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TAPS 22AX: Theatre of the People: Performance Based Acting

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Course Description

Theatre of the People is a performance-based course that guides students through the process of devising, writing and performing an original play that addresses burning social issues. Students will learn about theatre’s rich history of speaking truth to power. We will begin by learning how the touring Commedia Dell’Arte troupes of Renaissance Italy challenged the dominant power structure and used street theatre to express the voice of the people.

We will see how this tradition has continued to inform theatrical resistance to oppressive systems all over the world by studying the plays of contemporary theatre makers like Dario Fo, the San Francisco Mime Troupe, Mbongeni Ngema, and Percy Mtwa. Our examination of the historical context will be supplemented with training in popular theatre techniques. We will build our skills in such areas as character creation, clowning, mask work, devising, writing for the stage, musical theatre, and site-specific performance.

Students will apply these lessons to the ongoing devising, writing, and rehearsing of an original play, based on their burning issues, which will be performed for the public at the culmination of the course.

Meet the Instructor

Rotimi Agbabiaka

Rotimi Agbabiaka is a Lecturer in the Theatre and Performance Studies department, where he teaches courses in acting and solo performance. As an actor, Rotimi most recently originated the roles of Aladdin in The Magic Lamp (Presidio Theatre), Salima in House of Joy (California Shakespeare Theatre) and Cellphone in If Pretty Hurts Ugly Must Be a Muhfucka (Playwrights Horizons, Off-Broadway). Other acting credits include roles at Yale Repertory Theatre, American Conservatory Theatre, Magic Theatre, Marin Theatre Company, Shotgun Players, and TheatreWorks. Rotimi is also a company member of Word for Word, Black Artists Contemporary Cultural Experience (BACCE), and the Tony Award-winning San Francisco Mime Troupe. As a playwright, Rotimi penned and toured the solo shows Homeless,Type/Caste (Theatre Bay Area award), and MANIFESTO, and the musical, Seeing Red—co-written with Joan Holden and Ira Marlowe and produced by the San Francisco Mime Troupe.

Rotimi has taught acting, movement, and play creation at the Yale School of Drama, Middlebury College, Bennington College, Southern Illinois University, the California Institute of Integral Studies, and American Conservatory Theatre, among others. Directing credits include the world premieres of VS. at TheatreFIRST and The Red Shades: A Trans Superhero Rock Opera at Z Space. Rotimi trained at the Moscow Art Theatre, received an MFA in Acting from Northern Illinois University, and has presented work at museums (the deYoung), in parks (with We Players), on street corners (with Jess Curtis’ GRAVITY), and on nightlife stages around the world (as alter ego Miss Cleo Patois).