Thurs. 9/10/2015  Opening Class
The English word “theory” comes from the Greek “theoria,” meaning contemplation, speculation, or sight. It is related to the word “theatron,” or place for viewing – the theater. Theater and theory are kin.
Section 1: Performance Theory
Tues. Sept. 15: What is Performance?
Richard Schechner, selection from Performance Studies: An Introduction
A little Karl Marx and Maurya Wickstrom on the Lion King
Thurs. Sept. 17: Play, Ritual, Theatre
Schechner, Performance Studies, chapters "Ritual" and "Play"
Tues. Sept. 22: Performance as/in Culture: The Cockfight
Clifford Geertz,  selection from The Interpretation of Cultures
John Emigh, selection from The Cambridge Companion to Performance Studies
Thurs. Sept. 24: Counter-Mimicry, or Performance Across Cultures
Wole Soyinka, Death and the King’s Horseman 
Tues. Sept. 29: Performance and Social Memory 1
Paul Connerton, How Societies Remember, pages 1-40
Thurs. Oct. 1:  Performance and Social Memory 2
Paul Connerton, How Societies Remember, pages 41-104.
Tues. Oct. 6:  Intro to Theatre Anthropology, Performance Archaeology
Eugenio Barba, Dictionary of Theatre Anthropology, selections
Grad Students also read: Pearson and Shanks, Theatre/Archaeology, selections
Thurs. Oct. 8: Time as Performance Medium
Noh Drama, Yoko Ono,
Suzan-Lori Parks The America Play, and the musical Hamilton
 Tues. Oct. 13: Physical Theatre and the Natyasastra
A guest lecture and workshop by Dr. Royona Mitra
Selection from the Natyasatra and more tba
Section 2: Prehistoric to Ancient

Thurs. Oct. 15: Prehistory, Performance, and “Origin Rituals”
The Herzog film Cave of Forgotten Dreams, a forgotten 1959 theatre textbook, 
some Martin Bernal and some Richard Schechner 
 Tues. Oct. 20: Ancient Africa/Ancient Mediterranean
Ronald J. Leprohon, "Ritual Drama in Ancient Egypt."
Inge Nielsen, Cultic Theatre and Ritual Drama
 The Triumph of Horus
Thurs. Oct. 22: The Theatre of Dionysus
Euripides, The Bakkhai
David Wiles, Greek Theater Performance, chapters 1 and 2.
(Be sure to note the assignment )
Tues. Oct. 27: Greek Comedy
Aristophanes, Thesmophoriazusae 
Wiles, chapters 3 and 4, and Sue-Ellen Case on "Classic Drag"
Thurs. Oct. 29: Plato and Aristotle on Mimesis
Plato, The Republic: Books 7 and 10.
Aristotle,  The Poetics of Aristotle
Wiles, chapter 5.
 Section 3: India and Africa
Tues. Nov. 3: The Sanskrit Theatre of Ancient India
Barbara Stoler Miller, Theater of Memory
Kalidasa, Sakuntala 
 Thurs. Nov. 5: Traditional Theatre of Kerala
Suresh Awasthi, Drama: The Gift of the Gods
Bharata's Natyasastra
Phillip B. Zarrilli, Kathakali: Dance-Drama
Tues. Nov. 10: Theatrical Legacies of Pre-Colonial Africa 1
Margaret Thompson Drewal, Yoruba Ritual
Wole Soyinka, "The Fourth Stage"
Thurs. Nov. 12: Theatrical Legacies of Pre-Colonial Africa 2
David Kerr, African Popular Theatre,
Guenther, Trickers and Trancers

