Throughout history, great urban and national cultures—Athens, London, New York--have been identified with great theatre. Today, across America, theatre is thriving thanks to the immense creativity of our playwrights and associate theatre artists, the enthusiastic commitment of a wide audience, and the passion of artists and audiences together to engage in serious political discourse. This course will investigate the contemporary American theatre as an indispensable asset in helping our country shape and sustain its vigorous public culture. It will also enable us to create a collective portrait of who we are as a people at a critical moment in our national history. This course will examine new and recently produced plays by nationally recognized playwrights who deal with vital issues such as individual freedom, the family, warfare, race, and gender. Students will research major theatre companies, both traditional and experimental, and organizations devoted to new play development. The course will focus in part on the local Philadelphia theatre scene and include attendance at performances by local theatre companies. Philadelphia playwrights, directors, and actors will also visit the class and talk about their work.