THETR 266:

Intro to Theatre:

20th Century  


Class meets Tuesday/ Thursday

9:25 - 10:40AM

Room: 1 Beacon, Room 104

Final Paper Due:

Wednesday, April 29, by 04:30PM

Email to

*  *  *  *  *

Professor Richard W. Chambers

Office: Sawyer 1228

Office Hours: By Appointment



Phone: 617-305-1722 (better to email me)     

Course Prerequisites: None


Course Description

Picking up chronologically where THETR 265 leaves off, this survey course is designed to provide students with an understanding of modern Western theatre. Readings will include representative works of realism, naturalism, expressionism, epic theatre, and theatre of the absurd. Lectures and class discussions will explore how these concepts translate to acting and production techniques as well as what they imply as artistic responses to a modern and post-modern world. Analysis of the plays will include explorations of theme, character, plot, symbolism and metaphor. 4 credit hours

Class Structure

This course is open to all, but fulfills a requirement in the Theatre Department and so has particular criteria to meet. The course is an intensive survey of Western theatre from the late-nineteenth through the mid-twentieth century, focusing on the works of several representative playwrights and their response to the world in which they lived. The plays will be studied within the context of the history, theories, trends, and aesthetics of the past century. We will read eleven plays during the semester.

It is the conviction of your professor that theatre, in addition to being literature, is a vital and engaging art form that can only be fully known when produced on stage and experienced as a whole greater than the sum of its parts. With this in mind, class projects will focus on various forms of script analysis and performance practice, and the place these works held in their respective societies. You will be required to see one play at a professional theatre during the semester and write a production response paper that describes and analyses the visual and performative aspects of the production and how they affected your understanding of the script.

Analysis of the plays will include explorations of historical context, theme, character, dramatic structure, symbolism, style, metaphor, and the effect that advances in theatre technology and style had on the performance of these plays. Writing is a major component of the class, both as formal papers and homework assignments.. The development of analytical reading, critical thinking, and historical context is stressed. The readings in the Brustein text is expected to further inform your responses regarding historical context and performance practices. I might address these readings in class, but they are assigned as independent parts of the course and are seen as necessary components for your best understanding of the plays; there will be no separate assessment of these readings, but their content will be reflected in homework and exam questions.

Most weeks there will be an essay take-home assignment on the plays, as well as a brief lecture on the author and period, an excerpt of a video of the play, student discussion of the plays, and student oral presentations about the playwrights.

The final project is a formal research paper about the authors you have studied in the course.