Theater & Performance Studies Courses

Theater & Performance Studies courses intertwine critical and creative inquiry.  In addition to intensive studio courses in Acting, Adaptation and Performance of Literature, and Design, almost one-half of our classes offered are cross-listed with other departments, including American Studies, Culture and Politics, and Comparative Literature most often, as well as African American Studies, the Center for Social Justice, English, and Women’s and Gender Studies.  Signature courses include World Theater History; the Hope Playwriting Seminar; Material Culture: History of Costume Design; Gender and Performance; Culture and Diplomacy: Performance, Film, and Media; Spectacle of Eating; and Improv for Social Change.

Fall 2020 Courses

View the pdf of Fall 2020 courses.

These production labs involve experiential learning tied to scenic, costume and run crew areas as supervised by TPST faculty and staff. Majors must complete three graded credits of this class across different areas with the goal of developing a well-rounded, technically-responsible grasp of theater-making and roles, as well as cohort. Minors are required to take a single credit of any section. These supervised production labs connect to our TPST Home Season in the Davis Center, supervised by the Davis Center’s Professional Production Staff. For majors, the three credits are typically filled by single credits over different semesters; however, run crew can be fulfilled by the two-credit stage management option, and, with approval, students may enroll in more than one
section a semester. The Scenic and Costume Shop Practicums meet for regular weekly scheduled class times, typically for three hours; the mandatory run crew assignment meets intensively (on weekends and evenings) for three to four weeks of the semester, only, tied to a show in the TPST Season.

Professor Devika Ranjan

In this gateway TPST course, students will encounter distinct approaches to performance and analyze its diverse critical terms, embodied practices, and cultural roles. Throughout the semester, we will explore the many ways and contexts in which performance may manifest artistically, culturally, politically, and socially. Through theoretical and practical research and presentation, direct performance encounters, and focused discussion, we will consider the different demands on performers, audiences, and communities in distinct sociocultural webs and historical moments. Readings, viewings, and/or exercises will draw on a range of local, regional, national, and international practitioners and scholars, with special attention given to those holding intersectionally minoritarian identities. A cross-cultural and expansive entry to the field, this class enables students to explore their own emergent relationships to performance and to develop a theoretical and practical toolbox for contextualizing performance in its cultural range, scope, and complexity.

Attributes: SFS/CULP Core, Core:HALC – Hum, Art, Lit, Cul, X-List: CULP

Professor Kate Yust Al-Shamma

This course focuses on expanding each individual’s capacity for telling the truth. We cover practical techniques for public speaking, participating in groups, and performing both onstage and on camera. Students choose topics and deliver a variety of texts in order to develop greater self-awareness and self-confidence, and to polish presentation skills. We go deeply into relaxation, breath work, and body opening for voice and vibration in order to cultivate presence, connection with others, storytelling abilities, and public performance of all kinds.

Professor Sarah Marshall

Professor Michael Williams

Taught by experts in the field, Acting I provides an experiential introduction to the study of acting for the stage based in psychological and physical realism. Emphasis is placed on the critical and creative theories and techniques to cultivate imagination, focus, embodied creativity, self-awareness, vocal range, collaboration, and script analysis. Acting projects include scenes, monologues, and acting exercises. Students will fulfill readings (e.g. by Stanislavski and Uta Hagen), writing assignments, and performance projects. Suitable for students with considerable performance experience but without college coursework in acting, and for complete beginners.

Core:HALC – Hum, Art, Lit, Cul

Professor Robert Jansen

This course is an introduction to the fundamental practice and theory of public speaking and oral communication using theatrical techniques of both performance and the craft of storytelling. Students will investigate communication through the lens of the performer and apply performance techniques to enhance communication and presentation skills. The class will explore how to speak authentically to a group of people, use body language to express ideas, develop a more dynamic vocal presence, and engage more deeply with an audience. This class focuses particularly on how presence can be utilized to awaken powerful, persuasive and connected communication. Some of the performance techniques used in class include skills and exercises for voice, breath, body awareness, listening, relaxation, collaboration and improvisation. Emphasis will also be given to ways in which a performer uses language and text analysis to convey complex thoughts and emotions to an audience. Approaches to communication will be practiced in one-on-one conversations, small group work as well as speaking to large groups of people. Class topics will increase awareness of artful communication in daily social engagement, individual presentations, business practices, leadership roles and global citizenship.

