Theatre and Dance

Chair: Christopher Petit
Director of Dance: Renée Archibald
Jessica Cerullo (on Sabbatical, Spring 2015)
Thomas G. Hines
Kristen Kosmas (on Sabbatical, Fall 2014)
Jimmy Maize III
Akiko Rotch
Nancy Simon
Nathan Tomsheck
Robin Waytenick Smasne
Kevin Walker

Theatre Department Website »

Courses and dramatic productions are offered to provide the student with rigorous, demanding professional training and a cultural background with which to attain the highest standards in theatre.

All classes without stated prerequisite or an indicated level of difficulty are recommended to any student, regardless of class standing. In addition, we offer a sequence of technique courses in both Ballet and Contemporary Dance, as well as courses in the study of Dance.


Learning Goals: Upon graduation, a student will be able to:

  • Major-Specific Areas of Knowledge
    • Demonstrate a fundamental understanding of theatre as a form of artistic expression that demands intelligence, imagination, intuition, collaboration, rigorous aesthetic standards, and a broad base of knowledge.
    • Demonstrate knowledge of history and established repertory of the theatre, its contemporary contexts, and the ability to ask questions that will set a path to developing unique voice and vision, in personal and collaborative contribution to the theatre.
    • Demonstrate proficiencies in both the planning and performance of a theatrical event.
  • Communication         
    • Demonstrate the practical and intellectual skills necessary to articulate oneself in a theatrical context.

The Theatre major: A minimum of 35 credits to include Theatre 125, 245, 246, 247, 248, and 490; one course to be selected from Theatre 278, 345, 360, 366; four courses to be selected from Theatre 233, 234, 357, 371, 372, 377; and two credits in Theatre 231, 232.

The Theatre minor: Theatre 125, Theatre 245 or 246; three courses to be selected from Theatre 233, 234, 357, 371, 372, 377; one credit in Theatre 231 or 232.

107 Introduction to the Theatre
3, 3 Rotch

Theatre is a global revolutionary force with roots buried deeper than our recorded history. This class will expose students to the many diverse modes in which performance takes place around the world and examine them in the historic context of theatre and the evolving ideas of art and human experience. We will explore how the directors, actors, designers, and technicians who work in this medium generate their work. Students will create their own live performance projects. Using the Harper Joy Theatre production season as a laboratory, students will see the plays from backstage and front, and critically evaluate the work. Open to all students.

125 Beginning Acting I
3, 3 Fall: Cerullo, Petit, Maize; Spring: Kosmas

Designed to help the student to realize his/her potential as an actor and to help him/her find a systematic way of approaching a role. Emphasis on concentration, imagination, movement, working in terms of objectives and responding to others. Students engage in acting exercises, scene work and assigned reading. Open only to first-year students and sophomores.

126 Beginning Acting II
x, 3 Petit, Maize

A continuation of Theatre 125. Students build on the acting fundamentals they learned in Beginning Acting I. Includes additional scene work, acting exercises, and assigned reading. Prerequisite: Theatre 125.

222 Digital Rendering 3-D Environments
3; not offered 2014-15

Students will learn to use Sketchup, Vectorworks, Renderworks, and Photoshop to create digital 3-D environments. While geared towards theatre designers this course will be relevant to architects, engineers, animators, filmmakers and artists who can assimilate 3-D visualization techniques into their work. Basic computer literacy is necessary. Offered every sixth semester.

225, 226 Intermediate Acting
4, 4 Fall: Cerullo; Spring: Maize

First semester: an actor’s continued development of physical, emotional, and imaginative awareness with application to texts, and approaches to playing Shakespeare. Second semester: improvisation and preparation for a formal audition. Acting in the plays of Anton Chekhov and contemporary playwrights. Prerequisite for 225: Theatre 126. Prerequisite for 226: Theatre 225.

230 Theatre Technician Practicum
1, x Staff

This course is designed to offer students instruction in the crafts of theatre lighting, sound, scenery, props, and costume construction. Participants are offered the choice of areas they would like to specialize in and make arrangements by appointment to complete 35 hours of hands on instruction and practice. No previous experience is required. Course exempted from 18-credit enrollment limitation. Activity credit limitation applies. May be repeated for credit. Graded credit/no credit. Prerequisite: consent of instructor.

231, 232 Rehearsal and Performance
1, 1 Staff

Rehearsal and performance by selected students in major productions. Course exempted from 18-credit enrollment limitation. Activity credit limitation applies. May be repeated for not more than two credits per semester. Graded credit/no credit. Prerequisite: consent of instructor.

