Department Chair: Leigh Dillard

Faculty:Leigh Dillard, Mark Hennigs, Adam Houghton, Kaarin Johnston, Willene Mangham

The College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University theater department is supportive of the mission statements of both institutions and dedicated to the education of the general student as well as the theater major. This is achieved by helping the student understand that theater is a formalization of human experience usually requiring rehearsed behavior, linked to text, within a designed visual environment and intended for live public display. This formalization serves several functions. These functions include: a confrontation with our own humanity, an illumination of diverse constructions of reality and a celebration of our spirits. Coupled with this understanding of function is a developed appreciation of the many artistic contributions necessary to the making of theater art.

The department is committed to scholarly and artistic creativity, to the integration of theory as experience, to the dynamics of theatrical process and to positive and constructive human values. The program emphasizes the importance of a broad base of knowledge and theatrical experience as a foundation for later specialization. The faculty perceives the theatrical process as being a collaborative endeavor, unifying the diverse disciplines of costume, set lighting with the acting of the text. This collaboration establishes a strong creative community which builds integrated theatrical events; events that reflect and examine the given historical, societal and cultural context in which they are embedded. The curriculum and performance schedule are structured with sufficient theatrical range to supply the fundamentals for all the production and scholarly areas. To encounter work other than their own, students are required to attend a variety of performances both off and on campus. The department vigorously encourages students to accept a life-long responsibility for expressing their artistic ideas. Acknowledging that their artistic ideas are an expression of who they are as human beings, this expression requires the development of self awareness, mindful reflection, a cultivation of their own integrity, intelligence and talent, as well as competence in basic theatrical skills.


The Theater Department assesses student learning in a variety of ways which provide insight into the success of the department in achieving our learning goals and objectives. These methods include: alumni/ae surveys at five year intervals, interviews of sophomores upon application to the major with follow-up interviews in their senior year, portfolios of student work in the department, student focus groups, and adjudication of departmental theatrical productions by external consultants.

Major (44 credits)

Required courses:
All theater majors take a common sequence of 28 credits to include 4 credits in Stagecraft, 113; 4 credits in Acting Foundations, 117; 2 credits in Sophomore Seminar, 215; 4 credits in Costume, 253; 4 credits in Theater History, 337 or 338; 8 credits in Dramatic Literature, 327 and 368; and 2 credits in Theater Senior Capstone. Additional 16 credits, which are electives, are chosen from two different categories.

In order to fully understand the integration of theory as experience and the collaborative nature of theater, each theater major is expected to participate in the theatrical productions of the department. In addition to the classes above, each major is required to complete four semesters of either Theater 240 or 340. These production credits must be in two or more of the areas listed below: Acting, Scenography, Costume, Stage Management, and Dramaturgy.

Minor (None)

Courses (THEA)

105 Introduction to Modern Dance. (4)
This class is an exploration of movement fundamentals for the purpose of developing and strengthening individual creativity and artistic expression in dance. Class work is designed to: 1) Give individuals a basic understanding of anatomical structure and kinesiological principles as a foundation for developing technical skills needed to create articulate and expressive movement; 2) Provide an embodied experience of time and energy principles as related to dance; 3) demystify dance as an art form and make it accessible and relevant to all.
113 Stagecraft. (4)
Beginning theory and practice of scenography. Study of materials and techniques used in stage scenery. Also an introduction to the theories and equipment used in theater lighting and sound. Lab required. Fall.

117 Acting Foundations. (4)
Introduction to acting. Designed to develop the actor's imagination, observation and concentration through sense awareness, relaxation, pantomime and theater games. Techniques will be introduced with the purpose of bringing the actor’s body, voice and mind together onstage to fully communicate choices through strong psychological and physical action. Also an introduction to building the foundation of a good voice. Training in breathing, physical structure and relaxation.

140 Fundamentals of Movement. (2)
This course is an introduction to movement fundamentals and is designed for actors, athletes, musicians, visual artists, and anyone desiring to improve fine motor skills, flexibility, coordination, posture, or body image. The goal is for students to develop somatic awareness so that they can recognize their own habitual movement patterns and learn to explore new movement options, with an emphasis on decreasing effort and increasing sensitivity. The course uses the Feldenkrais Method and modern dance techniques to enhance students' understanding of basic anatomical and kinesiological principles, expand their range and quality of movement, and improve individual performance skills. And the course also offers an experience of movement as a creative form without the perceived sterotypical definitions and limitations of dance.

200 Theater Audience. (4)
A presentation of theater from the audience's rather than the performer's perspective. Designed to acquaint non-theater students with live theater as a meaningful and enjoyable event. Approached from the student's present exposure level. Lecture, group discussions and field trips to live performances required. Students may not receive credit for both THEA 200 and THEA 204.
204 Theatrical Experience. (2)
The class is designed to acquaint the general student with live theater as a meaningful and enjoyable event. The students will learn by lecture, group discussions and attendance at live theatrical performances. May not be repeated for credit, nor may students receive credit for both THEA 200 and THEA 204.

