Theatre Collaboration

July 7, 2011

Course Description

The integration and application of principles of theatre collaboration. Students participate in the collaborative creation of a play production while examining the ideas/principles of social justice, community, and the immigration issues in Charlotte. The process results in a final class project/presentation.

Course Context

The population of Charlotte, North Carolina has doubled since 1990 to almost 1 million residents. The immigrant population has increased 560%, making Charlotte, North Carolina one of the most popular immigrant destinations in the country. As the multi-cultural immigrant influx is new to the traditionally bi-racial culture of Charlotte, this community is at a crossroads on how it will respond to diverse newcomers. Will Charlotte be a community that is embracing of its new immigrant residents or will the community embrace much of the anti-immigrant policies currently being implemented in other high immigrant communities, like Arizona? Given the lack of community leadership and experience on this issue, the many community members are looking to the University for guidance.

Sometimes in classes even with elements that engage the community, student and community voices are marginalized. In this class, we demonstrate an engagement pedagogy that challenges that power dynamic. This radical approach connects the student and community around a specific community issue: immigration in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Theatre Collaboration course uses the Chicago storefront theatre as a model of a collaborative community. In the storefront model, production costs are kept to a minimum by forgoing spectacle while emphasizing “the creative use of small spaces; the creative ability to problem-solve with limited resources; the intimate actor–audience dynamic; and the cross-trained artist.” Along with investigating the concepts of social capital and social justice that include the ideas of access, inclusion, equity, and trust, students conceive, write, rehearse, and perform a devised script that is based on primary and secondary source material, mostly interviews from community members in or a part of the immigrant community. The student will then choose a section of the interview to transcribe, and the transcription will become the script for a monologue. The student will perform the transcript verbatim, using the community member’s words and speech patterns to create a character. There will be a public performance of this monologue.

This experiential-based learning process, which is both interdisciplinary and co-taught, promotes mutually beneficial exchange of skills, and resources in a context of partnership, community engagement, and reciprocity. Evidence for this change is the devised play itself and the community reaction to the play. This model represents new avenues for engagement that prioritize the student and community voice, redefine the concept of public art and discourse, and posit a process of creating art as a collaborative and civic act.

  • Theatre Objectives
  • Devise original dramatic work
  • Define and use collaborative skills
  • Employ the tools of voice and body
  • Create and use space evocatively
  • Describe the storefront theatre model
  • Translate words and ideas into visual images
  • Use the language of the art form

Crossroads Objectives

  • Demonstrate understanding of the demographic changes within the community and on campus.
  • Define and apply concepts of social capital and social justice including access, inclusion, equity, and trust.
  • Articulate and demonstrate the connection between theatre, community building, and social change.


Fires in the Mirror by Anna Deavere Smith (at bookstore)

The Laramie Project by Moisés Kaufman and the Tectonic Theater (Moodle)

Various readings: handouts and Moodle


Course Work

  1. Final Project: Students will write, design, and present an original, devised work modeled after Fires in the Mirror and The Laramie Project
  2. Students will interview members of the immigrant community, transcribe the interviews, and organize the transcriptions (along with articles from print media) as a dramatic work.
  3. Students will write a critique of Rowing to America. Instructions concerning content of the critique will be discussed and posted on Moodle.
  4. Students will keep a journal and are required to submit 10 entries. Students will be required to record in her/his journal:
    1. An entry discussing some aspect of the assigned reading, and
    2. A summary/response to class content and discussions.
    3. Further instructions: Summarizing consists of two essential skills: (1) identifying the important material in the text/lectures/discussions/activities and (2) restating the information in your own words.
  5. Individual research assignments will be given to students throughout the semester.
  6. Students are expected to attend all 4 of the department’s productions in the Spring semester.
  7. Your class participation grade will include an evaluation of your:
    1. Work on the Final Project
    2. Progress
    3. Participation in discussions
    4. Demonstration of collaboration skills
  8. Student Performance of the play for the community, especially the community members interviewed.