Section 4: Rome to Medieval Europe and the "New" World
Tues. Nov. 17:  Roman Empire 
A. M. Nagler, Sourcebook in Theatrical History
Odai Johnson, "Unspeakable Histories: Terror, Spectacle, and Genocidal Memory"
Plautus comedy, The Captives
Thurs. Nov. 19: Holy Roman Empire: Mass, Tropes, Props, and Blood  
Saint Augustine and Tertullian, Quem Quertis and Hrosvit
John Spaulding Gatton, "There Must Be Blood" 
Andrew Sofer, The Stage Life of Props
Tues. Nov. 24:  Three Medeas
Euripides Medea
Seneca Medea
Your Medea 
Tues. Dec. 1: Carnival, Mumming, Farce 
The Farce of the Fart 
A Christmas Mumming, The Play of St. George
Mikail Bakhtin, "On Popular Festive Forms"in Rabelais and His World
Tues. Dec. 3: Corpus Christi and the Inka
Carolyn Dean, Inka Bodies and the Body of Christ
Moltolina, History of the Indians of New Spain
Grads: Leo Cabranes Grant, "From Scenarios to Networks"
December 8: Old World New World "Visions"
Shakespeare, The Tempest and Black Elk Speaks
Grads, "This Thing of Darkness I Acknowledge Mine"
December 10:  Final Exam, 10:30 in 007 Lyman Hall.


Course Objectives and Requirements


1. To introduce students to performance theory and basic performance studies texts as a way to approach both the challenges of charting performance history and the comparison of performance forms across culture. The first third of the class is devoted to introductory performance theory as a platform for the historical inquiry that follows.

2. To stimulate rigorous questions about the functions of performance in the generation, propagation, and/or negotiations of culture(s).

3. To introduce students to various global performance forms in historical context, and apply performance theory to engagement with historical material.

4. To encourage students to work to identify the social assumptions informing as well as generated by various theatrical practices (such as the stage/house divide, practices of duration, ritual aspects, levels of codification, levels of improvisation, etc.).

5. To explore pre-historical, ancient, and medieval performance practices while considering the limits of traditional historiographical reliance on written forms or archival remains.


This course will be based on lecture and in-class discussion of the material we read and, in some cases, view. Due to the broad amount of cultural and historical material covered by this survey, it is essential that students attend all classes and complete all readings.  YOU MUST BRING THE READINGS IN PAPER FORM TO CLASS. YOU CAN SHARE—BUT A PAPER COPY MUST BE IN EVERY OTHER STUDENT'S HAND. IF YOU CHOOSE A PARTNER AT THE BEGINNING OF THE TERM, YOU CAN PLAN ACCORDINGLY. No computers or cell phones can be used during class. I also strongly recommend reading from print and taking reading notes. For some of my reasoning toward this decision, read this Washington Post article from April 2014.  Other studies have shown that note taking on a computer during a lecture is not as effective and handwritten notes. Coming to class without readings will result in a mark of absent after two times.

Undergraduate students:

There are two papers, an in-class group performance, and a final exam for this class. It is unlikely that I will administer pop quizzes. The final will be December 10, in class.

Paper 1:  Due on October 13 is one 1000-1500 word paper. See the prompt.

Paper 2:  Due on November 12 is the writing of three questions. You should craft a question you might ask if you were the professor for a final exam. See the prompt.

Performance Project: This is a group-based class presentation of research as performance. The performance part of the presentation should take no more than 10 minutes.  Your group will have time to then discuss research and take questions from the class. The best possible format would be a performance followed by a structured discussion based on questions that you pose. Either way, I expect careful research on the period/style as well as  theoretical clarity in a piece that is creatively presented and well thought out. The whole group of you should arrange to meet with the Professor or the T.A. a couple of weeks beforehand so that we can talk about the presentation and plan accordingly. Office hours or staying after-class for a brief discussion can work for this.  See the Group Performance link for more on the pedagogical intention of this project.

Extra Credit, non-required paper: For undergrads, if you would like to write a paper on any topic pertaining to this class that will allow you to do further research and present it to the professor, feel free to email me with the paper and I will consider it for extra credit. This paper will be due by 5pm on December 15 and must be emailed to

Attendance and Reading reports: You will be required to write a reading response of a reading response, roughly 150-250 words in length (about half to one page), for each class, posted to the Canvas class site.  Please respond to the questions posted for each day on the syllablog.  While attendance only forms 20% of the grade, having more than two (2) absences over the course of the semester will adversely affect your grade. More than 4 absences may constitute failure. Only illnesses, religious holidays and family emergencies constitute excused absences. Please see me immediately if you are having problems with attending or doing the work for the course. Consistent tardiness may be counted as absences in some cases. Please act accordingly.