233 Theatre History from the Middle Ages to 1800
4, x Simon

The history of European theatre from the Middle Ages through 1800, examining as appropriate social, political, and religious attitudes, architecture, design and technical practice, business and administration, acting, audiences, and critical theory. Emphasizes the practical value of theatre history for the student attending or working in today’s theatre. Three periods per week. Students complete written or practical projects. Offered in alternate years.

234 Theatre History from the Nineteenth Century
x, 4 Kosmas

Examines European and American theatre history since the nineteenth century through the lens of the following movements: Romanticism, Melodrama, Realism, Modernism, the Historical Avant-Garde and Post-Modernism. Looks at changes in social/political/religious attitudes and the influence of these changes on form and content of plays. Looks at technological advances and their effect on theatre design and technical practice. Considers trends in acting, directing, audiences, and theory. Identifies, where possible, the influence these movements and developments have had on contemporary theater practice. Emphasizes the practical value of theatre history for the student attending or working in today’s theatre. Offered in alternate years.

245 Play Production
3, x Thomsheck

An introduction to the elements of theatre technology. Emphasis is given to the production process, the organization of personnel, the equipment and architecture of the theatre, and the equipment and techniques used in the construction, rigging, and painting of scenery. Class lectures and discussions are complemented by production assignments. Corequisite: Theatre 247. Open to all students.

246 Play Production
x, 3 Thomsheck

An introduction to the elements of theatre technology. Emphasis is given to the equipment, materials, and methods used in stage lighting, drafting, costuming, and sound. Class lectures and discussions are complemented by production assignments. Corequisite: Theatre 248. Open to all students.

247 Play Production Laboratory
1, x Smasne and K. Walker

Laboratory exercises in theatre technology. Lab projects will allow practical applications of the class materials covered in 245 Play Production. Open to all students. May be repeated for credit.

248 Play Production Laboratory
x, 1 Smasne and K. Walker

Laboratory exercises in theatre technology. Lab projects will allow practical applications of the class materials covered in 246 Play Production. Open to all students. May be repeated for credit.

259 Voice and Movement for the Actor
4, x Petit

A physical approach to acting, focusing on the kinesthetic and vocal development of the actor. Through performance techniques including Viewpoints, and Michael Chekhov technique, this course is designed to increase the students’ access to their physical instruments, and their ability to articulate themselves on stage. Students create original work devised through the acting process. Prerequisite: Theatre 125 or consent of instructor.

265 The Solo Performer
4, x Cerullo

This course introduces the student to performance techniques of solo performers. We will examine the performer as entertainer and as activist and will look at a variety of rehearsal practices - both those that involve and those that exclude a director. Students will create and perform their own performances and will hone their aesthetic by exploring the performer/audience relationship as well as the dynamics of language, voice, movement, dance, sound, light, costume, and set. We will seek to gain a working knowledge and appreciation of the diversity inherent in artistic expression and will study and develop critical response techniques to support our work. This course is open to performing students across disciplines: poets, dancers, actors, singers, performance artists, etc. Offered in alternating years. Prerequisite: Theatre 125 or consent of instructor.

269 Performance Ensemble
4; not offered 2014-15

This course focuses on the practical application of performance techniques from Theatre 259, honing skills toward creating actor-generated material. Through composition, improvisation, and character study, the class will develop a physical approach to the craft of acting, and work as an ensemble to create an original performance. Prerequisite: Theatre 259.

277 Costume Construction Techniques
3, x Smasne

An introduction to theatre costume construction through hands-on projects tailored to the student’s skill level. Emphasis is placed on the techniques necessary for creating costumes and includes hand sewing and machine sewing from commercial patterns with an introduction to costume design principles.

278 Costume Design
x, 3 Smasne

The process of designing costumes for the theatre taught through projects and class discussions. Includes an introduction to script analysis, period research, and rendering techniques for the costume designer.

330 Playwriting/Writing for Performance
x, 4 Kosmas

In order to generate a shared vocabulary, we will begin with critical readings of contemporary plays, paying special attention to structure. Reading will be balanced by a great deal of student writing. Students will write during every class period and draft several short plays over the course of the semester. Collectively, we will examine and question our ideas about what a play is and ought to be. Student playwrights will ask essential questions such as: What is my process as a writer? What are my materials as a playwright? What is my aesthetic point of view? Students will gain techniques for writing practice and broaden and refine vocabularies for the discussion of creative writing. They will sharpen critical and evaluative skills of thought, speech, and writing applicable to a variety of disciplines including but not limited to theatre. May be elected as English 387C. Prerequisite: participation in Instant Play Festival writing workshops or consent of instructor.

