For the fourth year, a unique theater course will be offered as an alternative to the EN102 freshman requirement.
The course currently has four available sections, shared by professors Anita Appelbaum and Monica Bauer. Each have extensive backgrounds in theater. Bauer is an award-winning playwright. Appelbaum began acting in childhood and fell in love with directing while attending graduate school at Cornell University. Since then, she has directed more than 20 plays.
“I go about my thinking of theater and my teaching of this course from a director’s point of view,” Appelbaum said. “When I give the students the text and they start reading, I start talking to them as if they were directors and asking what kind of choices they would make. When they analyze this text on paper, I ask them what choices they’ll make so that it aligns with the story in the most powerful way possible: starting from casting all the way through stage directions.”
With help from professor A. Chris Van Ness, Appelbaum formed the EN102 theater course. The class was added to the EN102 course options in the spring of 2008 semester. In spring 2009, Bauer became involved. Now, Bauer and Appelbaum teach two sections each of the class.
“The whole point of our course is to allow students to stretch their imagination around the text and then argue with the director,” Appelbaum said. “I hope by the process of working with difficult text, they learn to become more flexible readers, writers and thinkers.”
Assistant professor of English Glenda Pritchett has been the coordinator of the first year writing program for three years. This position involves coordinating all sections of EN101 and EN102–classes required for every freshman.
“[This class] gives a unique choice to students who may never have experienced live performances or thought about plays as text,” Pritchett said. “It allows students in all fields, not just drama, to have a very interesting, thought-provoking experience with literature.”
Over the course of the semester, the class reads three scripts and attends the corresponding performances. Every semester, these scripts change based on which plays are being shown in the area. Primarily, the professors look first at what plays will be shown at the Yale Repertory Theatre and the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven.
“A big mission of the course is to introduce Quinnipiac students to the wonderful resources right here,” Appelbaum said. “It’s really nice to introduce students to the theater in their backyard.”
Most often, the class travels to New Haven and Hartford. Every spring, a trip to New York City is included. There is an extra fee of $179 for each student that covers the travel and ticket fees.
“When the production is successful, students are really involved in the lives of other people, and then they come back and analyze with their heart and head what they experienced,” Appelbaum said. “To feel someone else’s pain, to be able to really feel what other people are feeling, will serve students no matter what they’re studying and in their lives.”
Students keep a blog for the class and are required to respond to their classmates’ blog posts and bring that feedback to class to generate discussion.
The discussion was the part of the class sophomore Dennis Mahoney liked most. Mahoney, a media studies major and theater minor, had background in theater from both high school and Quinnipiac when he registered for the class.
“As a student, I feel like I became more confident in understanding the text and any underlying subtext which the author may have placed in the script,” Mahoney said. “As an actor and theatergoer, I gained a critical mindset while watching performances and reading scripts. Each piece that I have read or seen since this class has been much more enjoyable to watch.”
The course is offered every semester and is open to all majors. Appelbaum assures incoming students they do not need to know, nor will they be expected to learn, technical theater terms.
“It’s enormously difficult to read plays,” Appelbaum said. “When you read a novel, it’s all there in front of you. Plays are meant to be seen. I can’t imagine the course without them being able to see the plays. It’s like the meat and potatoes, because then they have something to push against.”
Sophomore Amanda Martino “completely enjoyed the class,” and now recommends it, despite a strong dislike for theater going into the class.
She signed up for the class because her friends recommended the professor and because “anything was better than taking a regular EN102.”
“I felt that I took away a different sense of writing,” Martino said. “I was able to strongly analyze hidden meanings that are found in everyday situations and life itself.”