Undergraduate Core Courses
Introduction to Theatre
This course introduces non-majors to European and U.S. theatre traditions. My approach works to avoid the theatre-history-in-miniature model and aims, instead, to give students greater access to the theatre being produced, the theatre they are likely to see. In effect, the goal is to make better theatre audiences.
Play Analysis / Script Analysis
Introduces students to methodologies of play analysis using the traditional tools of Aristotle and Brecht, as well as more modern critical methods such as Hodge and Freytag, through to Una Chaudhuri and Pierre Bourdieu.
World Theatre History Part I / Theater & Society I
This survey course covers the historical context of important theatrical periods from ancient Egypt and Greece through to the end of the medieval period in Europe. I am interested in paying specific attention to the origins and development of the Japanese Nō tradition, as well as the often-neglected areas of ancient Roman tragedy, comedy, and spectacular performance.
World Theatre History Part II / Theater & Society II
This course examines the early 1800s through the present day beginning with melodrama as an international form. The course emphasizes European Modernism, U.S. American playwriting, and post-colonial theatre in a global context.
Undergraduate Specialty Courses
Violence and Pleasure in British Drama: Renaissance Corpses, Modern Bodies
This course reads revenge plays from the Early Modern tragedians Shakespeare, Middleton, Webster, Ford, and Massinger beside performances of atrocity in the twentieth-century theatre of the New Jacobeans. We then explore the Renaissance as a model for Sarah Kane and Mark Ravenhill, the “feast of filth” that shocked Britain in the 1990s. In this way, this course aims to rethink subjectivity across the centuries, examining time, the staging of history, and theatrical images of the body in both pain and pleasure through British drama.
Parisian Avant-garde Theater, 1887-1930
This course introduces students to the avant-garde in Paris as it was attempted by performers in the traditions of Naturalism, Symbolisme, Futurism, Surrealism, and the Theatre of Cruelty. I am interested in focusing, especially, on the thread of anti-establishment thought running through this period: on Alfred Jarry, as well as the loose, international collection of anti-artists known as Dada.
Violence, Ethics and Representation
This seminar explores representations of violence in the theatre. Students discuss and critically analyze theories of violence, torture, and pain as they relate to performance, responding to and debating the ethics of the use of violence in the theatre, as well as responsible practices for the staging of violence.
Sex & Drama: Sexuality Theories and Theatrical Representation
Introduces students to queer-theory methodologies and theories of sex, gender, and sexuality. Students learned how theatre both reflects and produces the concepts of sex, gender, and sexuality for several time periods in the context of theatre history.
Advanced Theatre History: Renaissance to 18th Century
This intense course serves both PhDs and MFAs and consists of an in-depth survey of European Early Modern and eighteenth-century theatre history, incorporating a range of theories of historiography and cultural study. The course paid specific attention to performances outside the canon – the short plays of Lope de Rueda, for example, as well as the parades of 18th century France.
Race, Gender and Performance
This course examines gender and sex theory along with critical race theories and asks Masters students to examine theatre texts in relation to those critical approaches. This course also includes a brief examination of Black theatre history in the U.S.
I remember walking into class on a rainy day. Everyone was drenched and complaining that they had run to get inside the building. Aaron stood at the front of the classroom and told us that he had never run in the rain: he just walked like a normal person would walk, albeit slightly covered in water. Whenever I get stressed out, I think about that. I’m normal, just slightly covered in water. Aaron has a way of putting things into perspective.
During Aaron’s brief year at Dartmouth, he quickly became my favorite theater history professor. His enthusiasm for performance traditions of the past and their relevance today was evident every time he taught class. He understands how to structure class time to balance learning historic background with discussing and analyzing play texts. Aaron is open and inviting, and made me excited to learn theater history.
Aaron Thomas has made impact not only in my academic pursuits, but also in my life as a theatre professional. As an academic writer Dr. Thomas encouraged me, and throughout his classes I was able grow as a writer. His lessons extend far beyond the classroom walls. I find myself analyzing popular culture and films with the arsenal of information that Aaron provided me. I can’t adequately express how wonderful of a teacher he was and is; as well as how much I appreciate his insight on how to analyze theatre on a day to day basis.
Aaron Thomas is such a motivational teacher. He respects his students and truly listens. I am a hard-working student, but of course there were times when I would not want to put in 100% in every college assignment. However, in Aaron’s classes, that was never the case. I always felt the need to do my best because I respected him as a teacher and a person. It may be silly, but I never wanted him to be disappointed with my work. I took multiple classes from Aaron because I loved his way of teaching and enjoyed attending class. His classes came highly recommended to me, and now the cycle continues as I recommend his classes to new theatre students.
I loved the masterful facilitation style Aaron exhibited in teaching my graduate level Race and Gender in Performance class, but the greatest impact he made in my life happened outside of the classroom. When I expressed interest in pursuing a PhD in Theatre, Aaron provided the encouragement and guidance I needed. Throughout the following year, he made himself available through the entire application process, answering questions, providing thoughtful insight, and offering support. I am finishing my first semester as a doctoral student, and I can’t thank Aaron enough for the instrumental role he played in this new journey.
I would not be the person I am today without the wisdom of Aaron Thomas. One of the critical shifts in my development as a human being lies in my being exposed to his brilliant and creative mind both inside and outside the classroom. I did not know how to think about the world, let alone critically examine the multitude of ways one could think about the world, before taking five of his classes, and I am certain that I would not have fared well at all at overcoming the obstacles I’ve faced thus far as a young freelance artist without the knowledge, critical thinking skills, logic, and awareness he imparted to me while I was his student.
Under Aaron C. Thomas’s tutelage I discovered my voice as an artist. He taught me that I mustn’t ignore my identity; that I should wear my history proudly, not like it’s a vulture on my shoulder. Dr. Thomas’s lessons have carried me on from the classroom to my professional life.
Professor Thomas somehow manages to combine an awesome classroom atmosphere with stimulating, real discussion. I only realized later how rare this combination really is – we were always free to speak our minds and there was no intimidation, but the class still kept a high level of discussion. He must have some secret superpower of subtly avoiding excessive detours and somehow making clear that he won’t take your empty b.s./that your argument should be properly thought through while still being extremely approachable and engaging.
Aaron Thomas seamlessly makes learning an interesting, captivating adventure. He invites his class to think critically and investigate the questions and mysteries of the class work. The final paper I wrote for Aaron Thomas’ class was my proudest work in college.
I’ve never been a fan of history classes, which is unfortunate because I had a series of amazing teachers in high school. They tried to get me involved and interested in history, but the study of the past and the goings-on of dead people never appealed to me. And then I took a theater history class with Aaron Thomas. It was such an amazing experience that I signed up for the class that he was teaching the next term, eager to continue learning from him. Over the course of those two terms, he instilled me with a joy for studying history, for putting a play in its historical context and analyzing the effects that the play may have had on society and vice versa. This allowed me to more fully understand plays and how they can work, which has greatly improved my work as a theater designer and aspiring director. Aaron Thomas brought life to an ordinarily dead subject, and I’ll never forget the days spent in his classroom.
The short time I had with Aaron was one of the most effective learning experiences in my time at the Florida State University School of Theatre. His teaching approach is down to earth, which makes learning much more accessible and interesting. I always looked forward not just to going to class, but reading the material as well because I was always surprised by the level of appreciation I ended up having when Aaron taught us about the material. Not to mention, he is incredibly knowledgeable. I wish there was a way to continue taking classes with him even after graduating, because he was always one of the best parts of the School of Theatre.