Course Descriptions

Please note: Almost all theater department courses take field trips to Chicago-area theater to allow students to see productions of the plays being discussed in the classroom. Tickets and transportation for most field trips are arranged by the College, and the costs are shared by the Center for Chicago Programs, the Theater Department.

Theater Courses

THTR 105: Introduction to Dance

In this course we will explore the basic elements of dance: space, energy, relationships, time, and the coordination of our bodies. We will develop our natural creativity and further our understanding of a variety of dance forms while gaining strength, flexibility, and technical dance skills. We will also study the historical development of modern dance. (This course satisfies Creative & Performing Arts.)

THTR 120: Acting I: Being on Stage

For beginners and experienced actors alike, this course is required for all theater majors but open to students from any discipline with any level of experience. What is acting? Is there a difference between being and acting? How do we draw from our own lives to create a performance? Is there a difference between performing and acting? This class explores these questions through performance, reading, and written analysis. Students will study scripts, acting theory, and one another's work as they sharpen their acting techniques and critical thinking skills. (This course satisfies Creative & Performing Arts.)

THTR 130: American Stage Design

What is the role of scenic design in performance? What are the basic elements of all design? How can we utilize design as a process for discovery and a method of inquiry? Throughout this introductory course, we analyze aesthetic choices of major scenic designers throughout the history of American theater using the elements and principles of design as a basis for conversation. We also discuss the important role that the set plays to help elevate the story being told on stage. As a half-credit course, under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets one-half of the Creative & Performing Arts requirement. No prerequisites. (This course satisfies Creative & Performing Arts.)
cross listed: CINE 130

THTR 140: Costumes and Identity

The clothing that we choose to wear reveals a great deal about our identity. Our choices are shaped by our understanding of race, class, sexuality, gender—and how we want to convey who we are. In this course, students explore the performative nature of costume and fashion in theatre, art, media, popular culture, and everyday life. The course includes readings, discussions with guest speakers, and writing assignments. Students analyze historical costumes/fashion from samples of well-known film and theatre works with a focus on identity politics. Assignments include in-class presentations and discussion, and a costume research project. As a half-credit course, under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets one-half of the Creative & Performing Arts requirement. No prerequisites. (This course satisfies Creative & Performing Arts.)
cross listed: CINE 140

THTR 160: Stagecraft for Stage and Screen

An introduction to the technology employed backstage to create the magic of theatrical productions. This course is open to beginning students in all disciplines and will provide an experiential and practical orientation to stagecraft through hands-on projects in: set and prop construction, hanging & focusing lights, painting, makeup, and stage management. Other topics include theater terminology, safety procedures, and hand & power-tool usage. (This course satisfies Creative & Performing Arts.)

THTR 180: The Theater of Rock

In this course we take a close look at what rock performers do onstage. How do they present themselves? What does their clothing convey? What do their gestures suggest? How are their props significant? Are they "being themselves" or are they performing a different persona? How important is their performance to our perception of the music they play? Utilizing methodologies from the field of Performance Studies, we survey the history of rock 'n' roll starting with early performers such as Little Richard, Elvis Presley, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Jim Morrison, and Jimi Hendrix. We note the emergence of glam rockers in the early 70s such as David Bowie and Marc Bolan as well as shock rockers like Alice Cooper and Kiss. We also consider groups that seem to be just "being themselves" onstage like the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers. Other performers we study may include Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince, Amy Winehouse, and Lady Gaga. Finally, we consider rock performance in the COVID era: Zoom and other forms of online delivery. Students have a chance to examine and write about their favorite music performers in class presentations and papers. No prerequisites. (This course satisfies Humanities and Domestic Pluralism.)
cross listed: MUSC 180

THTR 200: Production Practicum

The Production Practicum THTR 200 sections 01, 02, 03 and 04 provide theater students with an opportunity to earn college credits for supervised projects in any area of production, excluding performance. This includes developing contracts between students and the assigned instructor, and shop supervisors and staff, contracting to perform 40 hours on tasks, keeping track and reporting those hours and becoming accountable for completing assignments within the allotted time. Ideally, students should register for section 01 as a freshman; section 02 as a sophomore; section 03 as a junior; and section 04 as a senior. A total of four .25 credits of practicum are required for graduation. The Chair of the Theater Department must approve all registrations. (This course satisfies Creative & Performing Arts.)

