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THEA221 Theatre: Ancient to Contemporary

A survey of international theatre from Ancient Theatre to Contemporary Performance. The conceptual, critical understanding of plays, productions, and the formal characteristics of different types of performance.

This paper introduces students to some of the most important movements, authors and styles of theatre from ancient times through to contemporary performance. We look at not just the content of works - what is said in them - but also form - how it is said. THEA 221 is a core second-year subject in Theatre Studies at the University of Otago.

Paper title Theatre: Ancient to Contemporary
Paper code THEA221
Subject Theatre Studies
EFTS 0.1500
Points 18 points
Teaching period First Semester
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $868.95
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $3,656.70

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(THEA 121 or THEA 122) or 54 points
Schedule C
Arts and Music
Teaching staff
Paper Coordinator: Professor Stuart Young
Paper Structure
Assessment is a combination of critical writing and oral presentations, with the options of a) performances of scenes and b) re-imagining -“ rewriting -“ classic texts.

Further information on assessments is given in the course outline, which is updated annually on the basis of student feedback and other changes.
Teaching Arrangements
This subject is largely taught through lectures and seminars.

Further information on teaching arrangements is given in the course outline, which is updated annually.
Required Texts:
  • Martin Crimp, Attempts on Her Life (Faber); also available in Martin Crimp, Plays 2 (Faber)
  • Euripides, Hippolytus, in Medea and Other Plays, tr. John Davie (Penguin)
  • Charles Selby, London by Night (eReserve)
  • Henrik Ibsen, Plays: Two, tr. Michael Meyer (Methuen)
  • Anton Chekhov, Three Sisters, tr. Stuart Young (available from Uniprint)
  • Bertolt Brecht, Mother Courage and Her Children, tr. Tony Kushner (Methuen)
  • Samuel Becket, Waiting for Godot, Grove Atlantic (or Faber)
Supplementary Texts (for group projects):Plays
  • Seneca, Phaedra (in Seneca, Four Tragedies and Octavia; trd with an introduction by E. F. Watling, Penguin)
  • Jean Racine, Phèdre: Racine's Phaedra, translated by Derek Mahon. Oldcastle, Co. Meath, Ireland: Gallery Books
  • Eugene O’Neill, Desire Under the Elms in O’Neill; available in Three Plays: Desire Under the Elms, Strange Interlude, and Mourning Becomes Electra (Vintage)
  • Tony Harrison, Phaedra Britannica, in Harrison, Plays 2 (Faber) and in Theatre Works 1973-1985 (Penguin)
  • Brian Friel, Living Quarters, also available in Friel, Plays 1 (Faber) or Selected Plays
  • Sarah Kane, Phaedra’s Love (Methuen); also in Kane, Collected Plays (or in Kane, Blasted and Phaedra's Love)
  • Timberlake Wertenbaker, The Break of Day (Faber), available in Wertenbaker, Plays: Two
  • Apirana Taylor, Whaea Kairau: Mother Hundred Eater, in Apirana Taylor, Kohanga and Whaea Kairau: Mother Hundred Eater (Pohutukawa Press)
DVDs in Audio-Visual Collection of the Central Library
  • Elizabeth LeCompte; Jean Racine, To you, the birdie! Phèdre. New York: The Wooster Group, (2001/2002-4)
  • Elizabeth LeCompte, Sheena See, Kate Valk, Brace up! New York: The Wooster Group, (1990/2009)
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Lifelong learning, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Information literacy, Research, Self-motivation.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
Students who successfully complete the subject will gain basic literacy in key theatrical authors, styles, forms, and terms, as well as skills in research, essay writing and communicating knowledge and ideas.

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First Semester

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
L1 Tuesday 10:00-11:50 9-13, 15-22
Thursday 10:00-11:50 9-13, 15-22


Stream Days Times Weeks
Attend one stream from
A1 Tuesday 13:00-13:50 9-13, 15-22
A2 Tuesday 14:00-14:50 9-13, 15-22