- 2 Chekhov plays (Seagull and Uncle Vanya)
- 3 Shakespeare plays, plus another Elizabethan play called Gallathea
- 2 Sondheim musicals (Merrily We Roll Along and Into the Woods)
- 2 Greek tragedies (Oedipus at Colonus and Suppliant Women)
- Several post-1970 American and British plays (such as Quills by Doug Wright, Las Meninas by Lynn Nottage, OTMA by Kate Moira Ryan, Cloud 9 by Caryl Churchill, Not I by Beckett)
- Some "reworked classics" (Kushner's adaptation of The Illusion; a professor's adaptation of Pygmalion to modern NYC with an African-American Eliza; Suppliant Women and Not I were actually combined, so perhaps they fit here as well)
- Various kinds of original work: a two-act play by a senior playwriting major, a collaborative writing/acting/directing project by five seniors, a multimedia-theatre-dance piece about the government's treatment of Native Americans; and this coming spring, a New Plays workshop festival
The Drama Department's ignoring the classic midcentury American plays is especially strange because the acting style it teaches us (psychological realism, grounded in Stanislavski/"The Method") was invented to deal with just those sorts of plays. Instead, we have to learn one acting style in class, and a whole different style (for Shakespeare, Greek plays, etc.) at rehearsal!
I certainly don't believe that every "classic" play is as good as its reputation suggests (my Eugene O'Neill dissent, anyone?) but part of me also believes that an educational institution, like Vassar, is responsible for familiarizing its students with their cultural heritage, including the classic American playwrights. On the other hand, maybe the responsibility shouldn't be to uphold the "canon" of established playwrights, but to look beyond it instead. Or maybe, because many of us want to be theatre professionals when we leave Vassar, the school's responsibility should be to prepare us for the kind of theatre we will create post-college. And as authors like Eugene O'Neill and Tennessee Williams get produced less frequently by the nation's theatre companies, it's less likely that Vassar graduates will get cast in their plays, and so it makes sense to pay them less attention during college. Perhaps Vassar really ought to focus on the kinds of plays that American theatres produce most regularly now. The Santaland Diaries and Tuesdays with Morrie, anybody?
In all seriousness, there's some great stuff on that list of the top 10 most-produced plays, and as for the stuff that's not so great... well, ultimately, I hope that the responsibility of an educational institution is to send its graduates out into the world armed and ready to make more of the good stuff and less of the bad stuff. And that means familiarizing us with all different kinds of plays and acting styles, treating none of it too reverentially, allowing us to come to our own informed conclusions about what kind of theatre our society most needs. And sometimes, we need to be reminded where we came from; so in that sense, there will always be a place for the classics.