Bard College at Simon's Rock: the Early College
  1. Home
  2. Academics
  3. Program Overview
  4. Theater Courses

Theater Courses

The theater program integrates classroom study with practical experience in productions.

Students in the program develop familiarity with a body of representative plays, examine the theoretical and historical foundations of drama, and build skills that they test and refine in the rigors of performance.

The program is designed to serve both those who plan to pursue theater as a career—whether as professional actors, directors, designers, technicians, and writers, or as scholars and professors—and those simply interested in learning more about theater as part of their liberal arts education. To that end, the program offers the college and local community opportunities to experience unusual and adventurous live productions.

Work in the program begins with introductory courses that offer students the opportunity to explore aspects of performances and production. As they progress in the program, students are encouraged to continue to take courses that expand their familiarity with the entire field of theater, from writing and history of drama to lighting, set design, and costume.

Students may arrange independent studies, tutorials, internships, and extended campus projects with theater faculty members; these may include play readings and workshops with professional actors.

Acting Courses

Viewpoints

Theater 117 | Michel | 3 credits

This course introduces the Viewpoints to actors of all levels. The Viewpoints are tools that allow the actor to become an active collaborator in the artistic process, empowering him/her to open his/her awareness during performance to the innumerable possibilities of each moment. Through a series of group and individual exercises actors will learn this technique and apply it to text.

No prerequisites. This course is a prerequisite for most upper level theater courses. This course is generally offered once a year.

Devising Theater: Creating

Theater 126m/226m | Beaumont | 2 credits

The techniques needed to create story, character, and setting from improvisation are the focus of this module. The skills for creating as an improvisor, a classical actor, and a writer are all built on the same foundations: the ability to follow creative impulses without censorship. This module challenges performance concepts and develops the student’s imagination, improvisational skills and ability to develop narrative in the medium of theater. We will devise theater from sources such as current events, visual image and personal experience. As these qualities are introduced they will be developed as techniques for performance, writing, and analysis of the process of devising theater. This module includes several classes with visiting artists.

No prerequisites. This course is a prerequisite for upper level theater courses.

Devising Theater: Performing

Theater 126m/226m | Beaumont | 2 credits

Presenting one’s work to an audience as the final step in the creative process is the focus of this module. Texts developed in Devising Theater: Creating M1 will be refined and edited in workshop settings then performed at the end of the semester. We will focus on techniques for effective collaboration as writers, directors, producers, and performers. Students will have the opportunity to experience all aspects of the process of creating original theater as they support each other’s work, develop individual talents and develop their understanding of the complex art of theater. This module includes several classes with visiting artists.

Prerequisite: Devising Theater: Creating or permission of instructor.

Listening, Analysis, and Characterization

Theater 201 | Beaumont | 3 credits

Text is the medium of the actor’s art and must be thoroughly understood by the performer. A clear understanding is the result of careful analysis of the play as a whole: Finding clues to the character (the point of view), realizing the state of the character before and after the scene, and an understanding of how each character contributes to the overall meaning of the play. Such analysis, along with the examination of acting theory developed after the turn of the century are the focus of this course.

Prerequisite: Theater 126 M1 and M2 or Theater 117, or permission of the instructor. This course is generally offered once every two years.

Voice: Resonating with Words

Theater 202 | Beaumont | 3 credits

Vocal exercises condition both mind and body, enabling the actor to express the visceral and intellectual potential of any text, whether classical or modern. In this course students learn actors’ vocal warm-up techniques and the concept underlying each exercise in the progression. All contribute to breath control, since breath is germane to speaking and carries the impulse of thought and feeling into each word. Learning to understand the impact of character and the function of figures of speech in dramatic form are other aspects of the course; students build their skills by presenting poetry and prose to the class, and finally by preparing and performing two contrasting monologues (one classical and one modern) in a setting designed to mimic that of a professional audition.

Prerequisite: Theater 126 M1 and M2 or Theater 117, or permission of the instructor. This course is generally offered once every three or four years.

Viewpoints II and Composition Work: Composing for the Stage

Theater 219/319  | Michel | 3/4 credits

This course builds on the Viewpoints tools introduced in Theater 117. Over the course of the semester, we will further develop our understanding and mastery of the physical viewpoints of time and space: Tempo, duration, kinesthetic response, repetition, shape, gesture, architecture, spatial relationship, and topography, and the vocal viewpoints. As we progress through the Viewpoints work, we will also learn compositional tools. During the course of the semester, students will compose original pieces for the stage using the Viewpoints and Compositional tools both individually and in groups to be presented in a final showing.

Prerequisite: Theater 117. This course is generally offered once every two years.

