Chair, 2014-15: Brian Bjorklund, design and production
Faculty, 2014-15: Todd Edwards, design and production; Dona Freeman, acting; Gary Gisselman, acting, directing; Karen Peterson Wilson, theater, voice/phonetics, oral interpretation; William Sonnega, theater, media studies; Jeanne Willcoxon, acting, theater history
The St. Olaf Department of Theater takes for its subject matter all aspects of making theater. It produces a season of plays whose focus is the liberal arts curriculum rather than a typical theater company’s season of plays. All courses focus on the making of dramatic art. Courses in history and theory, no less than those in acting, directing, and design, approach the problems and difficulties of making production their central issue.
The activities and skills necessary for learning about and making theater are well suited to learning about and contributing to lives of worth and service. The basic theater activity is making things: play scripts, sets, costumes, characters, and the complete works of which these are a part. The theater skills are leading, following, reading, writing, talking, drawing, building, acting, performing, and making arrangements. We place these skills in the service of our conception of theater as a way of knowing. Our courses, along with the rest of the college curriculum, develop an appreciation of the need for moral choice, an imagination that constructs and examines alternatives, and an understanding of creativity as a reality in the world and an agency of community and change. We think of the program as a kind of laboratory for a serious and productive life. This is what we mean when we call the study of theater at St. Olaf a liberal arts major.
In contemporary culture, theater and the entertainment industry overlap, with the result that public approbation and artistic success have become difficult to separate. Our program emphasizes process as well as public performance. Students learn to judge their own work according to principles derived from the art itself. And as part of the fine arts at St. Olaf, we also emphasize collaboration and the interdisciplinary nature of theater.
The St. Olaf College Theater Department is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Theater.
overview of the major
The theater major requires nine courses plus four 0.25 credit practicums. The major includes an introductory course in theater texts and performances as well as coursework in acting, directing, design, production, and history of theater plus one upper-level elective. Student majors enroll in a senior capstone course in the final semester. The requirements for the major are designed to provide a well-rounded course of study in the theater discipline. The co-curricular theater production program serves as a lab for our courses and offers extended learning and experience for St. Olaf students.
REQUIREMENTS FOR THE THEATER MAJOR
This major requires a minimum of nine courses plus four practicum quarter credits. All majors must register with the department chair as soon as they declare the major. Course requirements: Theater 130, 140, 180, 232, 240 or 250, 270, 271, 360, plus one additional course selected from: Theater 338, 352, 379, 380, 394, 398. All students must enroll in four practicum classes, of which at least one must be Theater 233 and at least two must be Theater 253, the fourth practicum class being a choice of either 233 or 253.
THEATER TEACHING LICENSE
St. Olaf offers a K-12 teaching license in theater. Contact Elizabeth Leer, Education Department chair, for further information.
Students have the opportunity to study theater in London during Interim as part of a regular course taught by Theater faculty. Students can set up internship experiences with theaters and other arts organizations in the Twin Cities and surrounding areas. Courses in the department regularly attend professional theater performances in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Guest artists from those theaters often visit the courses in the department to talk about and demonstrate their work and occasionally collaborate in the production work for our season of plays.
recommendations for graduate and professional study
Students planning on graduate study in theater should take the graduation major and additional courses for a total not to exceed 14.00 credits. Students should work closely with a faculty member in the area of their interest to plan their program. Students who are considering professional work in the theater or related arts should work together with faculty to develop appropriate resume or portfolio documents prior to graduation.
This performance course is designed to develop a student's understanding, analysis, and presentation of poetry, drama, and prose. Offered most years.
A broad-based introduction to the art and craft of theater, this course focuses on the roles of actor, director, playwright, and designer, as well as aspects of theater history, performance, and literature. Students examine theater as a culturally diverse art form, with emphasis on the ways ethnicity, gender, race, religion, and sexual orientation inform theater in the United States. Students attend performances on campus and in the Twin Cities and integrate them with readings, lectures, and discussions. A ticket fee is required. Offered each semester.
This studio course is designed as an overview of the acting process for the non-major and includes basic acting theories, rehearsal techniques, improvisation, history, and styles. Students explore and practice exercises, scene work, and audition material. The course requires trips to professional theaters in the Twin Cities. A ticket fee is required. This course does not fulfill the acting requirement for the major. Offered each semester.
Students learn and apply principles of speech composition and analyze speeches to understand effective methods. They demonstrate their knowledge in classroom speeches. Offered annually. Inquire in the Theater Department office about scheduling.
This studio course is centered on training the actor's instrument and developing basic acting skills including characterization, vocal production, physical and emotional connection, motivation and ensemble work. Students learn history of actor training from Stanislavski to present. Exercises, improvisation, monologue and scene work are all explored. This course requires trips to professional theaters in the Twin Cities. A ticket fee is required. Offered each semester. Counts toward film studies concentration.