205 Dance Audience. (4)
This course is an overview of dance designed to give students information about dance as an art form and tools for understanding, appreciating, and critiquing dance as audience members. The class combines lecture, discussion, studio work (actual movement participation), and attendance at live dance performances (approximately 8). The course will include a brief survey of dance history and various dance forms (e.g., ballet, modern, ethnic/folk) as well as an exploration of compositional elements, choreographic forms, and different artistic styles/techniques. There will be an emphasis on: 1)learning to look at movement without expectation of content or meaning; 2)being able to articulate, in class discussions and written papers, what was seen/what was presented on stage; 3)learning about the audience’s role and participation in a live performance.

209 Theatrical Dance Styles and Physical Theater. (2)
This course builds on the basic physical preparation for the actor and explores different dance forms and styles which are commonly used in theatrical productions. A variety of dance techniques and somatic methodologies will be studied, including ballet, ballroom, jazz, yoga, martial arts, and the Feldendrais Method. Prerequisite: THEA 117 or THEA 140 or permission of instructor.

210 Dance Studies: Technique, Improvisation, Choreography and Performance. (2)
This course will offer students the opportunity to develop technical skills to improve flexibility, coordination, and strength and to use those skills to increase their range of abilities in creating and performing dance. Modern dance techniques will serve as the foundation for students to build a movement vocabulary, and students will be expected to develop their own movement material in improvisation and composition exercises. Choreographic elements, form, and styles will be explored to guide students in the creative process and performance will be an on-going focus within the class. The goal is for the students to be able to clarify and fulfill all movement so they can physically express their ideas and emotions in movement which is authentic and meaningful, i.e., dance. Prerequisite: THEA 105, or THEA 140, or permission of Instructor. May be repeated for up to 6 credits.

211 Playwriting. (4)
The theory and practice of writing plays for theater performance. Writing exercises and reading assignments will culminate in the writing of an original one-act play. Prerequisite: Successful completion of First-year Seminar.

215 Sophomore Seminar. (2)
This course is a practical seminar for those intending to major in theater. Content includes the integration of various aspects of theatrical production, an introduction to theater as a profession, portfolio and resume development, and assistance in application to the major.  Spring of sophomore year. 

218 Readings in Culture and Dramatic Literature. (1)
In this course students will read and discuss classic, modern or contemporary plays from a specific culture or genre. The class may perform a minimum of one public reading. The topics will vary from semester to semester. May be repeated up to six times for credit.

219 Intermediate Acting. (2)
Continuation of THEA 117 with more advanced levels of theory and performance. Includes intensive scene and monologue work, with emphasis on text analysis and rehearsal techniques designed to expose the emotional and relational content of the scenes and monologues. Further work on the voice including the development of tone, resonance, range, power, articulation and projection. Prerequisite: THEA 117.

237 Principles of Theatrical Lighting and Sound. (2)
An introductory course in the principles, practices, and technology of stage lighting and sound. Emphasis is on developing basic skills and a solid understanding of lighting and sound equipment and their use in theater production. Attendance at productions may be required. Prerequisite: THEA 113.

250 Make-Up. (2)
Principles and application of various make-up techniques. Laboratory projects. Alternate years.

253 Introduction to the Costuming Process. (4)
A basic comprehensive study of the process a stage costumer employs from character analysis to costume execution. Practical application and production-work are emphasized through laboratory experience. Spring. Prerequisite to all costume classes.

260 Theater and Youth. (2)
This participatory course focuses on using the art form of theater both as a teaching tool and as a performance art. Creative drama and Theater in Education (TiE) are practiced as a form of pedagogy. The course will also include basic instruction in creating theatrical performances with child actors. Various forms of theater such as puppetry, pantomine, and improvisation will also be addressed.  Prerequisites for elementary education majors: EDUC 107 and EDUC 200. 

271 Individual Learning Project. (1-4)
Supervised reading or research at the lower-division level. Permission of department chair required. Consult department for applicability towards major requirements. Not available to first-year students.

310 Dance Studies: Technique, Improvisation, Choreography and Performance. (2)
Continuation of THEA 210 Dance Studies for more advanced students, taught concurrently with THEA 210.  Prerequisite: Thea 210 or permission of Instructor. May be repeated for up to 6 credits.

319 Actor's Work. (2)
This course uses the theories, practices, and skills learned in THEA 219 for advance, intensive scene study of various dramatic genres. Because the work will focus on different genres each time the course is taught, this course is repeatable for credit. Prerequisite: THEA 219.

321 Costume History. (4)
This class will draw from film, art history, world history, sociology, living history, and theatrical design to study the evolution of clothing.  It will explore the changes in clothing over time caused by practical needs as well as the influence of fashion.  The course will take a costume design perspective as it explores clothing from the ancient Greeks to the present.  A look at the the dramatic changes in clothing from Flappers to Fonzi to Hippies to Grunge.

