Theatre and Pop Culture

DRAM 205/3.0

Overview

Humans use stories to make sense of the world, and one of the primary ways we share these stories with each other is through performance. Theatre is the original performance-based storytelling form.  In theatre, we can show people the world through design, imitate it through acting, and describe it through text.  

Contemporary pop culture & media also use a lot of performance to tell stories. We are literally surrounded by film, TV, music, 24 hour news channels, and endless scrolls of social media that provide a non-stop stream of performance. Increasingly, it is through media and pop culture (rather than via direct experience) that many of us learn about the world around us.   

The world as we each know it is reflected in the stories and media we consume, but is also constructed by it. Even if a product of pop culture is created just to entertain the masses or make a profit - and has no intention of ever exploring deeper themes, messages, or meanings – it still offers a particular vision of the world. Maybe that vision reflects the world as it actually exists, but maybe it’s an imagined version/vision of the world that constructs the world for its audience. It might be a version of life that others use when trying to make sense of their own worlds – or when trying to imagine parts of the world they have not yet seen for themselves.    

Because pop culture both reflects and constructs the world around us, what and who are/aren’t represented in these visions matters deeply, as does how they are represented. And how they are performed.    

In theatre studies, we spend a lot of time looking at how humans use stories to shape our understandings of each other. We focus on the performative and representational aspects of storytelling. We have analytical tools in theatre studies that can be very useful when applied to an analysis of pop culture. That’s what we will be doing in this course.   

Dram 205 – Theatre and Pop Culture explores the intersections between theatre and pop culture media, including film, music, journalism, and social media. Students will be provided with a toolkit of key concepts from theatre studies applicable to conducting critical analyses of current trends in pop culture and performance. In our discussions, we will encounter many examples where theatricality and pop culture collide, including drag queens, superheroes, Hollywood movies, pop music stars, cable news & reality TV, bingeable Netflix series, TikTok trends, YouTube dramas, and social media influencers.  

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course you should be able to:  

  • Define key concepts from theatre studies applicable to analyzing performance in pop culture & media, including theatricality, affect, performativity and representation. 

  • Reflect upon your personal experience as a spectator/consumer of popular culture & media using insights from theatre studies (and without extrapolating or universalizing your experience). 

  • Identify and develop productive and well-grounded connections between course concepts and examples of performance in popular culture & media. 

  • Apply course concepts to critically analyze performance in popular culture & media with an emphasis towards Equity, Diversity, Inclusivity, and Indigeneity (EDII). 

  • Communicate connections worth sharing with others in an accessible, engaging and concise way that is well-supported by analysis. 

Terms

Fall 2022
Course Dates
Delivery Mode
Online

Evaluation

20% - Module Completion Task (best 40 of 44)
25% - Discussion Forums (best 4 of 5)
15% - Slide Doc
5% - Peer Evaluation Feedback
35% - Final Submission (Video Essay/Presentation/Written)

**Evaluation Subject to Change**

Instructor Information

Professor Grahame Renyk (renykg@queensu.ca)

Instructor Message

Hello, and welcome to Dram205 - Theatre and Pop Culture. My name is Grahame Renyk and I will be your instructor for this course. I am an actor, director, and educator currently on Faculty in the Dan School of Drama and Music at Queen's. My research interests include musical theatre in Canada, directing, and using cognitive psych in theatre practice. 

I have taught at Queen's for the past several years, both on campus and online. I have worked with onQ for a long long time, so if you are having any problems with the technology, use the course questions forum (or email me) and I'll try to help you out. 

Textbook and Materials

ASO reserves the right to make changes to the required material list as received by the instructor before the course starts. Please refer to the Campus Bookstore website at http://www.campusbookstore.com/Textbooks/Search-Engine to obtain the most up-to-date list of required materials for this course before purchasing them.

  • Required screenings & readings are listed on the Course Timeline and links for accessing these materials will be provided in the modules.  
  • Wherever possible, Queen’s has acquired copyright permission to share these resources with you at no cost.   
  • Where copyright permission could not be secured, you will be asked to rent or purchase streaming versions of the materials. We have kept the cost of these resources as low as possible. Total costs will not exceed $50 (CDN).   
  • Links to purchase these digital resources are also provided in the modules. 

Time Commitment

In this course, you should expect to invest on average 8 hours per week (100 hours total). This will include the time you spend studying course material, practicing course objectives, and participating in course activities and assessments. You are encouraged to adhere to a pre-determined study schedule as you will be more likely to complete the course on time successfully. 

The course consists of regular module work comprised of small completion tasks.  Approximately every second week, there is a discussion forum assignment.  A typical module will take between 4 and 6 hours to complete. In addition to the regular weekly work, there is also a scaffolded analysis project that you will work on throughout the term.