How do pressing issues get reflected on the American stage? Are there times when the theater helps drive public debate? How have playwrights responded to 9/11, and to early 21st century economic calamities? Can playwrights still attack through fiction, as Arthur Miller confronted McCarthyism via The Crucible? Is the new wave of documentary plays the most effective way to dramatize political and social schisms? Or is the American theater leaving the job of political commentary to Jon Stewart, and to sizzling tabloid TV series like House of Cards and Scandal?

This seminar will examine the tradition of political theater and take a close look at the treatment of politics in contemporary art. The focus will eventually tighten onto how today’s stages in Washington D.C. are – or are not – thoughtfully addressing hot topics and promoting public understanding. Students will attend 2-4 live productions in the Washington area; they will also hear from guest speakers drawn from Washington’s thriving professional theatrical scene.

No previous experience with theater is required.