Second year - Drama and Theatre Arts

Second Year core modules:

Theatre/Performance Lab A/B

This module for single-honours students is taught by practical sessions in the first semester, and offers an introduction to postmodern/ postdramatic devising by giving students a series of models for collaborative practice, such as exploring levels of presence, examining postmodern adaptation, and devising physical sequences.

Value 20 credits

Theatre Praxis: Texts in Rehearsal

This core practical module for single honours students aims to enable the student to approach text –based material for performance through methodologies appropriate to that particular text. The taught element of the module is predicated on a large group context examination of the application of appropriate methodologies to extracts from a single performance text. Through the development of a number of different rehearsal techniques and methods of textual analysis, students are led through the process of preparation of texts for performance.

Value 20 credits

Theatre and Cultural Politics

This core course for single and joint honours students is taught in Weekly 2-hour class made up of lecture and seminar discussion. This module examines theatre as a cultural and political practice. The module investigates the ways in which theatre is shaped by the socio-political conditions in which it occurs and explores the effects of performance on the broader cultures in which it takes place. Students will examine theatre in its local, national and transnational contexts through the analysis of dramatic texts, theatre criticism, historical documents and performance events. The module builds on students’ work in level one by encouraging them to develop a self-reflexive critical practice that integrates script analysis with theoretical and historical inquiry. To this end, classes will examine the cultural politics of theatre through a diversity of materials and case studies and students will undertake an in-depth written study that engages the topical and methodological concerns of the module.

Value 20 credits

Year Two Study Options

Value 20 credits

Modern Drama: Ibsen to Pinter

This module provides an overview of the main developments in theatrical representation in the UK and internationally from the 1870s to the 1960s. Students will examine representative plays to gain an understanding of themes and issues that they raise and address, as well as the methods through which they challenge and engage the audience. The module works to create a bridge between the modern and contemporary, providing an understanding of the period through groundbreaking plays that reflect the changes taking place in a society at the grip of two World Wars and major political struggles, where issues relating to class, gender, power, labour, capitalism and human rights are at the forefront. The module concentrates on the reciprocity between art and society through a range of texts that were influential in their time and continue to be strongly relevant today.

Shakespeare on Screen 

This module explores the adaptation of Shakespeare's plays for television and the cinema, providing a historical and comparative study of versions of several plays. After some sessions on general matters of adaptation and technique, discussion will focus on specific plays (see below) with consideration of a variety of specific technical issues, such as the shaping of narrative, filmic and theatrical genre, acting and directing, cinematography.  The option also considers thematic issues, including violence, representations of issues relating to gender and sexuality.  The principal plays discussed will be Macbeth, Othello, Titus Andronicus and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The Dark Comedy

This module will consider the development of modern tragicomedy from Chekhov’s realism through to the Beckett’s metatheatre and the Theatre of the Absurd. Contemporary writers such as Alan Bennett are also discussed. The aim is to examine how tragicomedy potentially offers a more complex understanding of human experience than tragedy or comedy, with reference to existentialist philosophies, and also examine how tragicomedy aims evoke a complex audience response.

Popular Performance

The module will explore genres of popular theatre throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries relating and paralleling them to current popular theatre practices. The question is asked of ‘what is popular?’ contextualising it within theatre as a whole, as opposed to the study of what was termed historically as ‘legitimate’ theatre. Social attitudes and hegemonic influences towards popular theatre are considered. Music hall (in all its forms – including individual performers, song, dance, variety acts, dramatic sketches), pantomime (encompassing both the early Harlequinade and the contemporary form), shows and exhibitions, folk-drama and postmodern neo-burlesque are analysed in both their performative and their cultural and political roles and ideologies including class, gender and imperialism. Play texts and other printed sources are used and, in order to investigate and understand the essentially ephemeral modes of popular entertainment, students also work through practice as research towards a short performance of one of the genres studies.. Students see at least 4 relevant performances over the semester. The module is taught by tutor-led seminars and student presentations.

Practical Intensives 1 A/B Mask into text, Voice and the Actor, Acting, Collaborative Strategies

Value 20 credits

Practical intensive modules provide students with a practical skills base that can be applied to live performance work as well as to performance analysis. The module provides skills enhancement in particular areas of theatre/performance practice. By the end of the module students will: have gained experience of a range of practice-based, physical and/or vocal theatre craft skills that arise from particular areas of practice; be able to apply these skills through individual and group practice-based assessments (as appropriate), and to reflect critically on the acquisition and application of performance skill and techniques in written form.

Mask into text

The course gives a basic introduction to the art of mask work, concentrating in particular on the use of half masks in text based, rather than improvised, theatre. In this process students will learn to use the white full naïve mask, the four archetypal temperament masks, the five archetypes - Innocent, Fool, Trickster, Hero, Mother, and character half masks relating to Blood Wedding.

Voice and the Actor

This consists of workshops providing students with a practical vocal skills base that can be applied to live performance work as well as to performance analysis. The module provides skills enhancement in voice. By the end of the module students will have gained skills in voice production through a vocabulary of physical exercises leading to the convincing realization of given texts and developing an appropriate individual and collective sensibility through voice and speech.

Acting

The module is an introduction to selected embodied, physically-based, non-naturalistic approaches to acting and performance. It will draw on exercises and methodologies encountered and developed by Foursight Theatre including those of Jacques Lecoq, Philippe Gaulier, Grotowski, Meyerhold, Gardziniece, Laban and Dorinda Hulton’s work on integrating breath/image/word. Exercises will be applied to a range of texts. A training strand in physical and vocal awareness, flexibility and expressivity will add rigour to our exploration of text and characterisation.

Collaborative Strategies

This module will introduce you to a range of contemporary performance strategies to enable collective devising practice to take place, framed by further reading and theoretical reflection. The emphasis will be on approaches to making work that utilise physicality, response, montage and non-dramatic written texts in the creation of performance. In addition, an introduction to aspects of site-based performance will inform the work, as well as the diverse range of positions and relationships which the contemporary performer can adopt. For the first four weeks, this work will be taught in group workshops with some small group preparation during and in between scheduled sessions. At the end of Week 10 there is an intensive weekend, over which further material will be developed and shaped into a performance.

Theatre Crafts 2

The module is taught in 2-hour weekly seminar, lecture and practical classes, building on the foundation level Theatre Crafts 1 module. Students specialise in one area of theatre production Stage Technologies, Design or Stage Management. Whilst developing skills taught in the previous year, the students will be taught and assessed working on performance events, specific practical and theoretical project work.

 

Disclaimer

Modules and courses are constantly updated and under review. As with most academic programmes, please remember that it is possible that a module may not be offered in any particular year, for instance because a member of staff is on study leave or too few students opt for it. The University of Birmingham reserves the right to vary or withdraw any course or module.