Theses/Dissertations - Theatre Arts

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    A duty to participate : a dramaturg’s approach to Twelve Angry Jurors.
    (May 2023) Scott, Hailey, 1997-; Toten Beard, Deanna M., 1969-
    In 1954 the teleplay by Reginald Rose Twelve Angry Men premiered on CBS’s Studio One anthology series. It was an immediate stand-out in the works of the already boundary breaking Rose. The story about the power of one person to stand up against seeming insurmountable odds to seek mercy for a stranger struck a chord with audiences that would carry it to a permanent place in popular culture. Like the rest of Rose’s work, it used the legal system as a device to examine the responsibilities we have to each other. Multiple stage versions were developed to bring the story to live audiences in the decades since. This thesis examines the production process surrounding the October 2022 Baylor Theatre production of Twelve Angry Jurors. It explores the playwright’s life and work, and the history of the development of the script from which we worked. It then details my role as the dramaturg in this process while explaining theory of dramaturgical practice.
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    A director’s approach to A Monster Calls.
    (May 2023) Curto, Chelsea, 1990-; Jortner, David, 1971-
    This thesis documents and analyzes the directorial approach to the process and product of A Monster Calls, produced at Baylor University at the beginning of December 2022. This piece charts the conception of the adaptation of A Monster Calls from idea to novel to stage production and engages ecocritical theory as a lens through which to analyze the script and develop a directorial concept for the Baylor production. The thesis also charts the development, design, and rehearsal process of staging the Baylor production, emphasizing the director’s effort to facilitate a communal and collaborative artistic process. The thesis ends with an analysis of the reception of the process and product of the work and an autoethnographic reflection of the director’s role in bringing the piece to life.
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    ¡Viva la Raza! : using audience reception theory to identify the American hegemonic influences of early Mechicana/o theatre.
    (August 2022) Alvarez, Haley Anissa, 1998-; Jortner, David, 1971-
    Using audience reception theory, the aim of this work is to determine the factors that manipulated and influenced the experience and success of the musical Zoot Suit. Whilst studying archival records of the production’s reviews, this essay will also analyze the influence the media and newspapers had on how the musical was received and whether these outlets determined the success of Luis Valdez’s work. Finally, this research will analyze and compare the Spanish press coverage and the English press coverage with the hypothesis that due to the lack of attention the Spanish press gave to the musical Zoot Suit, the ideology of the presence of an absence is considered to be a possible factor contributing to the failure of the musical in New York.
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    Adventure towards community : a director's approach to Bryony Lavery's Treasure Island.
    (2022-04-27) Dillard, Abigail Frances, 1994-; Jortner, David, 1971-
    This thesis documents the production process and the directorial approach to Treasure Island produced at Baylor University at the end of February 2022. This work examines Bryony Lavery’s biography and that of her co-author Robert Louis Stevenson. It discusses the inspiration of the two authors, their connections to the piece, and includes and analysis of the play through the lens of adaptation and Anne Hutcheon’s theory of adaptation. and it’s use as an analysis tool for the script. As this adaptation presents Jim Hawkins as a young girl, we look at the impact of adapting the gender of the characters and its push to include everyone in this adventure story through a cast of playable pirates. The thesis also discusses the development of the director’s concept, the design process, auditions, rehearsals, and the run of sold-out performances in Baylor Theatre’s Mabee theatre. Additionally, this thesis explores the impact of COVID-19 on the production, the audience reception, and the impact of a show performed with an emphasis on community.
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    Carry it with you : trauma and identity in Heather Raffo’s 9 Parts of Desire and Noura.
    (2022-05-02) Elnaggar, Suzanne M., 1988-; Jortner, David, 1971-
    Heather Raffo, an acclaimed Iraqi-American playwright, is best known for her dramatic narratives, 9 Parts of Desire and Noura, which focus on Iraq and Iraqi women. Trained as an actor, Raffo felt compelled to write the culturally conscious and identity-informed roles for herself which were lacking in Western theatre. As part of the cohort of rising Middle Eastern and North African playwrights, her plays focus on representing both trauma and identity. While trauma studies has only more recently been applied to performance, Raffo’s corpus is apt for analyses from the lenses of represented historical, cultural, and personal trauma, as well as consideration in light of spectator- and witnesship. After an introduction in the first chapter, in the second chapter this thesis establishes the biography of Raffo and a brief production history of her work. Next, the third chapter surveys trauma studies and establishes the theoretical structures which will be applied to Raffo’s texts. Through analyses of the narratives, the fourth chapter examines represented trauma in 9 Parts of Desire while the fifth evaluates the same in Noura. This thesis then concludes that Raffo’s plays, as a whole, can be read as a commentary on Middle Eastern, North African, and specifically, Iraqi identity and representation, on both stage and page, of the trauma associated with those lived experiences.
