Make a play for the future.
In this seminar-style course we will focus on science fiction as sub-genre of theatre. We will examine structural and thematic similarities between the academic study of science fiction and theatre pivoting around the conceptual heritage shared by both Darko Suvin’s cognitive estrangement (from science fiction) and Bertoldt Brecht’s Verfremdungseffekt (from theatre). We will analyze these concepts as techne that utilize entertainment to prick the collective imagination and instigate social or political change by inviting the audience to imagine a world that is not but could be. Additionally, we will consider the unique limitations and opportunities that theatre provides as a discrete medium for science fiction narratives.
Beginning with Robots and Artificial Intelligence we will focus our reading and research on plays dealing with specific science fiction tropes, including the Post-Apocalyptic, Space Travel, Virtual Reality, and Afrofuturism, and we will consider how these narratives propose social action and/or warn against unintended consequences.
As the semester unfolds, we will consider the content of these plays – specifically, the ways that their authors have focused our attention on the intersection between technology (or the lack of technology) and issues of social justice and how the future is used as a speculative history to comment on our current moment. At the same time, we will look at how these writers developed new dramatic forms – proposing new ways of thinking about plot, character and dramatic action. In other words, we’ll be thinking not only about what these plays mean, but how they create meaning through form and structure.
The plays we’ll read were chosen for various reasons: some for their historical significance, others for their formal innovations, and most for the varied approaches to placing science
fiction narratives on stage. Beyond that, these plays forward no single ideology or agenda. Rather, the course is structured as an open-ended inquiry, inviting you to formulate your own ideas about the evolving relationship between theatre, science fiction discourse and powerful role of speculative narrative in the social imagination. By the end of the semester, expect to articulate your own position on the significance or function of science fiction theatre.
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