THTR 204: Theater Boot Camp

This practice-driven class immerses the student in the creative process of collaborative theater toward the production of an original work. The creative process focuses on composition, presentation, feedback, and re-writes, as we take students through the entire creative cycle of development and production. Students sharpen their playwriting, acting, directing, and technical production skills, and emerge from the experience with the career know-how necessary to make their own successful theater production. No prerequisites. (This course satisfies Creative & Performing Arts.)

THTR 206: Grateful Dead and American Culture

More than fifty years after the band's founding, the Grateful Dead looms larger than ever. From Haight-Ashbury acid-testers to visionary entrepreneurs, the band that grew up and out of the revolutions of the tumultuous 1960s found a way to mix everything from roots music to free jazz to rock into an "endless tour" that put them in the Fortune 500. The Grateful Dead provided a cultural soundtrack for not only the 1960s, but also the paranoia of the Watergate years, the Reagan-soaked 1980s, and on to the jam-band present. This course will focus on the band's performance of authentic "Americanness" throughout its half century run. We'll listen to their music, and also to their fans, enthusiasts, and scholars. We'll understand the various subcultures that separate the sixties and now, and in doing so, offer answers to this key question: Why do the Dead survive? (Elective for English, Theater, and Music) (This course satisfies Humanities.)
cross listed: ENGL 251, MUSC 222, AMER 202

THTR 208: Art and Fashion Heroes and Villains

Costume design is an essential element in conveying a character’s story. In this course, students explore costume design elements from archetypal hero and villain characters in iconic films and television series such as Game of Thrones, Star Wars, and the Marvel CMU. Emphasis is placed on all elements of the design process, including developing design vocabulary, exploring the skills of rendering and sketching, collaging, researching, as well as the implementation of design. Students analyze text, develop knowledge of fabrics, and prepare a finalized costume design highlighting the characters most crucial to storytelling: the heroes and villains. No prerequisites. If taken for partial credit, this course will only partially satisfy the FFC Creative and Performing Arts requirement. (This course satisfies Creative & Performing Arts.)

THTR 210: Advanced Dance

An intermediate course incorporating the history and technique of one or more of the following styles of dance: ballet, modern, jazz, and hip hop. Classes will consist of warm-ups, exercises and choreography. Students will develop performance skills and demonstrate improved flexibility and strength by learning rhythm sequences and creating compositional studies. Students will also be introduced to professional musical theatre audition etiquette and procedures. Prerequisite: THTR 105 or permission of instructor (This course satisfies Creative & Performing Arts.)

THTR 220: Acting II:Twentieth Century Realism

An exploration of acting techniques required in modern and contemporary works from the early twentieth century to the present. Scene projects include written performances, script and character analysis, and in-depth critiques of class performances. No prerequisites. (This course satisfies Creative & Performing Arts.)

THTR 222: Voice and Movement

This course is designed to develop and hone the actor's voice and body as instruments of storytelling. Students are introduced to the power of storytelling as an individual and as an ensemble through Viewpoints, Boal, Complicite, Neutral Mask, Character Mask, Clowning, Imaginative Storytelling, and others. Movement studies are combined with the voice techniques of Arthur Lessac, Cicely Berry, and Katherine Fitzmaurice. Our goal is to understand that the voice and body are not separate entities, and that they must be trained in order to achieve a harmonious body/voice communication that can improve the actor's ability to be expressive on stage. No prerequisites. (This course satisfies Creative & Performing Arts.)

