Theatre History II

Language, Literature & Performing Arts
Course Code
THEA 1230
Semester Length
15 weeks
Max Class Size
Method(s) Of Instruction
Typically Offered


Course Description
This is a survey course that explores Western theatre from the 17th Century to the 20th Century. Students will learn about the innovations in theatre styles and staging conventions that have occurred since the Renaissance. By attending live theatre productions, students will strengthen their critical skills and gain an appreciation for the way historical methods are adapted in contemporary productions. Students will also participate in group discussions of representative plays.
Course Content
  1. The Nature of Theatre
    • Defining the basic elements
    • Theatre in relation to other forms of art
    • Special qualities of theatrical art
  2. Different Historical Paradigms for the Use of Theatrical Space
    • The relationship between space and performance
    • The proscenium arch theatre
    • The thrust stage
    • The arena stage
    • Flexible spaces
    • Auxiliary spaces
  3. Shaping the Spectacle
    • Production design
    • The elements of visual design
    • The principles of design
    • Sets and costumes
    • Sound and lighting
  4. Theatrical Paradigm Shifts
    • Historical paradigm shifts: variations in festival theatre styles (Greek, Roman and Medieval)
    • Case study: the emergence of Restoration Comedy in late 17th Century England
    • Sample focus work: scenes from The Rover by Aphra Behn
    • Case study: The advent of Romanticism
    • Sample focus work: Hugo’s Hernani
    • Case study: the advent of realism in the late 19th Century
    • Sample focus work: Ibsen’s A Doll House
  5. The Director Takes the Stage
    • The theory of Wagner: seeking the unified “masterwork”
    • The practice of the Duke of Saxe-Meiningen: ensemble acting and unified production
    • Antoine and the Independent Theatre Movement
    • The Moscow Art Theatre; Stanislavsky and Nemerovich-Danchenko
    • Chekhov’s Drama
    • Peter Brook on directing Chekhov
  6. Reactions to Realism
    • The Symbolist Movement
    • Maeterlinck and Strindberg
    • Sample focus work: Strindberg’s The Father
    • Innovations in stage and lighting design
    • Appia and Craig
  7. New in the Early 20th Century
    • Dada and Tzara
    • Futurism and Marinetti
    • Expressionism and Kaiser
    • Sample focus work: Duras’ India Song
  8. New Styles After World War I
    • New staging approaches
    • The Federal Theatre Project and the Group Theatre in the USA
    • Brecht and Epic Theatre
    • Artaud and the Theatre of Cruelty
    • Sample focus work: scenes from Brecht and Artand
  9. New Styles After World War II
    • Psychological realism
    • The American musical
    • Pirandello and metatheatre
    • Absurdism
    • Postwar British Theatre: Pinter, Shaffer and Churchill
    • Sample focus work: scenes from the era
  10. Diversity in 20th Century Theatre
    • Alternative theatre groups
    • Grotowski and Poor Theatre
    • Environmental theatre
    • Multi-media, happenings and performance art
    • Contemporary directors
    • Cultural diversity
    • Gender issues
    • Sample focus work: Hwang’s M. Butterfly
    • Sample focus work: Vogel’s Thompson’s Lion in the Streets
    • Sample focus work: Padmanabhan’s Harvest
  11. The Contemporary Canadian Stage
    • The classics in repertory
    • New perspectives
    • Controversies and rebellions
    • The Fringe Theatre movement


Learning Activities

This course invites students to establish what is hoped will be a lifelong relationship with live theatre.  To that end, the instructor will combine lectures on the cultural and political context of landmark plays with opportunities for small group discussions.  Slides, video segments and recordings will be incorporated into the lectures and discussions.  In-class writing (short, timed, freewriting sessions in response to catalyst questions) will offer students a chance to widen the application of lecture concepts and vocabulary in a personal, critical way.  Attendance at live theatre performances will be a vital component of the course. Students will be encouraged to consider how historical theatrical knowledge can be utilized in real, self-directed, creative theatre projects.

