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Fiche de cours

Experiments in Theater, 1950 to the Present

Faculté de gestion: Faculté des lettres

Responsable(s): Kevin Curran
Intervenant(s): -

Période de validité: 2018 -> 2018

Pas d'horaire défini.


Semestre d'automne
2 heures par semaine
28 heures par semestre

Langue(s) d'enseignement: anglais
Public: Oui
Crédits: 5.00


Almost all the major avant-garde movements of western theater-from the realism of Henrik Ibsen and August Strindberg, to the Verfremdungseffekt of Bertolt Brecht and the théâtre de la cruauté of Antonin Artaud-had come to fruition by 1950. So what was left to do? How did playwrights in the second half of the twentieth century forge paths that were challenging and new? This MA seminar sets out to answer these questions by exploring a selection of English and American plays written between 1950 and our own time, each of which advances a new theatrical idiom or uses established modernist techniques in new ways. Samuel Beckett creates absurd worlds that are at once comic and philosophical; Luis Valdez and Caryl Churchill draw on Brechtian techniques to explore modern questions of politics, identity, and gender; Tony Kushner and Suzan-Lori Parks craft plays that teeter on the brink of realism and surrealism; Anna Deavere-Smith pushes naturalism to its radical extreme with "documentary theater"; Howard Barker writes a minimalist, prop-driven play that examines how objects become enchanted, both in the theater and in our lives; and Sarah Kane, in a play that shocked London audiences with its over-the-top violence, tests the limits of what can be represented on stage. By the end of this course, students will have gained four things: (1) a solid understanding of some of the most important playwrights of the later twentieth century; (2) a sense of both the continuities and disjunctions between the pre- and post-War theatrical avant-garde; (3) an understanding of the flexible relationship between theatrical form and spectator experience; and (4) an affirmation of theater's enduring ability to reinvent itself and challenge its audiences aesthetically, intellectually, and morally. Students will validate the seminar by creating a performance project (either an "object play" or a "documentary play") that has both a critical and a creative component.

Required Texts (Available at "Books, Books, Books" in Lausanne:

Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot (1955)
Luis Valdez, Zoot Suit (1979)
Caryl Churchill, Cloud 9 (1979)
Tony Kushner, Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes (1991)
Anna Deavere-Smith, Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 (1993)
Sarah Kane, Blasted (1995)
Suzan-Lori Parks, Topdog/Underdog (2000)
Howard Barker, Plays Two (2003)


In order to validate this course, students must produce a final performance project. This can take one of two forms.

Option 1: Documentary Theater
Students wishing to do the Documentary Theater project will roughly follow the methodology used by Anna Deavere-Smith for Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, though the precise topic and approach is, of course, left open. We will discuss other versions of documentary theater in class, by artists and playwrights such as Milo Rau and Stefan Kaegi, which may also provide inspiration.

Option 2: Object Play
Students wishing to do the Object Play will take their cue from Howard Barker's 13 Objects, though, again, there will be a great deal of freedom in terms of both the object chosen and the way it is treated theatrically. Inspiration may also be drawn from other conceptual and performance artists discussed in class.

Students may work alone or in groups. All projects must be performed by the end of the semester (live in front of the class, filmed and shown to class, mix of live performance and film, and filmed and submitted exclusively to me are all acceptable). All projects must be accompanied by an analytical reflection, either written or presented, that outlines concretely why different choices were made and how those choices contribute to an overall desired effect, question, statement, or idea in the performance itself.

We will talk about all of this more in class.

Informations supplémentaires


Canton de Vaud
Swiss University
Unicentre  -  CH-1015 Lausanne  -  Suisse  -  Tél. +41 21 692 11 11  -  Fax  +41 21 692 26 15