Teaching through Performance

Fall 2018 and Winter 2019 quarters

Taught by

music composition, performance
English literature, theater studies

Our program is focused on some of the historical events not often taught in high school classrooms. We are particularly interested in the decades between 1920 and 1960, which saw the suppression of unionism, the rise of both the American Communist Party and the American Nazi party, the beginnings of the Civil Rights movement(s) during the many anti-lynching demonstrations, the invention of propaganda as a means for social control, anti-hydrogen bomb demonstrations, the empowerment of women during World War II, and the McCarthy trials during the late 1940s and 1950s. These were all precursurs to the rebellions of the 1960s, rooted in the activism of these earlier times.

We will study this time period using texts such as Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, and others. Each quarter students will be asked to write a research paper on a subject of interest to them from this time period. From these papers, groups of students will work together to write a script (involving both theater and music) that attempts to teach to an audience what the creators learned of this period in American history. These performances will then be given for our class (during the first quarter) and then at local high schools (during the second quarter). Alongside our historical work, we will study plays and operas that provide different models of how to represent social problems.

Our program will attempt to make a strong link between the intellectual study of a subject and its realization as a musical/theatrical project; the purpose of these research-based projects is the creation of an art that attempts to teach what the teachers have learned. In other words: We believe that our research is a key component of our creativity. Students should expect to devote about half of their time to analytical work (library research and writing) and the other half to composition and rehearsal. Students should also be prepared to engage in thoughtful and occasionally challenging conversations about issues of identity, particularly around race and class.

Program Details

Fields of Study

education history music political economy theater writing

Preparatory For

education, theater/performance studies, and community organizing.


Fall Open Winter Open

Location and Schedule

Campus Location


Time Offered


Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning


$40 per quarter for performance tickets.