NOTE:  I discourage theatre arts and performance studies concentrators from taking this course S/NC. Please note that S/NC students must have at least 70% attendance and turn in 70% of the response papers, in addition to full completion of the other class requirements, to pass the class. Students who do not meet these requirements may fail to receive credit for the class.

Grading for Undergraduates:
Performance Projects 20%
Attendance/reading reports: 20% (but if too many absences or lack of completion occurs, this will skew. See paragraphs above.)
Papers: 20%
Final exam: 40% 

Books can be bought at the bookstore (see link to book order). But all books are also on reserve at the Rock. All other reserves are available as PDFs or links on OCRA. Some PDFs are on the Canvas site. If you can't find it at OCRA, check Canvas. And remember: you must have a paper copy in class,  or share with only 1 other person.

Graduate Students:

Complete all required and recommended reading for each class. No reading response papers required. Full participation in discussion, with sensitivity to the general level of the class. That is, graduate students should enable undergraduates (and thus assist the professor) in the arc of class discussion.

Graduate students will give one in-class oral presentation during the semester, to be worked out with the Professor. In addition, class on November 24 will be run by the TA and the graduate students, more on this in person.  

Graduate students will write a 15-20 page research paper due December 15 and emailed to me. Please provide me with an abstract and preliminary bibliography for this paper by Nov. 1. I would also like to have you pass in an annotated bibliography of at least 5 additional performance theory texts or collections (you may pass in up to 10) and a "performance theory" bibliography of 30-40 books that you craft over the semester. We can discuss this further. For the first few weeks there will be prompts for "graduate students" on the syllabus pages, but after that I will assume that your bibliography building and reading is independently underway. Meet with me during office hours (or by appt) at some point in the semester to discuss the annotated text selection. The annotations should be up to 1 page in length (no more), requiring at least five pages in total. The annotations and bibliography are due by December 10.

Attendance/Participation 20%
Expanded annotated reading bibliography in Performance Theory 20%               
Research Paper: 60% 

Academic Code for ALL STUDENTS:

Below is a statement on Brown’s Academic Code. Please feel free to ask many any questions about the code or proper citation for your research projects. I will not tolerate academic dishonesty.

Norms regarding the quality and originality of academic work are often much more stringent and demanding in college than they are in high school. All Brown students are responsible for understanding and following Brown's academic code, which is described below.

Academic achievement is ordinarily evaluated on the basis of work that a student produces independently. Students who submit academic work that uses others' ideas, words, research, or images without proper attribution and documentation are in violation of the academic code. Infringement of the academic code entails penalties ranging from reprimand to suspension, dismissal, or expulsion from the University.

Brown students are expected to tell the truth. Misrepresentations of facts, significant omissions, or falsifications in any connection with the academic process (including change of course permits, the academic transcript, or applications for graduate training or employment) violate the code, and students are penalized accordingly. This policy also applies to Brown alums, insofar as it relates to Brown transcripts and other records of work at Brown.

Misunderstanding the code is not an excuse for dishonest work. Students who are unsure about any point of Brown's academic code should consult their courses instructors or an academic dean, who will be happy to explain the policy.

STATEMENT REGARDING COMFORT LEVELS WITH MATERIAL THAT MAY BE GRAPHIC OR OTHERWISE EXPLICIT IN TERMS OF GENDER, RACE, CLASS, TRAUMA, RELIGION, EATING HABITS, VIOLENCE, SEX, AND OTHER CATEGORIES:  All of the material in this class may be difficult for someone – difficulty is, in fact, part of what we will explore. There is, historically, a lot of violence in theatre -- even in comedies. There are rape scenes in theatre, beheadings, bestiality, everyone is almost always transgender (or trans-person) in many places and many times and we will engage with this material in a forthright manner. In the medieval period, for example, there is a very large amount of blood split in the name of Christ, and anti-semitism on the part of early Christians. And the Roman empire has a long arm – arguably reaching us here where we sit today – so we will not always discuss attitudes, practices, worldviews as of a distant past. This material clearly could "trigger" emotional responses. Theatre is often about the triggering of emotional responses, and you may find yourself in the theatre.  There is brutal slavery in the ancient world, both pagan and Christian. There are open attitudes to sexuality in many parts of the world that we discuss, including "two spirits" in Native America, etc. Please see the Professor in advance, or at any time, regarding questions or concerns.


