This course will explore the idea of comedy, focusing on its “light and dark” aspects. We will read and discuss plays ranging from the brilliant comedies of Oscar Wilde (The Importance of Being Earnest, The Ideal Husband) to the darker, existential “tragic-comedies” of Samuel Beckett (Waiting for Godot, Happy Days). To get our bearings, we will look back at the “romances” of Euripides (Helen and Ion), the light and dark comedies of Shakespeare (Twelfth Night and Measure for Measure), two political comedies of George Bernard Shaw (John Bull’s Other Island and Mrs. Warren’s Profession), and Thornton Wilder’s “split-vision” view of America (Our Town, The Skin of Our Teeth). We will also discuss the films screened in the Stanford Summer Theater Festival Film Series, “Apocalyptic Comedy,” where comedy takes on apocalyptic dimensions (Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, Nichols’ Catch-22, and McDonagh’s In Bruges, among others).
Enroll at continuingstudies.stanford.edu.
The course will be built around Stanford Summer Theater’s (SST) fifteenth season, “He’s Funny That Way: Wilde and Beckett.” In addition to six class meetings, students will attend special preview performances of SST’s productions of The Importance of Being Earnest and Happy Days. Students also will attend our free film series on Monday nights as well as the SST symposium (August 3, 9:30 am to 5 pm, Pigott Theater, Memorial Auditorium).
The course includes a ticket to the symposium and reserved seats at the preview performances (July 17 and August 14, no substitutions).
Class sessions: Wednesdays, June 26, July 10, July 24, July 31, August 7, and August 21, 7:00 – 8:50 pm
Performances: The Importance of Being Earnest preview, July 17, 8:00 pm, and Happy Days preview, August 14, 8:00 pm
“He’s Funny That Way: Wilde and Beckett,” August 3, 9:30 am – 5:00 pm Pigott Theater
“Apocalyptic Comedy,” Monday nights, July 8 – August 19 FREE, 7 pm, Annenberg Auditorium