The number of American, British, and Irish plays written in
the last century that have acquired absolute canonical status are few. I would
say that there are probably only four with secure places in the pantheon:
Beckett’s Waiting for Godot,
Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named
Desire, Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s
Journey into Night, and Arthur Miller’s Death
of a Salesman. Other candidates on
the threshold, depending on your criteria, include John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger and Tony Kushner’s Angels in America.
We will NOT be reading any of those plays. I will assume
that anyone taking this course will have already read them. If you haven’t, and
would like to take this course, I suggest some summer reading of the plays
above, before our class begins.
We will instead read ten other playwrights, five American,
three English, and two Irish. They will include: August Wilson, Sam Shepard,
David Mamet, Anna Deavere Smith, Paula Vogel, Sean O’Casey, Martin McDonagh,
Caryl Churchill, Sarah Kane, and Alan Bennett.
We will usually read more than one play by each playwright.
–To read widely in drama of the last half century written
–To listen to a selection of the voices that have shaped
both the content and the form of contemporary theatre, with a look at solo
performance as well as more traditional theatrical forms.
–To read these texts closely, to write about them
intelligently, and, whenever possible, to consider them in performance as well.
To be determined
— Two five-page analytical essays
–Midterm and final exams
–Written report of one live theatre performance