Spring 2020 - CA 457 D100

Context of Theatre III (4)

Class Number: 9025

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Fr 9:30 AM – 12:20 PM
    GCA 4390, GOLDCORP

  • Instructor:

    Peter Dickinson
    1 778 782-9912
    Office: GCA 3510
    Office Hours: By appointment
  • Prerequisites:

    Prior approval from the instructor.



An analytical approach to a selected body of dramatic work and/or performances. Includes an intensive consideration of practical dramatic techniques such as story structure and dramaturgy. Students with credit for FPA 457 may not take this course for further credit.


This course focuses on the intersections of theatre and history, both the representation of historical events on stage and the historiography of theatre as a form. While our discussions will not proceed chronologically, we will nevertheless remain focused throughout on how performance intersects with the work of historical memory.

We begin by considering histories of place, resituating a Western dramatic tradition within the context of our occupation of unceded Indigenous territories. Next, we look at a closet drama from seventeenth-century England to ask why there are apparently so few women in theatre history. We then examine Brechtian techniques of historicization in the German playwright’s most famous text, as well as two contemporary feminist responses to his work.

After the mid-term break, we turn our attention to ghosted performance histories via a discussion of two postdramatic updates of Hamlet and also the hauntings of local Vancouver theatre buildings. The ghosts of theatre history will continue to preoccupy us when next we look at how two contemporary playwrights from the Americas (one Indigenous, the other African-American) re-appropriate the denigrated nineteenth-century form of minstrelsy. Finally, we will conclude by focusing more closely on how a single playwright has formally responded to staging the complexities of the historical present, contextualizing our discussions in terms of the arc of her professional career.


  • Attendance and participation 15%
  • Quizzes 20%
  • Three short group presentations 30%
  • Paper 20%
  • Final Test 15%



Additional critical articles will be posted as pdfs to Canvas.


Bertolt Brecht, Mother Courage and Her Children (London: Bloomsbury Methuen, 2012 [1939]
ISBN: 978-0413492708

Margaret Cavendish, The Convent of Pleasure (1668; pdf posted to Canvas)

Caryl Churchill, Vinegar Tom (1976; pdf posted to Canvas)

Caryl Churchill, Plays 4 (London: Nick Hern Books, 2009)
ISBN: 978-1854595409

Caryl Churchill, Love and Information (New York: Theatre Communications Group, 2013)
ISBN: 978-1559364409

Marie Clements, Age of Iron (1993; pdf posted to Canvas)

Daniel David Moses, Almighty Voice and His Voice, 2nd ed. (Toronto: Playwrights Canada Press, 2009 [1991])
ISBN: 978-0887548970

Heiner Müller, Hamletmachine (1977; pdf posted to Canvas)

Lynn Nottage, Ruined (New York: Theatre Communications Group, 2009)
ISBN: 978-1559363556

Suzan-Lori Parks, The America Play and other works (New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1994)
ISBN: 978-1559360920

Rebecca Schneider, Theatre & History (London: Palgrave, 2014)
ISBN: 978-0230246614

Wooster Group Hamlet (2007; to be viewed outside of class)

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html