THTR 224: Performance Art

This course will provide students with an understanding of performance art as a constantly evolving and flexible medium. The class will trace the emergence and development of performance art as a form of expression both distinct from and yet dependent upon traditional and experimental forms of theater and other contemporary manifestations of theatricality. Students will negotiate, through reading, research, discussion and planning and practical application, the blurred boundaries between performing and living, entertainment and art. (This course satisfies Creative & Performing Arts.)
cross listed: ART 237, ENGL 233

THTR 226: Improvisation Techniques

This hands-on course will begin with a survey of the major philosophies of improvisational comedy groups (Second City, Annoyance, TheatreSports), and will incorporate paper assignments and field trips to Chicago to see a variety of improv performances. The primary focus of the course will be to exercise the practical essentials of the world-renowned 'Improv Olympic' (iO) long-form style of Chicago improvisation. We will immerse ourselves in techniques leading to proficiency with 'The Harold,' a thirty-minute group improvisation created in the moment from an audience suggestion. By the end of the course, we will be ready to improvise for audiences. (This course satisfies Creative & Performing Arts.)

THTR 230: World Performance I

This required course for theater majors provides a wide ranging and inclusive survey of the history of theater and performance from ancient Greece to the 17th century. It includes such developments as ancient Greek drama, Yoruba and Hopi ritual, Japanese noh drama, the medieval morality play, and the English high renaissance, culminating in Moliere’s Paris. In addition to in-depth study of plays, emphasis is placed on viewing ritual as performance, acting styles, production techniques, and the socio-political milieu that formed the foundation of the theater of each culture and period. Offered yearly. No prerequisites. (This course satisfies Global Perspective and Writing Intensive.)

THTR 231: World Performance II

This required course for theater majors examines the history of drama and theater from the late nineteenth-century plays of Ibsen and Chekhov up until the present day, with an emphasis on under-represented and marginalized voices. In addition to in-depth study of plays, this course explores the conventions of acting and stagecraft and cultural conditions that influenced each period's theater. No prerequisites. (This course satisfies Domestic Pluralism and Writing Intensive.)

THTR 235: Ritual in Contemporary America

This course examines how ceremonies, festivals and other performative events enrich and define community. This study of ritual may include street fairs, parades, weddings, funerals, feasts and fasts as well as other public and private behaviors that comprise the diversity of American ritual life. Our course shall explore ritual as it occurs in many of the ethnic, racial, subcultural and countercultural communities in Chicago. We will investigate and attempt to understand both the invention and re-invention of community and personal identity through ritual action. Students should anticipate frequent field trips. (This course satisfies Social Science and Domestic Pluralism.)
cross listed: SOAN 275, AMER 213

THTR 236: Shakespeare

Selected plays to show Shakespeare's artistic development; intensive analysis of major plays. (This course satisfies Humanities and Writing Intensive.)
cross listed: ENGL 220

THTR 240: Shakespeare on Film

This course will focus on major cinematic adaptations of Shakespeare's plays, with attention both to the original texts and to the process of transferring them to the new medium by film directors. We will pay special attention to plays that have been filmed a number of times, so that we can develop useful comparisons: Richard III (Olivier, Loncraine), Romeo and Juliet (Zeffirelli, Luhrmann, Shakespeare in Love), Henry V (Olivier, Branagh), Hamlet (Olivier, Zeffirelli, Almereyda), and Macbeth (Polanski, Kurzel). Major goals will be to develop our ability to do close readings of both the original texts and the films, to do creative film adaptation projects, and to develop effective ways of expressing both our analytical and our creative ideas. No prerequisites. (This course satisfies Humanities.)
cross listed: CINE 240, ENGL 239

THTR 241: African American Drama & Theater

This course surveys the work African American theater artists from the nineteenth century to the present day. Playwrights surveyed may include Richardson, Hughes, Hansberry, Childress, Bullins, Baraka, Fuller, Wilson, Cleage, Shange, and Parks. Readings are supplemented by field trips to Chicago theaters that feature African American plays.
cross listed: AFAM 241, ENGL 241