Professor Robert Jansen

This introductory course offers a highly participatory laboratory for individual and group/ ensemble exploration of socially engaged, improvisational performance. Throughout the semester, we will explore how a wide variety of artists and cultural workers have advanced and are continuing to advance social change, civic engagement, and community-based dialogue. Students will be asked to examine their own values and convictions and will develop skills and tools to put them into practice through embodied performative interventions into the social world. By focusing our attention on students’ own life experiences and the issues in our own local/ campus, regional, national, and global communities (local/ campus, national, and global) that each student cares about most deeply, students will draw connections between the intimate personal register of their own creative selves, and their active participation in the communities they occupy. Case studies and performance activities will focus not only on the content but also on the form and the context of diverse creative processes. Class exercises and assignments will emphasize experiential learning as we both participate in guided improvisational workshops and develop skills in creating and facilitating our own original performance workshops, and ultimately a final ensemble creation as a class. Reading will draw on Brecht, Boal and Jan Cohen-Cruz, among others.

Students wishing to pursue a fourth credit CBL experience may do so by coordinating at semester’s start with the professor and CSJ (via Amanda Munroe)

Attributes: X-List: CULP, X-List: JUPS

Professor Christine Evans

This gateway humanities course introduces students how to read, analyze and write about plays in the context of cultural studies as well as theatrical production and dramatic criticism. By engaging with plays from a variety of periods, cultures, genres and styles – including plays from Ancient Greece to contemporary America, from Shakespeare to classical Noh drama – we will develop students’ ability to read plays closely while analyzing the host of production choices inspired by structure, theme, context and interpretive lens, for example. Plays studied range from classics to contemporary realism, farce to solo performance, and include plays from diverse cultural perspectives. This introductory seminar is required for all TPST majors and minors, and includes writing assignments designed to hone students’ emergent critical and creative voices.

Attributes: College/Human. & Writing II, Core:HALC – Hum, Art, Lit, Cul, X-List: CPLT

Professor Natsu Onoda Power

This is an intensive introductory course that explores visual and spatial creativity through artistic composition, script analysis, and theatrical design. This overview course acquaints students with design elements and techniques as non-verbal communication tools to express the creative imagination in theatrical contexts. Lecture, discussion, reading, and project work in a variety of media will place emphasis on imagining the theatrical world of plays and other texts. The course will examine traditional areas of design including scenery, lighting, costumes, and sound, as well as the collaborative process with directors and other theater artists.

Registration by audition and permission of instructor only. These immersive special topics studio courses manifest as project-based rehearsal and performance the TPST Home Season in the Davis Center, involving students in deep critical and creative learning in collaboration with faculty and guest artists. As each project is distinct, the artistic methods and focal subjects vary, often involving interdisciplinary research distinct to the play. Look to the Season brochure and DPA website to learn more about each specific project and its methods.

Professor Michael Williams

This course explores creative approaches to forging live performance born from autobiography. Students will write, direct, and act in autobiographically-based short performances built on their own narratives, those of their peers, and a diverse array of personal histories mined from Instagram, YouTube, letters, memoirs, diaries, and more. Students will engage with a range of dramatic texts that harness first-person narrative as a theatrical engine, penned by acclaimed playwrights and theatremakers, in addition to fulfilling performance projects, interviews/transcriptions, reflection papers, and short literary readings. Suitable for students with considerable performance experience and for complete beginners.

Professor Derek Goldman

In Performance and Pandemic: The Arts in the Age of COVID-19, we will engage with the artistic, economic, administrative/ managerial and spiritual impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the arts sector, with a particular emphasis on the impact of the crisis on live performance. The class will by definition be responsive to and engaging with the present-tense realities and practices in our world while it is unfolding. Among our activities, we will engage with artistic strategies and projects being created for a virtual landscape (online performances etc), and we will also engage with strategies being employed around the world for artists and arts organizations to respond to the crisis, to reimagine their work in a sustained climate of “physical distancing,” to adapt, to survive, and to attempt to thrive. Through readings, viewings, creative projects, and conversations with artists and arts leaders regionally, nationally, and globally, we will also explore how and why artists matter in a time of crisis, as well as the long-term and permanent impacts of the pandemic on how we gather, and on the future of live performance.

