History and Practice of Directing

This advanced undergraduate course will examine the role of the director from a range of perspectives with a focus on the shifting relationship between social and historical context and aesthetics. The syllabus places equal emphasis on work by male and female directors. We begin with elements of directing employed by theatre managers and other artistic personal prior to the formal emergence of the role and end with the work of major contemporary directors. Students will be exposed to the work of an international range of artists. We will analyze directors’ strategies for rehearsal, development, and play analysis and approaches to character, story, movement, vocal technique, style, composition, collaboration, and political engagement. Students will mine these techniques for use in original student work and develop strategies for structuring the world of the play and communicating a story to the audience. Prerequisite: introductory course in fundamentals of play directing.

Contact Jesisca Silsby Brater at jbrater@newhaven.edu.

Silsby Brater_history of directing


4 thoughts on “History and Practice of Directing

  1. Klein response to Brater, “History & Practice of Directing”

    One thing I liked right off the bat about this course design was the way that it explicitly acknowledges certain kinds of breadth in terms of representation (i.e. “The syllabus places equal emphasis on work by male and female directors” and “Students will be exposed to the work of an international range of artists”) but doesn’t politicize or theorize these choices via the kind of language I often get bogged down with myself, such as “we will take a feminist approach to x, y, and z texts…” This observation has me thinking about the old question of the “f” word and how exactly we all choose to foreground (or perhaps sidestep…or even veil) the feminist underpinnings of our courses in order to meet enrollment needs or appeal to student interest.

    Another thing that I think many of us do in our courses (as Jessica does here) is place emphasis on the relationship between social and historical contexts and theatrical works. Helping students articulate the connection between the theatre and its situated-ness in a larger context seems to be a shared point for many of us. …A kind of consciousness raising in its own right!

  2. Jessica, this sounds like it would be a fantastic course and I hope you get to teach it soon! Emily’s comment resonates deeply. What works best in the classroom? Naming an intention or not? Obviously, it depends on the learning goals of the course. I teach an intro class at a business college and it seems that naming any kind of political intention shuts down the conversation before it can begin. Jessica, in your proposed class, it seems like students would learn a lot about the history and process of directing while also being introduced to many under appreciated directors.

  3. Clearly emphasizing men and women directors equally in a course like this is a feminist act, since I would guess that most “history of directing” courses are almost entirely male. I wonder, would you approach analysis of the various directors’ work through a feminist lens? What would this approach look like? Can you provide an example?

  4. I am also intrigued at this more “covert” feminist syllabus. I am wondering what are the institutional structures that allow us to (or perhaps demand that we) teach feminism in differing ways and under differing rubrics. I also feel that defining this as an advanced class puts it into a differing category for pedagogical reasons. Certainly one can do more with some foundational knowledge. What type of foundational feminisms do we seek? Do we assume any preexisting knolwedge on feminism from our students?

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