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Brenda Foley

Research Areas: Theatre and Performance Studies. Brenda’s specific areas of interest include theater history, acting, disability studies, playwriting, archival research, social practice, gender and performance, and contemporary plays and playwrights.

Jean O’Hara

Research Areas: Theatre and Performance Studies. Jean’s areas of interest include directing, physical theatre, theatre and the environment, theatre and social practice, community-based theatre, theatre and gender, Indigenous theatre and queer performance.

The Marlboro theater program is about innovation, risk taking, and pushing beyond the boundaries of what has historically been defined as performance. In the theater program you will learn to work within canonical performance frameworks, while also producing theater in the streets, the community, and as a form of activism. You will engage in all aspects of theater/storytelling creation: writing, directing, acting, designing, production, and critical engagement. Students learn to create original works while simultaneously becoming proficient at staging traditional and contempory plays from all genres. At Marlboro, and in the theater program, you are encouraged to find your own unique voice as an artist. You will acquire foundational skills and develop the confidence that will allow you to pursue multiple paths within the fields of theater and performance, from ensemble work to stage management. See some images from productions over the past few years in the photo gallery.

Students in the theater program, like most students at Marlboro, weave multiple interests and passions with their primary focus. Former students have successfully linked theater and politics, performance and religion, and gender and performance art installation. Faculty at Marlboro also work in multiple disciplines and collaborate and co-teach with colleagues across campus. Brenda Foley has a dual appointment as gender studies faculty and has co-taught classes with faculty in art history, anthropology, dance, music, American studies, and gender studies. Jean O’Hara has taught and collaborated in gender studies, environmental studies, dance, politics, and American studies. In addition, the theater students have opportunities to connect with national and international artists and destinations, engaging in an immersive, interactive theatrical process to examine which stories get told—and why—and how students’ own stories contribute to a larger global community. Marlboro theater students have traveled and studied in Germany, Japan, and Montreal, and worked with Obie award-winning artists such as Carmelita Tropicana, Deb Margolin, and Ain Gordon. Marlboro College and the theater program are close collaborators with Vermont Performance Lab, which invites renowned performance artists to incubate and create new works in Vermont.

Multiple opportunities exist for theater students to create their own performances. Working with a faculty sponsor through practicums and lab work, students will participate in introductory and intermediate design, acting, and directorial endeavors as preparation and practice for their final Plan projects. In many ways, the trajectory of the theater program mirrors the Plan process through a focus on elements of research, practice, writing, and independent projects. The senior theater project, or Plan as we call it at Marlboro College, affords an opportunity to turn your passion into a tangible product. For Plan, many Marlboro theater students write their own plays or radically adapt a classic, direct, design, or act in their Plan productions, and collaborate with student peers on their artistic projects. Some examples of imaginative and inspiring theater Plans can be viewed in the Virtual Plan Room

Areas of Interest for Plan-level Work:

  • Directing
  • Acting
  • Contemporary Theater
  • Gender and Performance
  • Playwriting
  • Theater History
  • Performance Studies/Performance Art
  • Multicultural Theater and Performance
  • Theater and Social Practice

Starting Points (Basic and Introductory Courses)

Faculty: Brenda Foley
Acting I is a practical theater course that explores the tools and techniques necessary for developing characters onstage. The course will consist of various exercises, monologue work and scene study.
Introductory | Credits: 3

Faculty: Jean O’Hara
In this hands-on course, students will learn the theories and approaches to directing plays and then put them into practice. Each student director will learn how to analyze a script, audition and cast actors, design a show, and create and implement a production schedule. In addition, directors will learn to manage and work with stage crew, an assistant stage manager and a stage manager. Throughout the semester, students will gain specific directing skills while discovering their own unique directing style. This is a beginning directing class that will culminate in a directing a play for the Ten Minute Play Festival, to be performed at the end of the semester. Introductory/Credits: 4

Faculty: Jean O’Hara
In this class we will utilize our collective body knowledge as a starting place for creativity. We will connect with our senses and imagination as we explore multiple physical theater forms including commedia, clown, melodrama and mask. This course is about discovery and tapping into our body intelligence to create characters, connect with emotions and generate stories.
Introductory Credits: 3

Faculty: David Underwood and Visiting Artists
This seminar/lab will explore diverse case studies of designed settings and environments for performance (theater, film, opera, dance). We will consider compositional techniques as well as how space, materials, objects, light and sound participate in telling a story. Studies of the designs of others will be complemented with practical experiments in creating sets, working with light and integrating audio. Projects.
Introductory | Credits: 3

Faculty: Jean O’Hara
This is ensemble theater course in which students will work together throughout the semester to theatrically address a current socio-political issue. As a collective, students will research the chosen issue and then develop an original political satire. Based on student’s background and skills, the piece could evolve into a musical, a circus, a talk show, a melodrama or whatever else the collective ensemble decides. The course will culminate in a performance for both the college and the greater community. No previous acting background is required.
Multi-level/Credits 4

