Theatre History Essay Topics

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Theater has a rich and interesting history, and your students might benefit from thinking critically about it. This lesson offers a series of essay topics that will help your students describe and analyze major themes in theater history.

Teaching the History of Theater

Are you a teacher of the theater arts? Or, perhaps you're a literature or history teacher who incorporates the study of theater into the rest of your curriculum. In either case, learning the history of theater is one of the ways your students will come to appreciate what theater has meant throughout the world over time.

One of the best ways to help your students understand theater history on a deeper level is by having them write essays about it. When students write essays, they have to move in close to a topic and develop their own ideas and perspectives. They also have to use evidence from primary or secondary sources to back up their arguments, and this moves them in closer to the texts and ideas you want them to consider. The essay topics in this lesson will help your students write thoughtfully about theater history.

History of African & African American Theater

This section focuses on the history of the theater in Africa, as well as in African American traditions.

  • Describe what's known about the passion plays of Ancient Egypt. What was the role of the theater, and how did theatrical performance link to religion and spirituality.
  • How has theater in the history of Ghana been a way to comment on the colonization of Africa by Europeans? Use at least three different examples to show how playwrights have used their medium to make political commentary in Ghana.
  • What are some of the unique attributes of Yoruba theater? In your essay, explain some of the elements that make Yoruba theater special and analyze what we can learn about Yoruba culture and belief systems from studying the theatrical tradition.
  • To what extent does African American theater have its roots in African theater, and to what extent is it a uniquely American construct? Analyze arguments in both directions, and explain your overall point of view on the roots of the African American theatrical tradition.
  • Write an essay describing the history of the African Grove Theatre from its founding in 1821 to the present. What was the historical significance of this theater, and what did it represent? What is the cultural role of this theater today?

History of Asian Theater

Here, you'll find topics aimed at helping students consider the theater in Asian history.

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