Attributes: SFS/CULP Humanities, SFS/CULP Core, Medical Humanities

Professor Sarah Marshall

In this intensive intermediate studio class, students develop creative and critical skills that build on the foundational work of Acting I through in-depth character and scene work from plays that deepen our engagement with realism and extend into the realms of heightened physical and verbal style, both classic and contemporary. Readings will include selections by Stanislavsky, Adler, Hagen, Meisner, Michael Chekhov, or similar theorist/practitioners. Social research, interpretation, play analysis and physical and vocal work are the primary methodologies. Focus on imagination and creation of character will be emphasized through research-to-performance projects and applied scene work. Students will reflect critically on their progress through written and oral critiques. Class work will require extensive preparation outside of class.

Prerequisites: TPST 120 or Permission of Instructor

Professor Soyica Diggs Colbert

In Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry, Imani Perry describes Baldwin, Hansberry and Simone as the trinity. Baldwin, Hansberry and Simone offer a singular unity in black cultural production because of their shared commitment to aesthetics and activism. The three figures, each working expertly in a different genre, also shared a fierce friendship. While all three had individual areas of emphasis, Hansberry’s materialism, Simone’s black feminism, and Baldwin’s black nationalism, they learned from each other and taught one another lessons about how to navigate American racism, heterosexism, and patriarchy during the Cold War and Civil Rights Movement periods. Through an examination of primary and secondary sources, this course will examine the individual aesthetic practices of Baldwin, Hansberry and Simone and consider how their artistic and activist work informs one another. Organized around themes from the artists’ works, the class begins with an examination of the 1950s and the Cold War, shifts into the artists’ engagement with the Village Scene, and ends with an exploration of the Civil Rights Movement. In class discussion and written assignments, students will engage with and develop an in-depth understanding of the historical, social, philosophical, and political theories and practices that distinguish the artistic contributions of Baldwin, Hansberry and Simone. We will examine how these artists not only fashioned themselves but shaped communities, organizations, political movements and the nation.

Attributes: Core: Diversity/Domestic, College/AFAM:Lang,Lit,Art,Cult


Archive: Spring 2020 Courses

This course is an introduction to the fundamental practice and theory of public speaking and oral communication using theatrical techniques of both performance and the craft of storytelling. Students will investigate communication through the lens of the performer and apply performance techniques to enhance communication and presentation skills. The class will explore how to speak authentically to a group of people, use body language to express ideas, develop a more dynamic vocal presence, and engage more deeply with an audience. This class focuses particularly on how presence can be utilized to awaken powerful, persuasive and connected communication. Some of the performance techniques used in class include skills and exercises for voice, breath, body awareness, listening, relaxation, collaboration and improvisation. Emphasis will also be given to ways in which a performer uses language and text analysis to convey complex thoughts and emotions to an audience. Approaches to communication will be practiced in one-on-one conversations, small group work as well as speaking to large groups of people. Class topics will increase awareness of artful communication in daily social engagement, individual presentations, business practices, leadership roles and global citizenship.
TPST 121/PSPK 105: 3 credits

Professor Rob Jansen

MW 1:00pm-2:50pm

DPAC 036

This gateway humanities course introduces students how to read, analyze and write about plays in the context of cultural studies as well as theatrical production and dramatic criticism. By engaging with plays from a variety of periods, cultures, genres and styles – including plays from Ancient Greece to contemporary America, from Shakespeare to classical Noh drama – we will develop students’ ability to read plays closely while analyzing the host of production choices inspired by structure, theme, context and interpretive lens, for example. Plays studied range from classics to contemporary realism, farce to solo performance, and include plays from diverse cultural perspectives. This introductory seminar is required for all TPST majors and minors, and includes writing assignments designed to hone students’ emergent critical and creative voices. Fulfills HALC requirement. X-List: Comparative Literature. Theater Lab Fee: $50

TPST 130-01: 3 credits

Professor Christine M Evans

MW 12:30pm-1:45pm

DPAC 025

Arts Management is widely considered the financial and administrative stewardship of artists and their works, but what exactly does Arts Management encompass? This course introduces successful arts management practices, highlighting a range of organizational models, ranging from socially-engaged performance companies, to established non-profit theaters in the DC area, as well as presenting organizations and more commercial artistic enterprises. Through a combination of case studies and practical exercises, students will be introduced to a variety of mission/artistic statements, and will learn hands-on the fundamentals of Producing (budgeting and managing a project, fulfilling contracts, creating a marketing plan) and Development (audience engagement, fundraising, and grant writing.) Guest speakers from a range of regional and national arts organizations round out the course experience, providing windows into the depth of career opportunities in the field. Students from all disciplines welcome and encouraged.

