DR 2014 Contemporary Theory and Theatre (2016-17)

Dr. Róisín O’Gorman

Office: 2.02 Muskerry villas (top floor) Tel. 021 490 4364



This semester students will be introduced to a range of theoretical possibilities by lecturers from across the college and visiting scenographer Deirdre Dwyer. Sessions will vary in close readings, theoretical discussions and/or creative work where these theoretical approaches will be applied, researched, articulated and examined.  The course aims to understand how we make meaning through theatre and performance. We will read from a range of texts, study contemporary examples of innovative work and explore questions and themes throughout the semester.  From this generative exploration each student will identify their own research question/area and develop a formal written assignment by the end of the semester along with a portfolio of creative practice with a focus on scenography that elaborates those ideas.



Learning Outcomes: On successful completion of this module, students should be able to:
· Identify and discuss in detail one or more of the major theoretical positions that have shaped the theory of the stage in the twentieth and twenty-first century;
· Review a number of key theoretical writings that have influenced or are influencing the making and reception of contemporary theatre;
· Apply those concepts in practical assignments;
· Complete written analyses of the critical concepts under discussion and evaluating their relation to issues in contemporary practice.


Required texts:

See information from each lecturer


Recommended Texts:

Alrutz, Megan, Julia Listengarten and M. Van Duyn Wood, eds. Playing with Theory in Theatre Practice. London: Palgrave Macmillian, 2012.

Counsell, Colin and Laurie Wolf, eds. Performance Analysis: An Introductory Coursebook.  London: Routledge, 2001.

Fortier, Mark.  Theatre/Theory: An Introduction. 2nd Ed. London: Routledge, 2002. (This is used for secondary reading but in the past students have found it very helpful for overview).

Goodman, Lizbeth and Jane deGay, eds.  The Routledge Reader in Politics and Performance.  London: Routledge, 2000.

Pitches, Jonathan and Sita Popat, eds. Performance Perspectives. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.



Participation and Preparation and In-class writing

This course considers your ability to practice critical thinking in discussion and collaboration to be fundamental skill in theatre arts.  The key to good participation is great preparation: reading thoroughly, taking detailed notes, writing down questions you have, and thinking of examples or counter-examples for specific points.

Participation will be assessed according to the following criteria:

–     do the student’s contributions to class discussion demonstrate a careful reading of course materials, and attention to lectures and media examples?

–     does the student make efforts to connect ideas presented in lectures, readings, and previous class discussions with each other and with other examples from their experience?

–     does the student’s participation in small group work help the group as a whole advance their thinking and complete assigned tasks in a timely fashion?

–     does the student listen actively and consider all points of view openly?


Participation and preparation may also be evaluated, at the discretion of the lecturer, by in-class two-minute papers and writing exercises focusing on an aspect of the day’s reading.  These activities are designed to help you practice writing skills informally, prepare to discuss specific subjects in class, and to help you engage with the assigned readings.


Assessment of Class work uses 4 criteria:

  1. Attendance is based on regularity, punctuality, being physically and mentally ready to start work at the beginning of the session, and not leaving early. Attendance at all classes is a course requirement. Repeated absences from class may lead to a student failing the whole module and therefore the year.
  2. Preparedness involves having preparatory reading or other work thoroughly and seriously done, having given thought to the likely issues that would arise in relation to the work under consideration.
  3. Commitment & Concentration involve (a) the level to which individuals contract fully into the class process in warm-ups, role-taking, discussion, improvisation & debate; (b) the level of individual concentration, focus and energy brought to the work; (c) contribution to group dynamic.
  4. Quality of In-class Contribution offers an assessment from a range of the following : (a) the level of incisiveness, originality, insight in discussion; (b) the quality of response to the arguments of others and to new ideas; (c) quality of creativity in practical work and improvisation; (d) quality of presentation (where relevant); (e) effectiveness in positive facilitation and forwarding the work of the session.


Note. Bear in mind that each category above is a compound of several assessments. An individual may be absolutely outstanding at improvisation but merely adequate in contribution to critical discussion, for instance.  In the case of 3 and 4 above, two broad elements are considered: work as an individual (in discussion, improv, etc.)  AND work as a group member and that these assessments are based on perceived work, not on intentions.