Book Order

Highly Recommended to Purchase:

Note: The bookstore will list as required, but all books are also available at the Rock.

Aristotle. The Poetics of Aristotle. Translation and Commentary by Stephen Halliwell. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987. ISBN 0807817635 - $25.00

Barba, Eugenio and Nicola Savarese. A Dictionary of Theatre Anthropology: The Secret Art of the Performer. New York: Routledge, 1991. ISBN: 0415053080 - $86.95

Connerton, Paul. How Societies Remember. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989. ISBN-10: 0521270936 - $34.99

Corrigan, Robert. Classical tragedy, Greek and Roman: 8 plays. Hal Leonard Corporation, 1990.

ISBN 1557830460, 9781557830463 - $18.99

Dean, Carolyn. Inka Bodies and the Body of Christ : Corpus Christi In Colonial Cuzco, Peru.Durham [N.C.]: Duke University Press, 1999. - $24.95

Drewal, Margaret


Gassner, John. Medieval and Tudor Drama. New York: Applause Books, 2000. ISBN-10: 0936839848 - $17.99

Henderson, Jeffrey. Three Plays by Aristophanes : Staging Women. New York: Routledge, 1996. ISBN: 0415907446 - $44.95

Miller, Barbara Stoller. The Theater of Memory: The Plays of Kalidasa. New York: Columbia University Press, 1984. ISBN: 023105839X - $45.00

Parks, Suzan-Lori. The America Play, and Other Works. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1995. - $15.95

Schechner, Richard. Performance Studies: An Introduction. New York: Routledge, 2006. ISBN: 0415372461 - $64.95

Schneider, Rebecca. Performing Remains: Art and War In Times of Theatrical Reenactment.Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2011. -$44.95

Shakespeare, William. THe Tempest. Signet. ISBN: 0451527127 - $4.95

Soyinka, Wole. Death and the King's Horseman. W. W. Norton, 2002. ISBN: 0393977617 - $20.70

Wiles, David. Greek Theatre Performance: An Introduction. New York: Cambridge, 2000. ISBN: 0521648572. - $49.99

Recommended to Purchase:

Geertz, Clifford

2000 The Interpretation of Cultures. New York: Basic Books.

Enders, Jody

2002 Theatre of Cruelty. Cornell University Press, 2002. ISBN: 080148783

Zarrilli, Phillip

Kathakali Dance-Drama. New York: Routledge, 1999. ISBN: 041519282X


The Following List is partial and Does Not include the many titles already on reserve or on the syllabus. If, in your study, you read something you think I should include let me know.

Performance Theory

Huizinga, Johannes. Homo Ludens: A Study of Play. London: Routledge, 2000.

MacAloon, John J. Rite, drama, festival, spectacle : rehearsals toward a theory of cultural performance. Philadelphia : Institute for the Study of Human Issues, 1984.

Roach, Joseph. Cities of the Dead: Circumatlantic Performance. New YOrk: Columbia U. Press, l996.

Schechner, Richard. Between Theater and Anthropology. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, l985.

Taylor, Diana. The Archive and the Repertoire. Duke University Press, 2003.

Turner, Victor. From Ritual to Theatre: The Human Seriousness of Play. New York: PAJ Press, l982.

Greek and Roman Theatre

Beacham, Richard. The Roman Theatre and its Audience. Harvard University Press, 1996.

Beard, Mary. The Roman Triumph. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007.

