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Offices: Registrar - Catalog


Division of Humanities

Michele Volansky, Chair

Dale Daigle

Brendon Fox

Laura Eckelman

Robert Earl Price

Polly Sommerfeld

Lawrence Stahl


The mission of the Department of Drama is to provide opportunities for students to encounter in a meaningful way the three sub-fields of our discipline: text studies (history, theory, criticism, dramaturgy, and dramatic literature), plastic studies (design, technology), and performance studies (acting, directing, playwriting). The proper study of Drama includes study in all three sub-fields, allowing for a degree of concentration in one or more. The true student of theatre must acquire an understanding of each area because of the essentially synthetic nature of the art itself and the highly collaborative means by which it is created. The Drama Major at Washington College guides students toward an understanding of the synthesis of drama and theatre and toward an understanding of the essential collaboration of the two.


It is important to note that the Department of Drama embraces the principles of a liberal arts education.  To that end, we emphasize, both in our curricular and co-curricular activities, the full breadth of such an education.  Our students routinely double major, pairing Drama with disciplines as similar as English and as diverse as Environmental Studies or Chemistry.  Indeed, we look for these kinds of intersections.


That being said, the Department must also be conscious of representing a tradition that has been central to the intellectual life of world civilization for over 2500 years; we aim to ensure that students taking Drama courses in any area become aware of the weight and splendor of that tradition. This is our hedge against the pleasing seductions of vocationalism and a “show-biz” aesthetic.



A total of ten courses are required for the major in drama. Each student must complete DRA 211, 221, and 231. It is suggested that these courses be completed by the end of the sophomore year. Of the seven remaining courses, at least four must be elected from those courses that form the history/theory component of the curriculum (courses listed in the catalog with a Theater and Drama prefix as well as selected special topics courses). In the spring of the junior year all majors are also required to take Junior Seminar in preparation for the SCE. In addition to the course requirements, majors are expected to take an active role in the department by participating in faculty and/or SCE productions as well as the following co-curricular activities each semester:  two works calls per faculty show, all faculty strikes, one SCE work call, two SCE strikes and three ushering shifts. (To capture these co-curricular responsibilities, all majors will be enrolled up to four times in DRA 400.)



The minor program in drama shall consist of a minimum of seven courses plus participation in an approved capacity in co-curricular productions during the student’s junior and senior years. The student will be required to take DRA 211, 221, 231 (or 331) plus four additional courses, two of which must be from the following: DRA 201, 202, 203, 304, 306, 307.


Senior Capstone Experience

A student may satisfy the Senior Capstone Experience in drama in one of three ways: a production thesis in directing, dramaturgy, design, stage management or performance; a playwriting thesis in which the student writes a play that is presented in either a staged (rehearsed) reading or in full production; or a traditional research thesis in the areas of theatrical criticism, theory, or history. The department believes that the production option is the more appropriate way to fulfill the obligation, since it synthesizes the critical/theoretical and practical/performance aspects of the study of drama. A research thesis may be elected only in cases where the student has demonstrated an unusual enthusiasm for and distinction in critical, theoretical, or historical inquiry.


In the spring of their sophomore year all drama majors are required to meet with each faculty member to discuss their plans for the Senior Capstone Experience. At the end of the fall semester in the junior year, each student makes two formal project proposals to the faculty, both orally and in written form. Proposals will identify the type of project planned—directing, design, dramaturgy, stage management, performance, playwriting, theoretical, critical, or historical. For each project, the student will also provide a script (as appropriate); a synopsis of the project; an etiology for the choice;  and a discussion why and how, each project is appropriate to the student’s interests and capabilities. Students will be informed of their approved project on or before the first day of the spring semester. Decisions regarding logistics of the department season will take place in the Junior Seminar


Full details for all SCE options—including timelines, expectations, and written requirements—are available on the department’s website.



The Senior Capstone Experience will be graded pass, fail, or honors. Honors will be conferred on those projects that, in the critical view of the department faculty, achieve an exceptional level of creative, artistic, and scholarly conception and realization.


Course Descriptions

** Students electing drama as part of their humanities distribution requirement may choose any course except DRA 105 and DRA 200.


105. Principles of Effective Speaking

The course is intended to enhance student abilities in the development and delivery of various kinds of public presentations, and to foster skill in the analysis of speeches from the standpoint of the critical listener. This course does not count toward distribution or toward the Drama major.


