Making Courses

Student creating sculpture

Students interested in making will find many opportunities for such activity in courses across the Division. Here are some programs that feature making as a main part of their practice. You will also find a list of AY 2021-2022 courses that have received special funding from the Elson Family Arts Initiative, which use tools and methods of the arts to explore course material in memorable and innovative ways.

Elson Family Arts Initiative

Thanks to the generous contributions of the Elson family, the Elson Family Arts Initiative has supported many exciting arts-related course projects, final performances, and student exhibitions. Courses supported by the Initiative use tools and methods of the arts to explore course material in memorable and innovative ways. Below is a list of the courses supported by the initiative for 2021-22. 

French 20: Intermediate French: Francophone Culture in Local Com

French 20: Intermediate French: Francophone Culture in Local Communities
Karen Turman (Romance Languages & Literatures) FALL, repeated SPRING

In this intermediate-level language course, you will review your knowledge of various grammatical structures by exploring cultural topics such as music, dance, and cuisine in French-speaking communities. Themes such as family life in West Africa, immigrant communities from Haiti, and cuisine in Morocco will be broached through communicative activities to further develop proficiency in reading, listening, speaking, and writing. You will discover francophone cultures through conversations with online language partners abroad, guest visitors via Zoom, and course materials including film, music, and texts. The course will be conducted through synchronous Zoom sessions as well as asynchronous activities using Voice Thread, Slack, and Canvas. Course assignments include contextualized grammar activities, creative writing compositions, oral presentations, video projects, and online discussions.

Arts Integration Component: Students engage with visitors from local French-speaking immigrant communities and, in turn, participate in an activity off campus with one of these Francophone groups.

Freshman Seminar 35N: The Art and Craft of Acting

Freshman Seminar 35N: The Art and Craft of Acting
Remo Airaldi (Theater, Dance & Media) FALL

We’ve all watched a great performance and wondered, “How did that actor do that?” Acting is undoubtedly the most popular, most widely experienced of the performing arts, and yet, in many ways, it remains a mystery. This seminar will give students an opportunity to demystify the art of acting by introducing them to the basic tools of the trade—they will learn about the craft of acting by actually “doing” it. It will provide an introduction to acting by combining elements of a discussion seminar with exercises, improvisations and performance activities. Improvisation will be used to improve group/ensemble dynamics, to minimize habitual behaviors, and to develop characters. Students will explore a range of acting techniques designed to give students greater access to their creativity, imagination and emotional life. The aim will be to improve skills that are essential to the acting process, like concentration, focus, relaxation, observation, listening, collaboration and so on. Students will attend and critique theatrical productions on ZOOM. Material from these productions will be used by students in in-class performance activities.

Arts Integration Component: Directors and actors from the productions the class attends will speak to students about the acting process. Students will participate in class modules based on the productions they attend. Final monologue presentations will be fully staged and designed.

Freshman Seminar 64L: The Juggler of Notre Dame

Freshman Seminar 64L: The Juggler of Notre Dame
Jan Ziolkowski (Classics) FALL

In the thirteenth century a French poet composed a remarkable poem about a professional performer who suffered multiple bouts of deep despair before achieving miraculous redemption. The story, after modest success in the European Middle Ages, disappeared until the end of the nineteenth century. Then it scored a hit when adapted by a French Nobel prizewinner as a short story. In the early twentieth century it enjoyed a second vogue worldwide as a smash opera. A media-savvy Scottish-American diva propelled this musical form to even greater fame in the US than it had achieved in Europe. It became a staple of highbrow culture, before passing into radio, television, and film. But later it vanished, except in children’s literature.

This seminar follows all the main stages in the life (and death?) of this narrative. Doing so will enable consideration of the nature of story. Did an actual person and event lie behind the verse? How do the surviving medieval texts relate to lost oral versions? Why did the tale fade away in the early modern period? Why did it attract so much attention for nearly a hundred years before slipping again into obscurity?

Students will engage with manuscripts and books, poetry and prose, music and art, radio and television, and elite and mass culture, while grappling not only with the European Middle Ages but also with what was made of them in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, particularly in the US.

Arts Integration Component: Students will craft a small handwritten book, exploring how text may be enhanced by scripts and fonts, images, notation (for example, for music or dance)—or, to look at the contrary, cases in which image takes the lead and text follows.

German 65: German Drama and Theater: Power Plays

German 65: German Drama and Theater: Power Plays
Lisa Parkes (Germanic Languages & Literatures) SPRING

Close reading, analysis, and full production of a play in German. The first part provides an introduction to a small selection of dramas, dramatic theory, the vocabulary of theater, as well as intensive pronunciation practice. The second part focuses on the rehearsal and production of a German play. Students participate on stage and collaborate on different aspects of the production, including costumes, set, sound, and program. Two performances take place at the end of term. Conducted in German.

Note: Conducted in German.

Arts Integration Component: Integration of a full theatre production into the German language course.

Japanese Literature 170: Traditional Japanese Literature

Japanese Literature 170: Traditional Japanese Literature: Mythology to Modernity
David Atherton (East Asian Languages & Civilizations) SPRING

Poetry written by gods, incestuous aristocratic romances, exorcist theater, samurai fantasy novels, fart literature: traditional Japanese literature has something for everyone, and invites us to rethink our assumptions about what literature is and how creativity works. From the most ancient myths up to the 19th century arrival of Western style modernity, we will explore together the relationships between high art and pulp fiction, the stage and the page, words and illustrations, manuscript and print, language and the sacred. We will probe the literary imagination of beauty, nature, desire, and heroism, and ask what Japanese literature can tell us about what it is to be human.