Bergman, Bettinam and Christine Kondoleon, eds. The Art of Ancient Spectacle. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999

Bobrick, Elizabeth, "The Tyranny of Roles: Privilege in Aristophanes' Thesmophoriazusae." In The City as Comedy: Society and Representation in Athenian Drama. University of NOrth Carolina Press, 1998.

Csapo, Eric and William Slater. The Context of Ancient Drama. University of Michigan Press, l995.

Csapo, Eric, and Margaret Miller. The Origins of Theater in Ancient Greece and Beyond: From Ritual to Drama. Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Duncan, Anne. Performance and Identity in the Classical World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006

Easterling, Pat, and Edith Hall, eds. Greek and Roman Actors: Aspects of an Ancient Profession. Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Eckart Kohne and Cornelia Ewigleben, eds., The Power of Spectacle in Ancient Rome: Gladiators and Caesars. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000.

Futrell, Allison. Blood in the Arena : The Spectacle of Roman Power. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1997

Hall, Edith. The Theatrical Cast of Athens: Interactions between Ancient Greek Drama and Society. Oxford University Press, 2006.

Mannix, Daniel P. Those About to Die: The Way of the Gladiator. New York : ibooks ; London : Simon & Schuster, 2001.

Landels, John G., Music in Ancient Greece and Rome. London: Routledge, 1999

Marshall, C.W. The Stagecraft and Performance of Roman Comedy. Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Plass, Paul. The Game of Death in Ancient Rome. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1995.

Potter, D.S. and D.J. Mattingly. Life, Death, and Entertainment in the Roman Empire. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999.

Scodel, Ruth. Theater and Society in the Classical World. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1993

Silk, M. S. Aristophanes and the Definition of Comedy. Oxford University Press. 2002.

Slater,Niall W. Spectator Politics: Metatheatre and Performance in Aristophanes. University of Pennsylvania Press.

Slater, Niall W. Plautus in Performance. Routledge, 2000.

Smith, Tyler Jo. Komast Dancers in Ancient Greek Art. Oxford, 2010.

Wiles, David. Mask and Performance in Greek Tragedy. Cambridge, University Press, 2007.

Wiles, David. Tragedy in Athens: Performance Space and Theatrical Meaning. Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Winkler, John and Froma Zeitlin. Nothing to Do with Dionysos? Athenian Drama in Its Social Context. PRinceton University Press, l992.

Wise, Jennifer. Dionysus Writes: The Invention of Theatre in Ancient Greece. Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press, 2000.

Ancient Indian Theatre

Gupta, Bharat. Dramatic Concepts, Greek and Indian: A Study of the Poetics and the Natyasatra. D.K. Printworld, 2006. ISBN-10: 8124600252

Ley, Graham. "Aristotle's Poetics, Bharatamuni's Natyasastra, and Zeami's Treatises: Theory as Discourse." Asian Theatre Journal - Volume 17, Number 2, Fall 2000, pp. 191-214

Mankada, Dolararaya Ram. Ancient Indian Theatre (an interpretation of Bharata's second Adhyaya). Anand: Charotar Book Stall, 1960.

Panchal, Govardhan. Theatres of Bharata and Some Aspects of Sanskrit Play-Production. Munshiram, 1996. ISBN-10: 8121506611

Sullivan, Bruce M. "Dying on the Stage in the Nāṭyaśāstra and Kūṭiyāṭṭam: Perspectives from the Sanskrit Theatre Tradition." Asian Theatre Journal - Volume 24, Number 2, Fall 2007, pp. 422-439

Tarlekar, G.H. Studies in the Natyasastra: With Special Reference to the Sanskrit Drama in Performance. Delhi : Motilal Banarsidass, 1999.

Varadpande, Manohar Laxman. History of Indian Theatre. New Delhi : Abhinav Publications, 1987.

Pre-Colonial African Traditions

Apter, Andrew H. Black Critics & Kings : The Hermeneutics of Power in Yoruba Society. Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1992.

Arnoldi, Mary Jo. Playing with Time : Art and Performance in Central Mali. Bloomington : Indiana University Press, 1995.

