Bachelor of Arts with a major in Dramatic Literature
“A play is…a way of creating and rewriting history through the
medium of literature.”
—Suzan-Lori Parks, American Dramatist
- How does drama work as art?
- How does drama work as politics?
- Can better research make better plays?
- Can better plays make a better world?
- How can asking questions make our experience in the theatre more
The first New Plays Festival (2007-2008
MainStage Season), a collection of student written one acts.
If you care about these questions, consider a major in
Dramatic Literature, an interdisciplinary program of the Department
of Theatre & Dance and the Department of English.
Who are Dramatic Literature Majors?
Dramatic Literature majors are lovers of both literature and performance.
They are writers and actors, though not necessarily in the traditional
sense of either activity. They may aspire to write plays, or they may
aspire to write analysis and criticism of plays and productions. They
may prefer to interpret a single character on stage, or they may enjoy
the backstage role of the dramaturg, interpreting between actors and
directors, between directors and designers, between the production team
and the audience. Above all, they are connectors, bringing together
texts and performance, literature and history, theatrical past and theatrical
Acclaimed author Margaret Atwood and GW dramatic
literature and theater students perform a special reading of her novel
The Year of the Flood to a packed Lisner Auditorium, Oct.
30 2009. Performances were held around the country to promote the
book. GW was the first and only university to participate.
What are some of the core courses Dramatic Literature majors take?
ENGL 1830-40: Tragedy / Comedy
ENGL / TRDA 2250: Fundamentals of Dramatic Writing
TRDA 1214: Introduction to Acting
ENGL / TRDA 3240: Introduction to Dramaturgy
ENGL 3440-41: Shakespeare
TRDA 3248: Theater Criticism
ENGL 3630-3631: American Drama
ENGL 3710: Contemporary Drama
TRDA 4275: Directing for the Theater
1598, Elizabethan dramatist Robert Greene (1558
- 1592) writing at his desk. The woodcut title page of a pamphlet entitled
'Greene In Conceipte' by John Dickenson in 1598 (Bodleian Library).
(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images) Robert Greene
What is the George Washington University New Plays Festival?
Every year, the Dramatic Literature Program sponsors a festival of
new plays by student writers as part of the mainstage season of the
Department of Theatre & Dance. Playwrights, who may or may not be
majors, are selected by a committee of Dramatic Literature faculty and
students. Each playwright is then paired with a Dramatic Literature
major, who acts as dramaturg, shepherding the new work through the production
process. In this way, dramatic literature majors learn firsthand about
the development process for new work, which differs significantly from
dramaturgy on established works. Faculty members in both departments
direct the plays and participate in discussions with writers and audience
members before and after the production.
Spumoni written by Conor McCaffrey (New
Plays Festival 2010-2011 MainStage Season)
The Claeyssens Prize for playwriting is awarded during the New Plays
Festival. The prize was founded by Jenny McKeen Moore in honor of her
professor of playwriting, Astaire Claeyssens. It is an annual prize
to honor an outstanding student playwright.
What is the Dramatic Literature Capstone Experience?
their junior or senior year, Dramatic Literature majors undertake an
internship in dramatic literature. Often, this means serving in a literary
capacity with a theater’s administrative offices or a specific production.
Sometimes it means developing a play script or conducting a piece of
historical research. Majors work with their advisors to find and shape
this experience. Past capstone projects have included partnerships with
the Washington Shakespeare Company, Theatre J, and Signature Theatre;
production dramaturgy for the Department’s MainStage productions; and
original works of drama and scholarship.
“I was able to work on a one-on-one basis with teachers and mentors
whose own work I found to be inspirational and motivating. What was
particularly wonderful was that this individual contact really benefited
—Emily Murphy, ‘10
“This is the most rewarding and versatile education I could have
possibly received as an artist and as a creative thinker. I am [now]
confident in my abilities as a writer, actor,director, dramaturg, and
producer. I could probably add to that list but my head still hurts
from all the education!”
—Darren Miller, ‘09
“Majoring in dramatic literature helped me to understand drama
from several sides — practical, textual, and theoretical. Thanks to
encouragement from the faculty, I was able to gain admission to an MFA
program in dramaturgy, which has brought me much closer to my career
—Laura Henry, '09
“The emphasis on a broad knowledge of all areas of theatre provides
a strong foundation for students regardless of the area that they would
like to specialize.”
—Kabir Altaf, ‘09
New Plays Festival 2010 read-throughs
Kanter (Director, Dramatic Literature Program) is
a scholar, theatre artist, and teacher. She is the author of Performing
Loss: Rebuilding Community Through Theatre and Writing (Southern
Illinois Press, 2007) and serves on the national editorial board of
Text and Performance Quarterly. Professor Kanter has adapted, directed,
and performed dramatic texts in venues ranging from professional theaters
and nationally touring art exhibits to hospitals and prisons. In Washington,
her current and past collaborators include the Washington Shakespeare
Company, Theatre J, Safe Streets Arts Foundation and the National Museum
of Women in the Arts. She holds a PhD in Performance Studies from Northwestern
Currin Stokes (Managing Director, New Play Festival)
is a two-time Helen Hayes-nominated playwright and D.C. area actress.
Her plays have been produced locally at The Kennedy Center, Imagination
Stage, Theatre Alliance, Charter Theatre, Source Theatre Company, Washington
Shakespeare Company, and Church Street Theatre. As an actress, she has
appeared at Catalyst Theatre, Everyman, Rep Stage, Signature, Round
House, Washington Stage Guild, Washington Shakespeare Company, Studio,
Olney, and more. She has also worked in television, and film. Professor
Stokes is a member of Actors Equity, the Screen Actors Guild, and The
Dramatists Guild, and is the Vice Chair of The Kennedy Center's American
College Theatre Festival New Play Program (Region 2).
Patricia Griffith (Professor of Playwriting)
is a novelist, short story writer, playwright, screen writer, and occasional
journalist. Her third novel, The World Around Midnight, was
named one of the outstanding books of the year by the American Library
Association; and her latest book, Supporting the Sky, was a
Literary Guild selection. Professor Griffith’s work has been included
twice in the O. Henry Prize Stories. She has had Equity productions
of her plays in New York and Dallas, and was awarded a National Endowment
for the Arts grant. In addition, she is a former president and Chair
person of the board of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.
Robert Combs, American Drama
Patrick Cook, Shakespeare
Holly Dugan, Shakespeare
Jonathan Gil Harris, Shakespeare
Alex Huang, Shakespeare
Leslie Jacobson, Performance
Peter Marks, Theater Criticism
Alan Wade, Performance
For more information on the program, please contact Sarah Brodeur,
Executive Assistant in the Department of Theatre & Dance at (202)
994-8072 or firstname.lastname@example.org.