TPST 161-01: 3 credits

Professor Vanessa Gilbert

MW 11:00am-12:50pm

DPAC 036

This interdisciplinary intermediate course engages students in an experiential and experimental approach to the adaptation, staging, and performance of literature (poetry, fiction, non-fiction), drawing on works from across a variety of cultures, genres and styles. Students will develop original performances, acting as the adapter, director, and performer in their works. Students will work collaboratively, as well as independently, as they pursue the intersection of critical and creative values. This course is required for the TPST major. Theater Lab Fee $50

TPST 200-01: 3 credits

Professor Natsu Onoda Power

TR 11:00am-12:50pm

DPAC 035

This course explores the foundations of cabaret performance. Solo and small group musical numbers, eccentric “late-night” character creations, poetry performance, drag acts and live shenanigans form the creative backbone of this course. Cabaret history readings and recordings of live performances support in-class showings of short acts conceived, honed, and shared over the course of the semester. Rehearsal, creation, and group collaborations outside-of-class necessary for successful completion of the coursework. This course culminates in a night of cabaret performance staged in the Davis Performing Arts Center lobby for the Georgetown University community.

TPST 227-01: 3 credits

Professor Michael T. Williams

TR 1:00pm-2:50pm

DPAC 035

In this intensive, intermediate-level workshop, students will develop a one-act play through several drafts, along with fulfilling weekly assignments, reading selected critical texts and published plays, and attending performances. The central focus will be on developing each writer’s unique vision and voice, in association with close attention to craft, form and style. In-class discussion of one’s own and others’ work is an essential part of the class. The semester will conclude with script-in-hand readings of each student’s final project (the one-act play). Students will work in small groups and receive guidance in ways to discuss and develop their work in progress. In addition to weekly meetings, students will attend and consider several performances at professional DC theatres. Course open to Juniors and Seniors only. Sophomores with creative writing experience may contact faculty to seek approval. Priority to TPST majors/minors. TPST-280 may be retaken as TPST-380. X-List: English. Theater Lab Fee $50

TPST 280-01: 3 credits

Professor Christine M. Evans

MW 3:30pm-4:45pm

DPAC 036

This multidisciplinary course examines the relationship between madness/mental illness and performance. Using texts from history, dramatic literature, philosophy, medical science and film, we will investigate how the idea of mental illness is represented and/or performed (in theatrical or non-theatrical context). We will take case studies from a variety of cultures and historical moments, exploring how the notion of what is “normal” and “abnormal” transform through time and context. In addition to discussions and presentations, we will engage in a variety of performance and other creative workshops throughout the semester.

TPST 291: 3 credits

Professor Natsu Onoda Power

R 3:00pm-5:30pm

DPAC 035

How are various identities performed in the US and the UK? What does it look like when performance tackles issues of identity? This course revolves around an examination of key types of identities in British and US society, and how they are represented on and off stage. Using an array of performance and theatrical examples, this course considers the roles of race, religion, age, and gender/sexuality in transatlantic performance. The course draws primarily on research from performance studies, critical race studies, and sociology/anthropology. Students will leave this course with a deeper knowledge of the ways in which contemporary performance forms in the US and the UK reflect and resist societal norms.

TPST 343-01: 3 credit

Instructor: Asif Majid

R 3:00pm-5:30pm

DPAC 025

This advanced studio course meets simultaneously with TPST-280. See that description for more information. Course open to Seniors only or those who have previously taken TPST-280. Priority to TPST majors/minors. X-List: English. Theater Lab Fee: $50

TPST 380-01: 3 credits

Professor Christine M. Evans

MW 3:30pm-4:45pm

DPAC 036

This one-credit capstone course, required of Senior majors, is intended as a colloquium for advanced degree students reflecting on their trajectory across the major. It will also serve seniors considering a future in theater/performance studies, scholarship, education, or production. This weekly colloquium provides a forum to support students’ emergent self-definitions in relationship to the field while demystifying its professional terms.  Faculty, staff and guest artists will introduce diverse sites of professional engagement in relation to the discipline’s distinctive methodology. Students, in turn, will present to their colleagues in the cohort regarding their forays in the discipline, and in relation to a self-chosen project, approved and mentored by the professor. As this class is a workshop/colloquium, lively student participation and respectful critique is urged.  

