Theater Curriculum

Since Theater is a "joint disciplinary AOC," meaning that it has to be combined with another area of study (e.g.. Literature/Theater, Visual Arts/Theater, Psychology/Theater), you will need to consult with faculty in both areas to determine the exact courses and requirements needed while you are at New College. They can help with advice, timelines and other assistance to help keep you on course for your degree and to make sure that your program of study meets your academic interests and goals.

Here’s a list of recent course offerings in Theater:
Please note that the list below is just a sample of courses in Theater. For a complete list of courses by semester, please click here

Acting I
This course is to help actors open the door to their creative selves and to foster their artistic inspiration, by introducing them to the organic acting technique. By the end of the course, students in the course are expected to be able to originate and sustain the subconscious flow of creativity within a short text etude, and then a short contemporary realistic scene. Throughout the course, students will cultivate qualities (cultures) essential to the acting profession, such as creative freedom, truth and calm. They will train to perceive naturally onstage, and to remain open toward partners, environment and imaginary/given circumstances. By the end of the course, students are expected to be able to yield to creative impulses, drawn from partners, imagination and an actual theatrical environment. The course is capped at 12, and all interested students are invited to audition for the course with a 1-3-minute monologue during the first class.

Acting II
This class will train students to practically approach texts, based in heightened language and style, with an emphasis on Shakespeare. It is intended to serve students of various levels of acting expertise, who have taken practical theatre courses at New College. The course builds on Nikolai Demidov’s organic inner technique, while exploring higher levels of creativity, essential to playing classical comedy and tragedy. The course’s esthetic and artistic philosophy is based in Yevgeny Vakhtangov’s method of Fantastic Realism. Psycho-technical work covered this semester includes exercises in Demidov’s cultures of calm and passivity, as well as psychic breath technique. An assignment in writing about theater in response to a live classical performance will be given during the course.

The Anthropology of Performance
This course is designed to provide background in anthropological approaches to performance as developed primarily through studies in ritual and theater. Students will work from a wide-ranging bibliography that addresses interdisciplinary theoretical interests, beginning with the Harlem Renaissance-era efforts by Zora Neale Hurston and Katherine Dunham to present cultural concepts through performance. Attention will focus on framing relationships between audience and performer in cultural context. A consistent theme in this course will be the strengths and difficulties inherent in representing people, beliefs and practices outside of their historical or cultural settings and interpreting them for contemporary audiences. Challenges shared by anthropology, literature and theater will be studied through exposure to primary texts, theoretically framed discussion and observation of artists who are drawn to interpret what they have discovered.

Dance Composition
This course will provide students who have had at least one year or more of dance/movement experience with choreographic tools for creating a solo or group dance. Through exercises in the classroom student will have opportunities to learn choreographic principles, dance forms, and ways to manipulate movement. They will also learn vocabulary to apply when presenting or critiquing movement/ dances. This class will introduce composition methods specifically through modern dance technique and improvisation. Students will be encouraged to use their creative voices within the choreographic form as a means of communicating and self-expression. In this class, students will gain an understanding of the creative process for dance making through dialogue, journal, attending local performances, as well as presenting work.

Dance Technique and Chore Lab
This course will provide you with an introduction to the basic concepts of modern dance and choreography through methods of dance technique, improvisation exercises, and choreography projects. You will be encouraged to explore and take risk weekly during the dance and choreography segments. You will gain a better understanding of your body by participating in the weekly movement class. The improvisation exercises will allow you to develop movement and individual style as form of expression. There will be several opportunities to arrange movement ideas into choreograph, perform those ideas, and share about the creative process in front of others. This class is for the experienced mover as well as non-experienced mover and designed to offer a full dance experience allowing the individuals to grow at their own pace.

The course will explore the art of directing. It will aim to equip students with theoretical knowledge and practical skills essential to the in-depth understanding of the contemporary theatrical process and to building a basic foundation for the development of a future theater artist. The course will also aid students’ development as harmonious creative individuals, capable of approaching contemporary and classical drama from a theatrical standpoint. The course will create circumstances conducive to revealing a directorial way of thinking and skills in students, while using the achievements of the Stanislavsky, Vakhtangov and Demidov schools of theater, as well as other contemporary methods utilized in World Theater today. Using a play from the international classical repertoire, the course will trace the work of the director from the first step of developing a Creative Conception to analysis and research, table work, as well as ensemble exploration and rehearsal work. At the start of the course, the students will be asked to independently prepare and share with the class several specially designed directorial exercises. Students will also be asked to lead an ensemble of peers in an exploratory exercise based on the principles of Michael Chekhov technique. For the final course project, students will be asked to independently rehearse and share with the class an assigned scene from the chosen classical play.

Cartesian dualism meant dividing the self between an essential mental substance and a secondary, extended body. The question then became, What is our [i.e. our "mind's"] relationship to our body? This way of posing the question seemed to miss crucial features of the experience of corporeality to our self-identity. This course will examine phenomenological, semiotic, and post-structural attempts to rethink the self-world relation by giving primacy to the body, perception, gesture, and movement.

