Syllabus: Drama is Life

"Big Questions" is a new course series in the School of Humanities

Photo by Jeff Fitlow
Photo by Jeff Fitlow

Co-teachers Joseph Campana, the Alan Dugald McKillop Professor of English, and Christina Keefe, director of the Rice Theatre Program, are combining their complementary scholarly approaches to the wide world of theater to debut the School of Humanities’ new course series, “Big Questions.” Each course will take a multidisciplinary approach to some of the most compelling questions of our time. 

HUMA 121: Is All the World a Stage?
Department: Humanities
Description: This new course introduces students to the history of theatrical performance and the everyday drama of human interaction.

Is All the World a Stage? focuses on how performance is part of our daily lives. “Theater is everywhere,” said Keefe. “Instagram, Snapchat — all social media is a form of theater because it’s the mask you show the outside world.” 

“This is an incredible opportunity to learn the history and practice of theater from two experts, while also getting the opportunity to view performances and art installations across Houston,” said graduate student Matt Southey, the class’s teaching assistant. 

Throughout the semester, students read a wide range of dramas, including works by Euripides, Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde, as well as modern plays by Moisés Kaufman and Qui Nguyen. Classes alternate between discussions led by Campana and acting workshops led by Keefe, all leading up to the final assignment — a scripted group project created, performed or recorded by the students themselves.

“I wanted to take this class because the intersection of drama analysis and physical theater represents an interesting change of pace,” said Zachary Verne ’20. “Right now we are focusing on building a chorus, which is a fun exercise since we have people with a variety of theater experiences. It’s different from anything else I’ve done in my theater education.”

An important focus of the class is how observing and interpreting real experiences is an essential part of making art. “The best way to understand the world around us is to use theatrical thinking,” Campana said. “When you start looking at the world that way, everything can look quite different.”