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    From Christmas lights to candlelight : a director's approach to Alfred Uhry's The Last Night of Ballyhoo.
    (2022-05-02) Olson, Emily N., 1985-; Denman, Stan.
    In 1996 playwright Alfred Uhry was commissioned to write a play for the Cultural Olympiad in honor of the upcoming Summer Olympic Games that were to be held in his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia. The resulting play, The Last Night of Ballyhoo, is the story of a Southern Jewish family in Atlanta in 1939 grappling with their own opposing and overlapping social, cultural, and familial identities. It is Uhry’s second play in a series of works that would come to be known as his “Atlanta Trilogy,” which explores the complex cultural identity of Jews in the American South in the mid-twentieth century. In September of 2021, The Last Night of Ballyhoo was produced on the Baylor University Theatre stage. This thesis examines the directorial process of that production from research on the life and works of playwright Alfred Uhry and a directorial script analysis through the development of the director’s artistic concept, the collaborative design and rehearsal processes to the final performances.
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    A director’s approach to Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville : a Sherlock Holmes mystery.
    (2021-08-05) Vermeulen-Wise, Edward E., 1977-; Jortner, David, 1971-
    This thesis documents the production process and the directorial approach to Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery performed at Baylor University in the spring of 2021. The work explores Ken Ludwig’s biography, how his writings are inspired by the comedies in the Great Tradition, and an analysis of the play. As subgenre of comedy, mysteries share many of the same qualities as comedies in the Great Tradition. Ludwig’s adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles shares a pedigree with the greatest mysteries ever written, wrapped in a comic guise influenced by the works of Shakespeare, Sheridan, and Goldsmith. Additionally, this thesis explores the challenges that arose in the design and rehearsals processes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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    Women, witches, and water : a director’s approach to Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s Abigail/1702.
    (2021-08-01) Holt, Jessica Ann, 1984-; Toten Beard, Deanna M., 1969-
    American playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa took inspiration from many sources, most notably Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, and combined them to reexamine the post-Salem life of the infamous Abigail Williams in his Abigail/1702. His play stands as a feminist counter-point to Miller’s work, allowing for the redemption of Abigail, who becomes the central character. In the play, Aguirre-Sacasa’s propensity for working in a postmodern style and his strong interest in American gothic combines powerfully with biblical imagery and is influenced by popular culture forms including the comic book and episodic television. This thesis will explore and outline the production process for the 2020 Baylor University production of Abigail/1702, including how the COVID-19 pandemic and other challenges were addressed. The evolution of the directing concept into the final image of descent through a well to find living water will be outlined, as well as the design and rehearsal process.
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    Broadening the circle : the evolution of survivance and mimicry as theme in selected Native American drama.
    (2020-07-14) Stone, Michael A., 1992-; Jortner, David, 1971-
    From its beginning the modern Native American Literary Dramatic Project has been rooted in the desire to define and preserve a voice driven to the brink of extinction by the forces of Euroamerican colonization. Over time, as the threat of outright extinction has waned, Native American playwrights have begun exploring means of developing Native American voices and resisting colonial assimilation. Hanay Geiogamah’s Body Indian, the first play ever produced by the Native American Theatre Ensemble, developed a combination of survival and resistance Gerald Vizenor would later term, “survivance,” and N. Scott Momaday’s first play, The Indolent Boys, turned to the postcolonial concept of mimicry as a means of resisting the cultural erasure of America’s boarding school project. Randy Reinholz’ play, Off the Rails, which premiered at the Oregon Shakespeare festival in 2017, presents the attempt to unify these themes and develop the next step forward in Native American drama.
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    Read it out loud : the construction of Southern identity within the living newspaper plays of the Federal Theatre Project.