345 Lighting Design for the Theatre
4, x Rotch

Lighting designers speak with electricity and luminescence. The ability to see performers is merely the beginning. This class will allow students to work with the latest lighting equipment to explore vocabularies of color, angle, intensity, and time. We will investigate how conceptual ideas drawn from the scripted page translate into practical equipment choices, design of lighting rigs, and computer control systems. Working on productions in the Harper Joy Theatre, students will gain practical professional level experience. Through projects they will learn graphic standards and formal methods for communicating technical information to professional crews. Prerequisite: Theatre 246.

357 Theory and Performance
4; not offered 2014-15

What theories have inspired contemporary avant-garde theatre, installation and performance art, tanz-theatre, experimental video/film, and new media? In this interdisciplinary course we will chart the evolution of performance theory from the writings of Bertolt Brecht to the present day. We will explore how artists have embraced and challenged these emerging forms, and examine seminal works from each genre in their historical, political, and social contexts. Designed to bring students from a variety of disciplines (art, art history, theatre, dance, film, and video, etc.) into a collaborative forum; coursework will include outside readings, in-class screenings, class discussions, and short essays, as well as group and individual projects. May be elected as Art History 237.

360 Sound Design and Engineering for the Theatre
4; not offered 2014-15

Live sound is one of the most powerful mediums in the theatre. Subtle, psychological, or aggressive and confrontational, sound designers create auditory landscapes to color live events and amplified reinforcement to allow performers to be heard. This class will approach sound in an artistic and conceptual framework in the context of live theatre. It will also serve as an introduction to the equipment and software, analog and digital, to create and reproduce sound for entertainment venues. Basic computer literacy is recommended. Offered every third semester.

365 Visual Design Techniques: Scale Modeling and Drafting
4; not offered 2014-15

Designers communicate visual ideas by building detailed proportionally accurate miniature representations of their ideas and creating scale drawings. This class is envisioned for lighting and scenic designers to hone their craft in the studio, but is relevant to designers of all kinds, costumers, architects, and artists with an interest in representing large format ideas in true scale on paper and in three dimensions. Projects will be tailored to student’s particular areas of interest. A portion of this class will be dedicated to CAD drafting using Vectorworks. Offered every fourth semester. Prerequisite: Theatre 246.

366 Scenic Design for the Theatre
x, 4 Rotch

Theatre scenic designers create sophisticated worlds on their studio table that are enlarged into full-scale environments by armies of carpenters, painters, and fabricators. This class explores how designers formulate ideas based on scripted words and evolve them into three-dimensional landscapes. Students will learn basic drawing techniques and build scale models to express ideas drawn from their own imagination. Offered every third semester. Prerequisite: Theatre 245 or consent of instructor.

367 Visual Design Techniques: Drawing and Painting for Designers
x, 4 Rotch

Drawing and painting are essential skills designers use to communicate their ideas to colleagues and collaborators. This course focuses on drawing epic environments using perspective, rendering color, texture, and light with ink, paint, dry and mixed media approaches. Students will purchase their own art supplies to complete drawing and painting projects. Previous drawing and painting experience is not required. Offered every sixth semester.

371 Dramatic Literature: Medieval through Eighteenth Century
4; not offered 2014-15

A course in the history and development of Western drama from the Middle Ages through the 18th century. Dramatists to be studied may include the Wakefield Master, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Jonson, Lope de Vega, Molière, Racine, Congreve, Beaumarchais, and Sheridan. May be elected as English 371. Offered in alternate years.

372 Dramatic Literature: Nineteenth Century to Now
4; not offered 2014-15

A study of the directions modern dramatic literature has taken from the 19th century to the present. Dramatists to be studied may include Ibsen, Strindberg, Chekhov, Shaw, Brecht, O’Neill, Williams, Miller, Beckett, Pinter, Fornés, Mamet, Kushner, Suzan-Lori Parks, Caryl Churchill. May be elected as English 372. Offered in alternate years.

377 Ancient Theatre
x, 4 Burgess

The origin and development of ancient theatre, especially of Greek tragedy, through a close reading of ancient plays in English translation. In addition to ancient plays, we will read modern critical responses to those plays. May be elected as Classics 377. Open to all students. Offered in alternate years.

