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Theatre

Men in Boats performance in Theatre 14

Smith offers theatre enthusiasts extraordinary opportunities both on and off the stage. The theatre program features some 35 courses in acting, directing, design, playwriting, literature, history and dramatic theory. The department presents an adventurous mix of plays from a variety of cultures, periods and genres on its two stages. Off stage, theatre faculty and staff sponsor guest workshops, lectures and presentations by top professional performers, playwrights, technicians and designers. And the Five College theatre program multiplies students’ options in coursework and practical experience.

Theatre at Smith

The theatre department, which has between 30 and 40 majors, is part of the Five College Theatre Department consortium, which mounts numerous theatre productions each season, including musical theatre, opera, and a range of classic, contemporary and original works. The department season consists of four major productions, directed by faculty and students, including a festival of one-act plays; students also participate in writing, acting and directing for the New Play Reading Series. Majors and non-majors are welcome to audition for productions. Studios and laboratory performances initiated, produced and directed by students provide additional opportunities to act, direct, design and stage-manage shows.

Students learn from visiting innovators of the modern theatre such as playwrights Pearl Cleage, Michel Tremblay and Alice Tuan; designers Ralph Lee and Jane Musky; directors Max Stafford-Clark and Chuck Mike; and performers Ruth Malaczech, Deb Margolin, David Strathairn and Billie Whitelaw. Students frequently participate in workshops in acting, design, directing and writing for the theatre by world-renowned artists in these fields. The department also organizes field trips to New York City, where students attend a variety of plays and performances and meet performers, playwrights, directors, producers and stage managers active in the New York theatre scene.

Theatre faculty members have a variety of interests including Hispanic-American drama, the theatre of Shakespeare, Chekhov and Moliere, African-American and African-Caribbean drama, Israeli theatre, Jewish-American theatre, feminist theatre, theatre translation, Asian theatre, performance art, improvisation and collaborative creation. Courses include Theatre History and Culture, Acting, Directing, Writing for the Theatre, Set Design, Costume Design, and Lighting Design, and a rich array of courses in world drama, including American theatre, Black theatre, Jewish theatre, African and Caribbean theatre, Canadian theatre, as well as premodern and modern European theatre. 

The department has specialists in costume design, computer-aided scenic and lighting design, sound design, voice, movement, stage management, technical theatre, and theatre publicity and promotion. Smith maintains an extensive historical costume collection of women's clothing from the 19th and 20th centuries.

  • Collaboration: producing work—creating meaning—together, that we could not produce alone.
  • Competence in one or more areas:
    • Dramaturgy (History, Literature, Criticism)
    • Design and Tech
    • Performance (Acting & Directing)
    • Playwriting
  • Describe, analyze, interpret and evaluate performative, visual and written texts.
  • Contextualize and interpret diverse theatrical works, practices and traditions.
  • Creative investigation: Engage intuitively, creatively and imaginatively in investigations and research across disciplines.
  • Develop, articulate and defend informed choices and judgments. Write and speak clearly and conceptually about theatre.
  • Apply discipline and process to enhance and increase students’ capacities.

Our curriculum reflects the global connections of theatre in the past and present. We offer courses at all levels and in both history/theory as well as performance. Recent courses have included a first-year seminar on contemporary theatre and film in China; Modern European Drama; Staging the Jew, an intensive study of selected plays and films from the U.S., Israel and the Jewish diasporas; Contemporary Canadian Drama; a colloquium on African and Caribbean Theatre; and Shamans, Shapeshifters and the Magic If, which uses an international range of plays including Caryl Churchill, Wole Soyinka, Derek Walcott, Bertolt Brecht, in an examination of theatre as a transformative experience beyond the mundane world.


Theatre Productions From All Over the World

We consider our productions to be the laboratories for our curriculum. We use them to explore in depth the texts and ideas discussed in our classes. Since so many of our classes include playwrights and performance techniques from all parts of the globe, it's not surprising that our plays are as diverse.

Here is a selection of a few productions staged at Smith recently.

