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THTRFLM 2BB3 Designing As Devising

Academic Year: Winter 2016

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Prof. Patrick Brennan


Office: L.R. Wilson Hall 2015

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 20379

Office Hours: Tuesday10:30 to 12:30 and Sunday 10:00 until 20:00 All by appointment in person or by Skype or phone.

Course Objectives:

An introduction to different techniques used to create an environment in which a specific performance can become meaningful for a particular audience. Primary areas of instruction will be the design and technical preparation of sound, lighting, and projected media. Spatial theory, visual literacy and event management will also be covered through lecture, reading and demonstration. Historic and contemporary design practice will be investigated through optional professional performance observance and selected reading. Workshops covering technical practice will have an emphasis on safe practice, risk assessment and collaborative communication. Although, the course will focus on theatrical practice, connections will be drawn between other areas of the performing arts that borrow on theatrical practice and technology (performance art, film, pop music, dance, opera, marketing). Students will be largely assessed on practical project work. A successful student will be critical of the process but also be an effective member of the production team. Opportunities to observe and comment on dance and musical events will help broaden the general experience.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Only expense is ticket for professional production TBD

Method of Assessment:

Major Assignments

A. Script/Visual research - Due January 27, 2016 Value = 10%

Pick one of the following texts:

The Playboy of the Western World by JM Synge,

Life of Galileo by B. Brecht

The Emperor of the Moon by A. Behn

In the early stages of negotiating a conceptual framework for a production, Designers and Directors use short hand to point to visuals that come to mind. They try to shape a visual language that will envelopes the text and provides a visual language for the production. Words and concepts that bring images to mind are thrown up to illustrate ideas or starting points. We negotiate a final design from an agreed language which is grounded in the historic as well as the contemporary aesthetic. Resist the desire to create a museum piece, please be creative but grounded in research.

1. Make detailed notes on the needs of the production.

2. Do a historic review of past productions. Look for diversity!

3. Provide visual support for your ideas in the form of collage and drawings presented digitally in the form of posters for each element of design. Make detailed notes on the orientation of the design of your production.

B. Honours Performance Series Production assignment. Value 40% of final assessment

Each student will be assigned to a 3op6/4a06 project. The students will observe and participate in activities related to the staging of this production. (Production meeting, rehearsals, set up, rehearsals, costume, set and props construction, draft performances and final shows) Assessment will be based on participation, journal, individual report and performance. 3OP6 student supervisors will assist with the management of this assignment and will report on your input.

Each student is expected to be active though out the term in support of the production and will provide a final individual report on their role on input to the project. Due April 10th, 2016

C. Scenographic Etudes - Each student will spend the term exploring a simple physical scene with the support of lighting, costume, props and sound. This will be the result of individual research, rehearsal, technical design and performance.

Stages supported by in class instruction and workshops:

1. Colour in props and costume

2. Light colour and intensity

3. Light spacial definition

4. Music

5. Sound effects

Ongoing presentation in class and workshops. Final assessment is based on a progressive record of development and final Etude presentation April 4th or 7th, 2016. Value 20%

Each student will also support two other students in operation of light board and Qlab station. Value 5%

Small Projects

A. Theatre History Poster Project - Scheduled throughout term Value 5%

Each student will create a study tool focusing on a major figure or company in theatre practice. These will be posted throughout the term after a short two minute presentation in class about the subject. The end product will be a page with a short distilled piece of writing on the subject and images and links to support research. Each will be posted on the course Avenue site for reference.

B. Looking at Light - Written assignment - Due February 3, 2016 Value 5%

Go to a gallery or Use the Web Gallery of art as a source if you don't find a useful painting in a gallery. Find a painting of a naturalistic scene which uses light to define form and mood. Describe the painting and how the artist uses light technically and artistically. (min 300 words)

Refer to the following Qualities of Light: Intensity & Brightness , Form & Distribution , colour, Chroma, Hue & Value, Direction & Movement, The Language of Light

C. Sound and space - Written assignment - Due February 10, 2016 Value 5%

Find a place on campus or in the community. Sit still facing in one direction. Listen carefully. Then once you are in tune with your environment draw a circle and draft an image that describes the intensity and direction of ALL sound you here. Redrawn the image using colour an descriptive images and text. Please provide a brief textual description of the location and an address.

D. Professional Play/Dance/opera observation - Due: not later than February 28th, 2016 Value 10% Professional Production journal. Attend a professional production from the approved list provide by lecturer. Productions are selected so that I can see them as well. Most productions will be in Toronto but will have long runs so to allow students many opportunities to schedule an observation. Watch the production without making notes. During intermission and after the play make notes that will assist with your writing. Look for connections to the material we discuss in this course. Write a four page commentary on design elements for the production. If one area stands out you can focus on that in greater detail. Please provide ticket stubs as proof of attendance.


Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:


1. Attendance is mandatory for all classes and labs. Please arrive promptly to all classes, labs and related meetings. Absence from class and a record of undependable collaboration will affect your final grades.

