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.
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.
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.