Means of Assessment
Workshop Participation
(8 workshops at 3 marks, plus bonus mark for attendance at all workshops)
Mid-term Exam 20%
Creative, Research-Based Project 20%
Credit for In-class Writing 10%
Final Exam 25%
Total 100%
Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the course, successful students will be able to:

  1. Discuss the distinct elements of theatre as an art form.
  2. Discuss variations in what is performed (script, scenario, plan), how it is performed, and why it is performed.
  3. Articulate the way text, performance and audience are interrelated.
  4. Identify the individual and collective processes that result in a theatrical event.
  5. Describe how different audiences can play a vital part in the creation of theatrical art.
  6. Explain how the performance space reflects the changing needs of individual artists and audience members.
  7. Discuss the way theatre reflects paradigm shifts in cultural values, ideas and philosophical questions.
  8. Discuss how critics in different historical periods have evaluated the theatre of their own times.
  9. Discuss how theatre of other times and places can be made meaningful to contemporary audiences, with particular reference to post-Renaissance Western Theatre.
  10. Develop a criteria for evaluating live theatre based on knowledge and experience.
  11. Demonstrate how social, cultural, political, religious and economic forces shape theatrical art.
  12. Demonstrate how theatrical conventions are reflected, rejected or combined over time by successive generations of artists.
  13. Recognize the use of historical theatrical devices in contemporary theatre.
  14. Use the vocabulary of theatre history with accuracy and precision.
  15. Rise to the challenge of reading dramatic language aloud with minimal preparation time.
  16. Demonstrate increased skills in recording and summarizing the verbal comments of peers in a discussion setting.
  17. Demonstrate tolerance for critical views that may be different from their own.
  18. Demonstrate increased skills as receptive and engaged audience members.
  19. Write theatre reviews that are balanced, insightful and specific.
  20. Utilize library resources for theatre history study.
  21. Undertake challenging reading assignments with an awareness of studying a text as an ongoing creative process.
  22. Value the instinctive responses and questions that emerge in the initial reading of a dramatic text.
  23. Value the contemplative responses and detailed questions that emerge with close study of a particular scene.
  24. Value the responses and questions of other students to a script or performance, and show a willingness to see through others’ eyes.
  25. Value coherence and specificity in written work, and show a willingness to revise a written response to strengthen coherence and specificity.
  26. Engage with a dramatic text in a creative way, envisioning original design concepts and fresh directorial ideas for the work.

Textbook Materials

A list of recommended textbooks and materials is provided on the Instructor’s Course Outline which is available to students at the beginning of each semester.

The following or equivalent textbooks are required:

  • Wilson, Edwin and Alvin Goldfarb. Living Theatre: A History. Fourth Edition. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2004.
  • Worthen, W.B. The Wadsworth Anthology of Drama. Fourth Edition Boston: Wadsworth, 2004.

Students will be expected to pay for tickets to two local performing arts events at a total anticipated cost of $30.00.



No prerequisite courses.


No corequisite courses.


No equivalent courses.

Course Guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester / year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

Course Transfers

These are for current course guidelines only. For a full list of archived courses please see

Institution Transfer Details for THEA 1230
Capilano University (CAPU) CAPU ASAS 120 (3)
Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) No credit
Langara College (LANG) LANG ENGL 1191 (3)
Simon Fraser University (SFU) SFU CA 1XX (3)
Thompson Rivers University (TRU) TRU THTR 2XXX (3)
Trinity Western University (TWU) DOUG THEA 1130 (3) & DOUG THEA 1230 (3) = TWU THTR 332 (3)
University of British Columbia - Okanagan (UBCO) DOUG THEA 1110 (3) & DOUG THEA 1230 (3) = UBCO THTR 1st (6)
University of British Columbia - Okanagan (UBCO) UBCO ELEV 1st (3)
University of British Columbia - Okanagan (UBCO) DOUG THEA 1130 (3) & DOUG THEA 1230 (3) = UBCO THTR 1st (6)
University of British Columbia - Vancouver (UBCV) UBCV THTR 120 (3) or UBCV THTR 1st (3)
University of Northern BC (UNBC) UNBC HUMN 1XX (3)
University of Victoria (UVIC) UVIC THEA 246 (1.5)

Course Offerings

Fall 2022