2. Late assignments will be docked 5% a day for a maximum of 20 days.

3.Students who consistently ignore instruction and policy regarding safe practice in the theatre, performance LAB and workshops risks expulsion from this course.

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

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 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 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:

Devising Practice

Visual research – art historical, material and graphical

Spatial theory – contemporary environmental design practice

Lighting design and technology

Sound design and technology

Projection technology and practice

Costuming design

Other Course Information:

Schedule of Feedback:

1. All assignments with be returned within two weeks of due date, if received by that date.

2. A report of progress will be available March 6th, 2016 including all assignment completed by that date.

3. Feedback on Etudes will be constant throughout term.

4. One week after the completion of your work on the performance project you will receive an assessment of your involvement in that project.

5. I will be available April 18th, 2016 to discuss your final assessment.


Grade Relate Criteria

In general, assessment will focus on three main aspects of your participation in this course:

Commitment - Commitment shown in your engagement with the course through its duration and in the fulfilment of practical assignments: how regularly do you attend? Do you undertake required preparatory work for classes? Do you contribute to discussion in a relevant way? Do you seek clarification of areas you do not understand? Do you collaborate constructively with fellow members of the class in carrying out practical projects?

b. Learning objectives - Does your participation show that you have understood the work of the course and acquired an appropriate competence in the skills addressed by the course? Are you able to implement them in practice? Are you creative in your application of them?

Written account - A response to, the work you undertake: does this show insight into the process in which you have been engaged and the way it relates to the practices investigated in the course? Does it provide evidence of a capacity to engage critically with the material of the course and to be self-critical in your assessment of your own achievements in practice? Does it show signs of appropriate application of learning from elsewhere in your curriculum?

Your work and participation will be graded to the extent that it demonstrates:

A + 90-100: Excellent

• Regular and highly engaged attendance and excellent collaboration with other members of the class

• Thorough understanding of the skills addressed by the course and well developed competence in applying them

• Completion of the required project to a high degree of skill and creativity

• An ability to analyze the practice in question in a critical manner and to assess one's own practice in a way which identifies well what has been achieved and the source of any shortcomings in the work.

A, A-, (80- 89): Very Good

• Regular engaged attendance and constructive collaboration with other members of the class

• A very good understanding of the skills addressed by the course and a developed competence in applying them

• A reasonably skillful and creative completion of required project work

• An ability to analyze the practice in question in a critical manner and to assess one's own practice competently

B+, B, B-,(70-79) : Good

• Regular attendance and satisfactory capacity to collaborate with other members of the class, but irregular level of engagement and preparation

• Some understanding of the skills addressed by the course, and a degree of competence in applying them

• Satisfactory project work but some deficiencies in skill and inventiveness

• Critical analysis which is satisfactory but limited, and an insufficiently rigorous self-assessment

C+, C, C- (60-69): Satisfactory

• Regular attendance, but irregular level of engagement and preparation and/or problems in working with others

• A basic understanding of the skills addressed by the course and competence in applying them, but few signs of you absorbing them at any deeper level

• A solid effort made to fulfil the aims of the project, but the work fails to address these fully or is executed in a shoddy manner and shows few signs of imaginative engagement with it

• Critical analysis and self-assessment which are fairly shallow or carried out in a way which suggests a low level of commitment to the work of the course

D+, D, D- (50-59): Weak

• Erratic attendance and levels of engagement and preparation and/or you make little active contribution to group work

• An adequate understanding of the skills addressed by the course and competence in applying them, but little evidence of you absorbing them at any deeper level

• Some effort made to fulfil the aims of the project, but the work is executed in a shoddy manner and shows few signs of imaginative engagement with it

• Critical analysis and self-assessment which are shallow and carried out in a slipshod way which confirms a lack of genuine commitment to the work of the course

F 0-49: Very Poor

Irregular attendance and lack of engagement with the work or the group leading to few signs that you have acquired an understanding of the skills addressed by the course, let alone competence in applying them; this is coupled with an incapacity or unwillingness to analyze the deficiencies in your work in a serious, self-critical fashion. Also please note that this mark will be assigned for academic dishonesty!

Course Website

The Avenue to Learn (Avenue) e-learning website for this course can be accessed at

To log on, enter your Mac User ID and password.

· Avenue User ID = your MAC ID User ID (eg: if your muss email id is:; then your Avenue username is: janed)

· Avenue Password = your MAC ID password

Click on the tab “Courses” at the top of the page and choose “THTRFLM 2BB3: Designing as Devising”

The Avenue site contains many resources that will be useful for this course including a production schedule, research materials, and links to useful web resources. It is the main communication site for the course and will contain all time-sensitive announcements as well as discussion areas and chat rooms. Please consult the site at least once a week and use it to develop group and class collaboration. Computer facilities are available in Humanities computing labs TSH 206 and TSH 209, or the CIS labs in KTH B121.