Theater History

Focused primarily on the Western dramatic tradition, this 20-week, 20-class course examines dramatic work and essays from Aristotle, Sophocles, Shakespeare, Calderon, Racine, Ibsen, Strindberg, Chekhov, O’Neill, Miller, Williams, Beckett, Gertrude Stein, Filippo Marinetti, Brecht, Artaud, Adrienne Kennedy, LeRoi Jones, and Robert Wilson, among others. Each week we will read a play and we will talk about it. We will discuss modes of performance, theater architecture, dramaturgical structures and about methods of training actors. Additionally, we will examine theatrical values and the cultural contexts that have shaped them.

“On the stage it is always now.” –Thornton Wilder

As a collaborative medium, theater brings together artists from a variety of disciplines and perspectives who all work to shape language, space, light, sound, and the human body into performance. In the trenches of our training in these disciplines, we develop specialized languages to discuss our different work. At the Maggie Flanigan Studio, we believe it is important to remember that we are all participants in a legacy of performance. Theater has been alive and changing in cultures around the world for thousands of years. Its history is the language that we all share, and it is essential for the health of our art that we be conversant in it.

This course is rooted in the belief that any serious actor must know how to read a play. That is no easy task. It takes patience, presence, curiosity and an active, alert imagination. From there you must also have the healthy skepticism to question the assumptions and biases you bring to your reading, and the confidence to communicate them. This will include writing about the plays we read, and also performing sections of this work for each other. Additionally, we will reserve time each week to discuss theater we see on the many stages of New York City in an attempt to identify how ideas, values, and techniques of pervious ages have survived and transformed the modern stage. Through this we will develop the muscles and the arsenal of questions that allow an actor to pick up any text—written 1000 years ago or written today—and approach it confidently, with presence, purpose, and imagination.

Theater History is a prerequisite for Script Analysis, and is a requirement for Business I and Business II.

Elliot Quick( Theatre History: )

Elliot is a theatre artist based in Brooklyn, New York. He received an MFA in Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism from the Yale School of Drama, where he served as Production Dramaturg for 16 productions at the Yale Rep, YSD, and the Yale Cabaret. He was the Resident Dramaturg and Associate Artistic Director for the 2011 Yale Summer Cabaret Shakespeare Festival and the Associate Artistic Director for the Yale Cabaret's 43rd Season. His work as a director has appeared at the Yale Cabaret, HERE Arts Center, Electric Pear’s Synesthesia Festival, The Brick, and the NYC Fringe Festival. He has also worked as a Literary Assistant at Playwrights Horizons and a Literary Associate at the Yale Rep and Page 73. Elliot is an Artistic Producer for the multidisciplinary performance ensemble Piehole (, an Associate Artist of M-34 Productions (, and a Founding Member of Shakespeare on the Vine, a Shakespeare festival based in Napa Valley. Recent projects include co-creating Piehole's Old Paper Houses (Columbia Stages at The Connelly Theater) and adapting Karl Kraus's The Last Days of Mankind with students at Bard College.


  • "Elliot presents a way to read and explore plays that has opened up how I think of performance at its most elemental level. The environment is challenging, while also creative, and leaves you with the ability to speak confidently (or at least with daring) about plays you read and performances you see."

    Tanja Konwinski

  • " I started out as a guy who loves acting, but really didn't know anything about The Theater. Theater History at the Maggie Flanigan Studio has turned me into a more critically thinking actor and theater-viewer. Other actors should definitely take Theater History at Maggie Flanigan Studio because it is one hell of an eye-opening class."

    Sean Kaufman

  • "I needed to expand my knowledge of theater if I wanted to begin to consider myself a well-rounded actor and artist. And I can say without hesitation that Elliot's class did that and so much more. This class has grown my thirst for knowledge and my love for theater. I simply can't recommend it enough."

    John Zoitos