Banham, Martin, ed. History of Theatre in Africa. [electronic resource]. Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Harding, Frances, ed. The Performance Arts in Africa. London ; New York : Routledge, 2002.

Harrison, Paul Carter, et al, eds. Black Theatre : Ritual Performance in the African Diaspora. Philadelphia : Temple University Press, 2002.

Kramer, Fritz. The Red Fez : Art and Spirit Possession in Africa, translated by Malcolm Green. New York: Verso, 1993.

Losambe, Lokangaka, and Devi Sarinjeive. Pre-Colonial and Post-Colonial Drama and Theatre in Africa.Trenton, NJ : Africa World Press, 2001.

Medieval European Theatre

Ault, Thomas. "The Passion of Christ and Ritual Performances in Fifteenth Century Ferrara." Baylor Journal of Theatre and Performance V.3, No.2, 2006.

Chemers, Michael M. “Anti-Semitism, Surrogacy, and the Invocation of Mohammed in the Play of the Sacrament.” Comparative Drama 41:1 (Spring 2007), pp. 25-55

Clark, Robert A, and Claire Sponsler. “Other Bodies: Racial Cross-Dressing in the Mystere de la Sainte Hostie and the Croxton Play of the Sacrament.” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 29.1 (Winter 1999): 61-88.

Dox, Donnalee. The Idea of the Theater in Latin Christian Thought: Augustine to the Fourteenth Century. Ann Arbor : University of Michigan Press, c2004.

Enders, Jody. Death by Drama and Other Medieval Urban Legends. Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2002.

Enders, Jody. “Theater makes history: Ritual murder by proxy in the Mistere de la Sainte Hostie,” Speculum 79:4, 2004, 991-1016.

Hanawalt, Barbara A., and Michal Kobialka, eds., Medieval Practices of Space, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000, 167-197

Kobialka, Michal. "Holy Space and Representational Place in the Tenth Century." In Levy, Shimon, ed. Theatre and Holy Script. Sussex Academic Press, 1999

Senelick, Laurence. "Skirting Christ" in The Changing Room: Sex, Drag and Theatre (Routledge, 2000).

Southern, Richard. The Medieval Theatre in the Round; A Study of the Staging of The Castle of Perseverance. London, Faber and Faber, l975.

Other Theatres of the Ancient/Medieval World

Gillam, Robin. Performance and Drama in Ancient Egypt. Publisher: Duckworth, 2006.
ISBN-10: 0715634046

Moreh, Shmuel. Live Theatre and Dramatic Literature in the Medieval Arab World. New York : New York University Press, 1992

Group Performance Description and Schedule of Assignments

 Performances or performance-based experiments are intended to be constructed to illustrate material we have been studying. Clearly you can not transport us to ancient Greece and create an authentic reproduction. The same goes for the other sections. But you can construct a performance or performative exercize inspired by what we are studying.  Most groups should not necessarily chose a script to act out  in the classroom, but if you do then show some true production choices and MEMORIZE YOUR LINES.  Those working on Greece might want to try out a scene from Themophoriazusae in order to illustrate something you have gleaned from the reading (see me about which one). Those working on Africa will use Drewal as a guide --what kind of piece does her analysis of the basic elements of African ritual performance prompt? The same goes for other groups. We dont' have an India group this year due to a workshop we are having (time won't allow), but that group might have thought: what would it be like to base a performance on the ability to "taste" (rasa). You will decide in your group what to construct based on additional study in the area. Your piece should ideally be no more than 10 minutes and you should plan to collectively explain your process, draw on outside reading sources, and engage in discussion afterward. In all we will take 20-30 minutes of class time for these presentations.  Please meet with the Teaching Assistant or myself in advance of your assigned date to discuss your plans.

Group One (Extra-Daily Performance): October 6

Group Two (Ancient Egypt): October 20

Group Three (Ancient Greece): October 27

Group Four (Precolonial Africa group to perform): November 12

Group Five (Holy Roman Empire): November 19

Group Six (Carnivalesque/Processual Medieval): December 1 (or 3rd)


Paper 1, due October 13
Paper 2, due Nov 12
Final Exam, Dec. 10