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Modernism and the Stage

  • Module code: DA5004
  • Year: 2018/9
  • Level: Year 5
  • Credits: 30.00
  • Pre-requisites: Successful completion of Level 4 Drama or equivalent
  • Co-requisites: None

Summary

This module builds on the knowledge, understanding and performance skills students have gained in Level 4 modules, particularly DA400, The Actor and the Text. The module provides an opportunity to explore in detail the key facets of Modernism, as it was manifested in theatre.  The first part of the module explores the themes and principles of Naturalism in theory and practice. Students study its historical context and conventions alongside the work of key dramatists and directors who helped to shape Naturalistic theatre. The exploration of this key movement in modern theatre is underpinned by practice.  Key scenes are explored in detail and appropriate processes used to realise them in performance. The second part of the module explores the gravitation towards the ‘Anti-Realism' movement of the early twentieth century Avant-Garde, touching on Symbolism, Dada, Surrealism and Absurdism. The conventions, themes and principles of these movements are explored in terms of their social, cultural and political concerns. Selected texts from key dramatists will be fully interrogated within the workshop/classroom and their influence on performance today will be examined.

Aims

This module aims to:

  • extend students' knowledge and experience of Modernist theatre and its key practitioners
  • analyse key plays of the respective movements within Modernism in their historical and critical contexts
  • identify the principles, techniques and dynamics of performing in both Naturalistic and Non-Naturalistic modes.
  • apply learning and research about the performance of roles in Naturalistic and Non-Naturalistic plays in a practical context

Learning outcomes

 On successful completion of the module, students should be able to demonstrate:

  • knowledge and understanding of the key movements of Modernist theatre and the impact of them on contemporary performance 
  • knowledge and understanding of the social, political and cultural context of key dramatists' plays within particular Modernist movements
  • the ability to apply their understanding of Modernist theatre ideas and methods in practice through rehearsal and performance
  • the ability to critically evaluate their own practice and the practice of others (Key Skill: self-awareness)
  • the ability to critique and analyse key productions on stage
  • the ability to express themselves clearly and unambiguously using the spoken word (Key Skill: Communication)

Curriculum content

  • the historical conditions underpinning the emergence of Modernist theory and practice
  • investigation of the principles of specific movements and genres such as Naturalism, Expressionism, Surrealism and Absurdism
  • the social, political and cultural contexts of key dramatists' plays
  • approaches to acting in a Naturalistic mode including character research, emotion memory and the method of physical action
  • approaches to performing Non-Naturalistic texts including principles of stylisation, mask and symbolism
  • review and analysis of the work of directors, dramatists and practitioners of Naturalist theatre such as Stanislavski, Ibsen, Chekhov, Gorky and Strindberg
  • review and analysis of work of the directors, dramatists and practitioners of Non-Naturalistic theatre such as Artaud, Jarry and Tzara
  • the relationship between the performer, director, playwright and audience
  • consideration of the impact of innovations in staging and design
  • analysis and evaluation of the core plays in performance and directors' interpretations of them
  • the impact of Modernist theory and practice on the evolution of contemporary theatre practice

Teaching and learning strategy

The module is taught in a weekly series of three hour classes, through the academic year, employing a mixture of lectures, seminars and practical workshops. In the first teaching block, the focus is on Naturalism. Lectures and seminars introduce and examine Naturalism's historical context, its principles and themes and ways in which they were explored and expressed by different playwrights, directors and performers. Workshops enable students to experiment with the practical exploration and application of pertinent methodologies, particularly Stanislavski's active analysis cycles in conjunction with key exercises and methods from his acting system. The second teaching block employs the same approach to the investigation of Non-Naturalistic Modernist performance and its historical, cultural and political contexts. The practical nature of the work relies on students engaging in guided research between classes. Students' work should increasingly be informed by their own research both as individuals and in groups.

