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Drama Department Goals and Objectives

The mission of Drama is to balance the practice of theater with study of the history, theory, and literatures of the drama. Our curriculum grows from one fundamental question: how does the history of theater and the history of dramatic literatures inform the challenges of contemporary theater analysis and theater making? Our study of theater history is multidisciplinary and requires us to engage politics, social sciences, and philosophy, as well as other art forms. We assume that there is no one truth or correct methodology, but rather multiple solutions to the questions we pose. In addition, we work in tandem with other departments such as Music, Dance and Classics. Thus, our methods of inquiry are constantly evolving.

Although the requirements for concentration allow each student a good deal of individual choice, all drama majors take courses which explore dramatic literature and the history/theory of drama, as well as production courses in acting, directing, design, etc. Even in the production courses, however, we attempt to integrate practical work with more intellectual study by focusing on plays that are also being examined in our literature and theory courses. We believe that drama is important because of the ideas and vision contained in the significant dramatic texts of the past and present, and we expect our directors, both faculty and student, to bring a strong experimental point of view to each play they produce.The course requirements for the major represent a carefully structured series of building blocks. However, our curriculum reflects our mission for both non-majors and majors: to encourage students to read deeply and to understand the basics of literary-critical analysis through phenomenological and practical means. Drama 102, “Introduction to Theater Making” reflects our teaching philosophy and our collaborative process. It is designed to engage students as critical audience members and to help them move beyond purely emotional reactions to critical judgment and analysis. In these ways, the course fulfills the College's mission of helping students to develop their powers of reason and imagination through processes of analysis and synthesis.By the time Drama majors leave Vassar, we expect them to be familiar with the history of global theater and dramatic literature from its ancient Greek beginnings to the present. We also expect them to have developed the ability to think critically about both dramatic texts and theatrical productions and to be able to express original critical and analytical thoughts through clear prose. Finally, we expect them to have gained an understanding of and practical ability in the various elements of theatrical production: acting, directing, design, and technical theater.

To achieve these goals, students take series of courses that explore production, dramatic literature, the history/theory of drama, while allowing them considerable individual choice. This sequence begins in the freshman year with Drama 102 and103, which give prospective majors a basic understanding of topics ranging from the art of collaboration to theatrical communication, design and technical elements, and essential skills of stagecraft.  Drama 200 allows students to participate directly in departmental productions and thus apply the more theoretical knowledge they obtained in 102 and 103.  In the sophomore year, all majors complete a full-year course on the sources of world drama and begin more intensive study of one or more theatrical skills. This coursework prepares sophomores for more advanced study of both the history and theory of drama and the practicum aspects of production. During the junior and senior years, majors must complete at least two, 300-level courses which further develop their understanding of drama and performance studies, and their ability to think critically and write effectively about the history and theory of drama. Normally, majors will also continue to participate in departmental productions and to develop their theatrical skills through courses ranging from Drama 302 (Problems in Design) to 382 (Acting for the Camera). Course instructors, as well as those involved in play productions, constantly evaluate students' progress in developing the theatrical skills explored in each course. 

Most senior majors enroll in Drama 390 (Senior Project in Drama). In this course, the student undertakes and completes, with close faculty supervision, a significant project in dramatic literature, theater history, performance studies, acting, directing, design, or playwriting. Students are encouraged to collaborate on a project. Even when undertaking practicum projects in acting, directing, or design, students in 390 must produce a companion research paper of considerable length. In this way, before graduation, each student demonstrates to the faculty his or her ability to think and write about theater, as well as the more practicum skill or skills that he or she has acquired.