  • Top Girls, Caryl Churchill
  • Marya, Isaac Babel
  • After Mrs. Rochester, Polly Teale
  • A Doll House, Ibsen
  • Cinders, Januz Glowacki
  • Dogeaters, Jessica Hagedorn
  • A Bright Room Called Day, Tony Kushner
  • The Golden Lotus, Wang Yansong
  • Cuentos de Eva Luna, Ellen Kaplan, based on stories by Isabel Allende

Study Abroad

Many theatre majors spend a semester or year studying on campuses all over the world, on programs approved for Smith College credit as well as programs that students have chosen for their special curriculum or location. Some programs have a strong curriculum focused on theatre. Others offer only a few related classes that might count for credit towards the major but offer a cultural experience that enriches that student's perspective on the field.

Opportunities range from Smith’s own junior year programs in Paris, Florence and Hamburg to the Smith Associated Kyoto Program in Japan, the University de Puebla in Mexico, the University of Otago in New Zealand, SIT Kenya, Rhodes University and the University of Kwa Zulu Natal in South Africa and the British American Drama Academy in London.


Requirements

All Majors

All majors are encouraged to include courses in art and music in their programs. Other courses recommended by the department include ENG 222a, ENG 222b, dramatic literature in any of the language departments.


Requirements

General Theatre Major

Twelve semester courses, at least two of which must be at a 300-level, including:

  • 198 and 199 Theatre History and Culture
  • Three courses from Division A, History, Literature, Criticism: 213, 215, 217, 218, 220, 240, 241, 312 (depending on course content), 313, 316, 319
  • 141 Acting I
  • 100 The Art of Theatre Design or 252 Set Design I or 253 Introduction to Lighting Design or 254 Costume Design I
  • 344 Directing I or 261 Writing for Theatre
  • Four credits of 200 Theatre Production (these count as a single semester course)
  • Two additional courses from either Division A or B
  • One additional course from Division A, B, or C
 

Theatre Major with an Emphasis on Acting

Twelve semester courses, at least two of which must be at the 300-level, including:

  • 198 and 199 Theatre History and Culture
  • Two courses from Division A, History, Literature, Criticism: 213, 215, 217, 218, 220, 240, 241, 312 (depending on course content), 313, 316, 319
  • 141 Acting I
  • Two additional acting courses from 242 Acting II and 312 Masters and Movements in Performance
  • 142 Voice for Actors
  • 100 The Art of Theatre Design or 252 Set Design I, or 253 Introduction to Lighting Design or 254 Costume Design I
  • 344 Directing I or 261 Writing for Theatre
  • One additional course from Division A, B, or C
  • Four credits of 200 Theatre Production (these count as a single semester course)
 

Theatre Major with an Emphasis on Design

Twelve semester courses, at least two of which must be at the 300-level, including:

  • 198 and 199 Theatre History and Culture
  • Three courses from Division A, History, Literature, Criticism: 213, 215, 217, 218, 220, 240, 241, 312 (depending on course content), 313, 316, 319
  • 141 Acting I
  • Two of the following: 252 Set Design I, 253 Introduction to Lighting Design, 254 Costume Design
  • One of the following: 352 Set Design II, 353 Advanced Studies of Lighting Design, 354 Costume Design II, 318 Movements in Design, 360 Production Design for Film
  • 344 Directing I or 261 Writing for Theatre
  • Four credits of 200 Theatre Production (these count as a single semester)
  • One additional course from Division A, B, or C
 

Theatre Major with an Emphasis on Playwriting

Twelve semester courses, at least two of which must be at the 300-level, including:

  • 198 and 199 Theatre History and Culture
  • Two courses from Division A, History, Literature, Criticism: 213, 215, 217, 218, 220, 240, 241, 312 (depending on course content), 313, 316, 319
  • 141 Acting I
  • Three of any of the following playwriting and screenwriting: 261, 262, 361, 362 or the equivalent
  • 100 The Art of Theatre Design, or 252 Set Design or 253 Introduction to Lighting Design or 254 Costume Design I
  • 344 Directing I
  • 4 credits of 200 Theatre Production (these count as a single semester course)
  • One additional course from Division A, B, or C
 

Theatre Major with an Emphasis on Directing

Twelve semester courses, at least two of which must be at a 300 level, including:

  • 198 and 199 Theatre History and Culture
  • Two courses from Division A, History, Literature, Criticism: 213, 215, 217, 218, 220, 240, 241, 312 (depending on course content), 313, 316, 319
  • 141 Acting I
  • One additional acting course from 242 Acting II and 312 Masters and Movements in Performance
  • 100 The Art of Theatre Design
  • 261 Writing for Theatre
  • 344 Directing I and 345 Directing II
  • Four credits of 200 Theatre Production (these count as a single semester course)
  • One additional course from Division A, B, or C
 

Courses cross-listed under the theatre department may be considered for fulfillment towards these major requirements at the discretion of the department.

