Professor Claudia Orenstein
Graduate: THC 725.22
Undergraduate: THEA 397.22. Pre-requisite one World Theatre course (THEA 211, 212 or 213) or permission of instructor
Inspired by the recent wave of plays and musicals that take history, especially US history, as their subject, this course explores the topic of how we stage history, drawing particular attention to theatre’s engagement with our current social and political moment through history. We will explore questions such as: What is at stake in staging history? What are the differences between history as subject or setting? What possibilities does theatre offer for fresh examination of history? Why is history such a popular subject for theatre right now? Some topics and representative works we will cover include the struggle to represent history (We Are Proud to Present, The America Play), indigenous mythical/historical performance models, cosmic scope histories (Ruhl’s Passion Play, Wilder’s Skin of Our Teeth), staging economic history (Lehman Trilogy, Brecht), racial relations past and present (Underground Railroad Game, Slave Play), strong women resurrected (Mary Seacole, Behind the Sheets), the American musical and the making of America (Hamilton, Oklahoma!), personal and documentary performance (What the Constitution Means to Me, Twilight Los Angeles), and reenactments and historical villages. Our work will focus on discussions of plays, musicals, productions, and relevant critical literature, supplemented (hopefully) by theatre outings and guest speakers. The course is not exclusively on US history and performance, but this will be a strong component of the content and our approach to the subject as we open up larger issues about how we tell our historical stories.