Caroline Jackson Smith, Chair of Theater, Professor of Theater and Africana Studies
Jeremy Benjamin, Lecturer in Lighting Design and Technology
Heather Leigh Brown, Lecturer, Costumer
Jason Dorwart, Visiting Instructor of Theater
Justin Emeka, Associate Professor of Theater and Africana Studies
Chris Flaharty, Associate Professor of Theater; Costume Designer
Daniel James, Lecturer, Technical Director
Paul Moser, Professor of Theater
Joe Natt, Lecturer, Technical Director
Eric Steggall, Lecturer, Managing Director
Matthew Wright, Professor of Theater
The Theater Department offers students the opportunity to study acting, directing, design and production, theater history and criticism, and playwriting within the broader context of a liberal arts education. In addition to coursework, theater students can acquire practical experience in all aspects of the theater by participating in departmental productions. Because the performing arts are collaborative by nature, the department fosters a strong sense of community, promoting both cultural diversity and individuality. Students who graduate with a major in Theater will demonstrate:
1. A broad knowledge of global performance traditions and literature, including
- Extensive study of plays from a wide range of periods, movements, genres and cultural traditions
- The study of our American Theater tradition, including the present
2. Advanced analytical skills specific to theatrical processes, appropriate for both creative work and scholarship in our discipline, including
- Critical thinking and writing
- An ability to articulate ideas verbally and in written communiction
3. A broad knowledge of, and practical experience in, creating Theater, including
- The study of such sub-disciplinesas: playwriting, acting, directing, design, technical production, arts management, and dramaturgy
- The capacity to collaborate successfully on a Theater piece and communicate with artists and thinkers from other disciplines and within our own.
4. Evidence of the development of advanced technique/skills with at least one sub discipline, including
- Theater Scholarship
- Arts Management
- Technical Production
5. The development of life skills through the exploration of technique and production processes, including
- An understanding of the depth of human experience in a variety of cultural and literary expressions
- An understanding of cultural sensitivity
- The development of emotional intelligence
- The development of empathy
6. A readiness to pursue graduate-level study or professional opportunities in the field, through successful preparation of audition materials, portfolio, curriculum vitae and other appropriate professional promotional materials
All introductory level courses are open to all students interested in broadening the scope of their education or who are majoring in a related field and wish to use theater as a resource. Students wishing to pursue more intensive involvement in theater, whether they elect to major, or not, are encouraged to enroll in intermediate and advanced-level courses in technique along with courses in production, history, and the aesthetics of theater. Students also have the opportunity to work closely with guests and artists-in-residence each year. Guest directors, playwrights, and other specialists may offer workshops lasting from a few days to one month.
The Theater Curriculum
The Theater curriculum offers courses in acting, directing, history, criticism, design, and production. In addition to class meetings, many courses have a laboratory component that involves students in the process of creating a theater production. The program also sponsors theater residencies from time to time, which have included workshops with specialists in stage combat, Le Coq, masks, Noh, Suzuki and Viewpoints.
Oberlin College Theater (OCT) Season
Each year, the Theater Department produces a season of theatrical offerings that includes three faculty or guest-directed mainstage productions in Hall Auditorium, and several student-directed projects in the Little Theater. Casting in all of these productions is open to all Oberlin College students. Smaller scale productions such as the Directing Class One-Act Festival are intended to provide a bridge between the classroom experience and fully mounted productions. In addition to productions that are sponsored by the Theater Department, students have the opportunity to participate in productions sponsored by other departments and student theater organizations such as Oberlin Student Theater Association (OSTA) and Oberlin Musical Theater Association (OMTA)
Senior Projects and Honors
Seniors majoring in theater are strongly encouraged to pursue a senior “capstone” project that will serve as the culmination of their undergraduate studies. Usually, the senior project will evolve directly from the student’s concentration (see below, Areas of Concentration) within the major. (e.g. directing, designing, or acting in a full length production, etc.) Applications for Senior Projects must be submitted to the Theater Department Administrative Assistant by April 1st of the student’s junior year. If the project requires assignment of space in Little Theater or an alternative venue, the project application must be accompanied by a LT application, available from Janice Sanborn in the Theater office.