All majors are encouraged to include in their programs, as component courses counted outside of the theatre major courses in art and music in their programs as well as dramatic literature in any of the other language departments.

Students may count up to 16 credits from programs outside the Five Colleges towards the major. On a case-by-case basis, the department will accept courses from other programs towards specific course requirements. The judgment of the major advisers will prevail, without need for full theatre faculty deliberation.

Requirements

  • Theatre 198a and 199b as the basis
  • Six courses including one semester course approved by an adviser in each of three of the following different divisions plus one four–credit course of the student's choice (including, as an option, 4 credits of 200 Theatre Production):
  1. History literature, criticism
  2. Acting, directing or playwriting
  3. Costume, lighting or scene design

Director: Leonard Berkman

Requirements

  • 430d Thesis (8 credits)
  • 431a Thesis (8 credits)
  • 432d Thesis (12 credits)
  1. Production–linked proposals for the honors program must be submitted to the department in the semester preceding entrance into the honors program and no later than March 1 of the second semester of the junior year. Non–production–linked proposals must be submitted to the director of theatre honors no later than April 4. The department recommends that all prospective theatre honors students enter the program at the outset of the junior year.
  2. Fulfillment of the general requirements of the major. These should be taken as early as possible to allow for seminars and independent study in the department and in approved related departments during the junior and senior years.
  3. Completion of honors work will be: 
  • a thesis in literature, aesthetics, critical analyses or history of any of the theatre arts; or
  • a creative project in acting, dance, design, direction, playwriting, choreography or stagecraft. Performance projects should be supplemented by production materials (logs, directors' notebooks, etc.) as requested by the department. All creative projects are to be supplemented as well by a research paper relating the project to its specific theatrical context (historical, thematic, stylistic or other).
  1. Work for a one–semester thesis or project paper must be done in the first semester of the senior year; and the thesis or component research paper is due on the first day of the second semester. Work for a two–semester thesis or project/paper must be done during the senior year, and the thesis or component research paper is due on April 15.
  2. Two examinations: a general examination in the theatre arts and an oral examination in the general field of the student's honors thesis or project/paper.


The Current Season

Fall 2019

New Play Reading Series: Two Short Radio Plays
The Cancelled Sky and Once Upon a Golden Hour 
Written by Alex Page, curated by Tanyss Rhea Martula ’66
Thursday, September 26 at 7:30 p.m. in Acting Studio 1

New Play Reading Series: Healing My Life from Incest to Joy
Written by Donna Jenson, directed by Sheryl Stoodley
Thursday, October 3 at 7:30 p.m. in Acting Studio 1

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Based on the novel by Mark Haddon; adapted by Simon Stephens; directed by Ellen W. Kaplan
October 25, 26, 31, November 1, 2 at 7:30 p.m. in Theatre 14

New Play Reading Series: Pook Again in Forget Forget, A Recollection
Written and performed by Mary Beth Brooker MFA ’20
Thursday, November 14 at 7:30 p.m. in Acting Studio 1

Fall Studio Productions
Helter Skelter by Neil LaBute, directed by Icarus Tyree '21
Finding the Sun by Edward Albee, directed by G Goldberg '20
December 6 and 7 at 7:30 p.m. in Hallie Flanagan Studio Theatre

New Play Reading Series: Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom
Written by Sylvia Plath '55, directed by Hannah J. Simms AC
Thursday, December 12 at 7:30 p.m. in Acting Studio 1

Spring 2020

New Play Reading Series
By Mary Beth Brooker MFA ’20
Thursday, February 13 at 7:30 p.m. in Acting Studio 1

Peter and the Starcatcher
By Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, adapted for the stage by Rick Elice; directed by Cathy Kennedy ’20
February 28, 29, March 5, 6, 7 at 7:30 p.m. in Hallie Flanagan Studio Theatre

New Play Reading Series
Written by Marty Bongfeldt MFA ’21
Thursday, March 26 at 7:30 p.m. in Acting Studio 1

New Play Reading Series
Thursday, April 2 at 7:30 p.m. in Acting Studio 1

The Penelopiad
By Margaret Atwood, directed by Tara Franklin
April 17, 18, 23, 24, 25 at 7:30 p.m. in Theatre 14

Spring Studio Production
April 30 and May 1 at 7:30 p.m., Hallie Flanagan Studio Theatre

Fall Studio Productions

  • Helter Skelter by Neil LaBute, directed by Icarus Tyree '21
  • Finding the Sun by Edward Albee, directed by G Goldberg '20

Helter Skelter: A couple sits down for lunch during a holiday shopping trip. Through conversation, they unwittingly end up face to face with the fractures in their marriage. Can they work through this, or are there some things that you can never - and should never - ignore?

