Theater has an affinity to capture life’s deepest complexities—turning fictional characters and literary themes into words wished to be spoken and emotions longed to be openly expressed by its audience. This course will grapple with themes on Jewish identity, experienced in the contemporary age. Students will be explore Jewish identity as it fits with homosexuality, women’s roles in society, and familial and spiritual belonging in the modern-day. The plays explored in this course will expand on the complexities and expectations of society, family, and oneself in being Jewish, and what it truly means to be a “Jew’. Students will read through several plays written by Jewish playwrights, varying from comedic satire to deeply emotional and proactive literature. Students will engage in discussion of the plays and question whether the themes conveyed in each piece affect Jews in America, Jews as a culture worldwide—and how might these challenges affect one’s own identity. The goal of the class is to analyze the internal and external afflictions that we face as individuals, and as a society, in the struggle between self-identity and social acceptance.
This course will be divided into two parts. The first 5 weeks of the class will focus on reading assigned plays and engaging in intellectual discussion about the themes presented in the play. Students will be required to come to class prepared to discuss the major themes in the play assigned for the week, as well as present thought-provoking questions about Jewish identity and appropriate themes, which will encourage class participation and open debate. These 5 weeks will also include guest speakers from the world of theater, with an emphasis on Jewish theater expertise (including playwrights, actors, and academics).
The remaining 8 weeks of the course will turn into production of a full-length play or a series of short acts which will culminate with a final performance, open to the Berkeley community. At the 5-week mark, students will decide whether they would prefer to put on a class play or split-up into smaller “casts” and work on group scenes—this will be left up to the students.
The assignments will consist of submitting a play proposal, a character analysis if a student is acting in the play or a set design plan if they are on the production, and the final is the performance itself. Students are allowed one excused and one unexcused absence, and MUST attend the final performance day.