Realism, Expressionism, and Surrealism: Twentieth-Century Drama in Theory and Practice
The twentieth century is the period in which drama most explicitly confronted the question of its own nature and function, seeking to assert its unique power and significance in the face of other representational media. Does the theater’s power and purpose lie in it ability to represent the world around it with the objective realism championed by Zola? Or does “its very power, its whole authority, come from the fact that it is not true, and the idea of accuracy is fatal to its peculiar unsettling and revolutionary power,” as Howard Barker suggests a hundred years later? If the goal of theater is truth, is that truth subjective or objective? If the goal of the theater is experiential, how might performance circumvent rational thought? And how do any of these questions affect actual performance and reception? This course will consider the plays and theoretical writings of European and American playwrights including Strindberg, Jarry, Yeats, Artaud, Beckett, Ionesco, Pinter, O’Neill, Miller, Barker, Churchill, and Parks. A significant portion of the course will be devoted to exploration of these works through performance experiments. Students are expected to write several short papers, present one or two performance experiments, and participate actively in class discussion.

Shakespeare: Language and Identity
This course will cover a substantial amount of Shakespeare’s lyric and narrative poetry in addition to plays from all four genres he worked with—History, Comedy, Tragedy, and Romance-- in the context of the social, literary, and theatrical environments of London late in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and early in the reign of King James I. The course will focus on Shakespeare’s exploration of the pleasures and perils of language as a means by which identity is constructed by both the self and others. This is a broad survey of Shakespeare’s career and will involve about a play a week. Students are expected to write several short papers, present one performance project, and participate actively in class discussion.

The Theatre of Bertolt Brecht
This survey of 20th-century German, Austrian, and Swiss theater traces the origins of Bertolt Brecht’s concept of the non-Aristotelian or “Epic Theater” with the help of such predecessors as Gerhart Hauptmann’s naturalist dramas Before Daybreak and The Weavers and several expressionist plays, such as Oskar Kokoschka’s Murderer the Women’s Hope, Gottfried Benn’s Ithaca, and Hanns Johst’s The Solitary One. Our examination of Brecht’s oeuvre includes Baal, A Man’s A Man, The Threepenny Opera, The Measures Taken, The Mother, Practice Pieces for Actors, Mother Courage and Her Children, and Galileo, in addition to some poetry, theoretical writings on the Epic Theatre, Brecht’s Short Organum for the Theatre, and relevant secondary works. We examine Brecht’s posthumous contribution to European drama in the light of Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s The Visit and Djibril Diop Mambéty’s film Hyenas, an adaptation set in Senegal; Peter Weiss’s Marat/Sade, Peter Handke’s Offending the Audience and Kaspar; R. W. Fassbinder’s play/film The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, and Heiner Müller’s The Correction, Hamletmachine, and two scenes: “The Bedsheet” from The Battle and ”The Holy Family” from Germania, Death in Berlin, in which Müller addresses the collapse of the Third Reich and “births” of the “two Germanys” of the postwar period: the German Federal Republic and German Democratic Republic. In our last sessions we will work with two recent monodramas: Stefan Kolditz’s Eva – Hitler’s Lover, and Elfriede Jelinek’s Jackie.

Theatrical Adaptation
The course will explore the art of theatrical adaptation, as a collaborative creative process aimed at translating a work of literature into the language of theater. During the course, students will gain experience in creating theater performances based on the non-dramatic works of international classics and learn to use a literary source as a component in creating a performance of synergy. They will explore how to discover theatrical equivalents for the images, symbols, language and structure of the work of fiction or poetry. They will learn how a unique original production can be created as a result of a collaboration between a playwright/adaptor, director, choreographer, vocal director, composer, designers and an acting ensemble. Each of the course participants will choose a particular role in the process, thus fulfilling their individual interests in the exploration of the theatrical art. All interested students will be invited to make a short presentation on their individual area(s) of interest during the first class.

Women and Seduction in 18th- and Early 19th-Century German Bourgeois Drama
This course deals with the development of the German bourgeois tragedy from 1755 to 1843, and includes a comparative look at English and French domestic tragedies, which influenced the development of the genre in Germany. Topics include: seduction, the role of women, the father-daughter relationship, bourgeois honor, the role and importance of marriage and social class, female virtue and vice, infanticide, parricide, adultery, homosocial desire, and incest. Requirements for the course include: midterm and final exams with take-home essays, oral presentations on secondary readings, short quizzes on the readings, and short dramatic performances of scenes.

For detailed requirements, check out our General Catalog.


Emmy Award-winning television producer and writer Carol Flint graduated from New College with an AOC in Humanities & Theater. Her credits include ER, West Wing, China Beach and the current USA Network series Royal Pains.

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