Comic Acting

Theater 220/320 | Beaumont | 3/4 credits

Comic Acting provides students with the opportunity to investigate the theory of humor and the performance of comedy. Exercises in improvisation, movement, rhythm, and physical comedy will serve as the basis for the comic texts that will be performed at the end of the semester. Research will consist of studying comic theory and comic performances. The course will look at human folly in its many guises and by doing so reveal the joy and humanity at the heart of laughter.

Prerequisites: For 200-level, Theater 126 M1 and M2 or Theater 117. For 300-level, Theater 126 M1 and M2 or Theater 117, and Theater 204, Theater 230, or permission of the instructor. This course is generally offered once every two years.

Playwriting

Theater 227/427 | Michel | 3/4 credits

This course gives students the opportunity to explore their potential as playwrights. Designed for novices as well as those with writing experience, the course examines basic dramatic construction and offers students assignments designed to develop their skills. Each advanced student writes a play and is encouraged to have it performed for the Simon’s Rock community.

Prerequisite: Literature 150, a 100-level theater course, or permission of the instructor. This course is generally offered once a year.

20th and 21st Century Women Playwrights: Drama as Literature and Performance

Theater 232m | Michel, Brown | 2 credits

This course focuses on the plays of women playwrights whose work spans the 20th and 21st century theater. We begin with an examination of the plays of early 20th century playwright, Susan Glaspell, followed by dramas from the 1930s and 40s by Lillian Hellman, plays from the post WWII period of the 1950s and 60s by Lorraine Hansberry, Adrienne Kennedy, Caryl Churchill, and Irene Maria Fornes, and conclude with the plays of contemporary women playwrights such as Timberlake Wertenbaker, Wendy Wasserstein, Ntozake Shange, Lynn Nottage, Suzan-Lori Parks and Annie Baker. Class discussions will address the historical moment when the plays were written as well as each playwright’s use of language and literary style as we read and perform the work together.

Prerequisite: Seminar II or permission of instructor. This course is generally offered once every two years.

Activism in Performance

Theater 236 | Beaumont | 3 credits

Activism is a necessary voice in society: A voice against the chorus. This course invites students from all disciplines to examine current events and explore writing through the arts. Effective activism will be selectively studied through the documentation of groups and individuals protesting current events since 1960. Students will write and perform their own work and/or research and create material for others to enact and/or create a statement through the visual arts. The course will culminate in a show created in form and content by the participants. The show will be rooted in a theme decided upon by the class.

No prerequisites. This course is generally offered once every three or four years.

Shakespearean Scene Study

Theater 237 | Michel | 3 credits

William Shakespeare is undoubtedly the most well-known and masterful playwright in the Western Canon. His characters and texts present exciting challenges to students of the theater, both actors and directors. Over the course of the semester, we will analyze soliloquies and scenes from several of Shakespeare’s plays, taking them from the page to the stage. We will explore tools for working on Shakespearean text by working on our feet and by observing how other actors and directors have addressed and resolved the acting and directing challenges these great plays present.

Prerequisite: Theater 126 M1 and M2 or Theater 117, or permission of the instructor.  This course is generally offered once every two years.

Advanced Acting Studio

Theater 303/403T | BeaumontMichel | 4 credits

This course allows intermediate and advanced students to benefit from each other’s contributions in improvisation and text work and culminates with the in-depth exploration of a scene from Shakespeare. The focus is on expanding the actor’s range and building demonstrated proficiency in a variety of styles. An audience is invited to view a performance prepared by course participants. Students have opportunities to work on College productions if they choose to do so. Minimal fee required for theater tickets.

Prerequisite: Two 200-level theater courses or permission of the instructor. This course is generally offered as a tutorial.

Movement Courses

Movement: Analysis of Expression

Theater 204 | Beaumont | 3 credits

This course—an introduction to movement as language—enables the performer to understand relationships between thought, feeling, and gesture. Students learn a series of exercises, analyze individual and group movement dynamics, keep journals, and participate in a final project with a practical and a written component. A text serves as a springboard for practical and philosophical investigation.

Prerequisite: Two 100-level dance or theater courses or permission of the instructor. This course is a prerequisite for Theater 305. This course is generally offered once every other year.

Mask and Movement

Theater 305  | Beaumont | 4 credits

This course examines personal experience in the creation of roles through the use of mask and movement. The class studies the difference between social and theatrical masks and examines the history of mask. The class explores premask exercises that integrate skills with instincts and allow the body to reflect the emotional life of a character. The course culminates in each student’s creation of two masks, a full personal mask and a half character mask, one of which is used in a final performance. Prerequisite: Theater 204 or permission of the instructor.

Prerequisite: Theater 204 or permission of the instructor. This course is generally offered once every two years.

