New York University
Program in Dramatic Literature
(Fall 2017)

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Course Description:

This course surveys a range of experimental theater practices in the twentieth century. But what do we mean by terms like “experimental,” “avant-garde,” and “postdramatic” theater? And what performance techniques, audience provocations, and radical politics have manifested under these monikers in Europe and America? We will read (about) and watch a number of landmark performances from a variety of national contexts and theatrical traditions, in order to explore thematic and formal experiments with the “modern” theater and its aftermath by directors, actors, playwrights, designers, choreographers, and ensembles. We will investigate questions that include: the contested status of the dramatic text; the rise of the director’s theater; the relationship between performance and interdisciplinary art practices; the shift away from psychological realism; and artists’ explorations of the fusions between art and life. Our reading, watching, and thinking about an experimental history of twentieth-century theater will also consider the sociocultural, economic, political, and aesthetic conditions that animate these different performance practices.