381, 382 Special Topics

Designed to permit close study of particular areas of theatre not covered in the regular curriculum. Any current offerings follow.

381 ST: Documentary Theatre
4, x Maize

Plays created from real-world material are a growing and ever-changing form of theater. From Erwin Piscator and the Living Newspapers of the 1930’s to modern plays like “The Laramie Project” and “Blackwatch,” artists have used verbatim interviews, transcripts, archival material, and mixed media in effort to represent truth onstage. This course will examine the history, theory and literature of documentary theater, as well as each play’s cultural impact, anthropological connection and ethical implications. We will pay special attention to the future of the form by studying the artist’s process, methodology and by hearing their perspectives first-hand. Coursework will include outside readings, in-class screenings, class discussions, and short essays. Students will also be given a chance to experiment with approaches and source material of their own. May be elected as Anthropology 347A. May be taken for credit toward the Film and Media Studies major. Distribution area: humanities or fine arts.

465 The Director in the Theatre I
x, 4 Petit

Through reading, discussion, exercises, and scene work, explores the history, function, requisite skills, and ongoing preparation of the director in the theatre. Considers play selection and analysis; the director’s work with the playwright, designer, stage manager, and dramaturge; casting; rehearsal procedures, and the director’s work with the actor. Prerequisites: junior standing, consent of instructor, a basic acquaintance with dramatic literature and the work of the actor, designer and theatre technician.

466 Director in the Theatre II
x, 4 Petit

Based on an apprenticeship model, this course serves as a continuing exploration of the directing process. The requirements include acting as assistant director for a faculty-directed season production from research through performance and completing an independent directing project. The latter might be for Lunchbox Theatre, the Student One-Act Play Contest, a high school or community theatre, or another venue approved by the instructor. Prerequisite: Theatre 465 and consent of instructor.

481, 482 Independent Study
1-4, 1-4 Staff

Readings or a project in theatre not covered in regular courses. The student must submit a detailed proposal to the instructor in the semester preceding the anticipated study. The student is responsible for any expenses incurred in completing the project. Prerequisites: junior or senior standing, consent of instructor.

485 Advanced Acting
4, x Petit

An advanced exploration of the acting process, focusing on developing the skills necessary to become a professional actor; Emphasis on living truthfully under imaginary circumstances, action, and character. The course incorporates the work of Sanford Meisner and Michael Chekhov, and includes exercises, scenes, and monologues. Prerequisite: Theatre 226.

490 Senior Project
3, 3 Petit

Involves the development and execution of a project reflecting the student’s primary area of theatre study. The student works closely with a faculty project adviser during the process. The final project is evaluated by that adviser and two other faculty members. This course is limited to and required of all senior theatre majors. Prerequisites: previous coursework in the area of study and theatre faculty approval. May be taken during the first or second semester of the senior year.

493 Senior Seminar
1; not offered 2014-15

This course is designed to help students transition into the professional world. Through discussion with faculty, peers and working professionals, students will evaluate skills and achievements from their time at Whitman, and develop strategies and goals for the future. The course will meet once a week. It will be team taught by the theatre faculty, and include regular meetings with guest artists. Course work could include preparing portfolio’s, resumes, mock interviews, and audition materials. Graded P-D-F. Open only to senior Theatre majors.

498 Honors Thesis
3, 3 Staff

Preparation of undergraduate thesis. Required of and open only to senior honors candidates in theatre. Prerequisite: admission to honors candidacy.


The dance curriculum consists of courses in choreography, the historical and theoretical study of dance, and studio courses such as Ballet and Modern Dance. Studio courses are credited as “activity credit” and hence fall under the current activity credit limitations. Students may earn a maximum of 12 credits in dance within the 16-credit limitation (see Credit Restrictions in the Academics section of the catalog). The dance courses that fall under the activity credit are as follows: 115/116, 125/126, 215/216, 225/226, 325, and 344. Courses in choreography, such as 234 Dance Performance and Composition, or in a contextualized study of dance, such as 118 Introduction to Dance, are given full academic credit and in some cases can be counted as electives in the Theatre Major.

115, 116 Beginning Modern Dance
1, 1 Fall: Archibald; Spring: de Grasse

This course will focus on dance as an art form whose primary medium, and source, is the human body. Generally, class will begin with a warm-up to stretch, strengthen, and engage one’s center. Standing exercises will encourage stability, three- dimensionality, and articulation. Students will then apply their learned skills to longer combinations that move through space with clarity and momentum. Over the course of the semester, students will develop basic movement skills, investigate ideologies that have shaped American concert dance, and explore choreographic methodologies. This course will have live musical accompaniment. Open to all students. Activity limitations may apply. May be repeated for credit.

