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Quiz #4

In lieu of an in-class quiz, please post thorough and complete lecture notes from April 2 and 4 (Prof. Leonhardt’s lectures on the avant-garde) and April 9 and 11 (installation and performance art and Brooklyn Museum visit sketch). If your notes are incomplete — or if you were absent one of those days — use the lecture slides to fill in the gaps.

Nona Faustine’s “White Shoes” at the Brooklyn Museum

This is the final OpenLab response of the semester. It is due April 20. 

During our tour of “White Shoes”, we discussed how the photographs of the artist could be considered documentation of performance art. The artist placed herself in spaces in New York City that have legacies of enslavement. In this way, Faustine suggests that memories and histories can be held in places and things over time — in buildings, landscapes, and streets. Choose one image from the exhibit to answer the following questions (you can find images from the exhibition by searching for “White Shoes” Faustine on Google, and include a link to that image in your response):

What (hi)story does the place tell (separate from Faustine’s presence)? How does Faustine’s contemporary body speak with the history of the spaces that she inhabits? What is the dialogue between her body (and clothing and props) and the place? Does her presence reignite the past, or does her body create a new version of history or add something to the historical narrative? 

St. Ann’s Tour and “The Hunt”

Due March 12

Tour attendees: Winston, Babib, Tshari, Alexis, Jacqueline, Osrick, Rodolfo, Jesus, Nicholas, Wenhui, Yufei, Steven, Deondre, Conrod, Julio, Jeffery, Henry, Pierre-Ryan, Sarah, Nancy, Aaron

During the tour of St. Ann’s, we walked through a number of spaces to be used in different ways by different people. The designs, layouts and architecture of the spaces often tell the human being in the space how to use them — in other words, they were “spatially coded.” Most of the spaces did not have signs explaining how to use the space, and yet we know what they mean because we have cultural knowledge about social expectations according to architectural, interior, and theatrical design. Lighting, sound, walls, stairways, tables, seating, set design, screens, blackout curtains, doorways — every object and material aspect of a designed space informs our behaviors.

In two full paragraphs, describe at least three of these different spaces as you experienced them on the tour and during your experience at the theater for the performance. Which design aspects indicated to you how to behave in the space? How? Was there a difference in how you were expected to behave on the tour and during the live performance? Why? How were boundaries between social spaces marked, and what changes in your behaviors did you have to make when you crossed the threshold into the new space? How did you feel when you were close to a boundary? Were there any spatial crossings that made you uncomfortable? Why?

All the world is a stage

View and read Act IV scene 1 from the play Henry V

Video—1 hour and 27 minute to 1 hour and 41 minute (1:27-1:41)


Describe in one paragraph (5 sentences minimum) how Shakespeare explores the idea of “metatheatricality” in the scene. Remember that metatheatricality has to do with self-referentiality. How does Shakespeare play with the idea that theatre is like life, and life is like theatre? Is there a sense that there is a “play within the play” happening on stage? You must provide two direct quotes from the text to support your response, text directly. 

Due Tuesday March 5


Due Thursday February 1, before the start of class

In the reading this week, Christopher Balme cites the theorist Max Herrmann in order to explain the unique spatial quality of the theatre arts. Herrmann writes that “In the art of theatre we are not dealing with the representation of space but with the execution of human movement in theatrical space. This space is however never or hardly ever identical with the real space that exists on stage.” Herrmann’s point, I think, is that two overlapping types of space occur in performance — theatrical and real. In 3-5 sentences, describe any moment in your life where you have experienced the sense of double spatiality. Your example does not need to be from the theatre. Make sure the reader understands the different qualities of the two overlapping spaces and how these spaces were produced. 

Write your full name and section number at the top of your post. 

Brecht and Stunted Trees

DUE April 3

  1. Pay particular attention to my recorded lecture on Brecht, minutes 3:30 – 33:30 and Chemers’ summary of Brecht on Digital Theatre +.  Watch the video-taped production of “Stunted Trees” on Digital Theatre +.
  2. Choose TWO Brechtian ideas and/or methods from the recorded lecture and/or Chemers to discuss elements of “Stunted Trees.” For instance, one of the things I discuss in the lecture is how Brecht used set design to “alienate” his audience. How does the set design of “Stunted Trees” express this Brechtian idea? Explain. Make sure you cite the scene from the production by listing the minute/second mark in the video.
  3. Take ONE of the Brechtian ideas that you discussed above, and imagine how it could be applied to the story of any of the productions we have watched this semester so far (Antigone, Henry V, A Doll’s House). Discuss how the production we saw would look if Brecht had directed it or re-written the story. How would it have been staged (set, structure of story, or acting). 