Pass                             = 40 +

Third honours              = 45-49

Second hons., grade 2 = 50+

Second hons., grade 1 = 60+

First class honours      = 70+


Note on Class Attendance:

We are committed to having a focused and professional ethos in the programme.  The default position therefore is that for DTS classes “rehearsal rules apply”.   What that means is that all students are expected

  • to be in class and ready to start on time;
  • to have their general and individual preparatory work done (whether that means a specific piece of reading, or a prepared scene or speech or presentation);
  • to be appropriately dressed and equipped for full participation in the work;
  • to give the class full attention, concentration and commitment;
  • to participate actively in discussion, exercises etc.;
  • to facilitate the work of the whole group.


As in professional rehearsals, if some disaster should prevent or delay your arrival you should contact the instructor or a fellow class-member immediately to explain the problem.  At the first appropriate opportunity, it is your business to talk to the instructor and explain your absence/lateness.  


Special Circumstances

Under special circumstances, a member of staff may give a student permission to be absent from class without penalty.  Examples of such circumstances would be:

  • illness (provided it is covered by medical certificate);
  • personal or family bereavement or crisis (evidence from a GP or other person may be required);
  • absence arising from official representation of the university at events elsewhere.

If you are experiencing difficulties, it is vital that you contact the staff member/s concerned and discuss the situation with them.  In the case of prolonged or recurrent illness, it is important that you keep the Head of the Programme fully informed.  Bear in mind that staff will do their best to assist you to complete the course but must also respect the course requirements and the rights of other students to be treated equitably.  Feel free to approach DTS staff in confidence for information/advice/referral to the appropriate College services.


Submission of Written Assignments

  1. The exact criteria will depend on the nature of the assignment. If you are in any doubt about what is required, it is important to ask for clarification at the time when the assignment is given.
  2. It is your responsibility to stay informed of all assignments and deadlines. This includes assignments given out when you are absent.
  3. Late work is normally subject to a deduction of 10% per week or part of week for the first three weeks. At that point late work will not be accepted. This rule does not apply to work due to be submitted at the end of the year.
  4. Under some circumstances, a member of staff may grant an extension of deadline to an individual student. Examples of such circumstances would be those outlined above.   In all circumstances where there may be a delay in submitting written work, it is vital that you contact the staff member concerned as soon as possible.
  5. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES will work be accepted after the start date of UCC examinations.
  6. 6. All take-home assignments should be typed/word-processed and should follow the appropriate presentation guidelines. These guidelines will vary somewhat, depending on the particular course and assignment.   Make sure that you are familiar with the guidelines for the specific piece of work you are submitting.
  7. It is important to use the cover sheet with all the basic information shown and signed.
  8. Plagiarism and use of secondary sources.  Please note that, depending on the nature of the assignment, you may be recommended or even required to consult or rely upon works of reference, criticism, theatre history etc in the library or via the internet or other sources.  It is vital that you show the track of your work by referencing all such material in your written work.

NOTE: Use of material from secondary sources without appropriate identification and acknowledgement may be treated as plagiarism and penalised accordingly.  Evidence of plagiarism will invariably lead to marks being deducted.  Extensive plagiarism may lead to a student being assigned a zero for the assignment without a chance of repeating it and, in severe cases, may lead to formal warning and/or a report being submitted to the College Authorities.


For purposes of written assignments, it may occasionally be useful to refer to or quote from lecture or seminar notes.  Where a lecturer identifies a specific source for information or opinions, you should note that; otherwise you may take it that you do not need to reference class work, lectures or discussions.


In Drama & Theatre Studies a great deal of emphasis is placed on collaborative work, group effort, group-learning and shared enquiry and creativity.  Discussing issues with classmates is a key part of this process, so it is important not to allow the issue of plagiarism to inhibit or dominate your participation or your writing.  It is, however, a very important and useful skill to try to be alert to the source/s of ideas, opinions and information and it is of key importance that you identify the external sources of information and ideas.



Assessment & Assignments


Assessment: Total 100 marks (50 contribution/practice; 50 written (formal)

  1. Continuous assessment
  1. attendance, preparedness, class-contribution (10)
  2. Mid-term portfolio (30)
  3. Presentations: Mid-term and final presentation 5% each- (10 marks)


  1. Written production proposal (essay) 2,000 words with scenography portfolio, 50% (This will offer a full proposal for the staging of a text of your choice, as informed by one or more of the theoretical strategies studied on course, including a detailed scenographic portfolio (further details to follow).



(Subject to change)

Each week lists the assigned readings and exercises that must be prepared for class that week. Reading theoretical writings can present new challenges.  Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to read, re-read, makes notes, including questions. Please let me know if you need assistance with your work at any time during the term.

