Inviting audiences into a special relationship with illusion, backstage dramas (whether on film or on stage) and plays-within-plays reach beyond and alongside traditional plot-driven narratives, to reflect on the process of representation itself. Drawing from classical debates about the relationships between reality, illusion, representation, and imitation (mimesis), we will examine a variety of plays and films as we articulate the complex network of responses and underlying assumptions (whether cultural, political, or social), about art and life, that these works engage. This course centers on plays and films that are about their own production, or about the "backstage" realm of their own creation. They reflect on artistic construction, and/or their reception by the audience (through metadrama and other devices), to articulate a critical perspective on themselves as experiences and representations, even as we watch/consume them. Engaging fields of aesthetics, adaptation, and cultural studies, the course provides multiple ways to talk about relationships between representation and audiences, illusion and reality, in political, social and personal terms. Students develop their ability to read, write, discuss and think critically about issues that straddle scripted and unscripted worlds.