English 297b
C. DuComb
MW 2:30-4

Twenty-First Century Drama in the Americas

The first, tumultuous decade of the twenty-first century has produced a host of excellent new plays by young, U.S.-based playwrights, many of whom challenge the limits of dramatic form in order to engage the complex social, political, and cultural issues of our time. In this course, we will read plays by some of the most important U.S. dramatists of past twelve years alongside plays by emerging and experimental playwrights who offer fresh perspectives on everything from the War on Terror to the immigrant experience to the WWF. Students will read the latest play by Alena Smith, a prizewinning playwright and Haverford alum, and take a fieldtrip to Philadelphia to see a performance by The Civilians, a critically acclaimed theatre ensemble. Although primarily focused on the U.S., the syllabus also includes several playwrights and performance artists from Canada, Mexico, and Cuba whose work addresses the shared histories that link “the Americas” together.


• To introduce students to drama as both a literary genre and a plastic art realized in the three-dimensional space of the theatre.
• To explore contemporary innovations in dramatic form, and to ask what makes these innovations particularly “twenty-first century” and “American.”
• Last but not least: to read and see exciting new plays!


The syllabus will include most of all of the following plays (with one or two additional titles TBD), along with critical and theoretical readings by Elinor Fuchs, David Róman, Karen Shimakawa, Diana Taylor, W.B. Worthen, among others.

Clements, Marie, and Rita Leistner. The Edward Curtis Project: A Modern Picture Story.
Diaz, Kristoffer. The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Diety.
Eno, Will. Tragedy: A Tragedy.
Lee, Young Jean. Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven.
Norris, Bruce. Clybourne Park.
Nottage, Lynn. Ruined.
Ruhl, Sarah. The Clean House.
Smith, Alena. The Bad Guys.
Yew, Chay. The Hyphenated American.


• Three essays, including one performance review and one research paper.
• Two brief, oral presentations: one on a contemporary playwright, and one on your research paper topic.
• Attendance at several required performances and screenings outside of class.