This studio course focuses on the techniques of acting and singing for the musical theater. Students learn the basics of voice, movement, improvisation, and characterization in class exercises, prepared scenes, solos and duets. Course culminates in a public showcase of students' work. Offered in the spring semester. Not offered every year. Inquire in the theater office about scheduling.
This course studies theater performance through the full-scale mounting of a production during the month of January, followed by public performances at the beginning of spring semester. Students enroll in the class through either an acting audition or a production position interview held in late October or early November. No previous experience is necessary. Selected participants are notified prior to Interim registration. Details about the audition/interview are available by calling the Theater Department office, x3240 or online at the Theater Department website in "Current Students > Auditions." Scripts are available by calling the T heater Department office, x3240. Offered during Interim.
The attributes of the things we see and hear in the performances that we attend contribute strongly to our experience as an audience. This course considers the elements and principles of design and their application to performance work. Students study the performance space, scenery elements, costuming, lighting and shadow, and the aural experience that the audience encounters during a performance. Problem-solving, collaboration, and design development are included in project work. Materials fee. Offered each semester.
Play texts are the raw material for our classes in acting, directing, design, and historical studies. This introductory course for theater majors introduces students to canonical texts and performances that have helped to define our field. Primary emphasis is on the text as a blueprint for production focusing on analysis, variety of interpretation, the changing nature of theater space, and our growing awareness of the changing nature of performance. Students are expected to communicate clarity of understanding both orally and in writing. Non-majors are invited to take this course, though its primary focus is a comprehensive preparation for further theater studies. Offered each semester.
This course focuses on training the speaking voice, with an emphasis on clarity and flexibility of voice usage. Students learn how to use the phonetic alphabet to improve their speech. Contact the Theater Department office (x3240) for current scheduling. Offered in alternate years.
A studio course for the student with previous acting experience. Through scene and monologue work students explore text and character analysis as well as the requirements of major theatrical period styles. Students perform regularly throughout the semester. The course requires trips to professional theaters in the Twin Cities. A ticket fee is required. Prerequisites: THEAT 110 or THEAT 180, and THEAT 130 or THEAT 131. Offered annually in the spring semester.
This studio course focuses on the fundamentals of stage direction. Students develop skills of play selection, audience analysis, text interpretation, working with actors, stage picturization and blocking, design considerations, and the process of casting and rehearsals. A primary focus is on developing a point of view about theater and directing by the study of other directors and theories of theater. Prerequisites: THEAT 110 or THEAT 180, THEAT 115 or THEAT 130 or THEAT 131, and THEAT 140. Offered annually in the fall semester.
This theater practicum involves the student in the conceptual and practical processes of artistic creation and performance production in theater. Students study current theory and practice as well as historical approaches to performance problems. Lab sessions include creative projects and practical problem-solving in assistant directing, acting, or dramaturgy as part of the St. Olaf theater season. First-year students are encouraged to enroll. This course may be repeated; four total registrations allowed. Registration is by audition or interview only. Offered each semester.
Designed for the student with previous course work and production work in theater, this course studies theater performance through the full-scale mounting of a production during the month of January, followed by public performances at the beginning of spring semester. Students enroll in the course through either an acting audition or a production position interview held in late October or early November. Selected participants are notified prior to Interim registration. Details about the audition/interview are available by calling the Theater Department Office, x3240 or online at the Theater Department website in "Current Students > Auditions." Scripts are available by calling the Theater Department office, x3240. Prerequisite: THEAT 133 or permission of instructor. Offered during Interim.
This course balances the elements of production with the elements of design, focusing on materials, practices, and techniques used to create scenic and costume elements used in live production. The course includes hands-on experience in the scenic and costume studios, and projects in technical drawing, designing, analysis, and research. A course fee is required. Open to majors and non-majors. Prequisite: THEAT 140 is recommended. Offered annually in the spring semester.
The design and production of lighting and sound in theater, dance, music, and general presentation work plays a significant role in the experience of these events. This course introduces the production problems of lighting and sound and includes design projects in both lighting and sound. Course fee required. Open to all majors and non-majors. Prerequisite: THEAT 140 is recommended. Offered annually in the fall semester.
This studio course covers drawing and painting as it relates to theater design and production work. Students engage in exercises and project work in perceptual drawing, scene painting, and technical drawing. Course fee is required. Open to all majors and non-majors. Offered periodically.