NOTE: You are REQUIRED to attend all of the Perforum events on the Wednesdays listed below. You are expected to attend all DTS performance events and related field trips also.



Calendar and Readings 2016-17 Semester 2


Week 1: Tuesday 17 January

Introduction: What is theory? What is theatre? What is performance?

Overview of module and assignments

Lecturer: Dr. Róisín O’Gorman


Week 2: Tuesday 24 January NOTE TIME CHANGES

FRIDAY 20th Jan. @12noon-1 in Conn B

and Monday 30th Jan. 12-1 Lab/S4 (no class Tuesday 24th)

Design in theory: Scenography

Lecturer: Deirdre Dwyer  (email:

Readings (handouts):

McKinney, Joslin and Philip Butterworth, “Analysis of scenography” in The Cambridge Introduction to Scenography. UK: Cambridge UP, 2009.

McKinney, Joslin and Helen Ibal, “Researching Scenography” in Research Methods in Theatre and Performance, ed. Baz Kershaw and Helen Nicholson, UK: Edinburgh UP, 2011.

Russell, Bertrand. “Appearance and Reality” in Collins and Nisbet, A Reader in Scenography, UK: Routledge, 2010.



Attend: PERFORUM 1: @TDC

Wednesday 25th January: Dr. Danijela Kulezic-Wilson

The Musicality of Beckett’s Plays on the Page and in Performance



Week 3:

Monday 30th January  12-1, Lab Deidre Dwyer (scenography continued)

Tuesday 31 January 3-5pm Conn B

Aesthetics of space & performativity

Lecturer: Prof. Manfred Schewe (DTS, email:






Week 4: Tuesday 7 February 3-5pm Conn B

Artaud: Theatre and its Double

Readings to follow

Lecturer: Dr. Mary Noonan (Dept. of French, email:



Week 5: Tuesday 14 February 3-5pm Conn B

Framing Actors and Characters on the Japanese Stage

Reading 1:

Goffman, Erving (1974). Frame Analyis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience. Boston: North Eastern University Press, 124-155.  (pdf)

Reading 2:

Thornbury, Barbara E. (1977). Actor, Role, and Character: Their Multiple Interrelationship in Kabuki. In: The Journal of the Association of Teachers of Japanese (12), 31-40. (pdf)

Lecturer: Dr. Till Weingärtner (School of Asian Studies, email:



PERFORUM 2: 15th February:  Gare St Lazare Ireland in conversation with Dr. Nicholas Johnson (TCD): Staging Beckett’s Prose


LIVE ARCHIVE event at FIRKIN CRANE 18th Feb. @ 8pm


Week 6: Tuesday 21 February 3-5pm Conn B

Performance as Event: The Case of Japanese Storytelling.

Reading 1

Fischer-Lichte, Erika (2008). The Transformative Power of Performance: A new Aesthetics. New York: Routledge, 11-37. (pdf)


Reading 2:

Brau, Lorie (2008). Rakugo: Performing Comedy and Cultural Heritage in Contemporary Tokyo. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 25-44 (pdf)


Lecturer: Dr. Till Weingärtner



Week 7: Tuesday 28 February

Design review with Deirdre Dwyer

MIDTERM Projects DUE – in-class presentations DUE


Week 8:

Monday 6th March 1-2pm Lab

Augusto Boal- readings to follow

Dr. Elisa Serra-Porteiro (Dept. of SPLAS, email:



Tuesday: 7 March 3-5pm

Race, writing and identity: African-American Playwrights

Readings: Susan Lori-Parks, TopDog UnderDog (available in bookshop)

Prof. Jools Gilson (DTS, email:


Week 9:

Monday 13th March 1-2pm Lab

Augusto Boal- readings to follow

Dr. Elisa Serra-Porteiro


Tuesday: 14th March 3-5pm Conn B

Read: Arnold Wesker, Chips with Everything (book available at UCC bookshop)

Dr. Anne Etienne (Dept. of English, email:



Week 10: 21 March

2nd years in Berlin

Perforum 3: 22nd March: Professor David Pattie: Samuel Beckett: Other Archives



Week 11: 28 March

Review, Peer-review (bring 2 hard copies of final essay draft to class); preparation for final projects

Deirdre Dwyer & Róisín O’Gorman


Week 12: Tuesday, 4 April

Review of module, final projects presentations

Deirdre Dwyer & Róisín O’Gorman


Easter Break: 8/4/17-23/4/17


Week 13:

Final essays and portfolio due: Monday 24th April in duplicate to DTS office





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