Modern American Drama

English 390S-7.01

MW 1:25PM - 2:40PM
Michael D'Alessandro

While the playwright names--Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams, Lillian Hellman, Anna Deavere-Smith, Edward Albee—may be familiar, do American playgoers know how strange these artists’ works can be? Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire follows a delusional heroine haunted by the sounds of Polish folk music and a gunshots. O’Neill’s The Hairy Ape features one scene in which a primate-inspired antihero encounters a street full of mute mannequins—and it gets weirder from there. The “classic” American theatre is not safe, nor has it ever been.

This survey course tracks some of twentieth- and twenty-first century most recognizable dramas, focusing on the medium’s formal features as well as its potential for social commentary. Whether dramatizing women’s alienation in post-WWII America or the fallout of real-life race riots, the U.S. stage highlights some of our nation’s most visceral self-indictments. Besides Williams’s and O’Neill’s works, plays include Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, Anna Deavere-Smith’s Twilight Los Angeles, 1992, Sam Shepard’s True West, and Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. Evaluation will be based on online response posts, two formal essays, one oral presentation, and class participation.