Third year - Drama and Theatre Arts

 Core Modules

Extended Essay in Drama OR Practical Project in Drama

  • Extended Essay: self-directed research on any chosen area of Theatre and Performance. The student is supported by workshops and individual supervisions to prepare, organise and execute a 6,000 word essay.
  • Practical Project: self-directed group work leading to a 10-20 minute performance of practice-based research with full technical support. Each group of students is supported by workshops and allocated a supervisor to advise them throughout the process on their methodology and practice. This module provides the opportunity for students to bring together learnt skills in both academic and practical areas of the syllabus.

 Value 20 credits

Recent Final Year study options have included:

The Creative Industries

This module will introduce final year students to some of the issues surrounding, and practicalities of, working within the creative and cultural industries in the United Kingdom today, with a particular emphasis on theatre. Students will learn first-hand from visiting lecturers working in the creative industries, through seminars on funding, marketing and project development and by undertaking independent research in the field, guided by the tutor. Students will be asked to develop a project they could potentially deliver on ‘real world’ terms.

The Director and Directing

This module explores and challenges ideas and practices of directing: throughout, it aims to question and compare directors' relationships to the actor/performer, the audience/spectator, and to the theatrical material. The module will include consideration of the director's aesthetics of, for example, space, visual languages, narrative and meaning, as well as dramaturgical practices. Following an initial seminar that outlines developments in directing, we will examine the work of a range of contemporary North American and European directors in terms of how they may have challenged the playtext as a beginning point to theatre making, introduced physically-based practices, developed their relationship to actors and writers, or can be seen as auteurs. The module is supported by a structured, week-by-week programme of reading, and draws on audiovisual material in class.

Live Art

Live Art encompasses a range of practices that deal with an art that is live(d), from theatre to performance, the body to installations. The module will offer an exploration of some of the major histories, conceptualisations and practices of live art. Focusing on work produced from the 1960s onwards, the module will look at the development of performance art and live art in the UK and the US, with appropriate references to work from the rest of Europe. The module will be taught thematically, exploring areas such as ‘Feminism and Gender’, ‘Multimedia and Technologies’ and ‘Body-based art’. Each area will be examined in relation to individual artists, their practices and critical or theoretical approaches. Running throughout the module will be considerations of the interdisciplinary nature of performance/live art and reflections on the constitution of self/identity in relation to the embodied, the historical/cultural and the theoretical.

The module will be taught via weekly seminar discussions, as well as playing with the ideas and approaches through practice.

Art of the Actor

What is acting? Over the module, we will look at some of the key questions, assumptions and metaphors concerning the training, rehearsal and performance phases of the actor. A comparative and evaluative study of the specifics of particular acting approaches will include both historical and contemporary paradigms, which may also take account of non-Western performance. The problematic issue of emotion and psychology in acting, as well as the body in training/performance, will be reconsidered. We will also look at how the contemporary actor is positioned and some of the emerging alternative theories of how the actor’s process can be understood. The module is supported by a structured week by week programme of reading and audiovisual material will also be used.

Russian Theatre

This course examines the significance of Russian Theatre from 1898-1938, the period of Modernism and of the Russian Revolution. This was a period of fervent political and social change, in which ideas of theatre that continue to influence us today were formed. The course aims to enable the student to understand the relevance of the particular social, cultural and historical context in which Russian Modernist theatre developed. The relationships between theatre writing and theatre production, also between theatre and film and the development of theories of acting will be analyzed. The course will assess the importance of this period in terms of its enduring influence in Western Culture on theatre production and acting. We will look at the work of writers including Gorky, Chekhov, Mayakovsky, and Erdman; directors and actors Stanislavski, Vakhtangov, Meyerhold, Michael Chekhov and the film work of Eisenstein.

Adaptation 

The module considers adaptation as a product as well as a process, examining various adaptation practices and their significance in terms of both cultural production and reception. The course materials encompass drama, translation, performance and film within an analytical framework which will critically explore the limits and the established definitions of adaptation. Throughout the course, theory will be used to question discourses of originality, fidelity and textual authority; following an introductory session on the emergent field of adaptation studies, we shall retrace the recent interest in adaptation in the poststructuralist contemplation of authorship and textuality (Barthes, Foucault). This framework will enable us to identify adaptation strategies in contemporary playwriting and performance and to reflect on textual appropriation more broadly. The seminars will discuss various refigurations of literary and dramatic texts across genres and media. Special emphasis will be given to twentieth-century adaptations of canonical texts, especially Greek tragedy and Shakespeare, in forms as diverse as epic, in-yer-face, and postdramatic theatre. Discussions of the material under examination will address the wider historical, ideological and cultural contexts of adaptation, while also problematising the politics of appropriation of the canon. The module will invite students to develop a creative approach to the subject through the group presentation of an adaptation outline.

