Wednesday, December 2, 2009

teaching/learning the dramatic

i know very little about canadian drama. actually, i know very little about contemporary drama at all. the theatre of the absurd is where my knowledge seems to drop off the map. i read Ionesco's RhinocĂ©ros in a french course, and thoroughly enjoyed his humour. So where do you start when trying to familiarize yourself with such a huge genre as theatre?  Especially when you are being asked to compose a curriculum to introduce first-year undergraduates to playwriting? i tend not to start with the "canon" but that means i might miss references to popular, current work. And i wonder, do new readers want to learn the canon? Do they expect it? Would they be disappointed if i began with outsider theatre? avant-garde theatre? unknown theatre?  What is the canon anyway, and where do i find out who belongs and who doesn't?

the problems of the canon extend beyond drama, to any literary genre. i distrust it, even as i study the writers considered great. Many of them are great. But why do some writers enter this mainstream discourse and others fade away?  Lack of time and resources?  The need for a similar foundation of material across academia? Some of each of these, probably, not to mention the politics of the time determining why some writing is relevant and other writing not.

What if i taught drama using a combination of film, stage, video game, and graphic novel?  All these combine the visual & the word.  They are narratives most students may be familiar with.  But it becomes a scriptwriting course, rather than a playwriting course.  This is all theoretical right now, i'm not actually teaching drama to anybody. But when I do?

More questions than answers. Suggestions welcome.

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