Finding the Sun: Four duos try to take a relaxing day off at the same beach, but the past, and their complicated intertwining relationships, get in the way. Fergus, a teenage boy, can't seem to keep his nose out of everyone else's business, and slowly unravels the web that binds all of them together, which pulls at the end of their sanity as well. Who's married to whom? Who's sleeping with whom? Who would (or most certainly would not!) sleep with whom? 

Auditions
Sunday, October 20, 7–9 p.m. Acting Studio 1
Monday, October 21, 7–9 p.m., Acting Studio 1
Mendenhall Center for the Performing Arts, Smith College

Performances
December 6 and 7 at 7:30 p.m., Hallie Flanagan Studio Theatre, Mendenhall Center

Casting Breakdown

  • Helter Skelter: 2 actors (1 woman, one man - can be played by any gender)
  • Finding the Sun: 8 actors (4 women, 4 men - will consider anyone of any age or gender for all roles)

Fergus: A teenage boy with "so much potential!" (teenager)
Edmee: Fergus' mother (middle-aged)
Gertrude: Cordelia's mother (older)
Henden: Daniel's father (older)
Daniel: Benjamin's (ex)-lover, Cordelia's husband (young adult/adult)
Benjamin: Daniel's (ex)-lover, Abigail's husband. (young adult/adult)
Cordelia: Benjamin's wife (young adult/adult)
Abigail: Daniel's wife (young adult/adult)

Audition Prep
Sides will be provided from the script. No monologues or appointments necessary.

Contact/Questions
Production Manager, Nikki Beck, ncbeck@smith.edu or ext. 3222

Scripts
Perusal scripts available in Josten Library, Mendenhall Center, Smith College

Peter and the Starcatcher

A play by Rick Elice, based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson; directed by Cathy Kennedy ‘20

A young orphan and his mates are shipped off from Victorian England to a distant island ruled by the evil King Zarboff. They know nothing of the mysterious trunk in the captain’s cabin, which contains a precious, otherworldly cargo. At sea, the boys are discovered by a precocious young girl named Molly, a Starcatcher-in-training who realizes that the trunk’s precious cargo is starstuff, a celestial substance so powerful that it must never fall into the wrong hands. When the ship is taken over by pirates – led by the fearsome Black Stache, a villain determined to claim the trunk and its treasure for his own – the journey quickly becomes a thrilling adventure.

Auditions
Sunday, November 3, 7–9 p.m., Acting Studio 1
Monday, November 4, 7–9 p.m., Acting Studio 1
Callbacks on Wednesday, November 6, 7–9 p.m., Acting Studio 1
Mendenhall Center for the Performing Arts, Smith College

Performances
February 28, 29, March 5, 6, 7 at 7:30 p.m., Hallie Flanagan Studio Theatre, Mendenhall Center

Casting Breakdown
9 Actors (looking for actor-musicians as well to play piano and strings)

Audition Prep
Sides will be provided from the script. No monologues or appointments necessary.

Contact/Questions
Production Manager, Nikki Beck, ncbeck@smith.edu or ext. 3222

Scripts
Perusal scripts available in Josten Library, Mendenhall Center, Smith College


Staff

Nikki Beck
Production Manager

Emily Justice Dunn
Costume Shop Supervisor

Alicia Guidotti
Theatre Administrator

Nancy Horn
Costumer/Cutter

Joan Hornbuckle
Financial Administrator

Shelley Latham
Publicity Manager for the Performing Arts

Amy Putnam
Technical Director

Alan Schneider
Assistant Technical Director

David Wiggall
Lighting and Sound Supervisor


Facilities for Theatre

 

 

Contact

Department of Theatre

Mendenhall Center for the Performing Arts
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: 413-585-3204
Administrative Assistant:
Alicia Guidotti