Performing Hamlet

The module combines the examination of the dramatic text from the point of view of performance choices and the opportunities provided in the writing and stagecraft, with study of the play’s performance history in the theatre and on screen.   Students will begin in the first half of the term by working through selected scenes and speeches in detail– as if in rehearsal. Particular attention will be given to the script’s technical demands (e.g. verse-speaking, staging questions). After reading week the module will consider the playing of scenes and sequences in a variety of recorded performances. Students will also examine these performances and their choices in the social and historical context of the place and time when they were produced.  The module’s aim is to relate practical work on the text of the kind done in rehearsal to performance choices and wider aesthetic and intellectual issues in the performance history of the play. The reading for the study option will include key critical and performance-history texts on the play.  Students will be required to work from (and own) an appropriate scholarly edition (Cambridge, New Arden, Oxford World’s Classics).

Playwright’s Theatre

This module will give students the opportunity to engage with the work of an individual playwright (different options will run in different academic years) in substantial depth. There will be a considerable overview of the playwright's work through a selection of plays that serve to illustrate his/her artistic and ideological affinities, style, as well as influences. At the same time, throughout the module there will be a consideration of the social context of the periods in which the texts were written and first produced so as to trace the mutual impact between artist and society. We will take into account production ephemera, as well as visual records and indications of audience and critical response. In the first weeks the emphasis will be placed on situating the playwright within a broader framework of representational trends and providing a basis for the understanding of his/her individual aesthetics. From that point onwards we will work to recreate the original context of the production of each week's case study, while also taking into account the factors responsible for the enduring relevance of the play, exploring these both in seminar and workshop mode.

Although every effort will be made to provide the maximum allowed number of copies of playtexts through the library, please note that this module deals with contemporary theatre and you may therefore be expected to purchase playtexts as necessary for your learning.

Theatres in Film

Since the early days of the cinema there has been a tension between the new medium’s indebtedness to the older, and its insistence on film’s independence of (and superiority to) the stage. The module does not examine the adaptation of stage plays to the cinema, but focuses on the ways in which theatre as a medium has been treated in films – and the treatment of theatre and theatrical history as the focus of political and social arguments, as a means of exploring psychological states and expressing ideas about personal relationships, and the significance of such concepts as ‘West End’ and ‘Broadway’ or the shape of the actor’s career – or a combination of all these.  Films studied will include 42nd Street and The Band Wagon (the backstage musical and the mystique of Broadway); All About Eve (the psychology and status of the actor); Les Enfants du Paradis and Laurent Tirard’s Molière (romantic narratives and theatre history); The Entertainer (English theatre and the ‘state of the nation’); The Lives of Others (political and cultural history); Birdman (acting – Broadway versus Hollywood)

Most of the films will be discussed in relation to more than one of these topics:  after the first introductory session, each weekly seminar will focus on one film, with examples from others being introduced either in the form of extracts shown by the lecturer or reference to others seen by students in the course of the module.  Students will be expected to become familiar with the broad outlines of theatrical and film history, and more detailed knowledge of specific topics. Presentations will be expected to offer close readings of individual scenes and/or sequences.

Political Performances

This module will examine contemporary political performances including performances of and against the nation state - such as acts of war and terrorism; direct action performances; applied theatre pratices such as refugee theatre and prison theatre and verbatim and documentary performances. We will explore how a performance might be defined as ‘political’ (given the impossibility of non-political performance), how the ‘efficacy’ of such work might be understood, how certain direct action events / political protests might be analysed through performance analysis, and how we might interrogate the ethics and ideological implications of applied and participatory models of practice in the context of governmental agendas and the power relationships between artists and participators.

Alexander Technique

This course aims to provide the student with an introduction to the Alexander Technique and an insight into its application in performance. The sessions will aim to give the student an understanding of how vocal and movement skills can be improved and how to address problems of performance through the Technique. There will be an introduction to basic anatomy and physiology of movement and voice. As practical application of the study, students will work in class on pieces of text or other aspects of performance individually or in small groups.

Victorian Drama

This module will focus on mid-to-late nineteenth century Victorian drama. Apart from reading established and key authors the module will study drama’s relationship and realisation of other art forms including adaptations from popular novels, the periodical press and famous works of art. We will look at how Victorian drama exploited a multi-sensual and, indeed, multi-media experience for the audience using aural and visual spectacular effects in sensation drama.  We will also look at genres and topics of drama such as the industrial, the melodramatic, the ghost or vampire story, class and society, the fallen woman and study authors such as Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Elizabeth Braddon, Robertson, Pinero, Wilde and Shaw.  Students with an appreciation of art history, stagecraft, English Literature or history will especially enjoy the module.

Performing Classic Comedy

The module engages with ‘classic’ comedy scripts on a practical as well as historical level, with a significant element of rehearsal work to complement the study of texts in their cultural and (theatre) historical context. It aims to combine these modes of study and practice.  Students will be encouraged to examine what constitutes the ‘classic’ status of the texts, as well as acquiring experience in their specific stylistic dimensions, and will explore the demands they make on performer and director. Reading will include the plays themselves, with supplementary material on comedy in other media during their various periods. This will include novels, films and other comic works. It will enable students to gain an understanding of the opportunities and problems presented by the performance of ‘classic’ comedy modes and scripts including work by Congreve, Sheridan, Wilde, Coward and Orton.

