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Keeping It Real: Realism in Writing and Acting on Stage

Semester and Year SP 2018
Course Number ARTS-UG1007
Section 001
Instructor Ian Morgan
Days T
Time 9:30 AM - 12:15 PM
Units 4
Level U



Since the terms Realism and Naturalism were first applied to plays like  Hedda Gabler  and  Miss Julie , the attempt to create a semblance of everyday life on stage has defined and sometimes dominated Western drama, even by inspiring other styles and movements in reaction. This course will explore the forms and purposes - the how and the why - of these “realistic” approaches to theater, both from a literary and a performance perspective. With the 19th Century movement in visual arts (Courbet, Manet) and literature (Zola, Elliot) as background, and contemporary equivalents in other media (Lucien Freud, Nan Goldin) as context, we will ask what is particular about Realism as a way of seeing or defining the “real”? What perspectives and assumptions does it use to recreate the details of lived experience, and what does a theater audience experience? We will look at some classic 20th Century English-language theatrical examples, from O’Neill and Hansberry to Athol Fugard and August Wilson, alongside contemporary pieces that draw from them, by writers like Robert O’Hara, Lucy Kirkwood, Kenneth Lonergan and Amy Herzog. Acting and directing texts from Uta Hagen and Harold Clurman, as well as writing about associated acting styles (such as “The Method”), will guide our work. Through rehearsing scenes and critical analysis, students will interrogate the techniques and their assumptions, asking what they now might offer us, in a culture suffused in “reality TV” and “realistic” film. The class will then create their own scenes inspired by this tradition.


All Syllabi

Course Type

Arts Workshops (ARTS-UG)