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Course Spotlight

Online Course for Spring 2020

THTREMUS 325 | Contemporary American Theatre and Drama

About the Instructor

Anita Gonzalez (Ph.D. University of Wisconsin, 1997) is Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs, Chair of Dance, and a Professor of Theatre and Drama. Over twenty years, she has developed programming and curricula in higher education to promote internationalism in the arts, engaged learning, and interdisciplinary research. Gonzalez’ research interests are in performance and cultural studies, particularly dialogic performance – the way in which communities perform one another. Her teaching passion for introducing students to world cultures through artistic exchanges has led to student exchanges in Mexico, U.K., South Africa, Canada, and Costa Rica.

In this online course, students will read, view and analyze ten contemporary American plays drawing from the list of recent Pulitzer Prize winning plays and their runner ups, while considering how theatre promotes social change and reveals diverse cultural perspectives.

Describe the inspiration for or the story behind the development of this course:

Contemporary American Drama can be storytelling for Social Change. Plays capture social aspirations and thought processes. This course is a part of the Global Theatre and Ethnic Studies curriculum because it encourages students to think about the many multicultural communities which form the tapestry of American culture. 

How did you choose the plays for this course?

I chose to examine Pulitzer Prize winning plays because even though they are prestigious awards, the plays are produced infrequently. The plays usually address controversial topics in controversial ways. They win because they question the status quo of American society and offer diverse perspectives about human rights and social justice. Mr. Pulitzer was a Hungarian Jewish journalist and plays supported by the porize reflect a journalist's perspective on storytelling. 

Who should take this course?

Anyone interested in performance or storytelling or literature. We will begin the course by looking at videos from my Storytelling for Social Change MOOC where we consider how stories create empathy and watch video interviews with artists such as Ashley Lucas, Jose Casas and Holly Hughes. We then consider these notions of storytelling within the context of the plays. 

How can performance studies and performance theory be relevant or useful to students from "non-performance" disciplines?

Because stories influence perspectives and a good story can promote social change as viewers/readers/listeners consider the lived realities of other people. Performance considers how gesture, emotion and voice contributes to the communication of ideas. 

What are the challenges of teaching theater studies online? How will this online course be structured to overcome those challenges?

I actually love online learning because it allows students to engage reflectively with course materials for longer periods of time and then bring their ideas to the forum through written, audio or video contributions. Discussion boards and student projects are shared and peer reviewed. This class is asynchronous, meaning students engage with the course material as their schedule allows, and respond when they can. At the same time, we will be viewing a lot of videos and online materials about each of the plays, and conversing, virtually and asynchronously, about what we discover about the plays, their socio-politcal contexts and the artists who have created them. 

Works examined will include:

  • Fairview by Jaqueline Sibbles-Drury
  • What the Constitution Means to Me by Heidi Schreck
  • Cost of Living by Martyna Majok
  • Sweat by Lynn Nottage
  • Father Comes Home from the Wars by Suzan-Lori Parks
  • Between Riverside and Crazy by Stephen Adly Guirgis
  • Dance Nation by Clare Barron
  • The Humans by Stephen Karam
  • The Minutes by Tracy Letts

Spring/Summer tuition fees will apply if you register for this 3-credit course. Students can find that information about course costs on the Registrar's tuition and fees page.


Winter 2018 | Dance in Modern Asia: History, Identity, Politics

Dance in Modern Asia: History, Identity, Politics | ASIAN 408.001

About the Instructor

Emily Wilcox is an Assistant Professor of Modern Chinese Studies in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and a member of the Center for World Performance Studies Advisory Board. She is a specialist in Chinese dance and performance culture, with broader interests in twentieth-century history, transnationalism, gender, and social movements.

She started studying dance at five years old-- first ballet, then in college competitive ballroom dance. While in graduate school completing her PhD in anthropology, she began studying Chinese dance and had the opportunity to spend three semesters at the Beijing Dance Academy as a visiting student. Although her primary focus is Chinese dance, she researches many other dance communities in Asia. She is currently working on several books about dance in Asia, the newest of which examines Asian women dancers who crossed borders and shaped global dance history during the early twentieth century.