    (2020-07-17) Hiles, Kahre A., 1995-; Jortner, David, 1971-
    Utilizing Benedict Anderson’s concept of community and nation, this study looks at how the American South was portrayed within the interwar years, specifically by or within the living newspaper plays of the Federal Theater Project. The criteria set forth by various critics from the time define the aspects of identity needed to create a representation of the South from a non-Southern perspective. The first set of plays that are analyzed are all products of the New York Unit: Triple-A Plowed Under, Power, and The South. The final living newspaper discussed is King Cotton, a regional piece written by the unit at Chapel Hill in North Carolina. Though written by non-Southerners, the style is distinctly of the region. This play offers a more authentic look at Southern identity through the blending of two forms of drama: living newspapers and folk plays.
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    A real woman : a director's approach to Federico Garcia Lorca's Yerma.
    (2020-04-30) Williams, Valerie Lynn, 1975-; Toten Beard, Deanna M., 1969-
    Federico García Lorca’s play Yerma tells the story of a young woman in a rural Spanish town, who has been married for over two years and has not become pregnant. Her husband, Juan, says he does not want children but Yerma searches for a solution to their infertility. In the end, Yerma realizes she will never have children with Juan, she decides to kill him and the possibility of ever having children. This thesis documents the analytical, design, and rehearsal processes as well as the overall directorial approach to Yerma as performed at Baylor University in the spring of 2020.
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    Unpacking the individual : a director's approach to Ionesco's Rhinoceros.
    (2020-04-30) Kennedy, Chad Landon, 1980-; Denman, Stan.
    In 1959, French-Romanian playwright Eugene Ionesco debuted his play, Rhinoceros, and the theatergoing world was captivated by the curious image of people turning into pachyderms. This fable about herd mentality and being comfortable in one’s own skin is continually timely, as humans and rhinos often pit people against the pack. While critics have pointed to historic inspirations for the script for years, the play is more effective as an individual exploration of what it means to be human. Like much of Ionesco’s work, it reveals a strong concern for individualism and upholding human dignity. This thesis examines the production process that brought Rhinoceros to the Baylor University stage in December 2019 for a weeklong run. It explores the playwright’s life and work, as well as historical productions of the play, before turning attention to the directorial analysis of the script. Directing concepts and production designs are then outlined to trace the development of the play from rehearsals through performances to highlight lessons learned throughout the collaborative process.
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    Buried underground : The Subway's contribution to American theatre.
    (2019-07-24) Papas, Casey Michael, 1992-; Jortner, David, 1971-
    The Subway (written 1923, performed 1929) is Elmer Rice’s lesser-known American expressionist work. The play’s lowered status amongst his dramatic work stems from its problematic production history, coupled with critical comparison to Sophie Treadwell’s Machinal (1928). Rice speaks little on the play, giving the entirety of its production history a mere three paragraphs in his autobiography, Minority Report (1963). Despite this, Rice believed the play to be a greater example of American expressionism than The Adding Machine. Further, the comparisons to Machinal are not coincidental but in fact indicate an influence on Treadwell’s play. In examining The Subway’s text, production history, and critical reception, this thesis strives to present a thorough appraisal of its theatrical relevance, rectify the obscurity surrounding the work, and consider evidence of the play’s direct influence on Treadwell’s text.
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    A director’s approach to the new Gershwin musical Crazy for You.
    (2018-03-08) Brown, Aaron Matthew, 1987-; Jortner, David, 1971-
    In 1992, The “new” Gershwin musical Crazy for You premiered on Broadway to rave reviews. The musical production, adapted from the 1930 Gershwin musical Girl Crazy, featured a new book by Ken Ludwig, choreography by Susan Stroman, and a score compiled from the music catalog of George and Ira Gershwin. The tap-dancing comedy adapts and invokes the conventions of classic musical theatre. This thesis documents the production process and the directorial approach to Crazy for You performed at Baylor University in the fall of 2017.
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    A director's approach to Helen Edmundson's Anna Karenina.