Theatre and Social Crisis

The module will focus on contemporary playwrights whose work has been responsive to the socio-political climate of our time, taking on specific challenges such as globalization and military conflict, financial collapse and the recession, resources and the environment, civic discontent, protest and urban violence, as well as crises of ideology and identity, in an effort to reassert the civic responsibility of playwriting, pushing the boundaries of text-based performance to deliver new forms and ways of involving the audience. The syllabus will be regularly updated to ensure the resonance of the case studies and reflect new developments. In our class discussions we will consider UK as well as international productions of a given play to extend our conversations beyond the week’s dramatic text, enabling us to take cultural sensibilities into consideration. The discussion will include additional contextualisation through references to contemporary plays that share the scope of our weekly case study in form and/or content.

All have the value of 20 credits

Recent final year Practical Intensive Option Modules include:

Playwriting   

This option offers an intensive look at the major building blocks of playwriting, both in terms of inspiration and craft.  Classwork involves both practical exercises and analysis of published texts, with students developing an original 15 minute play script during the course. The course is taught by a professional playwright and students will have the chance to read and discuss their work with the group before submission.

Performance Project

The module will offer students the opportunity to perform in a tutor-directed performance project that draws on the research or professional expertise of the director. This year the module will require students to apply elements of Stanislavski, Jaques Lecoq, Michael Chekhov, Laban and John Wright to the development of a multifaceted, physical approach to the interpretation of text and character. The module will offer an opportunity for students to experiment with these very different methodologies, allowing them to develop a broad based, personal creative process.  This will lead to a tutor led performance project, culminating in a public sharing of the work.

The emphasis will be on the role and skills of the actor within that particular aesthetic, rather than the design/technical elements of a full production process.

Contemporary Practice

This module offers students the opportunity to make and promote their own original artistic practice, and showcase the work at a professional venue in Birmingham (MAC) to which promoters, funders and other related industry professionals will be invited. An interest in small scale contemporary work is essential, and you will be expected to see a number of shows and professional showcase events during the autumn term to familiarise yourself with current trends in emerging professional practice and inform your own professional development and artistic vision. Students can work as a small ensemble, as solo artists, or as a small company with director; the type of work can be writer-driven or ensemble devised; narrative-based or collage; choreographed physical theatre, verbatim performance, live art or any other model that serves the company's particular artistic vision. Students will also take responsibility for organising the showcase event, liaising with the venue's marketing and technical support team, and marketing the event, as well as learning how to raise funds and sell their work to venues, in order to continue the development of their independent artistic practice, or pursue careers in arts administration, on graduation. The showcase of the work at MAC in which the module culminates is likely to be in week 2 of the spring term, the precise date is yet to be confirmed. 

Directing  

This course is an opportunity to learn about specific approaches to directing and to direct an extract of a play. Students will be introduced to a number of working methodologies, including how to approach and analyse a script, use of space and staging, character creation and rehearsal techniques. Classwork will centre on a set of plays, and students subsequently choose an extract from one play to work on with First Year Theatre Practice students. There is a succinct programme of reading to support the work and students write two 1000 word written pieces on their work (before and after Easter).

Applied Theatre

The course will provide an introduction to a specific area of applied theatre, exploring the emergence and evolution of the form, its main principles, and the practical and theoretical influences of practitioners such as Bertolt Brecht, Augusto Boal and Dorothy Heathcote. It will also draw on the contemporary applied theatre landscape.
Through their practical work students will critically engage with the role of the actor/teacher, the relationship between spectator and audience, the notion of participation and will develop skills in facilitation and devising applied performance.

Site Specific

This module will form the basis to create a site-specific performance in the city. Drawing on research, text and devised elements, the aim is to create an original performance in the refurbished Stirchley Baths (it’s not a swimming pool! See http://stirchleybaths.org/). Performances specific to a site may draw on the history and stories of the location, its use now and historically, its architecture, atmosphere and associations. Following an initial set of classes and site visits in the Spring term, we will create the performance over one week in the summer term, working at the site daily. The performances will be open to the public.

Theatre Crafts III

The module allows students who have followed the relevant Theatre Crafts pathway in the previous two years to develop their skills within a senior role within the production team in their chosen specialised area of Stage Management, Stage Technologies or Design. The student will undertake a theatrical project demonstrating that they have acquired advanced skills in this specific area.

The module provides the student with a practical skills base which can be applied to live performance work as well as performance analysis. This module provides advanced skills enhancement at level 3 in a particular area of theatre/performance practice. The module also provides frameworks in which such skills can be applied within the specifics of the module and beyond and as such the methodology for the potential application of learnt skills is a substantial component of the module.

Production Module (double credit weighting – 40 credits)

This module provides the student with advanced skills enhancement through applied production. ‘Applied production’ in this instance means that a student will rehearse, develop, and perform allocated roles within the auspices of a fully supported and designed theatre production. Learning is undertaken in a collaboratively-driven rehearsal environment, with guidance and teaching provided by a specialist director in an intensive series of workshop sessions occurring over 4 -5 weeks. These workshops culminate in production week rehearsals intended to integrate technical and design elements with acting elements. Finally, students perform in formal DTA productions with public audiences in attendance (usually, though not always, 4 total performances).

 All have the value of 20 credits

 

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.