Theater Department

Senior Thesis Library

  • "Like No One I Ever Saw Before": Fun Home as Broadway's Lesbian Interruption
    Aileen Jennifer Lambert
    Tue, 17 May 2016

    Musical theatre is often considered synonymous with male homosexuality. Between the 'disproportionate numbers' of gay men that work in the theatre as playwrights, directors, choreographers, and actors, as so put by D.A. Miller, and the musicals that explicitly chronicle gay male experience such as Rent, La Cage Aux Folles, or Hedwig and the Angry Inch, musical theatre is deftly intertwined with gay culture. If it is not read as gay, musical theatre is, at face value at least, overwhelmingly heterosexual, with most musicals focusing on romance and relying on gender for drama or humor (Guys and Dolls, West Side Story, Oklahoma!, etc). However, lesbians are essentially invisible on the musical stage, excepting a small handful of side parts and character roles, and, most recently, the musical adaptation of Alison Bechdel's memoir Fun Home. In this thesis, I will explore how Fun Home serves as a loud, messy, and unrefined rupture in the conventional structure and content of a Broadway musical, an action I term the “lesbian interruption.” Through analysis of its in-the-round staging, composition style, and formal structure, alongside theories from scholars such as Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Jack Halberstam, David Halperin, Jill Dolan, and Elizabeth Freeman, I will argue that Fun Home is a queer refusal of what makes an acceptable Broadway musical.

  • A Paradise on Earth: Exploring the Actor-Spectator Relationship in Genroku Era Kabuki Performances
    Grace Holland
    Thu, 06 Aug 2015

    Japanese kabuki theater of the Genroku Era facilitated the transformation of audiences into engaged, active participants in the co-creation of performance. Spectators shaped performances directly through their bodies and voices and indirectly through their participation in organized groups providing theaters with financial support. Actors and spectators frequently engaged in intimate or sexual relationships and always maintained close physical proximity during performances. Theatrical performance depends on the co-presence of spectators and performers. Performances are created by the physical presence of actors and audience in one time and place. Within the space of performance, these two groups are in continuous and instantaneous exchange. Theorist Erika Fischer-Lichte refers to this self-perpetuating cycle of exchange as the autopoietic feedback loop. The continuation of the feedback loop for the duration of a performance is inevitable, but the degree to which each group participates actively in this loop depends on the structure and nature of the performance. From the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century, audience reception often was neglected by theorists and actively minimized by theater practitioners. When the job of the director became more integral to structuring performances in the twentieth century, some theater practitioners initiated a movement to bring the public’s focus back to the audience’s role in performance. In Europe and the Americas in the 1960s, many directors constructed performance experiments that sought to highlight the elusive but undoubtedly important role of the audience. Fischer-Lichte describes three interrelated processes that many of these experiments utilized in order to influence the dynamics of the autopoietic feedback loop: role reversal between actors and spectators, the creation of a temporary community within the time and place of the performance, and physical contact. Kabuki theater of the Genroku Era provides a prime example of a theatrical form that relied on these processes in assigning a pivotal role to audiences. This essay explores the means by which kabuki performances shaped the autopoietic feedback loop and facilitated active and engaged spectatorship. Through investigation of kabuki performances of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries from the perspective of contemporary Western theater theorists, this essay considers possibilities for future experiments in influencing the dynamics of the autopoietic feedback loop in performance.

  • Reanimating Theater for a Contemporary Audience: Multimedia Projections and Visual Dramaturgy in the Postdramatic Theater
    Cicily Clare Gruber
    Thu, 06 Aug 2015

