ARTS 610
Plays for Performance

David Jaffe


Plays for Performance is a course designed to introduce students to a spectrum of plays that are representative of different theatrical genres and styles. Rather than examining these texts as literature - an important task to be sure - we will be looking at these plays as scripts for performance and the artistic and social contexts in which they were written. 

In addition to thinking critically and contextually about these plays, students will also be developing their ability to engage others in the exploration of theatrical texts. The course will examine how the four modes of literacy - speaking, reading, writing, and listening - can be engaged in the study of dramatic literature.  Course will cover: 

  • The use of appropriate style and disciplinary conventions in writing and speaking

  • Interpretation, as we examine the contexts in which each play was written

  • Inter-cultural literacy, as we will look at a number of plays by minority and foreign authors

  • Imaginative and creative response to text and theme


The course is structured as a series of discussions and analyses followed by play readings.  Our goal is to cover 12 - 15 plays over the course of the term, ranging from the Ancient Greeks to contemporary plays of the "00"s. Selected scenes from the assigned texts will be rehearsed in class and presented as active readings.

Course Blog/Discussion Board

This course will have a Blackboard on the Wesleyan ePortfolio system.  Information such as the course syllabus, office hours, special articles, and internet links will be posted on our Course Blackboard.  In addition, you will be responsible for posting responses to the assigned readings and any special events that we may attend.  The issues or questions to be addressed will accompany the specific reading assignment.  Each assignment will have a deadline, and all postings must be up by that day and time.

Final Paper

In addition to the blogging, a final paper of more depth and formality (7-10 pages) will be due on the last day of classes.  A choice of topics will be offered, all of which will require familiarity with the course reading list and plays from beyond the list.

Tentative Play List
Week 1

Antigone, Hamlet, Angels in America (Kushner)

Week 2 A Doll House (Ibsen), Machinal (Treadwell), A Streetcar Named Desire (Williams)
Week 3

Uncle Vanya (Chekhov), Waiting for Godot (Beckett), Long Day's Journey Into Night (O'Neill)

Week 4

Phaedra's Love (Sarah Kane), The Other Shore (Gao Xingjian), I Am My Own Wife (Doug Wright)

Week 5 How I Learned to Drive (Paula Vogel), Fucking A (Suzan-Lori Parks), References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot (Jose Rivera)