Required for TPST senior majors. Senior minors may participate with instructor permission.

TPST 410-01: 1 credit

Professor Derek Goldman

F 1:00pm-2:15pm

DPAC 025

This course brings together six students each from Georgetown and Patrick Henry College, a conservative Christian college in Virginia, to use performative performative techniques of deep listening, interpersonal dialogue, devised performance, and call-and-response to engage the perspectives of individuals across real and perceived ideological divides. This five -credit course offers students a space in which to develop a deeper understanding of their own beliefs and how these beliefs have been cultivated, as well as to explore the shared hopes, dreams and fears that cut across America’s increasingly polarized society. It builds off of a successful pilot project last year and will again culminate in public presentations on both campuses. Please note the course is open by application and interview only.

TPST 415-01: 5 credits

Professor Derek Goldman

M 2:00pm-4:45pm, DPAC 035

M 5:00pm-9:00pm, DPAC 025

These production labs involve experiential learning in scenic, costume, lights, props, and run crew areas, as supervised by TPST faculty and staff. Majors must complete three graded (typically) single credit sections of this class over a series of semesters, including one run-crew assignment, whereas minors are required to take a single credit semester, typically of TPST-091 – the workshop class that begins this series of classes. TPST-091 is led by different faculty/staff each week to highlight workshops in diverse skills, from Vector-works to scenic painting, fabric dyeing to basic theater safety. TPST-093 (and by permission TPST-092) consist of supervised production labs tied to the TPST home season in the Davis Center, enabling a more well-rounded, technically-astute understanding of making theater. Credits bundle for majors after three credits are fulfilled and must be requested of the Dean or Director of Undergraduate Study. In addition to registering for any of these classes, ALL majors and minors must fill out a scheduling form kept in 108 Davis by the first Friday of the new semester to secure their actual placement, tied to schedules and lab times. Students will fulfill regular weekly scheduled meetings, typically for three hours, with faculty/staff for production labs or more intensive run-crew assignments (which happen in consolidated timeframes) to pass the course. As of Fall 2015, most majors begin with TPST-091, then take TPST-093 in two other semesters. A TPST-090-1 (Workshop), zero credit option is available to any student (eg co-curricular artists), who seek to take only selected workshops from the workshop series, which provides a flexible curricular model to heighten learning and collaborative labs.

TPST 091-01: 1 credit

TPST 092-01: 2 credits

TPST 093-01: 1 credit

Professor Natsu Onoda Power (coordinating faculty), Veronica Lancaster, Joel Hobson

This zero-credit faculty-mentored practicum is intended for students who participate with Black Theatre Ensemble in artistic, leadership, or community engagement projects. Students may engage in a series of small projects or a single immersive one, and will participate at key junctures with others in the cohort, such as for coffeehouse programming, MLK Jr Performances, workshops led by the Professor Caroline Clay, season planning, and/or dialogues on race, representation, and social justice via performance. This curricular pilot ties into BTE’s co-curricular learning community, led by Lisette Booty and Caitlin Oauno.

TPST 099: 0 credit

Professor Soyica Diggs Colbert

Taught by experts in the field, Acting I provides an experiential introduction to the study of acting for the stage based in psychological and physical realism. Emphasis is placed on the critical and creative theories and techniques to cultivate imagination, focus, embodied creativity, self-awareness, vocal range, collaboration, and script analysis. Acting projects include scenes, monologues, and acting exercises. Students will fulfill readings (e.g. by Stanislavski and Uta Hagen), writing assignments, and performance projects. Suitable for students with considerable performance experience but without college coursework in acting, and for complete beginners. Theater Lab Fee – $50

TPST 120: 3 credits

Professors Sarah Marshall and Michael T. Williams

01 MW 9:00am – 10:50am, DPAC 036

02 MW 11:00am – 12:50pm, DPAC 035

03 TR 9:00am-10:50am, DPAC 035

View a list of Theater & Performance Studies courses through the Schedule of Classes online.