327 Drama Form. (4)
Analysis, through representative dramatic texts and theories, of the development of literary and theatrical elements in the major dramatic forms and modes from the Greeks to the late 19th century. Open to sophomores. Fall.

328 Directing. (4)
Laboratory course covering the basic responsibilities of the director. Concentration on developing the beginning director's rehearsal methods for working with actors. Script analysis, auditioning, rehearsal schedules and blocking will be addressed. Direction of class projects. Prerequisites: THEA 113, THEA 117, THEA 219 or permission of instructor. Alternate years.

332 Basic Costume Design. (2)
Introduction to the art of costume design through study of contemporary designers, assigned readings and weekly critiques of sketch problems. Prerequisite: 253 or instructor's consent. Alternate years.

334 Basic Scene Design. (2)
Introduction to the art of scenic design through study of contemporary designers, assigned readings and weekly critiques of sketch problems. Prerequisite: THEA 113. Alternate years.

336 Lighting and Sound Design. (2)
The students in this course use the skills and knowledge learned in THEA 237 and apply them to theater lighting and sound design. Attendance at productions may be required. Prerequisites: THEA 113 and THEA 237. 

337 History of Theater to 18th Century. (4)
Survey of theatrical activity in the West: acting styles, theater architecture, dramatic literature and theory, production techniques such as costuming, scenery and directing in the context of the historical social milieus. Content will include Western and Asian theater. Prerequisite: Junior/Senior status. Alternate years. Fall.

338 History of Theater 18th Century to the Present. (4)
A continuation of 337 from 18th century to the present. Prerequisite: Junior/Senior status. Alternate years. Spring.

353 Theater Materials and Techniques. (4)
Advanced work in costume and set materials which are useful to the theater practitioner. Materials such as plastics, fiber glass, foams and fabrics will be investigated. Prerequisites: THEA 113, THEA 237, THEA 253, and THEA 336. Alternate years.

365 Topics in Theatrical Design or Technology. (2 or 4)
Study of a major theater topic focused on design and technology. Prerequisite: Varies according to the particular offering. Upper-class standing. Offered irregularly. Attendance at theater productions may be required.

366 Topics in Performance. (2 or 4)
Study of a major theater topic focused on performance. Prerequisite: Varies according to the particular offering. Upper-class standing. Offered irregularly. Attendance at theater productions may be required.

367 Topics in Theater History, Literature or Theory. (2 or 4)
Study of a major theater topic focused on history, literature or theory. Prerequisite: Varies according to the particular offering. Upper-class standing. Offered irregularly. Attendance at theater productions may be required.

368 Modern Drama Seminar. (4)
Analysis and interpretation of English, Continental and American drama from Ibsen to the present. Prerequisite: Junior/Senior status. Spring.

371 Individual Learning Project. (1-4)
Supervised reading or research at the upper-division level. Permission of department chair and completion and/or concurrent registration of 12 credits within the department required. Consult department for applicability towards major requirements. Not available to first-year students.

380 Theater Senior Capstone. (2)
A synthesis of all aspects of theater, including dramaturgy (theory, literature, and history), design, directing, technical production, stage management, acting (includes voice work), and movement. Students will create a production concept and all paperwork usually required before a play moves from the world of ideas into the realized production phase. Attendance at specified theater productions is required. Required for theater majors. Prerequisites: THEA 113, THEA 117, THEA 215, THEA 253, and THEA 327, or permission of department chair.

395 Senior Project in Theater. (1-4)
Working with a faculty advisor, the student plans and implements a creative project, a research project, or a thesis. This project might be in any area of theater including acting, design, technical production, theater history, dramatic theory and criticism. Prerequisite: senior theater major.

397 Internship. (4-16)
A full semester or summer placement in a variety of professional theater settings doing supervised work. The individual projects are tailored to student needs/career. Subject to approval of faculty advisor and department chair.

398 Honors Senior Essay, Research or Creative Project. (4)
Required for graduation with "Distinction in Theater." Prerequisite: HONR 396 and approval of the department chair and director of the Honors Thesis program. For further information see HONR 398.

Special Projects
These courses, offered every semester, are designed to meet special needs of students in laboratory experiences.

240 Production Laboratory. (0-2)
A minimum of 50 hours' work in acting or stagecraft involving a crew responsibility. Prerequisite: Instructor's permission. May be repeated for up to 6 credits.
Topics: Acting, scenography, costume, stage management, dramaturgy, publicity/marketing, dance

340 Technical Problems. (1-4)
Independent projects by advanced theater majors in an area of special interest. Consent of instructor. May be repeated for credit. Topics: Acting, scenography, properties, costumes, stage management, dramaturgy, sound, lighting, setting.

350 Theater Practicum. (8-12)
A specialized program for the theater major to work in a theater situation away from the Saint Benedict's/Saint John's campus theaters. An internship program arranged with another college or professional company or a touring theater company. Arranged with the department chair the previous semester.