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Popular Performance II: Cabaret and Variety

  • Module code: DA6006
  • Year: 2018/9
  • Level: Year 6
  • Credits: 30.00
  • Pre-requisites: Successful completion of Level 5 Drama or equivalent
  • Co-requisites: None

Summary

The cultural impact of music hall, variety theatre and differing incarnations of cabaret has been felt at various times since the latter half of the nineteenth century and the legacies of these traditions continue to inform a wide range of current performance practice. This year-long module, which is optional for all Drama students at Level 6 provides, an opportunity to study a range of popular performance forms from historical, theoretical and practical perspectives.  It therefore enables students to investigate issues such as the impact of Modernism and the emerging avant garde on the cabaret culture that spread throughout Europe, but significantly not as far as the UK, during the late nineteenth century; the importance of the halls in the development of popular culture; the birth of alternative cabaret and subsequently alternative comedy as a reaction to the Thatcherite politics of the late 1970s and early 1980s; and the current popularity of neo-burlesque.  It also supports the exploration of essential practicalities such as the development and expression of a performer's personality; establishing rapport with the audience; ways in which material might be generated; and the necessity of presence and spontaneity.   

Aims

This module aims to

  • enable a detailed and extensive study of cabaret, variety and subsequent modes of popular performance such as stand-up comedy and contemporary burlesque

and to do so in relation to:

  • the social, historical and political context that informed their origins during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries
  • the social, historical and political context by which twenty first century forms of popular performance such as stand-up comedy and burlesque are currently shaped
  • pertinent theoretical contexts and debates
  • recognised performance practices

Learning outcomes

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

  • identify specific modes of popular performance and outline their social, historical, intellectual and theoretical contexts
  • comprehend salient texts and works and position them within these contexts
  • indicate and illustrate ways in which appropriate theory and practice inform the realisation of original performance (Key skill: self-awareness) AND
  • formulate, organise and present a short performance or performances in response to these contexts (Key skill: Management and Leadership)
  • conceptualise and structure an extended research essay in response to a thesis informed by one or more of the module concerns (Key skill: self awareness)

Curriculum content

  • Music Hall: popular song and working class entertainment, drawing on, for example, the work of Bratton, Bailey and Kift 
  • Variety: popular entertainment between the wars drawing on, for example, the work of Oliver Double
  • Variety: decline and the proliferation of popular entertainment drawing on, for example the work of  Double and Russell 
  • Cabaret and the avant-garde drawing on, for example, the work of Segel and Jelavich
  • Cabaret: politics, sex, race and fashion drawing on, for example, the work of Segel and Jelavich
  • Kleinkunst: popular forms and the rejection of bourgeois tradition and convention
  • Satire and parody
  • Burlesque: the female body and the male gaze with reference to, for example, the work of Willson

Teaching and learning strategy

In Teaching Block 1 practical workshops that are led by module tutors but also include an hour of guided independent study will enable students to explore and gain insight into histories, theories, creative practices and current ‘scenes' associated with particular forms of popular performance.  Over the course of this Teaching Block groups of students will consult with module tutors to conceive and plan a creative project that will enable a more detailed examination of a key area of curriculum content and form the basis of their work in Teaching Block 2.  In Teaching Block 2 all groups will be supported through three different types of workshop.  Building on work introduced in Teaching Block 1 the first of these will explore key performance skills that pertain to all of the projects being developed.  These might include sessions exploring attitude; persona; writing and shaping an act. The second will be given over to work in progress presentations and incorporate important feedback from module tutors and peer review.  The third will provide each group with an opportunity to work independently. Although these sessions will be supervised by module tutors students will be provided with time and space to develop the work in the manner they identified in their initial proposals.

