Djola Branner

Hampshire College Professor Djola Branner
Contact Djola

Djola Branner

Djola Branner, professor of theatre, received his B.A. from the University of California at Santa Cruz, his M.A. from San Francisco State University, and his M.F.A. from the New School for Drama (formerly known as Actors Studio Drama School).

Branner's interdisciplinary work, which combines music, movement, and text as language, explores the broad gray area between performance art and theatre, and gives voice to individuals historically absent from the stage. He has presented throughout the U.S. and abroad, contributed to such anthologies as Voices Rising, Colored Contradictions, and Staging Gay Lives, and published one book of collected plays entitled sash & trim. He has taught dance, acting, and dramatic writing at Macalester College, the University of Minnesota, and the American Musical and Dramatic Academy.

Recent and Upcoming Courses

  • Generation after generation, theatre makers craft new ways of telling stories and imagining worlds in the face of tumultuous odds. This moment is no different. As lights dim on stages across the country and around the world, actors have begun to reimagine theatrical conventions for a virtual medium. In this fully remote class, students will create a series of original, scripted, and movement-based theatre pieces in collaboration with students in Professor Will MacAdams' Theatre Directing for Zoom and Professor Peter Kallok's Theatre Design During the Pandemic courses. This work will be paired with on-line visits from contemporary theatre makers who are using digital landscapes as a springboard for possibility and invention. We invite students to meet this moment with us and create theatre that continues to challenge and inspire as we envision a new language for our resilient medium. (keywords: narrative, workshop, collaboration)

  • The primary focus of this intermediate playwriting course is drawing inspiration from historical figures for the construction of original one-act plays. In addition to developing and deepening our craft as playwrights - clarifying dramatic action and creating more dynamic characters - we will deconstruct the work of several contemporary theatre makers including Lin Manuel Miranda, Katori Hall, Moises Kaufman, Charise Castro Smith, and Doug Wright, all of whom write, stage and perform original dramas that are at once comedic, musical and absurd. A large part of our process will involve integrating critical theory and creative practice and developing a vocabulary for the analysis of contemporary drama. Students who are currently working on plays, as well as those starting new dramas, may enroll in this course. Though it is not a prerequisite, some playwriting experience is recommended. (keywords: theatre, playwriting, biography, critical theory, creative practice)

  • This introductory course explores principles of playwriting by reimagining familiar fairytales, classic myths and personal narrative. Primary considerations are creating clear narrative arcs, rewriting traditional archetypes, developing dynamic characters, and cultivating a vocabulary for the critical analysis of dramatic literature. Assignments will include writing at least three original short plays, and one critical essay centering on the adaptation of a classic parable for the contemporary stage. Research and revision are vital aspects of the curriculum. (keywords: theatre, playwriting, narrative)

  • This introductory course examines and applies principles of directing through the lens of twentieth and twenty-first-century American drama. Primary considerations are identifying the conflict of the play, investigating the world of the play, interpreting the action of the play, developing a collaborative language (with designers, playwrights, and actors), and staging the play. The principles are examined in at least three written assignments, including a theatre review, and a showcase of selected scenes from a list of contemporary plays TBA.