Course Description

Course Goals and Objectives:

This course introduces you to the fundamentals of playwriting, with an emphasis on the principles of plot structure; character development; action and motivation; exposition of theme or meaning; and the creative exploitation of the alleged limitations of the live stage. You also get to know the dramaturgical or workshop process. 

I have yet to find a better way to learn to write plays than by writing plays. So each of you will write the first draft of a one-act play, on a topic and storyline of your choice, subject to some restrictions, under the guidance of the rest of the class and myself. The Play is due a week after the final class. 

After the first few classes, during each class, on a rotation schedule, four or five students will submit their material to be read aloud in class and discussed by the rest of the class and myself. Each student will have at least two opportunities, during the term, to present his or her work in class. All students submit material from their Play-in-progress once a week, for me to read. For the majority of students, who have not presented their work that week, I will write notes on the work, and give those back to the student within a week or so. 

When your colleagues present their work, you are expected to take an active part in its analysis and discussion. The purpose of this is to help them; to acquaint you with the workshop process; and to motivate them to help you when it’s your turn. 

We will also have five specific homework exercises through the term. Two of these are conventional assignments, and three are variants on a specific kind of assignment called a “Seven-Eleven”. I will describe each Assignment in more detail in its own handout and in class. The Seven-Elevens are two-character dialogues of seven to eleven lines, between characters who are not in your Play but whom you will create for the exercise. I will propose the circumstances for each Seven-Eleven when assigning it. Each Assignment or Seven-Eleven is due one week after it is assigned. 

The course also features exposure to professional work, which may include published stage plays by contemporary Canadian and foreign playwrights, the viewing of live theatrical performances, and, when possible, classroom visits from professionals. In addition, we will begin most classes with students reading aloud a passage from an established play, followed by a brief discussion of the passage.

Grading Scheme:

Seven-Eleven # 1 – worth 10% – assigned Sept. 19, due Sept. 26, returned Oct. 3

Assignment # 1 – worth 15% – assigned Oct. 3, due Oct. 10, returned Oct. 17

Seven-Eleven # 2 – worth 10% – assigned Oct. 17, due Oct. 24, returned Oct. 31

Assignment # 2 – worth 15% – assigned Oct. 31, due Nov. 7, returned Nov. 14

Seven-Eleven # 3 – worth 10% – assigned Nov. 14, due Nov. 21, returned Nov. 28

The Play – worth 20% – due Dec. 5

Participation in class discussion & dramaturgy – worth 20%

Total = 100%

In this course, components will be graded using letter grades, which for purposes of calculating your course average will be translated into numerical equivalents using the Queen’s Official Grade Conversion Scale. Your course average will then be converted to a final letter grade according to the same scale. If you wish to have a copy of the scale, please ask me.


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