    In the past decade, the use of multimedia such as film and video in live theater has become so commonplace that it often goes unnoticed in the context of the theatrical event as a whole. When projected as part of a performance, two-dimensional images contribute to the dramatic storytelling of any theatrical piece. However, such imagery plays a crucial role in postdramatic theater, i.e., performances where the dramatic text is not the central element. Christopher Baugh defines postdramatic as a useful term that embraces a wide range of contemporary performance practice and is generally used to refer to works that have been created from the perceptual elements and materials of theatre and which serve their own artistic purposes, not primarily those of the structuring device of pre-existing dramatic texts (212). This type of theater tends to rely upon visual dramaturgy to generate meaning. In this essay, “visual dramaturgy” refers to the storytelling and meaning that is created primarily through the use of visuals, not through the traditional dramatic means of the text. Hans-Thies Lehmann describes visual dramaturgy in the postdramatic theater: In place of dramaturgy regulated by the text one often finds a visual dramaturgy, which seemed to have attained absolute dominance especially in the theatre of the late 1970s and 1980s, until in the 1990s one could observe a certain ‘return to the text.’ Visual dramaturgy here does not mean an exclusively visually organized dramaturgy but rather one that is not subordinated to the text and can therefore freely develop its own logic (93). This notion of visual dramaturgy can be likewise applied to theater in which text is the primary storyteller, but digital media alters and clarifies the text to establish a sense of cohesive dramaturgy. Erika Fischer-Lichte writes, “meaning is generated in and through the act of perception” (141). The viewer perceives visual storytelling elements and assigns meaning to the theatrical event. Performance itself is dependent upon the behavior of the spectators. The audience reactions elicited by the dramaturgy of a piece create the performance and give it meaning. Fischer-Lichte also argues “the illusion created by the technical and electronic media is often even more successful than illusionistic theatre in triggering strong physiological, affective, energetic, and motor reactions in the spectators” (100). Multimedia can play a principal role in creating the visual dramaturgy of a theatrical performance, particularly in the postdramatic theater. For this project, I am focusing on the analysis of five specific performances that I have experienced live. These case studies include media as a principal scenographic element and I will examine how the dramatic narrative of each production is advanced by its inclusion. Applying Erika Fischer-Lichte’s theories on the power of performance and Hans-Thies Lehmann’s theories on the postdramatic theater, the method of analysis will consist of 1) an objective description: space distribution, elements of design, and narrative or stylistic format, and 2) uses of projections including a) dramaturgical function, b) actor-image interaction, and c) overall success of visual storytelling. These performances are: Sontag: Reborn for use of the digital double as a dramatic character, Shakespeare’s Sonnets for spectacle that relies upon visuals, Tragedy of a Friendship for use of title cards and three-dimensional projection surfaces, Hedwig and the Angry Inch for narrative animation sequences, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time for the use of projections that create the physical and emotional space of the main character’s mind. Following these specific analyses, I will compare and contrast the five productions with specific reference to projected images’ relation to the dramatic text and actor-image interaction. Finally, I use my own work with projections in my production component as a case study in visual dramaturgy. Specifically, I will explore how evoking the mood of Gertrude Stein’s writing style through projections creates visual dramaturgy in Ida, A Novel.

  • Ida, A [Performative] Novel and the Construction of Id/Entity
    Katherine Grace Malczewski
    Thu, 06 Aug 2015

    Gertrude Stein became a literary celebrity following the unexpected success of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas in 1933. Her work after this time reflects a preoccupation with the effects of celebrity on the self that she exemplifies in texts such as Ida, A Novel. As an actor tasked with bringing Stein’s Ida to the stage, my goal in performance was to embody the writer’s specific style and illuminate how her continuous present and view of the self permeate the novel. In this essay, I provide an understanding of Stein’s theoretical concerns and writing process, an analysis of Ida in light of this framework, and a contextualization of Stein’s writing within contemporary performance theory—namely, Erika Fischer-Lichte’s aesthetics of the performative. By combining an analysis of Stein’s work with Fischer-Lichte’s research and my own experience performing Ida, I examine how an actor can transform Stein’s writing techniques into performance strategies. My investigation is by no means a complete study of the actor’s work in the context of Stein’s writing, but it offers a set of tools that can be expanded upon in the future to create performances that emphasize personal memory, play, presence, and above all, process.

