Faculty Performance Production: Unibeauty & Her Wicked Daughters, a corporate fairy tale in process, by Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig (DRA4152.01)

Jean Randich

In Spring 2023 Bennington students have the opportunity to collaborate with director/devisor Jean Randich, playwright Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, and designer/video artist Sue Rees on the development of an in-progress script whose themes and form are situated in the crosshairs of Cowhig’s teaching focus at Bennington: Crafting It-Narratives (stories centering non-human subjects) and Playwriting as Civic Inquiry. Ensemble members (roles are not race/gender specific) will have the opportunity to influence the development of a new play (the ethos is ‘Best Idea Wins’), explore ways to theatricalize abstract concepts (corporate personhood, civil rights for legal fictions), and refine/replace/generate scenes through structured improvisation.

This experimental play is inspired by the 19th century British It-Narrative ‘Autobiography of a Joint Stock Corporation,’ the history of the corporate civil rights movement in the United States, and multinational corporations’ ongoing attempts to shield themselves from their liabilities at the expense of the health of their consumers. It’s also inspired by Monty Python skits, Bouffon comedy, and Snow White.

Actors in the ensemble will be tasked with playing a range of nonhuman and mythically inspired roles that have resonance with contemporary consumer rights issues. These roles include Corporate Persons (a parent health + beauty corporation and her daughter shell companies), Wizards (Corporate Lawyers), Knights (Corporate Lobbyists), Hairless Witches (Consumers/Plaintiffs with Cancer), a Magic Billboard, and the FDA Dragon.

Process Over Product:

We will begin with the third draft of Cowhig’s script, which will represent Cowhig’s best initial efforts to push a story inspired by Johnson & Johnson’s recent attempts to dodge their asbestos-laced talcum liability through a divisive merger (aka the ‘Texas Two Step’) into a theatricalized fable form. It will be our task to play, ask questions and generate new theatrical possibilities through devising and structured improvisation. Throughout this process Cowhig will continue to develop the script based on her own impulses, provocations from the ensemble, and material generated through improv. Participants will gain insights into an ‘on your feet’ ensemble driven model of a new play development process, one that invites embodied ensemble exploration and devising as well as seated table work. The course culminates in a streamlined workshop production experience that will share our staging of the ‘work-in-progress’ script with the audience. We will make drafts of the script available in the Drama Conference room and also provide a link for downloading up to date versions of the script.


Learning Outcomes:
Learning to collaborate in the creation of an original work of theater
Creating multiple characters through exploring the expressivity of the human body
Learning how to analyze, interpret, and activate a text through embodied thought and action
Exploring physical action, dance, and fights as storytelling gestures
Learning to devise individually and as an ensemble
Learning to improvise, create, and experience at the same time
Learning how theater can provoke civic and political action
Engaging with each other and the audience to awaken civic awareness and agency
Learning to listen to each other and to respond with an open heart and mind



Delivery Method: Fully in-person
Prerequisites: AUDITIONS ONLY. Auditions will be held during the first week of the Spring 2023 term. Please memorize two contrasting monologues, one comic, one dramatic, from any contemporary play. (Both monologues together should not exceed three minutes.) Please prepare 30 seconds of any physical activity you can perform: dance, exercise, yoga, magic tricks, martial arts, etc. Students from Drama, Dance, Visual Art, Music, Science, Political Science, Literature, History, Environmental Studies, CAPA, and all other fields of study as well as anyone versed in improvisation are invited to audition.
Course Level: 4000-level
Credits: 4
T/W/Th/F, 7:00PM-10:00PM, Saturday 12:00PM-4:00PM (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 14
Course Frequency: One time only

Categories: All courses , Fully In-Person , Drama
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