2012-13 Catalog

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Offering Description

Musical Theatre in Cultural Context


Fall 2012 and Winter 2013 quarters

Rose Jang China studies, theater , Marla Elliott performance, voice, community studies
Fields of Study
music and theater
Preparatory for studies or careers in
theater, music composition and performance, cultural studies and other studies and careers demanding good written and oral communication skills.

Vocal performance and instrumental music have existed as primary vehicles of human emotion and communication since the dawn of history and across cultural boundaries. Whether it was the choral ode recited to the accompaniment of the lyre in the classical Greek age during 5th century BCE, or the ritualistic hymns sung to the solemn tune of Zheng around the same antiquity in China, music has since accompanied literary ingenuity and punctuated everyday life via melody and rhythm in different parts of the world. Musical theatre brings under its artistic umbrella the individual forms and aesthetics of music, dance, acting, poetry, dramatic literature and architectural environment.

Many parallels can be drawn between the musical theatres of the East and West.  For example, Chinese opera evolved from classical roots, through the politically frenzied revolutionary opera of the Cultural Revolution of 1966-76, and then to the current revival and reinterpretation of traditional repertory beginning in the nineteen-eighties. European musical theatre followed its own torturous path; the Renaissance Italians imitated ancient Greek theatre by creating European opera, which was then parodied by English Ballad Operas in early 18th century, and then later adapted into satiric cabaret musicals such as Brecht & Weill's The Threepenny Opera two hundred years later.

In this two-quarter program, we intend to study various forms of musical theatre in specific cultural context, from both Western and Eastern tradition, and aim to bring them alive by actively and seriously practicing voice, singing, acting, movement and music performance. In fall quarter, we will trace the evolution of musical theatre cross-culturally. Chinese, Japanese and other Asian musical theatre styles will be set in distinct contrast to the long trail of Western musical ventures from the classical Greek theatre, Renaissance theatre, and European opera to 20th and 21st century musical plays. We will try to understand the artistic merit and intention behind each work of musical theatre and comprehend the social, political or philosophical themes embodied by the unique combinations of music and stylized performance that each theatre adopts.

At the same time we are studying history and culture in lecture, seminar, reading and writing, we will also learn to sing, to act, to play music instruments, and to set poetic texts, which may have been preserved without extant music scores, to creative new compositions in workshop and projects. Students will write songs based on Chinese texts in translation and stage fresh versions of classical Chinese musical drama using cultural knowledge and creative imagination.

Winter quarter will be devoted mainly to rehearsals and production work for a major production.  Students will learn to gear all their creative and performative efforts to one complicated, full-length musical theatre piece, possibly Jeremy Barlow's setting of The Beggar's Opera , and stage it in a public performance at the end of the quarter. 

Online Learning
No Required Online Learning
Greener Store
Required Fees
$40 in fall and $24 in winter for admission to theatre tickets.
Offered During

Program Revisions

Date Revision
November 30th, 2012 Winter fees updated.
November 21st, 2012 This program will accept new enrollment with signature.
April 23rd, 2012 This program is now All-Level.
April 5th, 2012 Marla Elliott has joined the teaching team.
April 4th, 2012 Marla Elliott has joined the teaching team.