Dram205 (cds) - header - Course Timeline


Dram205 is structured in 3 units.  The units are assembled according to the overall journey of the course.  We will begin by establishing our baseline discussions about Realism and its alternatives as strategies for dramatic storytelling.  Then we will explore the concept of theatricality.  Finally, we will look at how theatricality and departures from realism are being used in some contemporary theatrical works.  The units will proceed as follows:

 Unit 1 – Introducing Theatricality 

Describing something as “theatre” is not the same as describing it as “theatrical.”  In the context of this course, theatricality will be defined as communication that foregrounds its existence as theatre, and therefore, as performed artifice.

I will argue that embracing artifice is how theatre has been able to best respond to the rise of film and televisual media in the age of film and television.  I will propose that theatre’s secret weapon is its artifice, and in particular, the fact that the audience is aware of that artifice.  Or, to put it another way, theatre works best when the audience knows that it is fake.

 Unit 2 – Holding Mirrors Up to Nature

Shakespeare famously wrote that the purpose of theatre is to hold the mirror up to nature.  But what kind of mirror are we talking about, and what, exactly, do we mean by “nature”?

In realist storytelling, that mirror involves imitating human behavior on stage as it is seen in the world.  The mirror is realistic, and the “nature” is observable behavior.  But it is always thus? In this unit, we will begin with a discussion of realism, but then we will complicate the idea of holding the “mirror up to nature” by exploring other, more abstract “mirrors” and less material aspects of human “nature.”  We will look at how theatre artists have endeavoured to hold conversations about both our social and spiritual realities through their art.

The primary objective of this unit is to establish a baseline for later discussion in the course.  By introducing multiple “mirrors” (approaches to theatrical storytelling) and several definitions of human “nature” (material, ideal, spiritual, social, emotional, etc), I hope to provide us with a broader foundation for our later discussions of theatre and theatrical storytelling.

 Unit 3 – Theatrical mirrors 

Both theatre and film can be overtly theatrical.  In this unit, we will look at examples of overt theatricality and artifice, including masks, drag, and puppetry, and we will discuss how these theatrical strategies are being used to explore deeper questions about identity.  The works explored in this phase of the course use theatrical strategies as unusual ‘mirrors’ for discussing aspects of human nature and experience.


Subject to change

Screenings Class Topic Assignments


Theatre in the Age of…
Wk 2 Doubt  MIMESIS
What does it mean to “hold, as t’were, the mirror up to nature”
Wk 3 Rent – Filmed Live on Broadway THEATRICALITY
What does it mean to be theatrical?


Wk 4 Theater of War DISTANCE
The best thing about theatre is that we know it is fake
ICE Grading Forum #1
Wk 5 Selections from Beckett on Film SUGGESTION
Theatre’s secret weapon
ICE Assignment #1
Wk 6 The Plague, by the Living Theatre RITUAL
Theatrical explorations of the Dionysian
Wk 7 (See Live Production before this week) LIVENESS
Does liveness make a difference?


Wk 8 Lilies
“It doesn’t exists unless you do it”
ICE Grading Forum #2
Wk 9 I Claudia MASKS
Abstracting Identity
ICE Assignment #2
Wk 10 Hedwig and the Angry Inch DRAG
Grotesquing Identity
Wk 11 Evil Dead CARNIVAL
Profaning Identity
Wk 12 Black Watch CONCLUSION
Bringing it all together
ICE Assignment #3

There is no exam in this course.