200. Theater Practicum

This course is for non-majors participating in one or more departmental productions (SCE or faculty-directed) as a member of the cast, artistic team, or production crew. Requirements include attendance at all appropriate production activities, which may include auditions, design and production meetings, rehearsals, work calls, load-in, technical rehearsals, performances, strike, and other events. This is a two-credit course, is graded pass/fail, and may be repeated up to four times. Permission of the instructor is required prior to registration. The course cannot be applied to requirements for the drama major, and cannot be taken concurrently with DRA 400.


400. Theater Practicum

This course is open to ONLY drama majors and is used to capture required co-curricular production activities. Requirements include participation in work calls, strikes, and ushering. This is a graded two-credit course; it may be repeated up to four times. Permission of the instructor is required prior to registration.


201. Theater and Drama: Ancient Greece and Rome

The study of the foundations of Western theater and drama with emphasis on dramatic forms and the interrelationship between theater and society.


202. Theatre and Drama: the Middle Ages and Early Modern Europe

The study of dramatic theory, dramatic writing, theatrical convention, and the interrelationship between theatre and society from 1350 to 1750.


203. Theater and Drama: Romanticism and Realism

The study of the progression from eighteenth century sentimentalism and romanticism to nineteenth century melodrama and naturalism with emphasis on dramatic writing and theatrical convention in England, Germany, and America.


211. Acting I

Analysis and application of basic acting techniques with a concentration on scene study and character analysis.


221. Directing I

Study of the basic principles and practices of directing, including interpretation, structural analysis, and investigation of basic staging techniques.


231. Theater Technology I

Investigation of methods and materials used in the theatrical production process. Laboratory hours will be required. This course is designed primarily for those who plan to participate in future theatrical productions.


241. Scenic Design

The translation of the play script into visual expression. Concentration on the interpretations, the means of expression, and the techniques of the scenic designer. Laboratory hours will be required.


304. Theater and Drama: the Modern Age

The study of experimentation and innovation in dramatic writing and theatrical convention in Europe and America from 1875 to 1950 with emphasis on the principal reactions to naturalism: symbolism, impressionism, expressionism, theatricalism.


306. Theater and Drama: American Musical Theater

The study of musical theater in America from the turn of the century to the present with emphasis on the form itself and its history. The course will explore the structure of the musical and the dramatic functions of score, lyrics, and libretto as well as the political, societal, musical, and theatrical reasons for changes in the form.


307. Theater and Drama: Late 20th Century Theater

The study of major trends in dramatic writing, theatrical convention, and dramatic and performance theory in the second half of the 20th century.


308. After Angels: American Theater since 1992

This course will study the plays and significant theatrical movements which have occurred since 1992 and the production of Tony Kushner’s landmark play Angels in America. Students will read new works (both published and non-published) by established and emerging American playwrights, with a special focus being placed on the theatrical and social context out of which these works emerged.


309. Performance Studies

The course investigates the nature of performances and how to analyze them. While concentrating on performance art, the students also examine other kinds of performances, including theater, dance, work, ritual, architecture, and the aesthetics of everyday life. Students attend performances and create two performance pieces.


311. Acting II

Advanced development of acting techniques to explore classical texts. In addition to finding the emotional truth, students will use tools such as scansion to diagram and speak Shakespeare and other classical writers with clarity, specificity, and passion. Prerequisite: Drama 211.


331. Theater Technology II

This course covers in detail some specific aspect of Theatre Technology, such as lights, costumes, scene painting, or computer-aided design. The course may be repeated for credit with the approval of the chair. Laboratory hours will be required.


351. Playwriting I

Analysis and practical application of techniques and styles employed in writing for the stage.


401. Dramatic Theory

Throughout history, thinkers have been variously excited, enraged, bothered or bored by theater. Through the rigorous study of the writings and historical context of the major thinkers in the evolution of theater (from Aristotle to Ehn), students will come to a greater understanding of the various changes, permutations and responses to theater in the Western World. This course is both Honors Level and Writing Intensive.


411. Acting III

Advanced study of acting techniques with a concentration on analysis, interpretation, and rehearsal methods. Prerequisite: Drama 311.


451. Playwriting II

Advanced workshop in writing for the stage. Prerequisite: Drama 351.


458. Dramaturgy

Analysis and discussion of the theoretical and practical aspects of dramaturgy, with particular emphasis placed on script analysis and historical research. This course is not recommended for first-year students.


190, 290, 390, 490. Theater Internship

Students will be placed with a professional theater company for one full semester or an entire summer season. Permission of the department and acceptance by the professional theater are required. Open only to drama majors.


194, 294, 394, 494. Special Topics

Intensive study of a selected figure, movement, period, form, or other topic.


197, 297, 397, 497. Independent Study

Advanced study in a selected area under departmental guidance.


195, 295, 395, 495. On-campus Research


196, 296, 396, 496. Off-campus Research