Honors | Trial as Theatre
H204 | 17017 | Perry Hodges
Legal trials, like plays, have actors, dialogue, audiences, and
special spaces for their performances. More importantly, they both
expose and give shape to the tensions that exist within society
(i.e. between individual and state, parent and child, sacred and
secular) and let us watch as actors struggle to resolve these
conflicts: to transform negative energy into a positive, or to raise
a voice against oppression.
To understand how the two kinds of drama re-enact these tensions,
this course will begin with the idea of theater as “the arena where
a living confrontation takes place.” We will consider the origins
and purpose of drama, how dramatic form constitutes meaning; how
certain experimental theater openly blurs the boundaries between
text, performance, and world.
Texts will range from Ancient to Modern (possibly Sophocles’
Antigone, Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, Brecht’s Caucasian
Chalk Circle, Miller’s The Crucible, Athol Fugard’s Island). Legal
trials will be read and viewed on film (possibly “the Chicago Seven”
and the 1692 Salem witch trials). Excerpts from leading theater
directors (Grotowski, Artaud, Brecht, Peter Brook) will also be
Close readings of the text will be emphasized to understand the
critical role of language in shaping individuals and their worlds.
Short response papers, two longer papers (about 5 pages) and a final
paper will be required.