The Decameron Project: Musical Theater Storytelling in Times of Trauma

June 7 – July 2, 2021

This PIIRS Global Seminar is led by Peter Mills ’95 and Cara Reichel ’96 of Prospect Theater Company along with Stacy Wolf, Professor of Theater in the Lewis Center for the Arts.

Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron serves as a starting point for this four-week intensive seminar for exploring the fundamentals of storytelling and the various ways in which storytelling helps us navigate traumatic experiences. In The Decameron, a group of ten young people flee Florence during the Black Plague, taking refuge in a Tuscan villa. To keep spirits up during their quarantine, they take turns telling stories. The one hundred tales within the work’s frame narrative offer a portrait of life in medieval Italy. It established Boccaccio as the founder of Italian prose literature and his stories became a model for Italian authors of fairy tales, e.g., Giambattista Basille in The Tale of Tales.

Following Boccaccio’s structure, the centerpiece of the course will be the creation of a collection of short musical theater pieces on a variety of contemporary (or reinvented classic) themes, responding to today’s pandemic and exploring the fundamental human need to tell stories. As a culminating assignment for the class, each student will undertake a creative independent project: writing a short musical theater piece, song or other original text. Additionally, each student will collaborate with a classmate to support the presentation of their final project in a reading format at the end of the course.

Students will study Italian language and culture and collaborate virtually with Italian theater artists to develop language skills. One hour of instruction each day (M–F) will be focused on basic Italian language.

Health-and-safety conditions permitting, this seminar may be offered in a hybrid (in-person/online) format on the Princeton campus or another nearby northeast location. If conditions do not allow for such a hands-on learning environment, a fully virtual course will be offered.

This seminar fulfills the Literature and Arts (LA) general requirement as well as a requirement for the certificates in Musical Theater and Theater.


Application required. Application consists of short questionnaire, essay, transcript and resume. No previous language experience required.

Apply online through Global Programs System (GPS).