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Exploring the Core Curriculum through Theater

“I’ve had the most amazing experience in the Core. I feel like it made us grow, not just intellectually and philosophically, but even spiritually.” Marina Chan CC’17

Marina Chan CC’17 is bringing the Core Curriculum from the classroom to the stage.

For her senior thesis, the drama and theater arts major wrote Elizabeth’s Wonderland, an avant-garde play inspired by Alice in Wonderland, about a Columbia College senior who interacts with some of history’s greatest thinkers.

The protagonist meets philosophers like Aristotle and Plato, whom Chan studied in the Core Curriculum’s Contemporary Civilization her sophomore year. Chan said she was interested in probing how a “modern-day girl might respond to intellectual, philosophical texts by dead writers, but make them applicable to her life, making the transition from school to the real world.”

If it sounds familiar, that’s because the play is based on Chan’s own experiences at the College. In the play – which culminated in a reading with 16 students in the Broadway Sky Lounge on April 30 – she also examines the Eurocentric nature of the Core.

Chan said she enjoyed discovering the parallels between Core classes and theater classes. In “Modern Western Theatre Traditions,” taught by Hana Worthen, assistant professor of theatre and performance studies and associate director of the Center for Translation Studies, Chan learned about the philosophy of Nietzsche – providing “an excellent theoretical lens in which to contemplate my Core studies,” she said.

Chan, who was a programmer at WKCR from Spring 2014 to Spring 2016 and assistant art director of the Varsity Show in Spring 2016, is working to stage a reading of her play at her high school, The Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn. She plans to take two years off after graduation to pursue her playwriting and other creative work and then hopes to apply to M.F.A. programs.

In Her Own Words

“I’ve had the most amazing experience in the Core. I feel like it made us grow, not just intellectually and philosophically, but even spiritually. And all of that together is what inspired me to write this play this year. I saw it as the climax of my schooling and the end of my undergraduate career. ... I love that the Core is so interdisciplinary...I think it really gives us this foundation that is just crucial and informs the rest of our lives.” Marina Chan CC’17


Corinne Lestch SOA’18 is a freelance writer based in New York City. She has worked for the New York Daily News, where she received a Front Page Award from the Newswomen’s Club of New York, and is currently getting her M.F.A. in creative writing at Columbia's School of the Arts. She received a B.S. in journalism from Northwestern University in 2010.

Last updated Thursday December 14, 2017

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