Theatre Department

Our Town, Fall 2013
"Our Town" fall 2013

Theatre is essential to the liberal arts. With each play we study or perform in the Reed Theatre Department, we learn about a different world, and delve into that world's cultural values, social and religious practices, gender roles, race relationships, and political debates. Engaged in in this way, Theatre is among the most successful disciplines at providing a truly interdisciplinary liberal arts experience.

Reed's Theatre Department mirrors the college's liberal arts mission. We believe that Theatre students should have a broad education in theatre history, theory, and practice. All Theatre majors are required to have coursework and production experience both onstage and backstage, and all majors are required to take classes in theatre history, directing, acting, and design, as well as a variety of electives. We offer additional coursework in dramaturgy, design, playwriting, performance studies, gender and theatre, race and performance, and translation and adaptation. Many of our classes, and all of our productions, are open to both majors and non-majors, and each year our productions involve over 150 students from across campus in all aspects of production, from being a stitcher in the costume shop to being a stage manager backstage or a lead performer onstage. Like all seniors at Reed, Theatre seniors carry out a yearlong written thesis project. Most students elect to supplement their written thesis with production work of some kind, pending department approval of the size and scope of the project. The faculty work as theatre professors and also as collaborative artists who produce a full season of student and faculty work in the Performing Arts Building.

Our department serves students from across the college. Each year we have a vibrant group of majors in Theatre, interdisciplinary majors in Theatre/Literature and Theatre/Dance, and ad hoc interdisciplinary majors in subjects such as Theatre/Classics and Theatre/Anthropology. Theatre engages both the mind and body, and many students—both majors and non-majors—thrive in the community environment that is Reed Theatre.

Recent productions include faculty productions of Thornton Wilder's Our Town, Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Sarah Ruhl's Eurydice, Naomi Wallace's One Flea Spare, and student thesis productions of Gertrude Stein's Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights, Maria Irene Fornes' The Successful Life of Three, and Federico Garcia Lorca's The House of Bernarda Alba. Other recent student thesis work has focused on stage design for the Richard Strauss opera Salomé, sound design for Julius Caesar, and an interdisciplinary thesis in Theatre and Anthropology on gender and the Portland mental health system.

PICA presentation
Angela Mattox, director of PICA, visits Reed fall 2013

Reed Theatre regularly welcomes guest artists and scholars to the department to present work, give talks, and offer workshops. Recent guests have included Anne Bogart, Jorge Huerta, Madison Moore, Universes, Meredith Monk, Philip Kan Gotanda, and Tim Miller. Reed Theatre enjoys collaboration with the Portland theatre community, including projects and interactions with Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, Portland Experimental Theatre Ensemble, Profile Theatre, and Portland Playhouse, among others.

Our Town preshow
Students running tech in our new Studio Theatre booth

Since Fall 2013, the Theatre department has inhabited Reed's new Performing Arts Building, which Theatre shares with the departments of Music and Dance. In the new PAB, there are two theatres: the 180-seat state of the art Studio Theatre, and the 99-seat Black Box. The new building also features a performance laboratory, a dedicated rehearsal room, a design studio, an up-to-date and equipped scene shop and costume studios, and multiple networked classrooms. The building is designed to be energy efficient, boasts ample common spaces for collaborative work, a rooftop garden, art exhibition spaces, and has a wide atrium to welcome the campus and Reed communities. For more information about the development of this exciting project, which broke ground in 2011, please see this article in Reed Magazine.


Theatre softball team, 2014
Theatre 2014 softball team

The department is staffed by theatre scholars and professional artists. Kate Bredeson (theatre history and literature, dramaturgy, playwriting, directing, gender and theatre) is a theatre historian, director, and dramaturg. Former Resident Dramaturg of Court Theatre in Chicago, and winner of the 2011 LMDA national dramaturgy residency grant, she has collaborated as dramaturg with theatres including Yale Rep, Portland Playhouse, and the Guthrie. A Paris Fulbright alum, her theatre history work focuses on French political theatre in the 1960s. Peter Ksander (set, lighting, and sound design) is an Obie-winning stage designer who has worked internationally, and served as a curator for the Ontological Hysteric Incubator / the Incubator Arts Project in NYC. Kate Duffly (acting, directing, race and American theatre, performance studies) is a scholar-director whose research and artistic work focuses on socially-engaged performance; she has had the opportunity to collaborate with acclaimed community-based theatre companies like Cornerstone Theater in Los Angeles and Bread and Puppet Theater in Vermont. Elliot Leffler (theatre history and literature, directing, South African activist theatre, Theatre of the Oppressed) is a scholar, director, and facilitator of community-engaged performance projects whose research focuses on theatre as a catalyst for intercultural dialogue; he has collaborated with high schools, prisons, community ensembles, summer camps, churches, synagogues, and prominent theatre companies such as Portland Playhouse and Sojourn Theatre. 

Production Season

Image from a Reed College production
"Julius Caesar", spring 2014

Seven to ten productions are staged each year, including two faculty-directed plays for which students can receive credit; senior-directed thesis productions; a variety of scenes staged by directing classes; class projects in acting, theatre history, performance studies, and gender and theatre.

Reed Theatre and Diversity

Reed Theatre is a community dedicated to creative and scholarly excellence, and an environment in which students, faculty, and staff can fully participate, regardless of ethnicity, race, religion, age, gender identity, sexual orientation, nationality, socio-economic status, or disabilities. All plays we produce, no matter how they have been cast historically, are open to all members of the Reed community. Performers of all abilities, gender identities, and ethnic and racial backgrounds are welcome and encouraged to audition.