  • The Pamela Smart Media Circus: Sensationalizing Crime In Televised Media
    Sara Guernsey
    Thu, 06 Aug 2015

    Television has become arguably one of the most important media outlets for our ability to access all types of information; however, America’s growing dependence on television has become controversial as a result of networks’ bias affecting the public’s beliefs. These biased broadcasts are a result of the newscasters reporting what they consider to be a “good” story designed to align with the viewers’ beliefs, that they hope will accomplish three things: please their current viewers, entice new viewers and bring in higher ratings. However this kind of bias can affect the public’s outlooks on topics such as crime, which, in turn, can affect a member of the community forever. Such was the case with Pamela Smart. Pamela Wojas Smart was a twenty-two year old woman living in Derry, New Hampshire who was accused of having an affair with a fifteen-year-old boy and convincing the teenage boy and his friends to kill her husband. The Pamela Smart murder trial was the first to be aired on television and received an inordinate amount of media attention causing her trial to be unjust. Although I do believe Smart was rightly convicted, her trial was unjust as a result of the judge and the jury being exposed to biased pretrial press and the media circus through out the proceedings. In addition, this trial was the foundation upon which all trial publicity since has been laid, resulting in the chaotic media circuses that surround criminal trials today. In examining the dynamics of the media’s impact on the Pamela Smart murder trial, its outcome, and its aftermath, this paper establishes two things: first that the trial was heavily influenced by the negative portrayals of Smart in the media and second that this trial set the precedent for a new kind of over involved relationship between media and criminal trials that overtime became a normal part of today’s courtroom atmosphere.

  • Freak, Out! : Disability Representation in Theatre
    Emma Toll MacLean
    Fri, 04 Jul 2014
  • "What is a piano that does not sound?": The Women Playwrights of Teatro Abierto
    Claire Landau Whitehouse
    Fri, 04 Jul 2014
  • Adaptation to the Musical Theater Form
    Sarah Dylan Zwickel
    Fri, 04 Jul 2014
  • ?Watch Me Vanish?: Dramatizing Depression in Contemporary Playwriting
    Natalie Lauren Sacks
    Fri, 04 Jul 2014

    This thesis examines the role of theater specifically in illuminating the nature of clinical depression. Given that depression is a deeply personal and internally focused illness, what new understanding can depictions of depression in contemporary playwriting offer that is unique to the form? Through an examination of three seminal works, ?night, Mother, The Effect and 4.48 Psychosis, I will argue that plays about depression invoke the audience simultaneously as the depressed character's sympathetic support system and as the force that isolates them in their own inescapable world, while the dramatic structure of the play forces the playwright to tell a story with a sense of closure that might otherwise feel foreign to the lived experience of depression.

  • Navigating Shared Space: Audience Agency and Passivity in Environmental and Immersive Theater
    Emeline Wong Finckel
    Fri, 04 Jul 2014
  • A Sense of Place: wayang kulit in Bali and wayang listrik in America
    Tessa Charlotte Prada Young
    Mon, 03 Jun 2013
  • "In This Last Tempest": Narratives of Dying Well on the English Stage from the Moralities to Shakespeare
    Nicholas Stephen Orvis
    Mon, 03 Jun 2013

    This thesis examines Shakespeare's "The Tempest" as a proto-Brechtian didactic narrative on the process for dying well. In doing so, it situates the play within a 200-year tradition of theatre reaching back to the medieval morality plays.

  • "Hell is Other People": Exploring the Audience-Actor Relationship in Hell House Performances
    Lily Elizabeth Haje
    Mon, 03 Jun 2013
  • Aporia: Fatal Passion, the Sojourn to Infinitude, and the Historical Fracture of Aristotelian Convention in Jean Racine's Phèdre
    Amanda Kelsey Dahlin
    Tue, 19 Jun 2012
  • Echoes of a Timeless Lament: Euripides' Trojan Women as a War Play
    Sarah Douglas Wolfe
    Tue, 19 Jun 2012

    An examination of Euripides' Trojan Women as a war play that has proved relevant to contemporary wars.

  • The Whore in All of Us: Transgressive Female Sexuality in the Works of Lydia Thompson and the British Blondes, Mae West, and Annie Sprinkle
    Emily Elizabeth Steck
    Thu, 14 Jun 2012
  • "Something for the Boys": An Analysis of the Women of the USO Camp Shows, Inc. and their Performed Gender
    Samantha Joy Pearlman
    Thu, 02 Jun 2011
  • The Actor's Presence
    Benjamin Scott Vigus
    Thu, 02 Jun 2011
  • Confronting Evil on the Stage: The Immoral Villain as a Moral Figure
    Emma Ariane Sherr-Ziarko
    Thu, 02 Jun 2011
  • A (Wo)man Apart: Charles Ludlam's Approach to Drag Performance
    Mark Richard McCloughan
    Thu, 17 Jun 2010