Discussion due April 10

Respond to one of your classmates by ADDING to their idea of a re-staging of one of the plays we saw. For instance, if one of your classmates writes about how in Henry V the actors would speak directly to the audience to create the Brechtian “alienation effect”, add another idea of a Brechtian re-staging of the same production (change in set design for instance). 

Feel free to write to me if you have any questions at all about this assignment. 

Naturalism and Doll’s House

Due March 26

In class, we discussed Naturalism and how the first scene of Ibsen’s Doll’s House demonstrates naturalistic elements in theatre. From the homework, read the section on “Theory” in Sierz, Naturalism in Digital Theatre+ [Library>Research Guides>Theatre> Audiovisual> Digital Theatre + >  search for “Sierz Naturalism”]. The reading contains two quotes by Emile Zola. Choose one. Make sure you read the entire section so you fully understand the quote.

Then, watch Doll’s House in Digital Theatre + [Library>Research Guides>Theatre>Audiovisual> Digital Theatre + > search for “Doll’s House Production”]. Choose one scene from the production of the play that demonstrates Zola’s theory of Naturalism (not the first scene we viewed in class). In a comment box below, discuss how these three elements from the scene are “naturalistic”: 1) events in the scene (the plot), 2) a physical element from the Young Vic production (set, prop, costume), and 3) the acting (how one of the actors in the Young Vic production fulfill’s Zola’s description of naturalism).  

5 sentences, minimum. Cite the entire Zola quote in your response. Be very specific about elements from the scene and how these elements connect to an idea from the Zola quote. You need to demonstrate that you watched the Young Vic production of Doll’s House and that you thought carefully about Zola’s definition of Naturalism. Include the hour/minute mark of the scene you are referring to from the Young Vic production from Digital Theatre +, not the scene or act number.

American Minstrelsy, Jazz and Dance

Main response: Tuesday, March 19
Replies to classmates: Tuesday, March 26

In this clip (beginning around 3:00 to the end) we see a stage performance at the famous Cotton Club in Harlem during the Jazz Age. The music is composed and performed by one of the most important composers and band leaders of the era, Duke Ellington. Watch the clip and look very carefully at the styles of dance, costumes, and character representations. Some of the characters are in black face. What do the costumes suggest to you? What about the set? Where is this taking place? Early popular music from minstrel shows influenced jazz in the 20th century. Many of the dances in the clip  are adaptations from minstrel shows — the “cakewalk” or “walk around” and “shuffle”. The music and dance you see in the clip laid the foundation for the development of American musical theatre. In other words, one of the main sources for the  popular music and dance during the Jazz Age and early musical theatre was an extremely racist form of art: the minstrelsy act (the remnants of which can still be seen in the 1920s in the clip). And yet, African American artists have made incredible, essential contributions to the development of jazz music and dance (in minstrelsy shows, clubs and theatres, and in the recording industry). 

You have read this article about the history of minstrelsy in the United States. Williams argues that by “blackening their faces and ‘performing color,’ African American minstrels were able to conceal their true identities while honing their craft as artists and serving their communities by becoming cultural ambassadors and building charitable organizations.” She also cites Overton Walker, who agrees that although African Americans were performing stereotypical acts that demeaned and mocked black Americans, when “a large audience leaves the theatre after a creditable two and a half hour performance by Negroes, I am sure the Negro race is raised in the estimation of the people….” In other words, although African American entertainers were performing stereotypes that reinforced racist attitudes towards blacks in America, there were also positive outcomes for African American performers and perhaps society as a whole.

Thinking about the clip from the Cotton Club and the article, do you believe the jazz music and dance in the clip did more to harm African Americans or benefit them? Take a strong position and argue for only one or the other. Your response should be one paragraph (4 sentences minimum) and you need to explain why you think it harms or benefits by giving reasons and suppling evidence (examples).   

After the due date for posting your paragraph, I will release everyone’s work. At that point, begin a conversation with one other person about their response before the second due date. For full credit, post a minimum of two replies. Grading is based on originality and honesty. Back up your opinions with examples. Everyone’s response should be unique.