In efforts to encourage students to enroll in some of our more eclectic courses, I’ve asked Dr. Medoff (our drama specialist) to share a bit more about his fall 2014 Contemporary Drama course focusing on Shepard, Albee and Eno. You are not going to find a course like this anywhere else. Here’s what he wrote:
THREE AMERICAN PLAYWRIGHTS OF THE NON-BROADWAY TRADITION
Sam Shepard became involved in the Off-Off-Broadway theater scene in 1962. A habitué of the Chelsea Hotel scene of the era, he contributed to Kenneth Tynan’s ribald Oh! Calcutta! (1969) and drummed sporadically from 1967 through 1971 with psychedelic folk band The Holy Modal Rounders, appearing on Indian War Whoop (1967) and The Moray Eels Eat The Holy Modal Rounders (1968). Shepard’s early science fiction play The Unseen Hand (1969) would influence Richard O’Brien’s stage musical The Rocky Horror Show. Cowboy Mouth—a collaboration with then-lover, Patti Smith—was staged for one night at The American Place Theater in April 1971, providing early exposure for the future punk rock singer. Shepard accompanied Bob Dylan on the Rolling Thunder Revue of 1975 as the ostensible screenwriter of the surrealist Renaldo and Clara (1978) that emerged from the tour. His diary of the tour (Rolling Thunder Logbook) was published by Penguin Books in 1978. A decade later, Dylan and Shepard co-wrote the 11-minute “Brownsville Girl”, included on Dylan’s Knocked Out Loaded (1986) album and later compilations. In 1975, he was named playwright-in-residence at the Magic Theatre, where many of his notable works (including his Family Trilogy: Buried Child , Curse of the Starving Class , and True West ) received their premier productions.
Edward Albee was the first major author to come out of the Off Broadway theatre scene. He is known for works such as The Zoo Story (1958), The Sandbox (1959), Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962), and a rewrite of the book for the unsuccessful musical Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1966), an adaptation of Truman Capote’s 1958 novella of the same name. His works are considered well-crafted, often unsympathetic examinations of the modern condition. His early works reflect a mastery and Americanization of the Theatre of the Absurd that found its peak in works by European playwrights such as Samuel Beckett, Eugène Ionesco, and Jean Genet. Younger American playwrights, such as Paula Vogel, credit Albee’s daring mix of theatricality and biting dialogue with helping to reinvent the post-war American theatre in the early 1960s. Albee continues to experiment in works such as The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? (2002).
Will Eno is a Brooklyn native and a protégé of Edward Albee. His The Flu Season was produced by The Rude Mechanicals Theater Company at the Blue Heron Arts Center, New York City, from January 29, 2004 to February 22, 2004. The play won the 2004 Oppenheimer Award, presented by New York Newsday, for best debut production in the previous year in New York by an American playwright. Although some of his plays were originally produced in Britain, Eno has been making headway in New York City theatre ever since the 2004 debut of Thom Pain (based on nothing). Charles Isherwood, theatre critic for The New York Times, called Eno “a Samuel Beckett for the Jon Stewart generation.” Thom Pain (based on nothing) was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Middletown opened Off-Broadway at the Vineyard Theatre in November 2010 through December 5, 2010, and Eno won the 2010 Horton Foote Prize for Promising New American Play. Title and Deed (a collaboration with the Gare St. Lazare Players of Ireland) made its American premiere Off-Broadway at the Signature Theatre Company from March 2012 to June 2012. His adaptation of Ibsen’s Peer Gynt titled Gnit had its world premiere at the 37th Humana Festival of New American Plays in March 2013. In his Broadway debut, The Realistic Joneses began previews at the Lyceum Theatre on March 13, 2014 and officially opened on April 6, 2014, after a run at the Yale Repertory Theater in 2012. The New York Times reviewer of the Broadway production wrote: “don’t come to the play expecting tidy resolutions, clearly drawn narrative arcs or familiarly typed characters…. While the Joneses — all four of them — have all the aspects of normal folks, as their names would suggest, they also possess an uncanny otherness expressed through their stylized, disordered way of communicating… But for all Mr. Eno’s quirks, his words cut to the heart of how we muddle through the worst life can bring.”
I encourage everyone interested in drama and in 20th-century writing and concerns to sign up for this one of a kind course offering.