THTR 250: Exploring Chicago Stages

There's no better way to get to know Chicago -- in all its cultural diversity -- than by exploring its theater scene, recognized as one of the best in the world. In this class students read, discuss, and attend performances of classic and contemporary plays at theaters throughout the city, ranging from small 'storefront' companies to such institutions as the world-famous Goodman and Steppenwolf Theaters. In this class, we discuss how theater both reflects and shapes our understanding of various identities in society at large, and we draw from the field of performance studies to think about how theater can help us understand the politics of identity. Students read scripts and criticism, write reviews and research papers, and participate in workshops with local artists. (This course satisfies Humanities and Domestic Pluralism.)

THTR 251: Intro to Performance Studies

In this course, we will explore the flourishing new discipline of Performance Studies. This field of study began as a collaboration between theater director and theorist Richard Schechner and anthropologist Victor Turner, combining Schechner's interest in 'aesthetic performance' (theater, dance, music, performance art) with Turner's interest in performance as ritual within indigenous cultures, or (as Erving Goffman has written) 'the presentation of self in everyday life.' Performance Studies often stresses the importance of intercultural performance as an alternative to either traditional proscenium theatre or traditional anthropological fieldwork. In addition to the above and other authors, the course will include in-class performance exercises along with field trips to performances in Chicago. (This course satisfies Social Science and Domestic Pluralism.)
cross listed: SOAN 251

THTR 254: The Mind Onstage

(The Mind Onstage: Performance, Action, Emotion.) In the last decade, prominent theater scholars have integrated neuroscience research into their studies. Their excitement stems from the realization that current scientific research seems to speak directly to one of the major concerns of theatre scholars for decades: How does performing and/or watching a performance affect the brain? In this interdisciplinary class, students study plays that depict neuroscience and neurological conditions, learn about how theatre is used therapeutically, and read contemporary and classic theatrical theory, as we explore the ways science and the humanities can intersect. No prerequisites. (This course satisfies Humanities and Writing Intensive.)
cross listed: NEUR 254

THTR 260: Design: Stage and Screen

(Design for Stage and Screen.) This course is an introduction to the processes and principles of design. It covers the development of a design concept through script reading and analysis; the discussion and analysis of professional set, costume, lighting, and sound designs; training in basic drafting skills; and lecture information on theater and film technology and terminology. Several design projects are coupled with text readings and hands-on work with lighting instruments, and sound and lighting control systems. No prerequisites. (This course satisfies Creative & Performing Arts.)
cross listed: CINE 260

THTR 272: Mock Trial

Mock trial is a competitive trial advocacy program where students compete regionally as attorneys and witnesses in civil and criminal cases. Students in this competitive program craft case theories, learn rules of evidence and evidentiary objections, and draft and perform opening statements, direct and cross examinations, and closing arguments for timed competition. Students enrolled in the course are expected to compete in the regional competition held annually in February. Enrollment by permission of instructor only. (This course satisfies Experiential Learning and Speaking Intensive.)
cross listed: POLS 272

THTR 285: Creative Arts Entrepreneurship

Creative Arts Entrepreneurship will offer an overview of the processes, practices, and decision-making activities that lead to the realization of our creative ideas. Students from across the humanities, arts, sciences, and business will learn the unique contexts and challenges of creative careers, with an emphasis on collaborative projects. The course will help students understand the nature and structure of arts enterprise while cultivating their own career vision and creative goals. Creative Arts Entrepreneurship is designed for students interested in developing, launching, or advancing innovative enterprises in arts, culture, and design, and those who love the initiative, ingenuity and excitement of putting creative ideas into action. The course combines readings and in-class discussions with site visits, case studies, guest lectures by working artists and creative professionals, and student-driven projects. No prerequisites.
cross listed: MUSC 285, ENTP 285, ART 285, ENGL 285

