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THTRFLM 4A06A Thtr & Society:Perf Project

Academic Year: Fall 2017

Term: Multiterm

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Catherine Graham

Email: grahamca@mcmaster.ca

Office: Togo Salmon Hall 508

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 27665


Office Hours: Thursday 11:00 - noon or by appointment

Course Objectives:

This course provides program students with the opportunity to synthesize skills and ideas developed in their first two years in practical laboratory projects. Working collaboratively, students will create a series of productions to be presented to the public in the second term.

Students will collaborate in small groups to produce short performances that encourage new insights into social and cultural life, experiment with specific artistic forms, and/or address a particular theory of performance or production. Students will learn to use Performance-as-Research techniques, which attend to embodied interactions, contextual constraints, and affective responses in order to supplement propositional knowledge (“knowing that”) with performative knowledge (“knowing how”). The objective of this work will be to extend students’ abilities to use performance to create deeper public understandings of the interactions and contextual factors that shape contemporary social and cultural life. The work will strengthen students’ understanding of artistic-production processes and the significance of the decision-making involved. Students will learn to work collaboratively towards a common goal, defining shared ideas and production protocols. Within their groups, students have the option to specialise in specific roles in order to develop their expertise in one or more aspects of theatrical production. At the end of the process, they will have gained experience as leaders of a complex production process that will serve them well in a range of future careers.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Students are responsible for researching articles relevant to their production. Instructors may suggest specific academic articles or performance archives that are particularly pertinent to their projects to individual groups.  General resources on devising theatre will be made available via Avenue to Learn. All reading deadlines appear on Avenue to Learn.

All students will be required to purchase a copy of Scrivener software in order to complete script development assignments. A 30-day trial version can be obtained from https://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php and educational licences are available from the School of the Arts offices for $38.

A deposit of $40 is required to obtain a keycard that allows entry to the Performance Lab for rehearsals outside of regular class hours.  Cards can be obtained from the School of the Arts office, TSH 414, and the deposit will be reimbursed when the keycard is returned.


Method of Assessment:

Students will be assigned to a collaborative group at the beginning of term that will include students in this class and students in 3OP6. The students from THTR&FLM 3OP6 will support the production work in the capacity of stage managers, production managers, and assistant designers. In their collaboration groups, students will work through a cyclical process, typical of emergent design, to: explore resources, establish a performance structure, refine resource use within the established structure, present performances, reflect on performance effects, explore new resources or new uses of resources, re-structure and refine chosen material, present new performance, reflect on effects, etc. Course assignments represent milestones that students need to reach at different stages of the process in order to stay on course for a final performance in March 2018, plus the completion of an effective reflection on the process of creating that performance.

The first term will be dedicated to devising a first draft of a script and the second term will concentrate on refining a performance based on this script for public presentation in March.  In both terms, close attention will be paid to developing effective collaborative work styles, including timely decision-making, useful record-keeping, and purposeful communication.

ASSIGNMENTS:  Detailed requirements for all assignments will be explained in class and on Avenue to Learn. Script development assignments must be submitted using Scrivener software.

A midterm grade including the following assignments will be assigned in December and will constitute 45% of the final grade for this course:

  • Summary of Proposed Characteristics of Performance “World” and Workshop Plan 5%
  • Production Protocols and Skeleton Script 10%
  • Draft Scene Presentation  10%
  • First Draft of Script    15%
  • Collaboration  Term 1  5%

Summary of Proposed Characteristics of Performance “World” and Workshop Plan:

Due:  September 24   Value: 5%

Groups will work in class over the first three weeks of the course to formulate a research question and share visual images, sound, and elements of archival research that help define a performance world. For this assignment, each group will submit a Scrivener file consisting of a brief description of the important characteristics of the performance “world” you will create and a discussion of why these characteristics are important to exploring the research question that interests your group. You should present these characteristics via a combination of photographs, sound files, video clips and verbal descriptions compiled in Scrivener and include a brief text explaining how this combination of inspirations will allow you to explore your research question. Your research question should be defined in relation to discussions of social/cultural life in contemporary society and your file should demonstrate some familiarity with other artistic treatments of similar issues. This part of the document will form the basis for all future evaluation of your work, which will ask how you are meeting the goals you have set for yourself and/or whether you have made effective changes to your plan

This should be followed by a one-page plan for a sample workshop that describes how you will work with performers, set/costume pieces, props, sound, etc. to explore the possibilities of the world you have described.

Production Protocols and Skeleton Script:

Due: October 29   Value: 10%

After a series of workshops with actors and discussions with 3OP6 collaborators, each group will submit a skeleton script in Scrivener consisting of:

  • description of characters

  • description of performance space

  • 5-8 protocols that capture core characteristics of your proposed performance style

  • a scene by scene breakdown of the script you propose.  The action of each scene should be described in one short paragraph (100-150 words).

You may link to photos, sound files or videos in your Scrivener file to clarify your character descriptions, protocols, and scene descriptions.  A brief explanatory document attached as an appendix to the script should explain any changes you have made to your research question or imagined world and identify discoveries you have made in the workshop process and challenges you still need to resolve.

Draft Scene Presentation

Nov 24  6:00 -10:00 pm    Value: 10%

Following workshops with their cast and discussion with 3OP6 collaborators, each group will present excerpts from its developing show. All production elements should be integrated into this presentation and it should demonstrate the way you are using your performance to explore the research question you have defined, emphasizing core performance ideas and challenges. You may choose to present different versions of one scene or two different excerpts that define your performance goals and style. Each group will define their goals for the presentation in writing one week before the presentation and will make a brief oral presentation before the scenes are presented, explaining why they have chosen these excerpts, presenting options for discussion and inviting critique. The class and Theatre & Film Studies faculty will provide feedback on the experiment that will help the group further develop their ideas.