Production Courses

Production Workshop 

Theater 104m | Staff | 2 credits

In this module, each student develops one or more roles, culminating in a black box production of a one-act play or a series of multiple short plays. By going through the production process from start to finish, students learn how to research, develop, rehearse, and perform a role in a play, balancing each individual’s needs with those of the group. Through limited participation in technical and managerial aspects of the production, students gain a deeper awareness of the teamwork necessary for any theatrical endeavor.

This module is intended for students who have not yet taken the 200-level Production course. Previous theater experience is recommended but not required. This course is generally offered once a year.

Studies in Production: Performance

Theater 107m | Staff | 2 credits

This module is concerned with the faculty-supervised, student-generated, dramatic endeavor. This project is realized with limited technical support and is intended to be an intensive interface between the student director, the student performers, and the faculty supervisor. The student actors and stage managers involved are introduced to the principles and elements of performance without the rigors of the faculty-directed, semester-long project. Generally, the content of the performance is equivalent to a one-act play. This course includes some basic research and readings pertaining to acting/directing theory and texts related to the performance material(s) themselves. A paper is due at the end of the module and all students are expected to fulfill their assigned duties and adhere to the rehearsal schedule. Almost all rehearsal occurs during class time, with the direct supervision of the faculty instructor. This module is intended as an introductory course in the theater program.

No prerequisites for any participating student, except for the student director. The student director must have the instructor’s permission. This course is generally offered once every two years.

Costume and Prop Design and Execution

Theater 108/208 | Veale | 3 credits

This is a hands-on course where students will learn the process and general skills needed for theatrical costume and prop execution from inception to finished product. They will learn to assess a play for its needs, research time periods and places, and adapt them to a play. Strong emphasis will be placed on planning effectively in order to produce real costumes and props for a given play, as envisioned by a director, within a budget and a proscribed period of time. Some time will be spent on getting input from a director, actors, and other designers, using that information in a design concept, and getting final approval before starting. Along with methods of effective research and planning, students will be exposed to the rudimentary skills needed to find, purchase, adapt, and/or construct costumes and props.

This course is generally offered once a year.

Behind the Curtain: The Process of Production

Theater 115 | Cleary, Musall, Veale | 3 credits

The purpose of this course is to introduce the student to the fundamentals of technical theater: The “backstage” work that goes into a theatrical production. This hands-on course looks at the general and specific skills necessary to help create the staging that, when combined with the work of actors, designers, and directors, results in the audience being transported by the play. The material presented supports individual interests, and should give students a basic working knowledge of the craft.

No prerequisites. Because it is important that actors, technicians, and designers understand all elements of theater, this course is a prerequisite for Theater 206/406. This course is generally offered once a year.

Stagecraft

Theater 118m | Staff | 2 credits

This course will provide advanced knowledge in the theories of drafting, constructing, handling, and moving various types of stage scenery. The successful student will be able to demonstrate an understanding and appreciation of the advanced technology inherent in the theater. Students will be expected to develop problem solving skills through the use of research, thought, discussion, and the use of standard theatrical conventions. Open discussions will provide opportunities for questions and exchanges of related topics.

Prerequisite: Theater 115. This course is generally offered once a year.

Lighting for Performance

Theater 119 | Staff | 3 credits

This course will introduce the student to the fundamentals of theatrical lighting technology. Lighting is a vital part of the production process and the technology is getting more and more complex. We will cover the basics of lighting instruments, control consoles, dimmer systems, control software, and dimming technology, as well as introduce the basics of intelligent lighting instruments and tools.

Prerequisites: Theater 115 or permission of the instructor. This course is generally offered once every two years.

The Director/Designer Collaboration

Theater 139/439 | Michel | 3/4 credits

Over the course of the semester we will explore the art of theater design, particularly as it relates to the collaboration with directors. We will look at the various forms of theater design: Set, costume, lighting, and sound and at how the director and the various designers of a production together create an organic, unified world in which the play can be revealed to the audience. The design team of our theater program production will be involved with the course as guest lecturers and the class will observe the director/designer collaboration of this production as it evolves. We will also study one classic and one modern text as we explore our own director/designer collaborations.

No prerequisites. This course is generally offered once every two years.

Production

Theater 206/406 | Michel | 3/4 credits

Students of different experience and abilities learn about all aspects of theater by participating in the College’s productions as actors, directors, technicians, carpenters, designers, costumers, and stage managers, as well as doing publicity and front-of-house management.

Prerequisite: Theater 115, a 200-level theater course, and an audition . This course is generally offered every semester.