THTR 320: Acting for the Camera

This course is an exploration of the acting techniques required in film, television, and other media. Knowledge and understanding of film techniques, vocabulary, and genre styles is accomplished through viewing and analysis of modern and contemporary film works from the early twentieth century to the present by noted authors and filmmakers. Acting projects center on the performance of scenes, monologues, voice-overs, and commercials. Other projects include written script and character analysis, daily actor journals, and in-depth critiques of self and peer performances. Papers of analysis on films viewed in and out of class and other research projects including adaptation of texts and acting styles for the screen are also required. No prerequisites. (This course satisfies Creative & Performing Arts.)
cross listed: CINE 320

THTR 351: Performance Ethnography

Performance Studies stresses the importance of intercultural performance as an alternative to either traditional proscenium theatre or traditional qualitative fieldwork. Looking at behavior through the lens of performance offers new ways for ethnographers to understand how identity is formed and expressed. As a discipline concerned with non-textual forms of knowledge, scholars engaged in this field sometimes use performance to present their research, recognizing the modes of knowledge that cannot be reduced to words. Students in this course will study Performance Studies scholarship, learn the basics of ethnographic practice, and create performances based on their research. They will study the work of scholars such as Dwight Conquergood and Erving Goffman and artists such as Tectonic Theater, which specialize in documentary theatre. There will also be required field trips and site visits. No prerequisites. (This course satisfies Domestic Pluralism and Writing Intensive.)
cross listed: SOAN 351

THTR 370: Playwriting

This course focuses on the collaboration between director, designers, and playwright in the creation and production of new works for the stage. Projects include writing, script analysis, casting, and presentation of original student works and/or student-adapted works by professional authors. (This course satisfies Creative & Performing Arts.)
cross listed: ENGL 342

THTR 375: Directing

An introduction to directing for the stage, including both scholarly study of directing and practical work. Students learn the fundamental principles of stage direction through a series of in-class exercises and then apply them to short directing projects. Emphasis is on directing projects and production research. Prerequisites: THTR 120 or permission of instructor (This course satisfies Creative & Performing Arts.)

THTR 390: Internship

Our Chicago connection allows us to offer internship opportunities at a variety of local theaters, while also allowing students to utilize their theatrical skills in an array of non-theatrical work opportunities. Internships are available in such areas of stage management, dramaturgy, education, public relations, and development, but we also encourage students to think more broadly about the applicability of their theater skills is such areas as business, law, public service, teaching, and many others. Students can work at such major theaters as Steppenwolf, Goodman, Chicago Shakespeare, and Second City, while smaller companies such as Victory Gardens, Writers, Timeline, and Lookingglass also offer valuable opportunities. Internships must be applied for in the semester prior to enrollment and applications include on-campus consultation with faculty and staff along with off-campus interviews with members of the host organization. Junior class standing and other prerequisites apply based on the nature of the internship and its requirements. THTR 390 does not fulfill the 300-level requirement for the major. For application information, interested students should consult with the campus internship liaison and their department chair or advisor. (This course satisfies Experiential Learning.)

THTR 480: Senior Seminar

This course is required of all theater majors in the fall of their senior year. In this course, students work on their senior projects and prepare for their post-graduate experience. Students might develop a new performance, prepare to direct, design, or perform, or write a scholarly thesis. Activities might include participating in workshops, making a presentation, creative writing, resume preparation, and research.

THTR 492: Creative Project

To fulfill their senior studies requirement, students may choose to work on a creative project that includes a substantial critical component, to be designed in collaboration with their thesis advisor. Possible projects include (but are not limited to) writing an original script, creating and performing a solo show, participating in a devised performance, or choreographing an original dance. The critical component will not only document the creative process, but also include an analysis of the texts and artistic influences that inspired the project and a rigorous post-performance critique.

THTR 494: Senior Thesis

A well-documented and well-executed senior project completed in the senior year may count as a senior thesis. (See Academic Regulations in the Student Handbook for details.) As with other theses, the final project will be reviewed by a thesis-examining committee consisting of three faculty, at least one from outside the Theater Department. Students are encouraged to consult with members of this committee during the planning and execution of the project.