Intro to Theatre – Theatrical Performance Essay

[reposted from the Fall 2019 STLR Student Newsletter; written by Camille Farrell]

In Alicia Tafoya’s Intro to Theatre class, she STLR-tagged a Theatrical Performance Essay for Research, Creative and Scholarly Activities (RCSA) credit. Students attended a live musical theatre performance and responded to several re ective prompts. Alicia asked students to connect what they were learning in class to what they experienced live. Questions included discipline-specific theater content and the beyond-disciplinary impact of creativity expressed by critically studying the performance.

The assignment became an experiential, transformative learning opportunity beyond reading and discussing a play in terms of theory and textbooks. The prompts included: did the production have impact or value beyond only pure entertainment?; what meaning(s) did the design or performance choices convey to them personally (with explanation); and if the student had been the director, would they have done anything differently – why or why not? Alicia’s goals for students to reach RCSA Exposure included attending the production and analyzing the play and creativity.

For Alicia, a student might reach RCSA Integration if they not only became aware of their own perspectives of production design, but also how creativity used in costumes, styling, stage backdrops, and props can move an audience to see deeper meanings. Those things help people not only enjoy watching a fun show for a few hours, but see themselves in the characters’ world and the intent of the author(s). By students putting themselves in the director’s shoes, ideally, they might begin seeing themselves as a creative artist and scholar, while being able to appreciate other methods, outcomes, and interpretations of a work.

Tafoya said, “I use STLR reflections to help students connect class content to real world application. In theatre, understanding how choices of performers affects storytelling is a part of the scholarly process. STLR assignments provide a platform for academic and critical analysis of artistic choices and execution. It is my hope that these assignments also provide an entrance into scholarly writing for students in my field.”

Some student responses included: “I believe [the play] impacts people because there are so many storylines that you can relate to one of the characters no matter who you are” and “seeing the show in person…was another experience entirely…when a show is brought to life before your very eyes, it provides an entirely new dimension of escapism and… does not let you leave until the curtain’s final descent.”

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