Theater Practicum

Theater 216m | Staff | 2 credits

An extension of the Stagecraft Module, the Practicum course will further the student’s theatrical experience by providing an alternative method of teaching and development. The course will be based on a seminar and/or laboratory environment to foster greater understanding and comprehension of the theories of theatrical production that then culminate in the mounting of a fully staged production. Not a lecture course by any means, students would gain valuable experience in problem solving, initiation of ideas and concepts, and the development of these ideas and concepts through hands-on experiences. Integrally involved in the construction of scenery, acquisition and building of properties, hanging/focusing of lighting fixtures, and costuming, the student will gain valuable knowledge as to the actual implementation of these aspects of a production.

Prerequisite: Theater 115. This course is generally offered once a year.

Concept and Construction in Scenic Design

Theater 221m | Staff | 2 credits

Students will have the opportunity to work alongside a professional scenic designer in the process of conceptualizing, drafting, rendering, constructing, and installing a stage set for the semester’s theater program production in the Simon’s Rock Liebowitz Studio Theater. Students will learn, and participate in, the designer’s process of theatrical set design from the page to the stage getting practical, hands-on experience in the process. Collaboration of the set designer with the other various theatrical design disciplines, such as Lighting Design and Costume design, will be a focus as will learning the technical “ins and outs” of set construction and its application.

This course is open to students who have previously completed at least one course in design or technical theater or by permission of the instructor.

Lighting Design Practicum

Theater 222m | Staff | 2 credits

Student will have the opportunity to work alongside a professional theatrical Lighting Designer in the process of conceptualizing, drafting, hanging, focusing, and designing lighting for the semester’s theater program production in the Simon’s Rock Liebowitz Studio Theater. Students will learn and participate in the designer’s process of theatrical lighting from concept to opening night. Collaboration of design disciplines--between Set Design, Lighting Design and Costume design--will be a focus as will gaining technical expertise in theater electrics.

This course is open to students who have previously completed at least one course in Lighting Design or by permission of instructor.

Directing for the Theater

Theater 238/338 | Michel | 3/4 credits

The art of directing is a relatively new art form in the theater, dating back only as far as the turn of the 20th century. Before directors emerged to lead companies of actors and interpret scripts, plays were directed by the playwrights or by the actors themselves. In the first part of this course, we will study the development of the art of directing from Stanislavski through Bertolt Brecht and Peter Brook, and ending with modern directors such as Anne Bogart. In the second part of the course students will direct each other in scenes, applying tools we have studied and discussed and working toward a creative method of their own that they can use in future projects.

Prerequisite: Class in theater or instructor approval. This course is generally offered once every two years.

Performance Practicum

Theater 201/401 | Allen, BeaumontMichel | 4 credits

This course is designed for students of the theater who have completed the introductory courses. The technique of text analysis, physical and vocal characterization, ensemble playing, and emotional truth in playing will be synthesized in the performance of a faculty-directed play. This play will be performed in the middle of the semester. The latter half of the semester will be the study of the Shakespeare & Company acting approach to Shakespeare’s text—how to embody and personalize the verse.

Prerequisites: Production for the 300-level course; Performance Practicum for the 400-level course. This course is generally offered once every two years.

Other Theater Courses

Topics in Theater

Theater 109/409 | Staff | 3/4 credits

This course, taught as a seminar, is designed for directors, designers (lighting, set, costume, and sound), and playwrights/dramaturgs. However, anyone interested in how theater is created is welcome—including avid, passionate theater audience members. During the course of the semester we look at the design process involved in bringing a theater text from the page to the stage. We do this in two ways. First, the students in the course have the opportunity to observe the design process between the director and designers for the fall theater production in the McConnell Theater. The designers for this production will be guest lecturers in the course. Second, the students in the course research, explore, and discuss theater design. Through readings, field trips to local museums and theater productions, and practical application of design theory (e.g., collages and renderings for costumes, floor plans for sets, photos of lighting ideas, sample sound cues, etc.), students are introduced to an overall history of theater design as well as apply theory to dramatic texts that we will study. The goal of the course is to expose students to the creative process involved in the development of the overall production concept for a work of theater by the director and design team.

Prerequisites: None for 100-level; above 100-level, permission of the instructor.

Theater through the Ages

Theater 234/334 | Michel | 3/4 credits

Did you know that “directors” never even existed in the theater until the 20th century? Or that early theater was performed in the open air or had open roofs using sunlight for lighting? Or that our modern Mardi Gras is related to the Medieval Mystery Plays? Designed for theater majors and nonmajors—anyone interested in theater—this course traces the development of Western theater from Dionysian festivals to modern day Broadway. Beginning with the Greek theater we will explore the theatrical impulse through the ages.

No prerequisites. This course is generally offered once every three or four years.

Theater Tutorial

Theater 300/400 | Staff | 4 credits

Under these course numbers, juniors and seniors design tutorials to meet their particular interests and programmatic needs. A student should see the prospective tutor to define an area of mutual interest to pursue either individually or in a small group. A student may register for no more than one tutorial in any semester.