The Honors program is designed to offer a few exceptional theater majors the opportunity to undertake a full year (i.e. two semester) creative and/or scholarly project under the close supervision of a faculty sponsor. These students will be invited by the faculty, from the pool of Senior Project applicants. In order to qualify for Honors status, applicants must
- Possess a proven ability to successfully complete a significant scholarly/research project, as evidenced through course work and/or submission of a significant sample of scholarly writing
- Have a minimum GPA of 3.65 both overall and within the department
Winter Term provides an opportunity for students to engage in projects sponsored by the faculty in acting, directing, design, and theater research. Normally, several on-campus Winter Term theater productions are in rehearsal during the month. Guest artists are often brought in to work with students in areas such as physical theater, stage combat, voice, and acting. In addition, students use this time to become active in various alumni and off campus theater-related internships.
The following faculty members are available to sponsor Winter Term projects, as indicated. Ms. Anderson Boll: acting; directing. Mr. Copeland: history and criticism in theater; playwriting; performance. Mr Emeka: acting; directing. Mr. Flaharty: costume design and design research. Ms. Jackson Smith: acting; directing; writing/dramatic literature other performance projects. Mr. Moser: acting; directing. Mr. Steggall: Arts Administration. Mr. Wright: acting; directing.
Major and Non-Major Off Campus Study
Many students majoring in theater elect to take advantage of the numerous study away programs available in the field. Oberlin has several designated Affiliated Programs, including:
- The Great Lakes College Association Arts in New York program
- National Theater Institute at The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center
- Trinity/La Mama Performing Arts Program in New York
- Spring Semester at NYU’s Tisch School Of The Arts
- The British American Drama Academy
Before credit is awarded for off-campus study, students must obtain tentative prior approval the Chair of Theater and the Associate Dean of Studies. After the study is completed, the student must supply evidence of satisfactory participation. A maximum of four full courses, or the equivalent, of off-campus study may be applied to the major in Theater. Please visit the Study Away Office for additional information about the above-listed programs, as well as others that might be of interest.
It is recommended that those students intending to pursue a career and/or advanced studies in the field of Theater or related performing arts consider declaring a major in Theater. The major program of study is designed to allow students the flexibility of pursuing general theater studies while focusing on a particular emphasis within the Theater curriculum, such as acting, directing, history/criticism, playwriting, or production/design.
Students who intend to major in theater must first secure a faculty advisor. This should be an instructor in the student’s area of intended concentration and would ideally be someone with whom they’ve already successfully completed intermediate level coursework. (For example, students wishing to declare a Theater major with a concentration in Acting would first successfully complete THEA 200: Introduction to Scene Study, and ask an acting instructor to be their advisor). The student will then schedule an appointment with their advisor and work closely with them to design an individualized plan of study and acquire the necessary approvals.
Areas of Concentration
Because of the wide range of disciplines within the field of Theater, it is helpful for the student to guide their course of study by focusing on one or two specific areas of concentration. Within our program, we have delineated these areas of concentration: Acting, Directing, Critical Inquiry, Interdisciplinary Performance, and Production/Design (including Stage Management). It must be remembered, however, that these are merely areas of study and that, by majoring in Theater, it is expected that students will take courses in all of these areas, while focusing on one. We believe that, in order to excel at any one area within the broad field of Theater, it is essential to acquire a working knowledge of all areas.
Required Production Crew: THEA 199
Theater Majors must fulfill 2 (two) THEA 199 assignments, and must fulfill at least one 199 assignment prior to declaring a Theater major.
- This is a non-credit bearing requirement
- These production crew assignments include all Theater Department productions (both Mainstage and LABseries), or major Dance Department concerts, limited to ODC, Fall Forward, and Spring Back.
- 199s do not include Operas, other capstones or extra-curricular productions.
- Because this requirement is intended, in part, to broaden our students’ backstage experience, the two 199 assignments should be for two different kinds of crew positions (for instance, they should not both be for operating the light board).