This theater practicum involves the student in the conceptual and practical processes of stage performance. Class sessions include practical problem-solving and hands-on experiences for productions which are part of the St. Olaf theater season. Experiences in scenery, props, costumes, lighting, sound, and stage management are available. Contact the Theater Department office (x3420) for specific details. First-year students are encouraged to enroll. This course may be repeated; four total registrations allowed. The theater practicum 253A: Design, Technical Production is offered each semester; practicum 253B: CADD Practicum - covering computer-aided design and drawing (CADD), is offered annually in the spring semester.
Examines theatrical activities, from theater's origins to 1700, from three interrelated perspectives: 1) theater as social history; 2) theater as dramatic literature; and 3) theater as performance (the result of creative decisions made by playwrights, actors, directors, and designers). Prerequisite: THEAT 110 or THEAT 180 or permission of instructor. The schedule of when this course will be offered is located in "Current Students >Theater Curriculum" at the Theater Department website. Counts towards ancient studies and medieval studies majors.
Examines theatrical activities in the period 1700 to the present, from three interrelated perspectives: 1) theater as social history; 2) theater as dramatic literature; and 3) theater as performance (the result of creative decisions made by playwrights, actors, directors, and designers). Prerequisite: THEAT 110 or THEAT 180 or permission of instructor. The schedule of when this course will be offered is located in "Current Students >Theater Curriculum" at the Theater Department website.
This course introduces students to the art and craft of writing for stage and screen. As a workshop, the course encourages students to work out unique solutions to the aesthetic and practical challenges confronting dramatic writers of a one-act play or short screenplay in light of historical, theoretical, and critical materials. The course emphasizes the technical elements of dramatic writing, the vocabulary of the writer, and the nature of the writing experience, from germinal idea to marketing the completed script. Prerequisite: THEAT 110 or THEAT 180 or permission of instructor. Offered periodically. Counts toward film studies concentration.
Prerequisite: At least three previous courses in department.
298 Independent Study
Prerequisite: At least three previous courses in department.
A studio course focusing on the artistic decision-making process of stage direction, script analysis, directorial concepts, production designs and hands-on directing experience building on the skills developed in THEAT 232: Stage Direction. Students direct a one-act play as the final project for the course. Prerequisite: THEAT 232 and THEAT 240 or THEAT 250. THEAT 270 or THEAT 271 recommended. Offered annually in the spring semester.
This course studies and analyzes the concepts, principles, and techniques of doing visual designs for stage performances and extends the techniques and experiences of design for each student. Students engage in design project work that is theoretical or part of a production in the St. Olaf Theater season. Students study creating the Design and Production Portfolio, do project work in perceptual drawing and scene painting, and explore digital media applications and techniques for design and production in the performing arts. Prerequisite: THEAT 140 or THEAT 240 or THEAT 250. Equivalent experiences or study may quality; see instructor for permission. Offered periodically. Inquire in the Theater Department office for scheduling information.
This is a seminar course open exclusively to theater majors, to be taken during the spring semester of the senior year. Students engage in analysis of performance work as well as dissemination of creative work through written and spoken presentation methods. Each student applies research, analysis, writing, and presentation methods in the exploration of a particular theater topic or case study of his or her choosing. Prerequisites: THEAT 130, THEAT 140, THEAT 180, THEAT 232, THEAT 240 or THEAT 250, THEAT 270 or THEAT 271 or permission of instructor. Offered annually in the spring semester.
An in-depth investigation of a selected topic through readings, bibliography, reports and projects. Students may register for the course more than once, provided a different topic is studied. Prerequisite: THEAT 110 or THEAT 180. Some topics courses may require additional prerequisites. Please inquire in the Theater Department office before registering. Offered annually.
An investigation into the relationship between theater and society through study of various issues in theater arts including censorship, funding, arts advocacy and arts education. Issues of contemporary ethical concern will be discussed and analyzed through a variety of historical and contemporary normative perspectives. Prerequisite: THEAT 110 or THEAT 180; BTS-T. Offered fall 2014-15. Inquire in the Theater Department office (x3240) about schedule of offering for future academic years.
Prerequisite: at least five previous courses in department.
This course provides a comprehensive research opportunity, including an introduction to relevant background material, technical instruction, identification of a meaningful project, and data collection. The topic is determined by the faculty member in charge of the course and may relate to his/her research interests. Prerequisite: Determined by individual instructor. Offered based on department decision. May be offered as a 1.00 credit course or .50 credit course.
398 Independent Research
Prerequisite: at least five previous courses in the department.
A full immersion in the art of theater, students will attend approximately 22 performances at London and Stratford theaters. The course will include the reading of play texts, dramatic criticism, group discussions and backstage tours. England, a theatrical center of the English-speaking world, enables students to experience a wide variety of theatrical performances ranging from traditional to modern. Excursions to Stratford-upon-Avon, Stonehenge, Canterbury and Oxford offer additional cultural perspectives. Offered annually during Interim.