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.
Never before has a teacher been able to bring so much life to a subject that I, until now, have never been particularly passionate about. Aaron got me excited to come to class every single day to learn more about Hrotsvitha and American melodrama, and he’s inspired me to the point that I still find myself (a year removed from my last class with him) researching the Grand-Guignol theatre on my own time. He unearthed a personal passion in me that I never knew I had, and the world needs more educators like him.
Aaron is one of those rare types of educators who isn’t only an expert within his field, but an expert in teaching. He has a staggering breadth of knowledge and makes learning moments seem transferable to all students regardless of their interests outside of the class. I recall one class where, within the same lecture, he connected his lecture to both Jacques Derrida and ’90s sitcoms. His range of knowledge from both high and low topics, from populist and literary entertainments, means he engages nearly every classmate nearly all the time, regardless of previous skill level. His class is the only class where I’ve been completely convinced that I can get as much out of it as I’ve put in. It simply is not possible to work harder or be more engaged than Aaron.
If there was ever a single moment that fully expressed the scale of Aaron’s dedication, it must be the time Aaron critiqued a play I’d written for a local play festival on his own time. Until that moment, it had been a challenge for me to get honest feedback from any professor besides the ones paid to lead workshops; however, Aaron took time out of his own schedule to give me a thorough breakdown complete with suggestions and structural analysis. This event on its own wasn’t significant, though I appreciated it. What made it linger with me was that when I thanked him more than was necessary (or comfortable), he told me to stop and that I “wasn’t special”, that he “would have done this for any of [his] students.” It wasn’t a jab, it was the truth. I’m not exceptional; Aaron is.
Dr. Aaron C. Thomas is not one of the best professors I’ve ever had. He is the best professor I’ve ever had. I can probably say that for most of my peers as well. The door to his office is always open. I’ll pass by and he’ll be typing up some essay on staged violence, or reading some book about masculinity in 18th century theatre, and he’ll always stop to glance up, just in case it’s a student in need. In the event that it is a student in need, he’s always willing to pause his work to be of assistance—no appointment necessary.
The best part about asking for a chunk of his time is that it doesn’t have to strictly relate to his class. Yes, of course he’s available to point someone in the right direction for research on a class essay, but he doesn’t stop there. I’ve approached him with broader issues that he’s been willing to lend an ear to, and even offer helpful advice.
During a semester when I wasn’t registered for classes, he was conducting an independent study on playwriting. I couldn’t enroll in it, but that didn’t matter. He asked his class if they were all right with including me in their final workshop, which they were, so he invited me to participate. I gave and received quality criticism on the plays we were all working on. I learned how to improve my writing, both then and in the future. The play I revised from that workshop received perfect scores from the readers at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater when I submitted it to their PlayFest.
But this isn’t a single, isolated incident. Aaron has always been available to read my scripts and provide feedback. Finding people to read my stuff is hard enough, finding someone to read it and provide useful feedback is almost nonexistent, but finding someone with a PhD, a full-time teaching position, and who is writing their own stuff: Blessing. The significance of my growth as a writer has happened because of Aaron C. Thomas. Not only for teaching me to be a smarter writer, or even for giving me criticism on my work, but for guiding me on a path to success as a whole.
The point, however, isn’t that he is a wealth of priceless knowledge and wisdom. He is, but that’s obvious. The point is that he cares. The point is that he is wholly invested in the success of his students. Any professor can be full of useful knowledge—most aren’t, but that’s not what this is about—but seldom do they take the time to actually share it, and make certain that a student fully grasps it. The rarity of such a professor is incredible, and clearly unfortunate, but Dr. Aaron C. Thomas is that rarity.