Making Fun: A History of Farce on Stage


To call something a farce is to insult it; whether it’s a political proceeding, a business venture, or even a dinner party, nobody ever says “This is a farce!” without some edge of disdain. But what actually is a farce? This course, connected to Stanford Repertory Theater’s 2017 season of short farces by Anton Chekhov, explores the history of that genre. 

Class sessions will consist of lectures, text analysis, and performance exercises, all aiming to answer these questions: How is fun made? What are its ingredients? We will study the use of juxtapositions and the role of social norms and rituals, social status, and romance in three of Chekhov’s farces (The BearThe Proposal, andThe Anniversary). We will also read from Albert Bermel’s seminal history of the form, Farce, and consider the role of farce in our contemporary culture: Is farce a way to critique a flawed social and political order? Or is it simply a light diversion, a way to avoid the pressures of a changing world? 

Special class sessions will include a trip to a working dress rehearsal of Stanford Repertory Theater’s workshop of 33 Swoons, and a panel with the Stanford Repertory company and visiting artists. Come join us for some serious laughs this summer.

The Continuing Studies course is offered in partnership with Stanford Repertory Theater. 

"Making Fun: A History of Farce on Stage" is taught by Alex Johnson, Associate Artistic Director, Stanford Repertory Theater. Alexreceived an MA in theater and performance studies from Stanford. For Stanford Repertory Theater, he has acted in Brecht’s Galileo and in the World War I tribute, Words to End All Wars. He also serves as the director of outreach for the Massachusetts Educational Theater Guild in Boston.

For more information, or to enroll, please go to