I liked Prof. Mitra well enough -- the plays she chose were really interesting, but overall, by the end of the semester, I felt as if it was too much reading, and I would have preferred if we just stuck to one play per week so we could really dig our teeth into it. To that end, I stopped doing all the reading by the end of the semester. For a class that's meant to be a seminar, she does talk a tad bit more than one would expect, but her comments are always quite insightful and helpful, so I didn't mind much. Not a mind-blowing class, but interesting and provides a really great exposure to nonwestern plays. I found her to be very accommodating especially during the pandemic.
What an insufferable dick. There is absolutely no other way to put it. Hands-down the worst professor (or teacher) I have ever had. Avoid at ALL COSTS. Bill Worthen is a man with a perpetual, anxious, evil grin, making jokes in extremely poor taste; a man with pent-up energy, like a ticking bomb— giving the sense that he could explode on anyone at any minute; a man who is so full of himself that he will not only make you buy a textbook written by himself but who will impose all of his ill-informed, outdated, biased convictions on you as if they are fact. If you want to be assigned an unrealistically massive amount of reading every week (nearly all of it dull, by old/dead white guys) only to then go to class and listen to an old, self-important, over-confident prick unpreparedly ramble purple-prose and undecipherable jargon for the longest 75 minutes of your life twice a week, then go for it. If you want to then have your GPA totally destroyed by being quizzed on the smallest, inconsequential minutia of said readings like they do in high school to prove you read it, then go for it. If you want to go to office hours, only to have him make some snide, inappropriate remarks about your appearance, while glaring at you over his glasses with his little beady, vain, judgmental eyes, then go for it. If you want any theatre-related ambition or interest to be immediately squelched, then, by all means, go for it. This man is rigid, unsympathetic, unenlightened, and does not care about you at all. Try telling him something about yourself that is relevant to the theatre or the course or your studies or your life. I dare you. He will literally ignore you. He will learn your name so he can take attendance, but anything beyond that is totally beyond interest to him. It would be almost forgivable if this were a huge lecture course, but it isn't. It's a 20-student seminar. I don't know who got paid to leave good reviews on this site, but trust me: ignore them. I don't know a single person in real life who actually enjoyed having to deal with him (though some sucked up to him for the grade). It wounds me to think of what the Barnard-Columbia Theatre program could be if it were not for the incredible damper put on it by Bill Worthen. I cannot FATHOM what a clueless, incompetent person would've put this man is in charge of anything, much less a department at a selective school. If you have to take this class for your theatre major... then just don't major in theatre. Or if you MUST major in theatre, transfer to another school. Whatever you do, do not take this class. Don't say you weren't warned.
I would recommend this course and the professor. Though I can't speak for the class in a traditional setting, I think it was run in the best way possible considering the online format and circumstances of the semester. Professor Worthen is a super antsy little dude, but brilliant, organized, and funny. My first class, I've taken through Barnard, and I'm impressed. Class almost always went overtime by up to about 10 minutes, which was a little stressful since I had back-to-back classes on my schedule. He read every essay, returned work quickly, and gave actually helpful feedback. Extremely accessible professor. There are some cons. I attended every class without exception and submitted all assignments on time, and still almost failed the course. My grades on everything before the final exam were mostly As, with some Bs. I ended up doing pretty badly on the final, though, due to self-inflicted time constraints, and it was graded unforgivingly. I reached out with long, personal messages via email about concerns I (and others) might be facing due to the pandemic in a futile attempt to establish a student-professor relationship or connection in the online world, and was met with responses that were jarringly curt, uninterested and insensitive. He also often says things in class that are a little off color and he avoids discussions of race and sexuality like the plague. Some of these things he says would, perhaps, have been acceptable to say many years ago, which could explain why his older reviews are better, and also perhaps why CULPA just revoked his gold nugget (perhaps that means it's time to retire?). The amount of reading assigned, especially considering the circumstances, was totally unreasonable. I did every bit of it, too, and still almost failed the class— so make of that what you will. Nonetheless, Professor Worthen's commitment to continue school as usual with little accommodation to or mention of the pandemic was both comforting and immensely frustrating. I nonetheless would recommend this course— after all, we're not here to form relationships or get good grades; we're here to learn! And I promise you will if you show up.
This class was exhausting, to say the absolute least. There was little to no adaptation or accommodation for students—even during a global pandemic. On the syllabus, he literally has it written in bold that EXTENSIONS ARE NOT GIVEN for any and all assignments. I think the only exceptions were death of a parent or sibling. Not kidding. Each class is a lecture-style course, with little to no student participation. It is difficult enough to focus on Zoom, let alone when you’re being talked at for nearly 90 minutes. I understand why it’s difficult for students to talk in a class with this many students (40+), but participation wasn’t just limited, it was actively discouraged. Because Professor Worthen was normally sharing his screen, we weren’t allowed to type in the chat during class, because it distracted him, I guess. I think the chat function is really quite useful during large lectures, but apparently not. Anyway. This is a course that focuses almost exclusively on the theatre of white men, and Professor Worthen makes little to no effort to change that, or to make women & BIPOC feel welcome. One Homi Bhabha essay on post-colonial mimicry and a Suzan Lori Parks play is not enough. Also, when we were talking about early modern plays, there was a weird lack of acknowledgement of and sensitivity around the rampant antisemitism of many of these works (especially the Passion Plays, York Cycle). I do not recommend this class, and I am sad that it’s required for the Theatre major.
I think course reviews are always either too negative or positive so I'm adding one in the middle. This was a fine class, I liked it enough, it didn't change my life. Mitra is very nice and smart but often I felt there was too much lecture for a class that is supposed to be discussion-based. We also went overtime during many classes. That being said we covered a lot of interesting topics. If you want a class that's not a lot of work (then again it was P/F when I took it) go for it.