Foundations of the Performing Arts, 1995-1996
This year-long program was designed as an introduction to the performing arts of Western Europe and the United States, with some background instruction in the arts outside of Western Europe that influenced European artistic production. The program used three basic texts: Listen (Joseph Kerman), The Bedford Introduction to Drama (Lee Jacobus), and Ballet and Modern Dance (Jack Anderson). Our studies this year were arranged to reflect some of the ways in which each historical period influenced the ones to follow. Fall quarter studies were comprised of three large sections: Stories and Storytelling, The Ancient Greeks, and The Medieval Period. As the students began the learning process, they were encouraged to understand the importance of their own "stories" when dealing with historical events, people who experienced those events, and their artistic expressions as a result of those events. Winter quarter focused primarily on the period between 1500 and 1850, encompassing the Renaissance, Baroque, Classical and part of the Romantic era. Spring quarter brought students into the 20th century, particularly emphasizing major artistic developments such as modern dance, serialism in music, theatre of the absurd, and inter-arts collaboration.
The structure of the program was as follows: each week was comprised of several components, including at least one lecture, one workshop that built writing skills, one seminar, one all-program meeting, and one performance workshop. Some of the fall quarter lectures included "Lysistrata, Gender and Politics" (by Sandie Nisbet), "Modern Interpretations of Greek Dance" (by Bud Johansen), and "Musical Culture of the Medieval Period" (by Sean Williams). Winter quarter lectures included "The Dance Master at the Court of Louis XIV" (by Bud Johansen), "Mozart and the Age of Enlightenment" (by Sean Williams) and "The Restoration Comedy of Manners" (by Jim This). Spring quarter lectures included "Debussy, Asian Music and Impressionism" (by Sean Williams), "20th Century Political Theater" (by Ariel Goldberger), and "Innovations of Martha Graham" (by Bud Johansen).
Program faculty invited several Native Americans to serve as guest lecturers during fall and winter, including Buffy Ste. Marie, Greg Colfax, Vi Hilbert, John Hottowe, and Hazel Pete. These lecture-demonstrations were intended to highlight the rich variety of master artists from the surrounding communities, and to allow students to experience a broader base of artistic expertise than the program faculty could provide. Fall quarter included a workshop on dance and music of the early Renaissance period. In addition, students participated in two workshops during winter quarter; the first was with a group of South African drummers and dancers, during which the students learned the basic steps of a particular Zulu dance. The second was a hands-on workshop on building choreography for stage fighting, including learning how to throw (and receive) punches, slaps, kicks, and other moves. Students later developed their own choreography for the fight scenes from "Romeo and Juliet" and "West Side Story" in small groups, which they then performed for the class.
Films from fall quarter included "Black Orpheus," "The Name of the Rose," "The Seventh Seal," "Orpheus [modern dance version]," "Oedipus [modern dance version]," "Gospel at Colonnus," and others. Winter quarter included such films as "King Lear," "Ran," Giselle," "Amadeus," "West Side Story," and "Romeo and Juliet." Spring quarter included "Prodigal Son," "Graduation Ball," "Singin' in the Rain," "Oklahoma," "Appalachian Spring," "Petrouchka," "The Green Table," "Le Sacre du Printemps," "Babette's Feast," "Les Noces," "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," and "Three Penny Opera." In one notable event each quarter (twice during spring), students were given an hour and half to create ten-minute adaptations of the stories and myths they had worked on by the sixth week of the program.
Most of the program's students spent the final week of spring quarter in Ashland, Oregon, attending four plays produced through the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. These plays were "Romeo and Juliet," "Coriolanus," "A Winter's Tale," and "Love's Labours Lost." The week in Ashland was intended to offer students a chance to see Shakespeare performed live, at a thriving theater company, and to observe some of the backstage activities of professional theaters. Students who did not attend the retreat received special training in stage makeup and spent time discussing and viewing the film "Cabaret." Each student developed one of three performance skills in each quarter: music theory and composition, choreography and movement, or acting. In most cases, students had little prior experience in the skill. The music workshop led students through the fundamentals of music theory (reading music notation, understanding rhythms, key and time signatures, song transcription, and chord structures). The last part of the quarter focused on composition; each student was asked to write a round, a blues tune, a classical minuet and trio, and a song.
The dance workshop focused on fundamental components in choreography for dance. The students took basic walks and created dances, used graph paper to develop movement patterns, created combinations which were done as rounds, taught each other dances with Baroque music, and worked on collaborative projects. The acting workshop was designed for beginning actors, with the expressed aim of learning to play -- that is, to free up the body and the imagination, to pretend to be other people or objects in other times and places. Exercises focused on voice projection, stretching, and responding to each other; improvisations and some scripting were fundamental aspects of the work.
In each quarter, all three workshops held performances in the final week of classes based on the students' newly-developed skills. In fall quarter, students received specialized training in the fundamentals of writing from campus writing coordinator Tom Maddox. During winter quarter, students attended an eight-hour series of workshops led by campus career development coordinator Wendy Freeman, which covered aspects of portfolio development, resumé writing, and interview survival techniques.
Throughout the three quarters, students developed three different types of college-level writing: based on independent research, on the issue or theme of the week, and on their personal responses to our work. The two main essays of fall quarter dealt with themes in the Greek and Medieval periods; in winter, essays were about the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Each essay was five to seven pages in length. Faculty asked the students to submit revised versions of these essays, as opposed to turning in a rough draft. In spring quarter, students focused their writing efforts on one ten-page paper, on any performing arts-related topic of the late 19th or 20th century. In addition to the essays, students received a set of study questions each week to ponder as they went through their readings, and they brought in a "response paper" of a couple of pages in length for each seminar meeting. Students created a journal for their personal reactions to our work, intended as the beginnings of skill development in critical analysis.