A.R. GURNEY’S LITERARY DRAMATURGY with John Anderson and John Shuman
Thursdays on Zoom from 2-3 p.m.
on Oct. 15, 22, 29, Nov. 5, 12.
The late A. R. Gurney (1930-2017) is best known as the author of popular plays such as Love Letters, The Dining Room, and others that explore the decline of the ascendancy of WASP culture. Gurney was also a professor of literature and the humanities, who taught at MIT for several decades. His experiences teaching classic texts are evident in the plays this class will cover: Another Antigone, The Grand Manner, The Golden Age, Later Life, and The Fourth Wall. Each week, the class will read a literary work that inspired Gurney to write a given play, see and hear the Gurney play read by experienced actors, and then discuss the two works. The literary works include Antigone by Sophocles, Antony and Cleopatra by Shakespeare, “The Aspern Papers” and “The Beast in the Jungle” by Henry James, and Saint Joan by George Bernard Shaw.
Gurney said in an interview that he “lean[ed] on these older stories as a way of trying to sound chords with the audience, build a relationship with an audience, a communality, by telling a story which they already knew but telling it in a new way.” These plays, while standing on their own, become richer and more expansive experiences through familiarity with the source texts. Gurney’s love of theatre is evident in these plays, the first two of which focus on the study and performance of plays and the last two self-consciously play with theatrical conventions by having actors play multiple roles (Later Life) and have the characters confront their own presence on a stage (The Fourth Wall). The course will be team-taught by John Dennis Anderson and John Shuman.