Faculty: Brenda Foley
Through critical analysis of theater practitioners ranging from Susan Glaspell to Pam MacKinnon, this course will explore creative works by 20th and 21st century women theater artists. Emphasis will be placed on close textual study of the works and the realities of staging productions. Course materials will include primary texts, secondary analyses and essays situating the plays in the theatrical and historical contexts in which they were written and, where available, viewings of recorded performances. Class format will be a combination of response papers, essay exams, discussions and presentations.
Introductory | Intermediate Credits: 4

Faculty: Jean O’Hara
This course offers a practical examination of the theatrical process through the production and performance of a full-length play. Casting will occur as soon as the fall semester begins and rehearsals will take place both in the allotted class periods and in designated evening time slots. There are opportunities for acting, stage-managing, participation as running crew for lights and sound, costumes and set building. Course credit will range from 1-4 according to the required duties and necessary time obligation. A firm commitment to the rehearsal process and the production is mandatory. Prerequisite: Permission of instructor, audition and/or interview.     
Multi-level/Credits: Variable

Faculty: Jean O'Hara
This is an experiential based course that will combine theater exercises and an outdoor adventure. The course will integrate the Outdoor Program and the theater discipline by interweaving theater exercises and storytelling within a weekend rafting trip. We will challenge ourselves to go beyond what is comfortable or familiar. Students will learn camping skills and white water rafting skills with the opportunity to join future outdoor programs or to borrow gear to create your own. At the same time, students will gain theater creation and acting skills that will be transferable to future theater courses and projects. At the core of this course are communication and collaboration skills: success is how well we work together. This course is designed for beginners but open to all skill levels. Students can take one or both Theater in the Wilds courses. 
Multi-Level/Credits 1 

Faculty: Brenda Foley
Guided by the premise that without knowing where we’ve been, we can not know where we are this class in global theatre will explore how theatre has historically contributed to, reflected, and been mediated by social, political, cultural, and institutional ideologies. We will address the theatrical conventions, significant trends, and practitioners that have informed and constructed the social practice of global theatre. Assignments will consist of readings, papers, and performances.
Introductory/Credits 4 

Faculty: Jean O’Hara
This class is based on the seminal work of Brazilian theater practitioner Augusto Boal. The course utilizes theater as a medium to explore issues of systematic oppression including but not limited to racism, ableism, transphobia, sexism, classism and heterosexism. We will analyze, investigate and discuss critical theory that addresses systematic oppression and then explore the deeper implications of our lived experiences through theatre exercises. Boal’s philosophy is based on the premise that in sharing our stories and creating open dialogue about oppression, we can foster understanding and compassion that can lead to social action and change in our homes, communities, countries and world.
Introductory/Credits 4

Pursuing Interests (Intermediate and Thematic Courses)

Faculty: Brenda Foley
Acting II is an intermediate course designed to continue the training and development of actors with previous class/performance experience. The goal of the class is to expand knowledge and skills gained in Acting I. Exercises and scene study work will culminate in a final scene project with partners. There is significant rehearsal time outside of class.
Prerequisite: Acting I, Intermediate | Advanced/ Credits: 3

Faculty: Jean O’Hara
Student Directors will continue to deepen their knowledge of theories and practices in directing. Each student will choose a twenty to thirty minute play that they will direct. The process will include script analysis, casting, artistic vision, conducting production meetings and rehearsals. The course will culminate in a performance of each student director’s play.
Prerequisite: Directing I/ Credits: 4

Faculty: Brenda Foley
Robert Barton has noted, “We perceive style in terms of our expectations.” From the expansiveness of Elizabethan and Jacobean plays to the taut control of Noel Coward’s texts, this class will give us the opportunity to interrogate our own expectations as we explore the possibilities of theatrical performance within the context of period plays. The course will result in a public performance of scenes that will require rehearsal time outside of the designated class period.
Prerequisite: A college-level course in the fundamentals of acting and permission of the instructor/Intermediate | Advanced Credits: 4 

Faculty: Jean O’Hara
This theater literature course examines the personal, political, and historical relationship between humans and their environment through an ecocritical lens. Through stories/storytelling we will consider multiple and multicultural perspectives of people and place. We will also explore concepts ranging from manifest destiny to environmental racism to ecofemism within the United States. At the same time, we will seek to understand how the U.S. relationship to land affects international communities. Class format will be a combination of response papers, discussions and presentations.  
Intermediate | Credits: 4

Faculty: Brenda Foley and Jean O’Hara
This theater literature course will rotate topics each year. The selection of topics, such as Irish, Indigenous, Asian, and Latina theater will explore the intersection of ethnicity, race, cultural narratives, identity, politics and more. We will examine the many facets of storytelling including film, live performance, myths and other art forms. In the course we will critically engage with plays through reading, writing, class discussion and attending performances.
Intermediate/Credits: 4

