Professor of Theatre
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.
This interdisciplinary course centers around a film adaptation of the original drama Mighty Real: A Tribute to Sylvester. The story chronicles the life and times of singer/songwriter Sylvester, a gender fluid black/gay man who rose to commercial success during the height of the 1970s disco era. Students will collaborate with faculty on every phase of the project from preproduction - including dramaturgy, directing, acting, production management and scenic, lighting, sound and video design - to post production. The goal of the course is creating a short multimedia narrative film through the integration of theatrical and cinematic conventions. Students with experience in film and theatre production are preferred. Instructor permission required.
The focus of this workshop course is self-scripting and performing dramatic material. Students will edit and revise written drafts based on hearing and performing their work aloud. Particular attention will be paid to writing dramatically from different points of view. The same events and circumstances, when recounted by one individual, may be utterly altered when recounted by someone else. Likewise, one individual may have a completely different perspective on the same event when speaking from a different state of emotion (i.e. a state of anger versus a state of forgiveness). We will explore ways in which gender, class, culture shift the playwright's perceptions, and use rhythm, syntax, breath, and gestural language to create dynamic characters for the stage. We will also read and deconstruct contemporary monologues and scenes of writers such as Anna Deveare Smith, John Leguizamo, Lisa Kron, Laurie Carlos and Eric Bogosian.
This studio course applies introductory principles of acting to contemporary American scenes. Primary concerns are identifying and playing clear objectives, developing character through behavior, and cultivating a language for the critical analysis of contemporary drama. Assignments include workshopping and performing three contemporary American scenes, presenting two life studies, completing three written character analyses, and writing one theatre review. Due to the highly collaborative and experiential nature of this studio course, attendance and punctuality are essential to successful participation in this class. Prerequisite: Opening the Instrument (or another college level introductory acting class).
The primary focus of this intermediate playwriting course is using historic characters as inspiration for original one-act plays. In addition to developing and deepening our craft as playwrights - clarifying dramatic action, and creating more dynamic characters - we will read the work of theatre makers such as Lin Manuel Miranda, Katori Hall and Charise Castro Smith who are creating new dramas that are simultaneously comedic, musical and political commentary. A large part of our process will involve integrating critical research and creative practice. Students working on plays already in process, as well as those starting new dramas, are invited to enroll in this workshop class.
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. This course satisfies ADM of Division I distribution requirements.
This course explores the creation and analysis of interdisciplinary theatre through the lens of the theatrical jazz aesthetic. We will combine music, movement and non-linear narrative to create short dramatic pieces, and deconstruct the work of such theatre artists as Laurie Carlos, Sharon Bridgforth and Daniel Alexander Jones. The course seeks to develop a language for collaboration and experimentation between theatre makers, dancers, musicians, and to mine directorial tools that mirror the characteristics of classic American jazz - particularly rhythm, syncopation, call-and-response, polyphony and improvisation. Prerequisite: Completion of at least one college level course in acting, directing, design, playwriting, devised theatre, dance or music.
This workshop course explores principles of acting through the lens of contemporary American drama, and simultaneously pushes our perceptions of gender. In addition to expanding physical awareness, vocal expression and relaxation & focus, we will consider the ever-changing historical, cultural and social landscapes that have defined and continue to define male, female and gender non-conforming identities, and develop a vocabulary for translating those identities to the stage. The curriculum is designed to deepen an understanding of how we express our own genders, and to develop a facility for embodying characters who experience and express gender differently than we do. Students will be required to do a significant amount of independent work outside the classroom/studio, to read and write critically (as well as imaginatively), and to work in collaboration with peers. Completion of at least one college level acting class (or experience) is required for enrollment in this course.