    (2018-04-09) Horowitz, Joshua R., 1991-; Toten Beard, Deanna M., 1969-
    Helen Edmundson’s adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina is an engaging yet complicated script that presents a challenge to directors and designers alike. The play breaks down the eight hundred-page novel into an evening’s entertainment and forces the two main characters to encounter one another and together relive their stories. This thesis is a documentation of the director’s process in approaching, conceptualizing, analyzing, and staging Edmondson’s script at Baylor University in February of 2018. This thesis explores the difficulties in adapting a literary classic like Anna Karenina for the stage and relates specific adaptation choices to the theatrical style of the play.
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    Perpetuating dialogue through science and art : a director's approach to Shelagh Stephenson's An experiment with an air pump.
    (2017-03-27) Nicholas, Laura Spencer, 1986-; Jortner, David, 1971-
    In her play, An Experiment With An Air Pump, British playwright Shelagh Stephenson questions the nature of progress through the vehicles of science and art. Within the framework of an unapologetically theatrical presentation, the play depicts two historical time periods and two sets of characters. The created counterpoint challenges science and gender-related archetypes and exposes social prejudices without prescribing “correct” outcomes. This thesis documents and examines, from a director’s perspective, the process of production of An Experiment With An Air Pump staged at Baylor University in November 2016. Discussions of the playwright, dramaturgical analysis, and directorial conceptualization were incorporated by the director as she collaborated with designers and actors in the creation of a compelling piece of theatre.
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    American national identity, the “other,” and the Little Theatre Movement.
    (2017-04-03) Denman, Merritt, 1991-; Beard, DeAnna M. Toten (DeAnna Michelle), 1969-
    The Little Theatre Movement began in the early twentieth century as an effort to create theatre which was inventive, well-made, and uniquely American at a time when American theatre had yet to be established. While the movement was beneficial to the trajectory of American theatre, its attempt at forging national identity led little theatre practitioners to define themselves using exclusivist ideology. They came to define Americans as an “in” group of upper-middle class white people versus an “out” group composed of everyone else. Using original research this project will explore the rhetoric and practices of the Little Theatre Movement with relation to “outsiders” by examining two genres which were popular in little theatres across America: Orientalist and Folk plays. This analysis will demonstrate that the movement, while beneficial in establishing the American Theatre, was guilty of reinforcing exclusivist notions in the process.
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    A director's approach to Dancing at Lughnasa.
    (2017-03-21) Breeden, Heidi, 1983-; Castleberry, Marion.
    This thesis details the production process for Baylor Theatre’s mainstage production of Dancing at Lughnasa by Brian Friel, directed by Heidi Breeden, in partial fulfillment of the Master of Fine Arts in Directing. Dancing at Lughnasa is a somewhat autobiographical memory play, featuring strong roles for women and requiring advanced acting skills. This thesis first investigates the life and works of Brian Friel, then offers a director’s analysis of the text, documents the director’s process for the production, and finally offers a reflection on the strengths and opportunities for improvement for the director’s future work.
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    A director's approach to Ken Ludwig's Moon over Buffalo.
    (2016-07-05) Hoenshell, Nick R., 1986-; Toten Beard, Deanna M., 1969-
    Ken Ludwig’s Moon Over Buffalo is a comedy that presents its audience with a unique theatrical experience. While attempting to follow the dramatic structure of certain classical comedies, the thematic plot of Ludwig’s play is largely interrupted by farce. This thesis examines the directorial process of approaching and producing Moon Over Buffalo, with a consideration to the playwright, production history, critical response, conceptual approach, and the process of working with designers and actors to bring the play to a performance run at Baylor University. This thesis also provides a special exploration into the nature and historical development of the genre as a legitimate theatrical art form.
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    Understanding the dragon's theatre : an Anglophone historiography of Vietnamese theatre.
    (2016-08-03) Grote, John Dean, 1987-; Jortner, David, 1971-
    Anglophone scholarship on Vietnamese theatre has a complex history; its authors range from British and American explorers to current day Asian theatre scholars. The evolution of English-language scholarship on Vietnamese theatre is directly tied to the historical events experienced by these authors. The purpose of this thesis is to detail this scholarship and examine the historiographical developments used in analysis of the theatre. Much like other areas, the Anglophone historiography on Vietnamese theatre shifts with the research interests of the authors and their approaches to writing. This study, which discusses the evolution of these writings, demonstrates how knowledge on Vietnamese theatre is produced and disseminated to the English-speaking world.