First Draft of Script:

Due: Dec. 10 on Avenue    Value: 15%

Each group will submit a full first draft of their script as a Scrivener file, using links to workshop material and audio and visual material to illustrate what they expect their script to look and sound like in performance.  This script will be revised and refined over the winter term, but should include a full indication of dialogue, movement patterns, etc. (as appropriate) for the whole performance.


Honours Thesis Performance (Group)

Due:  March 2018, exact dates to be determined in November.  Value: 35%

Honours Performance Series public presentation will take place in March, with the schedule to be determined in November. Final evaluation of projects will take place in April. The grading system for each student will be depend on their area of specialization within the project and will be negotiated with the instructor. Productions will be assessed on the clarity and complexity of expression, precision and creativity in execution of technical resources, and how the performance contributes to public debate. The grade will take into account the development of the show from inception, through skeleton script, first draft of script, draft performance, to the final staging.

Final Reflection Paper (Individual)

Due: one week after feedback on final performance      Value:  15%

Following the post-mortem and written feedback from the Theatre and Film faculty, all students will write a six-page paper analyzing the process and the way their production met or failed to meet with the objectives expressed in their thesis statement. The paper should demonstrate the complexity of your understanding of the process and its outcomes, including feedback from your peers and instructors. The paper is DUE one week after receiving feedback from the instructor on the final performance and should be submitted on the Avenue to Learn dropbox.

Collaboration (Individual)

Assessment: end of Term 1  5%  end of Term 2  10%

In this course you have many collaborators: your assigned group, your supervisors, students from 30P6, your peers in this course, your actors, etc. It is important that you embrace the idea that all parties are members of a team working together and do not consider them competitors, dictators, or servants. This is especially important when working with students from 30P6.


You should treat your instructors as collaborators rather than simply assessors. This may seem artificial but it is crucial to your success. If you wait to share ideas until you think they will receive a good grade, the process will stall repeatedly. There are a number of presentation deadlines you need to meet that are not graded as separate assignments, but as part of your overall Production and Collaboration grades. You will be penalized on collaboration if you do not deliver these items on time but you will not be graded on the quality of each one individually. We hope this will encourage you to make provisional decisions in a timely manner that we can then revise and refine as the show develops.

Students will be assessed on their ability to collaborate effectively and will be given a mid-term grade that assesses their performance in this capacity. Important collaborative skills include: punctuality, reliability, preparation before meetings, fulfilment of assigned tasks, bringing ideas to the group, facilitating the development of ideas proposed by others, keeping the project moving, negotiating creative road-blocks and finding syntheses. On-line discussion forums provide an important record of discussions and decisions in your group and will be a key factor in the assessment of your collaborative skill and engagement.  Each student should maintain their own Scrivener file, recording materials they want to work with, important insights from workshops and in-class assignments, and their own reflections on the progress of the work.  Group decisions will be collated in a Master Scrivener file, and different section of the document will be tagged with the name of the person or persons who created that section. If you do not engage with your groups online, then we will presume you are not engaging with the work outside of the classroom. If you do not speak during class discussions, then you are cannot begin to collaborate effectively in the class process.


Grading of Group Assignments

In all group assignments, we will consider the contributions of each individual to the team effort. It is impossible to monitor all activities but each of you should be careful to come prepared to class, to meet all deadlines, to record ideas for performance and group decisions in Scrivener, and be fully engaged with the development of the creative and intellectual ideas behind your show. We will consider your ability to answer direct questions constructively, in class and in all other communicatioin with the instructors, as an indicator of your degree of preparation and engagement with the devising process. 

Self-Assessment and Group Assessment

At various stages of the process you will be asked to assess your own work within the group and the work of your group members. We are keen to foster effective professional conduct in our students and feel it is important to reflect on the collaborative practices of each group.


Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:


You will be collaborating with each other and with students from 3OP6. Failure to master the skills taught in this course will have significant impact on your peers and the general public. Attendance in class therefore is compulsory. If you miss more than three classes, you will receive a 0 for collaboration unless you provide the Faculty office with justification for your absence.

Late Penalties

Late penalty for written assignments is 2% per day or 10% per week. Assignments will not be accepted more than one week after the due date. Late assignments will not receive detailed feedback.

Deadlines for Practicum Work

Performance dates, once scheduled, are final deadlines and are not subject to renegotiation. “The show must go on,” except in case of University closure, immediate threat to safety, or the direction of the Instructor, Technical Director (or a designate of either). It is also crucially important that deadlines arising from production schedules are met. Failure to perform duties on the assigned day(s) will result in a grade of zero for that assignment.

In the event of the cancellation of the entire run of the Honours Performance Series due to university closure, the run will be re-scheduled by arrangement with the student director, the SOTA technician and the Course Instructors of THTR & FLM 4A06 and 3OP6.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Please see detailed information on the course Avenue site.

Other Course Information:


Text-Based Devising

If performing a published text, it is the student’s responsibility to assist SOTA in gaining the rights for the performance of their chosen play. They must make initial calls to establish the name of publisher who controls those rights and then pass the publisher’s contact information on to Rose Mannarino by 31st October

Rehearsal Attire

As this is mainly a studio course, students should wear appropriate rehearsal attire (i.e., loose, comfortable clothing and safe footwear) to class.

Health and Safety

All students must receive instruction from the SOTA technician including a tour of the theatre introducing them too all safety hazards and the necessary precautions needed to decrease the possibility of injury to themselves or others.  Students are responsible for ensuring that their workshop and rehearsal practices follow the rules of use for the Performance Lab and for the theatre.