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 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.
This introductory course examines and applies principles of acting to contemporary monologues and scenes. Techniques include invoking imagination, relaxation and focus, sense memory, physical awareness, vocal expression, improvisation and critical analysis. As well as practical applications of the principles, they will be examined in at least four substantial written assignments. Due to the highly collaborative and experiential nature of this studio course, attendance and punctuality are essential: two absences, but no late arrivals will be permitted. This course satisfies ADM of Division I distribution requirements. Required text: An Actor Prepares by Konstantin Stanislavski. Recommended: A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman.
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 are writing, staging and performing 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 working on plays already in process, as well as those starting new dramas, are invited to enroll in this workshop class. No prerequisites are required, but as the curriculum is driven by independent work and moves fairly quickly, some playwriting experience is useful.