Breakdown of Teaching and Learning Hours

Definitive KIS Category Indicative Description Hours
Scheduled learning and teaching 22 x 2 hour practical workshop 44
Scheduled learning and teaching 22 guided independent study 22
Guided independent study group independent study 134
Scheduled learning and teaching Individual Independent Study 100
Total (number of credits x 10) 300

Assessment strategy

Regular opportunities for the presentation of work are built into the delivery of the module. These are designed to enable students to develop their knowledge of history, theory and practice associated with the modes of popular performance studied prior to the summative assessments by receiving feedback from staff and students alike.

In addition to this the module has the following formal formative assessment points:

  • At the end of Semester 1 small groups of students will outline the aims, objectives and performance outcomes of a negotiated project they have conceived and planned in consultation with module tutors.  This presentation will not only place the project within the historical, theoretical and methodological contexts explored in Teaching Block 1 but also demonstrate how it responds to current practice.  In addition to this students will indicate ways in which the work will enable each of the assessment criteria to be met. The project outlined here will form the basis of their work in Teaching Block 2.
  • Having received feedback on their initial presentation groups will present revised proposals at the beginning of Teaching Block 2.

The module has the following summative assessment points.

  • Each student will submit a creative portfolio.  These might take the form of a blog, a vlog, a scrapbook, a reflective essay etc but they must be equivalent to a 2500 word essay and document, analyse, evaluate and contextualize the student's personal contribution to the group's creative process in a manner that responds to aims and objectives outlined in the      group's original proposal.  This creative portfolio and a series of work in progress presentations will enable module tutors to assess creative process.
  • Each student will contribute to a final performance. Here for example groups could stage a short evening of comedy in which each member of the group performs a solo stand-up act.      Alternatively they could perform a short revue comprising a mixture of solo acts, double acts and small group performances that are linked thematically or a short evening of variety consisting of a similar mixture of acts without a thematic link.

Mapping of Learning Outcomes to Assessment Strategy (Indicative)

Learning Outcome Assessment Strategy
identify specific modes of popular performance and outline their social, historical, intellectual and theoretical contexts Formative - group presentation Summative - creative portfolio and performance
comprehend salient texts and works and position them within these contexts Formative - group presentation Summative - creative portfolio and performance
indicate and illustrate ways in which appropriate theory and practice inform the realisation of original performance (Key skill: self-awareness) Formative - group presentation Summative - creative portfolio and performance
formulate, organise and present a short performance or performances in response to these contexts (Key skill: Management and Leadership) Summatively in performances

Breakdown of Major Categories of Assessment

Assessment Type Assessment Name Assessment Weighting
PRC Performance Task 60
CWK Creative Portfolio 40
Total (to equal 100%) 100%

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

Double, O. (2012) Britain Had Talent: a history of variety theatre. London, Palgrave Macmillan

Bibliography recommended reading

Appignanesi, L. (2004) The Cabaret. New Haven, Conn, Yale University Press

Bailey, P. (1986) Music Hall: The Business Of Pleasure. London, Open University Press

Bratton, J. S. (1986) Music Hall: Performance and Style. London, Open University Press

Double, O. (2005) Getting the joke : the art of stand-up comedy. London, Methuen

Howard, M. (1996) A New Order: an evening at the Cabaret Voltaire. Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University

Jelavich, P. (1996) Berlin Cabaret. Cambridge, Mass, Harvard University Press

Kift, D. (1996) The Victorian Music Hall: Culture, Class and Conflict. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press

Lavin, S. (2004)Women and comedy in solo performance: Phyllis Diller, Lily Tomlin, and Roseanne. London, Routledge

Mander, R. and Mitchenson, J. (1974) British Music Hall. London, Gentry Books

Schechter, J.  (2003)  Popular Theatre: A Sourcebook. London, Routledge

Segel, H. B. (1987) Turn-Of-The-Century Cabaret: Paris, Barcelona, Berlin, Munich, Vienna, Cracow, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Zurich. New York,  Columbia University Press

Willson, J. (2008) The Happy Stripper.  London,  I. B. Tauris

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