118 Introduction to Dance
3, 3 Archibald

In this course, students will explore a diverse range of dance traditions from around the world and throughout history to gain a greater understanding of the role of dance in different cultures as well as their own. Students will be looking critically at theatrical dance forms performed for audiences, like ballet and kabuki, as well as popular and ancient dance forms. The class will meet alternately in the dance studio and in a traditional classroom to learn through the embodied practices of choreographing, dancing, and viewing performance, as well as reading, writing, and discussion. No dance experience is necessary.

125, 126 Beginning Ballet
1, 1 Fall: de Grasse; Spring: Archibald

A beginning ballet technique class with emphasis on dynamic postural alignment, muscular control, and building movement vocabulary. In addition, students will learn about the history of ballet, some of the prominent works in the classical canon, and some basic components of choreography. This course will have live musical accompaniment. Standard grading. Activity limitations may apply. May be repeated for credit. Open to all students.

183, 184 Special Topics in Dance

Designed to permit close study of particular areas of Dance not covered in the regular curriculum. Any current offerings follow.

215, 216 Intermediate Modern Dance
1, 1 Fall: de Grasse; Spring: Archibald

This course builds on foundational experiences in modern dance technique using an eclectic approach. Classes will begin with a warm up using verbal and visual imagery, as well as anatomical directives. Students will then move developmentally to strengthen and explore the architecture of their bodies. Students will apply anatomical clarity, varying energies, and varying ways of inhabiting their bodies in combinations that move through space while investigating performance presence and expressiveness. This class will have live musical accompaniment. May be repeated for credit. Prerequisite: Dance 115, 116 or consent of instructor.

225, 226 Intermediate Ballet
1, x de Grasse

This course builds on foundational experiences in ballet technique. The course focuses on improving anatomical clarity and kinesthetic precision as well as developing presence and expressiveness for performance. Students will continue to investigate the ideologies that have shaped ballet and explore choreographic methodologies. This course will have live musical accompaniment. Activity limitations may apply. May be repeated for credit. Prerequisites: Dance 125, 126, or previous formal training in classical ballet and consent of instructor.

234 Dance Performance and Composition
 x, 4 Archibald

Students will participate in the creation, rehearsal, and performance of original work. Learning choreographed movement will form the earliest stage of the creative process, during which students, acting as collaborators, will use a variety of discrete techniques, such as movement processing, acting work, and text generation, to contribute personal layers to an original work of theater which will keep dance as its main focus. In later stages of the process, students will receive artistic and technical coaching while preparing the work for performance. Standard grading. Academic credit. Pre- or corequisite: any course in dance technique (i.e. Dance 115/116, 125/126, 215/216, 225/226, 325) or consent of instructor.

283, 284 Special Topics in Dance
Designed to permit close study of particular areas of Dance not covered in the regular curriculum. Any current offerings follow.

325 Advanced Ballet and Contemporary Dance
1, 1 Fall: Archibald; Spring: de Grasse

This class focuses on continued improvement in all areas with an emphasis on technical skill and performance quality. Each class session will begin with ballet training and will then move on to an extended contemporary movement combination. Standard grading. Course exempted from 18-credit enrollment limitation. Activity credit limitation applies. May be repeated for credit. Prerequisite: Dance 215, 216, 225, or 225 or consent of instructor.

344 Dance Performance
1, 1 Fall: de Grasse; Spring: Archibald

This course gives students an opportunity to receive activity credit for participating in dance performances. Standard grading. May be repeated for credit. Prerequisite: any studio course in dance or consent of instructor.

383, 384 Special Topics in Dance

Designed to permit close study of particular areas of Dance not covered in the regular curriculum. Any current offerings follow.

385, 386 Independent Study
1-3, 1-3 Staff

Directed reading, research, or choreographing resulting in a paper or project. The student must submit a detailed proposal to the instructor in the semester preceding the anticipated study. The student is responsible for any extra expenses incurred in completing the project. Standard grading. Prerequisites: Dance 216 or 226, or the equivalent, and consent of instructor.

483, 484 Special Topics in Dance

Designed to permit close study of particular areas of Dance not covered in the regular curriculum. Any current offerings follow.