In the wake of Black Lives Matter, the insurrection in January 2021 on our nation's capital, a global pandemic, and the Trump presidency, the very notion of what "America" is, has been, or ever was is being grappled with on a global scale. The nation is fractured in its sense of national and cultural identities and is struggling to imagine a collective future. This course examines the concept/model of a "national theater" and interrogates the cultural, historical, and political role these institutions play within their countries. It examines what role the theater can, should, or should not play within the formation, reinforcement or dismantling of national and cultural identities.
Through an examination of models such as the Teatro Nacional de Venezuela, the National Theater Company of China, the Uganda National Cultural Center, Ireland's Abbey Theater, and France's Comédie-Française, this course looks at: (1) how politics, history, and culture give rise to/craft the shape of national theater agendas; (2) the role of national theaters in building/challenging/reinforcing national and cultural identities; (3) how government agendas and public funding can affect the role that national theaters play; and (4) how the colonial legacy of a European national theater model has influenced non-Western models.
Students will engage with theoretical and non-western notions of "nation," and debate the role/responsibility of a "national theater" to provide representation and inclusive/pluralist notions of cultural identity. Students will then look at historic attempts in the United States to create national theater concepts such as the Federal Theater Project, the Living Newspaper, and the American National Theater and Academy. For their final project, students will be asked to imagine/craft a proposal for a "National Theater" for the United States.