How is performance utopian by design? How do we perform utopias in our daily lives? This course examines the performative dimensions of utopia and the utopian aspirations of performance. According to Jill Dolan, performance can be a utopian prompt, a space and time to imagine new forms of sociality and ways of being in the world. Using a case-study model, we will consider how different modes of performance–theatre, dance, film, art, and, more recently, social media–have helped produce and sustain utopian socialities in and across shifting temporalities in the U.S. imaginary, including: the Shakers, Harmony, Oneida, Drop City, Soul City, The Farm, as well as recent “intentional communities” that envision “opting out” as a new way of inhabiting earth in the Anthropocene. Alongside such real-world examples, we will consider how performance itself has been theorized as a productively utopian (and also dystopian) realm by critics like Jill Dolan, Miranda Joseph, and Jose E. Muñoz, and artists and companies like Bread and Puppet, The Living Theatre, Rachel Rosenthal, Miguel Gutierrez, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Faye Driscoll, Theaster Gates, Nick Cave, and Taylor Mac. As a way of gaining knowledge through embodied practice, students will work collaboratively each week to envision, create, and perform everyday “mini-utopias” that rise and fall ephemerally. Students will be required to attend a weekend field trip to The Shaker Museum in Hancock, MA, and may as well, when relevant, be asked to attend various live performances or exhibitions at local arts institutions throughout the term.
The Class: Format: seminar; This course will contain a studio component
Requirements/Evaluation: In-class writing and participation; collaborative, weekly creations of "mini-utopias"; a 6-8 page midterm paper based on independent, archival research; leading of a 10-minute in-class discussion; and a final, 15-minute collaborative performance, or other creative presentation, developed from case-study research and inclusive of an invited audience.
Enrollment Preferences: Theatre majors
Distributions: Division I