What Can One Person Do (DRA4394.01)

Sherry Kramer

One of the primary jobs of the storytelling tradition is to sing the songs of a culture’s heroes. In this class we’re going to take a look at what a hero is and what it means to write and sing the songs that immortalize them. And by songs I mean…plays and movies. We will attempt to define what a hero is, what a hero was, what a hero could be. We will look at the everyman hero, the superhero (formerly known as a demigod), and everything in between. Primarily we’re going to examine the ordinary person who, in the heat of war or the great pressures caused by the unfairness of life, says this far, no further. I will stand up no matter what the cost.

There are hundreds of heroes we could look at, but we’ll be most interested in examining those enshrined in works that help create a society’s shared moral compass. We’ll be reading and watching the stories of modern moments of courage in the face of great risk, both true life examples and fictional ones: Schindler’s List, Hotel Rwanda, Till, Casablanca, A Small Light, To Kill a Mockingbird, Ruined. We’ll look at people who stepped in to save others when no one else would: Erin Brockovich, Oslo. And we’ll talk about the courageous who haven’t been sung about in our artform yet. Maybe you’ll do the singing. Malala Yousafzai, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for fighting for rights for women and who was shot by the Taliban for it, Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia Secretary of State who stood up to Trump and wouldn’t let him steal the Georgia election, Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan, who worked tirelessly, fighting for equal rights for American women, the list goes on and on. We’ll also spend some time contemplating everyday superpowers like money, beauty, strength, community, family, nepotism. And the all-time winner: charm, or charisma, the power to make people do what you want, to believe what you want them to believe. This makes our artform a superpower, and once in a great while, when changing the hearts and minds of its audience (Angels in America, The Vagina Monologues) one capable of the heroic.

Students will decide what they believe a hero means when they write a final play of 40-90 minutes in length about an ordinary person, either based in real life or a character they create, who is called on to do extraordinary things.


Learning Outcomes:
• To learn to examine the nature of sacrifice and courage as it is portrayed in art and how our idea of heroism has transformed over time

• To learn how to engage and write a play with larger purpose

• To evaluate how power and the powerless are represented in our artform

• To become adept at noticing the repeating patterns that organize the hero’s tale, real life to fictional and back again, and how pattern functions as truth


Delivery Method: Fully in-person
Prerequisites: By May 10: Please submit a 10 page minimum, no maximum, writing sample to skramer@bennington.edu with the subject heading HERO. Please attach your sample to the email. Your sample can be from a play or screenplay or a prose piece. Also include a short paragraph about why you want to write a play about a hero.
Course Level: 4000-level
Credits: 4
M 1:40PM - 5:20PM (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 12
Course Frequency: One time only

Categories: 4000 , All courses , Drama , Four Credit , Fully In-Person
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