INSIDE THE CLASSROOM
As a professor, I curate, devise, and facilitate theatre & performance studies courses that challenge students to use art as a practice of critical discourse between
their artistry and the world around them.
"Dr. Schiller's interpersonal relationship with the students, her colleagues and the staff has significantly changed the culture within the department. Her passion for her work and the success of her students is very significant to the positive growth and change that is happening within the Theatre & Performance Studies Department."
Fall & Spring 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019
HISTORY & THEORY I:
ANCIENT TO RENAISSANCE THEATRE
President Obama said, in his 2015 eulogy for the slain South Carolina Senator, Rev. “Clem” Pickney and his eight parishioners at Mother Emanuel A.M.E., “Justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other.” And theatre, as a medium of exchange where individuals come together to watch, to learn, to discover, and to recognize our humanity in all its various forms, is intrinsically suited to provide this opportunity. That being said, the hard work of coming to recognize “ourselves in each other” is what this class is all about. This class considers the ways that art challenges us to care about people and contexts outside of our own—life experiences, historical happenings, and societal structures that we may have never even known existed—and the role that narrative plays in making that intellectual, emotional, and conscious leap to seeing everybody as human. Taking on the global stories of the people who lived during the pre-literate to 17th century helps us to better understand and think critically about our own moment and how art and art making practices can be a vessel for that private and public process of self-revelation.
Fall 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018
HISTORY & THEORY II:
FRENCH NEOCLASSICISM TO AMERICAN MELODRAMA
History and Theory II takes the periods between the early 1700’s through the late 1800’s as a launching pad for discovering how cultures and societies utilized art and art making practices to tell the stories of what it meant to be alive during a particular historical moment. This will be an exciting and stimulating course that asks the question(s): What does it mean to be human? What does it mean for a life to matter and have value? How do those experiences vary across time, peoples, languages, genders, ethnicities, class, and other modes of difference? And as theatre practitioners, how does narrative shape how “we” understand the answer to these questions? In addition, with so many recent tragic events mobilized around the value of life, such as the terrorist events at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando, FL, the murder of Philando Castile streamed live via Facebook in Minnesota, and the killing of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, these questions unfortunately remain exceptionally relevant, not just in the 18thand 19thcenturies, but also in our contemporary lives.
Spring 2016, 2017, 2018
HISTORY & THEORY III:
20TH CENTURY THEATRE
From the Industrial Revolution, the First World War, colonialism, the Holocaust, the sexual revolution, the civil rights and farm workers movements, to the Gulf War the 20th century has been a tumultuous 100 years of brilliant beauty and unimaginable heartbreak. This course will look at the years between 1900 and 2000 through the world of dramatic literature. Using the performance text as a form of theory, this course looks to the artist known as playwright to guide us through what it meant to be alive in the 20th century. Starting with Russian playwright Anton Chekov and ending with Chicano playwright Luis Valdez, this course considers the ways that art challenges us to care about people and contexts outside of our own—life experiences, historical happenings, and societal structures that we may have never even known existed—and the role that narrative plays in making that intellectual, emotional, and conscious leap to seeing everybody as human. Taking on the global stories of the people who lived during the 20th century helps us to better understand and think critically about our own 21st century moment and how art and art making practices can be a vessel and a theoretical model for the private and public process of self-revelation.
Spring 2017 & 2019
INTRODUCTION TO DRAMATURGY
This course explores the role of the dramaturg in developing a production from the page to the stage. The dramaturg’s function within the craft of bringing dramatic stories to life is vast and more than what can be covered in a single semester but for the next 15 weeks we will consider the job of a “production dramaturg” and the tasks associated with this role, such as but not limited to season selection, script adaptation, concept and audience development. Based on the approach of creating true artist/scholars, this class is a hybrid theoretical and practice-based course that will provide hands-on opportunities while pushing you to think critically about dramatic work as a vessel for creating art that does somethingin the world. In the words of the writer, activist, and scholar James Baldwin, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” Dramaturg’s use their artistic craft of consciousness raising to help us learn to face ourselves as human beings in order to make work that makes a difference and has lasting impact.
On going series:
Fall 2023, 2024
DRAMATIC TEXT AND CONTEXT
This course provides an opportunity to engage and discuss plays as representative of varying
modes of dramatic structure, featuring playwrights and narratives across genders, races,
nationalities, and eras, while considering their roles in the so-called “canon” (and what that
might look like going forward). We will examine what theatre is, how to approach text as a
reader, trends in playwriting strategies, the longevity of plays and playwrights, and how theaters
translate values into action.
On going series:
Spring 2022, 2023, 2024
THE EVOLUTIONS & REVOLUTIONS OF MUSICAL THEATRE
From Show Boat to Fun Home, from Hair to Strange Loop, and many shows in between, this course will explore the American musical as a reflection of popular culture, interrogating its function as a form of entertainment that both shapes and is shaped by its historical and cultural context. In addition to tracing the creative evolution of musical theatre since its inception in the late nineteenth century, we will also investigate how musicals engage with questions of identity and representation, analyzing the construction of gender, class, race, ethnicity, and sexuality on stage in the context of the cultural climate in which each performance is created. Through readings, viewings, discussions, and hands-on projects, we will investigate the function of the American musical as a venue for interrogating complex social and political issues.
On going series:
Spring 2022, 2024
CONTEMPORARY BLACK PLAYWRIGHTS
This course will immerse students in the plays, themes, and visions of Black writers who are transforming theater in the 21st century. We will survey and analyze aesthetic innovations and transformations in the contemporary Black dramaturgical imagination and carefully consider the crucial role the stage continues to play in shaping perceptions and understandings of race–blackness, in particular. In addition to reading, analyzing, and writing about theatrical texts and performances—and situating them within socio-historical and cultural contexts—students will engage critical and creative projects as a way to investigate questions of style, form, content, and meaning. The course will deepen students’ knowledge of contemporary Black theatrical practice and production while also strengthening their abilities to rigorously engage dramatic literature.
On going series:
Fall 2022, 2023
At first, theory may seem abstract and difficult, even unnecessary, until you realize that it shapes the world around us and profoundly impacts movement toward social justice, antiracism, and equality. For example, #BlackLivesMatter has deep roots in critical race theory, #MeToo develops and expands intersectional feminism(s), and LGBTQ+ activism has always informed queer theory. Theory’s underpinning of movements for social change and its critiques of social structures require constant development, adjustment, and attention by those who seek to dismantle systems of oppression, and perhaps especially by those who create consumable cultural products (i.e artists).
This is a major reason for studying theory then: theory asks what a given cultural text is DOING in our world and what it MEANS. Now, when I say text, I mean it in the broadest way possible. A text can be a play, a commercial, a fashion zine, a music video, a pop song, or a role playing game. Any object of cultural work can be a ‘text.’ In this class we’ll start with theories and then apply them to plays and productions, music, film, and society in general as a way to think about the spectrum of ways that performance speaks to power.
What does it mean to write like a biologist? How do engineers use writing in their work? What does your theater professor wish you knew about writing?
Expectations and conventions for writing vary widely across disciplines. In these brief videos, faculty from across the university share insight into why and how they write. Their candid, entertaining advice aims to help students succeed in writing for their chosen fields and encourages ongoing conversation about writing throughout the KSU community.
Organizer & Facilitator
Performing Arts Workshop
La Yashousha School
This workshop utilized storytelling, mask making, music, and dance as a platform for the development of each student's unique voice, self-esteem, and self expression to evolve during the course of the workshop.