Breakdown of Teaching and Learning Hours

Definitive KIS Category Indicative Description Hours
Scheduled learning and teaching 10 x 3 hour lecture-seminar 30
Scheduled learning and teaching 12 X 3 hour workshops 30
Guided independent study student independent study 206
Guided independent study Guided Collaborative study 31
Total (number of credits x 10) 300

Assessment strategy

The assessment strategy for this module aims to embed and extend students' understanding of the link between knowledge and understanding of Modernist theatre on the one hand and their ability to articulate it and apply it creatively in practice on the other. 

Summative assessment consists of a group performance of a scene from a Naturalistic play at the end of teaching block one (10 minutes) and a performance essay (15-20 minutes, depending on group size) addressing one or more forms of Non-Naturalistic Modernist theatre practice at the end of teaching block two. In the Naturalistic performance, students demonstrate their understanding of Naturalistic acting methods and approaches through practice. In the second, the performance essay mode of assessment enables them to draw together theory and practice and to present their knowledge and understanding in imaginative and creative ways.    

Formative assessments include production critiques, research presentations and work in progress performances, which help students to prepare for their summative assessments and gain feedback from tutors and each other on their developing understanding and practical experiments.

Mapping of Learning Outcomes to Assessment Strategy (Indicative)

Learning Outcome Assessment Strategy
knowledge and understanding of the key movements of Modernist theatre and the impact of them on contemporary performance formatively in research presentations and, production critiques; summatively in performance and performance essay
knowledge and understanding of the social, political and cultural context of key dramatists' plays within particular Modernist movements formatively in research presentations; summatively in performance essay
understanding of the complex relationship between the performer, the director and the text formatively in production critiques and work in progress performances; summatively in performance and performance essay
the ability to apply their understanding of Modernist theatre ideas and methods in practice through rehearsal and performance formatively in work in progress performances; summatively in performance and performance essay
the ability to critically evaluate their own practice and the practice of others (Key skill: self-awareness) formatively in work in progress performances
the ability to critique and analyse key productions on stage formatively in work in progress performances; summatively in performance essay
the ability to express themselves clearly and unambiguously using the spoken word (Key Skill: Communication) formatively in research presentations and work in progress performances; summatively in performance and performance essay

Achieving a pass

It IS NOT a requirement that any major assessment category is passed separately in order to achieve an overall pass for the module

Bibliography core texts

Core texts will differ each year but will always include a range of Naturalistic and Non-Naturalistic playtexts

Merlin, B. (2007)  The Complete Stanislavski Toolkit. London, Nick Hern Books

Bibliography recommended reading

Artaud, A. (2010) The Theatre and its Double. London, One World Classics

Benedetti, J. (1989) Stanislavski: An Introduction. Revised edition. London, Methuen

Benedetti, J. (1998) Stanislavski and the Actor. London, Methuen

Braun, E. (1982) The Director and the Stage. London, Methuen

Gottleib, V. & Allain, P. (eds.) (2000) The Cambridge companion to Chekhov. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press

Hodge, A. (ed.)(2000) Twentieth Century Actor Training. London, Routledge

Innes, C.D. (ed.)(2000) Sourcebook on Naturalist Theatre. London, Routledge

Innes, C.D. (1993) Avant Garde Theatre 1892-1992. London, Routledge

Merlin, B. (2001) Beyond Stanislavski: The Pshycho-Physical Approach to Acting. London, Nick Hern Books

Schumacher, C. (1996) Naturalism and symbolism in European theatre 1850-1918. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press

Stanislavski, K. (1936) An Actor Prepares. London, Methuen, 1988

Stanislavski, K. (1961) Creating A Role. Trans. Elizabeth Reynolds Hapgood (1968). London, Mentor

Styan J.L. (1981) Modern Drama in Theory and Practice 1: Realism and Naturalism. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press

Styan J.L. (1981) Modern Drama in Theory and Practice 2:Symbolism, Surrealism and the Absurd. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press

Styan J.L. (1981) Modern Drama in Theory and Practice 3: Expressionism and Epic Theatre. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press

Whyman, R. (2008) The Stanislavsky System of Acting: Legacy and Influence in Modern Performance. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press

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