English 397DH:

Alternative Theatres

Navigating the Edinburgh Fringe Theatre Festival


The course takes advantage of the Edinburgh Fringe Theatre Festival, as well as the International Theatre Festival, from August 9-23. The course is designed to help you navigate the Fringe Festival with confidence, exposing you to fresh, inspiring, cutting-edge theatre that will change the way you see the world.

Students see 12-15 shows together with faculty, most in the first week.  Once used to the city, students follow their own chosen itinerary. The course features small group discussions as well as meetings with artists involved in creating shows at the fringe. Pre-Edinburgh coursework is submitted online in June and July. Six performance journals are written and submitted in Edinburgh. A reflective essay is submitted upon return to the U.S.

The small group (the 2017 program is capped at 15 students and 3 faculty members) makes for a wonderful, personal dynamic. Students live with a graduate assistant in a comfortable, centrally located apartment, and can walk everywhere!

In 2017, the course will be lead by Daniel Sack (UMASS English Department) with Harley Erdman (UMASS Theater Department) and Jenny Spencer (UMASS English Department).  Each faculty member has extensive knowledge of contemporary theatre, Edinburgh, and/or the Fringe Festival.

One goal of Alternative Theatres is to introduce students to a wide range of contemporary, theatrical forms--and the festival offers something for everyone. The group will attend shows by international companies, experience experimental theatre, and see new work by contemporary playwrights. The group of chosen students will hail from different colleges and universities:  any student who has completed their Freshman year is eligible to apply.

Apply now!  Early applications will have priority in deciding between qualified students.




Harley Erdman is Professor in the Theater Department at UMass. He is a dramaturg, playwright, and scholar whose work focuses on adaptation and translation. He has also written original work for the stage. Harley is the author of several books of scholarship and translations of Spanish plays from the 17th century. A regular at Edinburgh and recently returned from a Fulbright in Sri Lanka, Harley's work is invested in cross-cultural theatre history and practice.

Talya Kingston is a dramaturg, theatre artist, and educator. She has taught at Hampshire College and has developed educational programs with a variety of theatre organizations nationwide. Her writing on contemporary performance has been published widely and she has collaborated with playwrights on the creation of new work. A native of the UK, Talya has been attending the Edinburgh Fringe since she was a university student.

Dominika Laster is Assistant Professor in the Theatre Department at the University of New Mexico and previously taught at NYU and Yale University. She is the author of a book on the Polish director Jerzy Grotowski and editor for a collection of contemporary Polish plays. Her current work focuses on deportation, detention, and immigration post-9/11. Dominika is also a theatremaker and performer.

Daniel Sack is an assistant professor in the English Department and Commonwealth Honors College at UMass. He has written three books on contemporary theatre, dance, and performance art and has worked as the performance review editor for an international journal on theatre. Daniel regularly visits theatre festivals around the world and writes about the work he sees there. This year he is the head instructor for "Alternative Theatres: Navigating the Edinburgh Fringe."

Jenny Spencer is Professor Emerita and former Chair of the English Department at UMass. She started the Edinburgh Fringe Festival course at UMass nearly a decade ago. Under the umbrella of this course, she has also produced and hosted a number of artists in residencies and performances in Western Massachusetts. She is the author of three books on feminist and political theatre, with particular focus on British theatre from the 1970s to the present.