400-500 = A
300-399 = B
200-299 = C
100-199 = D
0-99 = F


Class Participation 100 points
Critique (RTA) 50
Journal 50
Interviews/Transcription 50
Research 50
Production attendance 50
Final Project 100
Final Perfromance 50

Required Attendance at Productions

You are required to attend 4 departmental productions during the semester (schedule below). You will write a critique for Rowing to America: The Immigrant Project.

Final Project

The goal of this course is the collective creation of a class project to be determined as the class evolves throughout the semester. Because the process used by the class is as important as the final result, the evaluation of the final project will thus be determined by the work of the class throughout the semester as well as the end result.

Course Outline

Jan 14: Class 1


Crossroads: Access, Inclusion, Equity, and Trust

Theatre: Collaboration and the Storefront Theatre Model

Crown Heights 1991: introduction for Fires in the Mirror



Jan 21: Class 2

Introducing the Form

Joe Salvatore

Assignment Due: Read Fires in the Mirror and The New Yorker article


Jan 28: Class 3

Telling Stories

Review Joe and the Interview Process

Discuss reading

Goal: acting (voice/speech, collaboration, interpretation, memorization)

Activities: The Liars Club; Acting Nightmares

Assignment Due: Journal Entry #1; Reading TBA


Feb 4: Class 4

Structure and Textual Exploration/Analysis

Assignment Due: The Laramie Project (on Moodle); Journal Entry #2


Feb 11: Class 5

Field Trip 1: out into the community

Assignment Due: Journal Entry #3; Reading TBA


Feb 18: Class 6

Preparing for the interview: Practice

Interview Partners

3-5 open-ended questions

Acting/Interpreting the interview

Assignment Due: Reading, TBA; Critique-Rowing to America: The Immigrant Project


Feb 24: Class 7

Preparing for the interview, continued

Interview Partners

Assignment Due: Journal Entry #4; Reading TBA


March 4: Class 8

Interviews Day 1

Assignment Due: Journal Entry #5; Reading, TBA


March 18: Class 9

Transcribe and Organize

Assignment Due: Interviews (conducted outside of class); Transcription and notes; Reading TBA


March 25: Class 10

Transcribe and Organize

Assignment Due: Transcription and notes; Journal Entry #6; Reading TBA


April 1: Class 11

Transcribe and Organize

Production Schedule and Assignments

Assignment Due: Transcription and notes; Journal Entry #7; Reading TBA


April 8: Class 12:

Creating Space and Work on Production Design; Rehearse

Assignment Due: Production materials gathered; Journal Entry #8


April 15: Class 13


Assignment Due: Rehearsal and Scene construction (outside class activity); Journal #9; Reading TBA


April 29: Class 14

Preview and Perform

Assignment Due: Journal Entry #10

Assignment Due: Outside rehearsal and Design Production


Theatre Department Production Schedule: Spring 2011


Moon Prince: A Rap Opera

Wednesday, January 12, 10:00 AM-12:00

Thursday, January 13, 10:00 AM-12:00 PM

Friday, January 14, 10:00 AM-12:00 and 8:00 PM-10:00 PM

Saturday, January 15, 8:00 PM-10:00 PM

Sunday, January 16, 2:00 PM-4:00 PM


Rowing to America: The Immigrant Project

Rowe Arts | White Box Theater

Thu Feb 24th, 8:00pm

Fri Feb 25th, 8:00pm

Sat Feb 26th, 8:00pm

Sun Feb 27th, 2:00pm


Rising Water

Robinson Hall-Belk Theatre

Wed Mar 23rd, 8:00pm

Thu Mar 24th, 8:00pm

Fri Mar 25th, 8:00pm

Sat Mar 26th, 8:00pm

Sun Mar 27th, 2:00pm

School: University of North Carolina Charlotte
Professor: Susan Harden and Robin Witt
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