- Students may count Stage Management or Assistant Stage Management of a Theater Department production for 1 (one) 199, provided they are not also receiving THEA 312 Stage Management Practicum credit.
- 100% attendance, punctuality and commitment are required for all 199s (and are neither negotiable or optional);
- Any student failing to satisfactorily complete a 199 assignment will not receive credit.
- The staff supervisor will determine the number and kinds of positions for each show at the beginning of each season, allowing any interested majors to sign up well in advance.
- Because these assignments often conflict with departmental casting, it is recommended that students fulfill BOTH 199’s before the end of their third year
- Procedure: At the beginning of each semester, the staff supervisor will announce a mandatory meeting at which 199 assignments will be distributed. Students must attend this meeting in order to receive a 199 assignment for a given semester.
Special Exceptions and Substitutions
IN VERY SPECIAL EXCEPTIONS, a Theater major in their third or fourth year who finds it impossible to fulfill a 199 around the year’s rehearsal or class schedules may petition the department for pre-approval by shop staff for a special substitution of 30 hours of tech crew work. Upon approval:
- hours will be predetermined by the appointed shop supervisor, based on what is useful to the professional staff
- job(s) will be specified
- it should be noted that approval is contingent upon the petitioner’s proven ability to perform the proscribed task.
Additionally, there may be special exceptions granted in instances when a student is recruited to work on a special project or performance by a faculty supervisor. Examples of this are students who have been approached to serve crew for Dance Department productions such as Dance Diaspora or Essence.
Theater Major Requirements (10 full courses) to include:
1. Four full courses in the area of Critical Inquiry and History, which must include THEA 252 (Foundations of Theater). Of the three remaining courses, one must cover the rise of Realism in the Theater and may be selected from those courses below, marked with an asterisk (*). The other two courses may be drawn from the list below or from dramatic literature courses taught in English and other departments. Courses from other departments must be approved by the student’s advisor and the department Chair.
THEA 253 Theater In The Age of Cinema
THEA 264 African American Drama
THEA 282 Shifting Scenes: Drama Survey
THEA 302 Non-Literary Theater
THEA 309 Theater of The Millennium
THEA 317 Directing II: Texts and Concepts
THEA 324 Concept of The Avant-Garde
THEA 333 Stage To Screen
*THEA 348 Modern Drama: Ibsen to Pirandello
THEA 380 Shakespeare in The 21st Century
2. Two full courses (or equivalent) in Performance, chosen from THEA 100 (Acting1), 200 (Intro To Scene Study), 201 (Advanced Scene Study), 208 (Directing 1), 210 (Movement, will count as a half course), 268 (Black Arts Workshop), 269 (Voice, will count as half course), 270 (Speech and Dialects, will count as half course).
3. Two full courses (or equivalent) in Production and Design chosen from THEA 172 (Prod. Scenery), 173 (Prod. Costumes). 174 (Lighting), 212 (Stage Management), 222 (Introduction To Design), 232 (Costume Design), 236 (Set Design), 240 (Introduction to Arts Management, 312 (Production Workshop), 340 (Advanced Arts Management).
4. Two full courses (or equivalent) advanced-level (300 or 400 level) Theater Electives in student’s area of concentration [Students concentrating in Playwriting may count CRWR 330, 470, or 480 as these concentration electives]
5. Two Theater Production Crews (THEA 199) - 0 credits
THEA 995: Private Readings may not substitute for any major requirements
Theater Minor (A minimum of 4.5 full courses), to include:
1. Two full courses in the area of Critical Inquiry and History, which must include THEA 252 (Styles of Theater), and one additional course drawn from the list above in point 1 of THEATER MAJOR
2. One Production and Design elective (full or half course)
3. Two full courses at the intermediate or advanced level in the student’s area of interest
4. One Theater Crew (THEA 199) - 0 credits
CRITICAL INQUIRY COURSES*
(Note: THEA 100:Acting 1 is a prerequisite for all 200-level Acting/Directing courses, THEA 200: Acting 2 is a prerequisite for all 300-level Acting/Directing courses)**
PRODUCTION & DESIGN COURSES