University of Utah
Honors 473 (4 quarter credits)
"Magic, Metaphor and Morality"
Xan Johnson
Professor, Department of Theatre
Winter 1993

TOPIC: Homelessness (Social Issue Focused Theatre)


(1) NEEDED SERVICE.- Students provide a needed service to the HOMELESS by creating a theatre that addresses this social issue and then offers this educational product to the general public through performance.

(2) SERVICE-SUBJECT MATTER RELATION Theatre is, by its very nature, a social art form focusing or) people in conflict. Through metaphor, theatre allows students to explore the condition of being homeless in now and creative ways, perhaps even exploring innovative new solutions. Theatre allows objective distance and emotional immediacy to live in harmony while exploring any volatile social issue.

(3) CLASS CONTEMPLATES LEARNING THROUGH SERVICE Students use their research and service concerning homelessness as the motivation that moves them through hands-on learning as actor, playwright, set designer/builder, dramaturg, and critic. Through this process the students come to understand thin relationship between theatre and society. Each class ends with a public performance of an original play create by the class and mounted in the Babcock Theatre.

(4) CREDT/ASSESSMENT OF LEARNING FROM SERVICE: Guest critics are invited to critique the play and offer feedback to the class. Critics include myself, homeless individuals that have been working with us on this project, specialists working in the homeless field, etc. Written journals are then received from the students at the end of t~he class after post critique reflections are added to each journal.

(5) SERVICE RECIPIENTS EVALUATE SERVICE: Students receive a critique and general feedback from homeless individuals invited to attend the performance. It may be that some of the homeless individuals working with us on this project would like to be in the play. At the very least, invitations to see the play will be given to many homeless individuals.

(6) SERVICE DEVELOPS CIVIC EDUCATION: A post discussion in the Babcock following the performance' allows interaction between the homeless, non-homeless, field specialists, students, etc. in attendance... the play becomes the catalyst for civic education.

(7) KNOWLEDGE ENHANCES SERVICE: Newly acquired theatre skills and the thrill (or terror) of performing greatly enhances the knowledge being directed through the process leading to a performance... theatre is, by nature, a holistic learning medium

(8) LEARNING FROM OTHER CLASS MEMBERS: One of most exciting parts of the class is the excitment and amazement generated by the sharing of creative ideas leading to the creation of an original performance in the Babcock Theatre.

         Day/Date Daily Focus
         January                             PROCESS MONTH

Tue/5 Discuss Course and schedule. Experience drama vs. theatre. Discuss choice list of contemporary social issues.

Thu/7 Discuss Production Elements: (1) Direct Performance Skills - Acting (Movement/Voice), Dance, Music (Song/instrumental); (2) Indirect Performance Skills, Playwriting, directing, composing/lyrics, choreography, designing (set/costumes/lights/sound),, Constructing; and (3) Non-Performance Skills Publicity, H ouse Management (Ushers/Tickets/Etc.), Records, General Business, and Education Outreach. Discuss social issues. Assign THEATRE PIECE. homework - goal to explore self-resources in theatre performance.

Tue/ l 2 Finish discussion of Production Elements. Create a THEATRE PIECE in class. Discuss social issues. Assign social issue research tasks.

Thu/14 Playwriting workshop.

Tue/I 9 Discuss social issues. Assign THEATRE PIECE 2 homework. Play-reading.

Thu/21 Defend social issue choice. Map involvement plan. Invite guest authorities from issue field.

Tue/26 Explore SOCIAL ISSUE THEATRE PIECE ideas. Think about commitment areas - must commit to three areas direct performance, indirect performance, and nonperformance areas.

Thu/28 Guest Specialists invited to class.


Tue/2 On-site visitation to see specialist work.

Thu/4 Open day to catch up on things

Tue/9 Brainstorm structure of SOCIAL ISSUE THEATRE PIECE. Playout ideas - remember dramatic action needs to be either vivid, emotional, conflicting, or striking or a combination of any and all of these aspects in the end result. Discuss overall METAPHOR and design elements. Plan non-performance areas.

Thu/1 1 Begin molding individual parts of the whole.

Tue/l 6 More molding of old and new parts.

Thu/1 8 More molding. Last chance for new material.

Tue/23 Rehearse whole show. Begin to add design pieces.

Thu/25 Rehearse whole show. Work out problems.


Tue/2 Run-through and other problems.

Thu/4 Run-through and other problems.

Tue/9 Final touches.

Thu/1 1 Final touches.

Sat/ 3 ALL DAY REHEARSAL/9:00am - 5:00pm

Finals Week
M/T/W Dress Rehersals in evenings (so keep these evenings open please) and or PERFORMANCE one of these evenings.




Youth Violence

Gangs, juvenile delinquency, and the increased use of guns and other weapons by America's young people re of concern to many Americans. This area of study would particularly examines the causes and possible cures for youth violence including a look at such questions as: What causes youth violence? How serious is America's gang problem? How can youth violence be decreased? How should young criminals be treated?

Sexual Harassment

The Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill scandal is just one of several recent cases that has sparked discussion on the topic of sexual harassment. This sensitive, timely topic would be thoroughly explored including a look at such questions as: How serious is the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace? What are the causes of sexual harassment? What can be done to decrease sexual harassment?


Suicide remains a tragedy when it occurs among the young and healthy. But, recently, debate has focused on whether suicide should be allowed, indeed, legally sanctioned, for the terminally ill. Questions: Is suicide an individual right? Should physicians assist terminally ill patients in suicide? What the causes of teen suicide? How can suicide be prevented?


America's immigrant tradition has always generated intense debate. Now, within our life time, if trends continue, current minorities will become majorities and forever change the face of America. Questions- Should immigration be restricted? How do immigrants affect America? How should US immigration policy be reformed? How should the US respond to illegal immigration? What policies would help immigrants adapt to the US?

                                        Date: Tue, 26 Dec 1995 14:31:38 MST