Arts Integration Component: Students will participate in metaLAB workshops in which they construct a thought experiment, deconstruct a myth, articulate an argument about a particular theory, or give shape to a historical conundrum. They will work individually or in small teams to construct prototypes, brief writings on the works they produce, and then share these works with their classmates.

Spanish 59: Spanish and the Community

Theater, Dance & Media: The Power and Relevance of the American Musical: 1776 and Other Musicals
Maria Parra-Velasco (Romance Languages & Literatures) SPRING

An advanced language course that examines the richness and complexity of the Latino experience in the US while promoting community engagement as a vehicle for greater linguistic fluency and cultural understanding. Students are placed with community organizations within the Boston area and volunteer for four hours a week. Class work focuses on expanding students' oral and written proficiency in Spanish through discussing and analyzing readings, arts, and films by and about Latinos in the US.

Arts Integration Component: Visit by Latino artist Ramiro Gomez whose work aims to put at the forefront of public discourse the often disregarded contributions of essential Latino workers. Student will engage in a meaningful art-making process where they reflect on how their own actions can give visibility to those not recognized enough in our communities.

Theater, Dance & Media 150: Directorial Concepts and Set Design

Theater, Dance & Media 150: Directorial Concepts and Set Design of the 20th and 21st Centuries
Julia Smeliansky (Theater, Dance & Media) FALL

What are the similarities between Las Vegas pop diva concert design and performances at the Theater of Dionysus in 5th Century BCE Athens? How do theater architecture and design reflect changes in society? What is the process of designing an opera or a musical? This course will introduce students to some of the most influential 20th and 21st-century directors, designers, and performance artists. We will explore a range of artistic movements that cross-pollinated the visual arts and theater over the past century, and trace the artistic heritage of current theatrical experiments to their avant-garde roots. Examining how meaning in the theater is derived not only from text but also from spatial composition, light, and overall design concept, we will study a variety of approaches to storytelling in theater, dance, and opera. Working with primary sources in the Harvard Theatre Collection, students will develop and present short creative projects based on a wide range of theatrical texts. Students will also meet with guest artists to engage in a dialogue about contemporary design practices

Arts Integration Component: Students will attend theater, opera, and dance performances in Boston.

Theater, Dance & Media 151: Foundations in Design: Scenography

Theater, Dance & Media 151 and 151B: Foundations in Design: Scenography I and II
Dede Ayite (Theater, Dance & Media) FALL

Great design for live performance requires synergy between all the key elements to unlock the visual power of a play. This course explores the fundamentals of set, costume, lighting and sound  through critical texts and applied projects.

Students will be taught the fundamentals of design with an emphasis on script analysis, research and the articulation of a design concept through rendering, collage, model building with an introduction to basic drafting principles. The goal is for students to develop key skills for conceiving and designing visual elements for live performance. Students should not expect a technical survey, but rather an exploration of how visual elements shape a given performance.

Arts Integration Component: An introductory drafting workshop with guest artist Jeffrey Peterson who will spend four sessions with students in both classes teaching the new art form of hand and computer drafting for theatrical design. 

Theater, Dance & Media 169S: Singer + Song = Story

Theater, Dance & Media 169S: Singer + Song = Story
Stew Stewart (Theater, Dance & Media) FALL

This course is an immersive, songwriting-based introduction to Stew’s musical theater-making practice, a process which views the nexus of writer and song as the seed out of which a more personal, visceral musical theater can emerge. Singer + Song = Story believes in a theater that seeks, via a respect for the inherent dramatic potential of song itself, to capture the intensity of personal testimony that characterizes the best rock, pop, rap, blues and folk songs of our country and the world, with the goal of bringing that testimonial fire to the American theater stage.

Arts Integration Component: The course will host class visits from Stew Stuart’s musical theater collaborators. Students will create a work of musical theater that is unique to their own life experiences and tastes.  

Theater, Dance & Media 194: Power & Relevance American Musical

Theater, Dance & Media: The Power and Relevance of the American Musical: 1776 and Other Musicals
Ryan McKittrick (Theater, Dance & Media) SPRING

With a focus on the American Repertory Theater’s upcoming revival production of the musical 1776 co-directed by Jeffrey L. Page and Diane Paulus, this course examines how the musical theater can uniquely and powerfully inspire audiences to reflect on history, politics, race, and identity.  

Analyzing scenes and songs from 1776 and other musicals including West Side Story, Cabaret, Hair, The Wiz, and Hamilton, students will explore the multiple layers of meaning created by the combination of music, lyrics, choreography, staging, book scenes and design.  

 Students will read works by theorists, historians and practitioners, examining the cultural significance of these shows in the years they opened on Broadway, how they have evolved in revivals and adaptations over time, and how they resonate today.  In addition, students will engage directly with guest artists who will share their practical experience creating work in the musical theater.

Arts Integration Component: Students will travel to New York City to attend a rehearsal of 1776, see a matinee performance of Jagged Little Pill on Broadway, and engage in dialogue with the core creative team members and performers working on these shows.