Faculty: Brenda Foley
In this course we will explore the ways in which contemporary playwrights portray a vision of the secular apocalyptic. As with Vaçlav Havel's assessment of Absurdism, apocalyptic plays can be read as "not scenes from life, but theatrical images of the basic modalities of humanity in a state of collapse."  We'll take an expansive perspective on the definition of "apocalyptic" and use as a frame works from other disciplines such as Margaret Atwood's novel Oryx and Crake, the poetry of Japanese women following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in White Flash/Black Rain, and the BBC docudrama Threads.
Intermediate/Advanced/Credits 4

Faculty: Brenda Foley
This seminar will focus on the use of original source research as the inspiration and foundation for papers and performances. Students will conceive primary projects and then find locations that offer a depth of original source materials around which the projects can be constructed – materials ranging from ephemera at the Billy Rose Collection at Lincoln Centre in NYC, a performance installation in Boston, to the Tewksbury State Hospital cemetery will function as research elements for compilation and transformation into theater projects. Prerequisite: Theatre Plan application on file and permission of instructor, as well as flexibility in your schedule for travel to off-campus sites   Advanced / Credits: 4

Faculty: Jean O’Hara
This survey course will explore the history of drag performance both nationally and internationally. We will examine the uses of drag through multiple mediums: from Kabuki theater to RuPaul's Drag Race. This course will interweave gender theory, queer theory and trans theory to examine and interrogate gender, gender roles, and gender performance. Each student will also develop their own drag persona as a form of research/inquiry into these various theories. 
Intermediate/Advanced/ Credits: 4

This course focuses on experimentation, exploration and developing the imagination. You will work solo and in concert with other actors/creators in class. Together we will explore and deepen your body intelligence: how space and the body interact, how your body relates and is influenced by other bodies, including the audience. We will explore impulse and improvisation that later develops into clear choices. Each week you will devise a short original piece based on prompts including but not limited to: an object, a color, a movement, an image or a sound. There are no wrong answers, just more possibilities to explore. We will also deepen mask and clown skills devising specific characters and scene work. Please note that creative work will happen in classroom and in outside rehearsals.
Prerequisite: Physical Theater: The Language of the Body; two dance classes or dance background/physical theatre background.

Faculty: Brenda Foley
This class will be an exploration of the ways in which we construct and perform narratives of identity. Employing perspectives from performance, gender, and global studies we will combine theory and practice through a series of workshop projects, and sessions with visiting artists. The class will culminate in a workshop showing of student written performance pieces.
Prerequisite: Intermediate performance class, Advanced /Credits: 4 

Faculty: Jean O’Hara
Through the mediums of theater and film, we will explore the intersection of race, gender, and sexuality. We will work within Gloria Anzaldua's borderlands framework, where LGBTQ2S people often face homophobia and heterosexism within their ethnic communities and racism within the dominant white queer community. We examine how marginalized groups create other forms of marginalization, while the dominant narrative renders most "queer" people invisible. Combining theory, performance, theater literature, and film, this course will explore the challenges and gifts of the borderlands as potential space of isolation and liberation.
Intermediate/Advanced/Credits 4

Faculty: Brenda Foley
This course will be a collaborative seminar to offer intermediate and advanced students using playwriting and other forms of performed narrative as an aspect of their Plan the opportunity to workshop their ideas and scripts. The class will consist of writing exercises, workshops and staged readings. We will be joined by visiting playwrights in class and will attend productions off campus. Some flexibility in scheduling will be necessary. The final project will be ten-minute plays that will be submitted to a juried play festival competition to be held on campus in spring 2016.
Prerequisite: college-level theater history and directing class, Intermediate/Advanced/Credits 3

Faculty: Brenda Foley
Employing tools of critical analysis from the fields of performance studies and disability studies, this course is an interdisciplinary exploration of the ways in which cultural images of “normal” are constituted, legitimated and even occasionally subverted in theater and popular entertainment in the United States. We will study works as diverse as Tod Browning’s film Freaks, Doug Wright’s play I am My Own Wife and the BBC’s “reality show,” Missing Top Model.   Intermediate-Advanced | Credits: 4

Faculty: Brenda Foley
This course will be a collaborative seminar designed to give intermediate and advanced students who intend to use performing as an aspect of their Plan the opportunity to workshop their ideas and scripts.
Prerequisite: Permission of instructor, and the class will be capped, Advanced | Credits: 3


By the completion of four years of study, it is expected that theater students will have gained broad knowledge of the discipline by taking classes in each area (history/lit/theory, design/production, acting/directing) as well as classes and tutorials specific to their own research and production interests.

In general, to graduate with a degree field in theater all students will take:

  • two acting classes
  • two directing classes
  • one design class
  • one theater history class
  • one class in performance theory
  • one class in theater literature
  • and have worked crew for at least one production 

Additional classes and theater productions relevant to the individual area of study (acting or directing, for instance) will form the remainder of each student’s theater coursework and tutorials through collaboration with advisors.

Sample Tutorial Topics:

  • Embodiment and Performance
  • (Dis)Integrating Form: Constructing a Play
  • Contemporary Plays and Playwrights
  • Indigenous Performance Traditions and Practices
  • Theater and Violence
  • Jacobean Plays
  • Humor on Stage
  • Creativity and Imagination