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 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.
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 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 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.
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.