based performance projects, and facilitate opportunities to build artistic relationships with local community organizations. E. Nagel

THR 339 Casting: History, Theory, Practice   LA

Casting - the process whereby actors are assigned to particular roles - has largely eluded scholarly investigation. This course enacts just such an inquiry through a survey of the history, theory and practice of casting within U.S. entertainment industries since the later nineteenth century. Course participants will trace the emergence of "casting" and the "audition" as discrete modes of performance-making practice through review of dramatic literature, "how to" guides and documentary films, as well as relevant scholarly and popular literatures. B. Herrera

THR 340 Autobiographical Storytelling (also CWR 340)   LA

Every life delivers a story (or three) worth telling well. This workshop course rehearses the writing and performance skills necessary to remake the raw material drawn from lived experience into compelling autobiographical storytelling. Course participants will work in an array of storytelling modes (including stand-up comedy, testimonio, first-person media, slam poetics, etcetera) and will draw from those techniques to devise, document and perform an original work of autobiographical storytelling at semester's end. B. Herrera

THR 341 Acting and Directing in Musical Theater   Spring LA

A practical, hands-on introduction to acting and directing in musical theater. The course will require students to prepare songs and scenes from selected musicals with an eye to how best to approach the particular challenges the scene presents. J. Rando

THR 358 Queer Boyhoods (see GSS 316)

THR 366 American Musical Theater History (also MUS 366)   Fall LA

This seminar explores one of the most quintessentially "American" forms of performance--the Broadway musical theater--in the context of U.S. culture from the mid-20th-century until today. It will begin in 1949 with Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific, move through the "Golden Age" of the "integrated" Broadway musical in the 1950s, the "concept" musicals of the mid-1960s, the so-called "death" of the musical in the 1970s, megamusicals of the 1980s, and end with some contemporary musicals. Two 90-minute classes. Staff

THR 369 Isn't It Romantic? The Broadway Musical from Rodgers and Hammerstein to Sondheim (see GSS 365)

THR 373 Gender, Sexuality, and Contemporary U.S. Theatre and Performance (see GSS 363)

THR 374 Sex on Stage (see GSS 315)

THR 383 History of American Popular Entertainments (see AMS 381)

THR 384 Ghosts, Vampires, and Zombies in Irish Theatre and Literature   LA

From the spirits and banshees of oral legends to Bram Stoker's Dracula, from the classic works of Yeats, Synge and Beckett to Garth Ennis's Preacher comics and Anne Rice's Vampire novels, Irish culture has been haunted by the Otherworld. Why has the Irish Gothic had such a long ghostly afterlife on page and stage? Can we learn something about modernist works like those of Yeats and Beckett by seeing them through the perspective of popular fictions of the supernatural? F. O'Toole

THR 400 Advanced Theatrical Design (also VIS 400)   Fall LA

This course bridges the gap between students taking introductory design courses in set, costume or lighting design, and successfully designing a production on campus. The course is designed to endow students with practical skills that will enable them to actually design a production, and to support them in making technical decisions as well as in collaborating and communicating with the rest of the creative team and the technical staff. The course will combine an exploration of visual story-telling and creative collaboration with a grounding in the practical and communicative skills necessary to create the physical world of a production. J. Cox

THR 401 Advanced Studies in Acting: Scene Study and Style   Spring LA

Questions of historical style, poetic stage language, and various methods of contemporary nonrealistic acting. Prerequisite: 301 or 311. K. Whoriskey

THR 403 For Your Viewing Pleasure: Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary American Theatre, Film, and Popular (see GSS 403)

THR 411 Directing Workshop   Fall LA

Special directing assignments will be made for each student, whose work will be analyzed by the instructor and other members of the workshop. Students will be aided in their preparations by the instructor; they will also study the spectrum of responsibilities and forms of research involved in directing plays of different styles. Prerequisite: 201. T. Vasen

THR 441 Notes on Color (see VIS 441)

THR 443 Topics in Drama (see ENG 409)

THR 451 The Fall Show   LA

The Fall Show provides students with a rigorous and challenging experience of creating theater under near-professional circumstances. A professional director, design team, and stage manager, as well as two weeks of performances in the Berlind Theatre, are key components.The Fall Show involves an extensive rehearsal period and a concentrated tech week,often requiring more time and focus than a typical student-produced production might. For the first time, students cast in the Fall Show, or those who take on major production roles (such as Assistant Stage Manager, Assistant Designer, or Assistant Director), will receive course credit. Staff

THR 494 Princeton Atelier (see ATL 494)