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THTRFLM 2AA3 Acting As Devising

Academic Year: Winter 2016

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Peter Cockett


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 404

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 27662

Office Hours: 11.30-12.20pm Thursdays

Course Objectives:

The course will develop a complex understanding of the actor’s role as creative agent in the performance of scripted text. Students will be given the analytical and pragmatic skills that enable the actor to create significant perspectives on scripted dramatic action. The process will alert students to the political and cultural implications of the actor’s processes when working with script and the responsibilities they entail. The course will foster a critical understanding of the topic and the ability to articulate that understanding in writing. By the end of the course, there will be a noticeable improvement in the students’ control over the meaning-making processes of acting.

The course will set the critical context for the practical exploration through discussion of a series of assigned readings and short practical exercises. Students will be taught simple exercises to develop the vocal and physical dexterity that enables a greater range of creative expression. They will identify key areas for personal development and consider the way their own identity has been socially and culturally constructed. They will perform a series of scenes in class and receive critical feedback from the instructor and fellow students. Their experience of all work will be recorded in a reflective journal. They will synthesize their understanding of the topic by writing short papers that connect their practical work to their journal entries and the assigned reading. The first paper will serve a diagnostic purpose in preparation for the final paper.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Required Texts:

2AA3: Custom Courseware available in Titles in two weeks time

Theatre Visit:

The class will all attend Tottering Biped's new production Air (date and ticket price to be arranged at the first class.)

Other Recommended Texts:

Rodenburg, Patsy. The Actor Speaks

Bruder, Melissa, et al. A Practical Handbook for the Actor

Method of Assessment:

Journal                                            Pass/fail

Silent Scene                                    5%

First Scene Study                            20% Graded before March 11th

Written Analysis                              10%

Second Scene Study                       25%

Final Paper                                      25% Due April 8th

Collaboration                                   15%

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

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).

Late Assignments:

Late penalty for written assignments is 2% per day, calculated from the due date at 11.59pm, or 15% per week unless the student has a justified absence from the University.  After one week, late papers will not be accepted, except in the case of a justified absence.

NB.  Students with disabilities can receive accommodations to assist them in the completion of their assignments and exams.  Please contact the Centre for Student Development for advice and for arranging assistance. The Centre can also help with essay writing, time management and procrastination problems.  Please look into their services if you feel you need help with any of these issues. 

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:

Tentative Course Schedule (Subject to Change)

January 5: Introduction to the Course. The Elements of Dramatic Action 1: Present Tense

January 8: The Elements of Dramatic Action 2: States of Being

January 12: The Elements of Dramatic Action 3: Archetypal Relationships and Playing Actions

January 15: The Elements of Dramatic Action 4 (but the most important!): Objective, Obstacle and Action

January 19: Performance of Silent Scenes

January 22: Scene 1 Prep: Assignment of Scenes/Analyzing

Script/Developing Three Scenarios

January 26: Scene 1 Prep: Clarifying Three Scenarios/Identifying Power Structures. Read: Pineo, Chapters 2-4

January 29: Scene 1 Prep: Choosing one Scenario/Scoring the Scenario Read:

Pineo, Chapters 5-7

February 2: Scene 1 Prep: Playing Actions Read: Pineo, Chapters 8-11

February 5: Scene 1 Prep: Finalizing Choices

February 9: Scene 1 Prep: Finalizing Choices

February 11: PERFORMANCE First Scene Study

February 17: Reading Week

February 19: Reading Week

February 23: PERFORMANCE First Scene Study

February 26: PERFORMANCE First Scene Study/Assign Second Scenes

March 1: Second Scene Study 2 Prep: Analyzing the action

March 4: Second Scene Study 2 Prep: Analyzing the action – Internal Monologue Exercise

March 8: Identifying Power Structures Read: Brecht and Lauren Love from course reader

March 11: Second Scene Study 2 Prep: Defining the beats - Third Person Rehearsal Exercise

March 15: Second Scene Study 2 Prep: Tempo and RhythmExaggerated Performance Exercise

March 18: Second Scene Study: Scoring the Performance

March 22: Final Rehearsals


March 29: PERFORMANCE Second Scene Study

April 1: PERFORMANCE Second Scene Study

April 5: PERFORMANCE Second Scene Study

April 8: Review of Performances/Class Post-Mortem

Other Course Information:

Assignment Descriptions


Each student must keep an on-line journal over the course of this class. Your journal is a place for personal reflection on your process as you come to terms with the complex relationships between your own identity, the process of performing characters, and the ways this process reflects and challenges the norms that structure contemporary social relationships. You will be asked to post your thoughts on a variety of topics over the course of the term and you should use the journal as a private space in which you articulate your own struggles with the creative process and your developing understanding of its significance. Once completed it will provide an account of your intellectual and emotional engagement with the class process to which you can refer in your analytical paper and take-home exam. Students will receive no direct grade for the journal but the level of their engagement in their journals will contribute to their Participation grade, their Written Analysis and their Take-Home Exam.

The should be kept in a word processing file and regularly posted to the assigned drop-box on Avenue.

Silent Scene

Applying techniques learnt in class exercises, each student will produce a short naturalistic silent performance that engages the audience with a dilemma and shows the student’s mastery of basic acting techniques.

First Scene Study

Students will be assigned short scenes and will present them to the class. The scripts are very basic and students will apply techniques learnt in class to create compelling performances that engage the audience with the social dynamics of the conflict between the characters. Students will be assessed on the complexity of their performances, the specificity of the action in the scene, and their awareness of the social significance of that action.                                                 

SS1 Written Analysis

Topic: Using the First Scene Study as the principle reference point define your understanding of the relationship between actors’ own identities and the characters and actions they perform. What can this tell us about the social function of acting? You should refer to your journal entries, your performances and to the assigned course readings. 2 pages.

All papers should be submitted as a WORD PROCESSING FILE (Word, Pages, OSWord) through the assigned the Avenue to Learn drop-box and the FILENAME should BEGIN WITH YOUR SURNAME, eg. smith 2AA3 paper.doc. FAILURE TO FOLLOW THIS SIMPLE INSTRUCTION WILL RESULT IN THE LOSS OF 5% ON THE PAPER

Second Scene Study

For the final exercise students will be assigned scenes from existing plays. You should apply all that you have learned from the course to turn these scenes into compelling performances that engage the class with the relationships and action in the scene paying close attention to the power structures perceptible in the world of the play and their connection to the normative ideologies that structure contemporary society.

Final Paper

Topic: Using your experience in this course as a whole as the principle reference point define your understanding of the scope of the actor’s role as creative agent in the performance of scripted text and the ways the actor’s performance of scripted text can reflect or challenge the normative ideologies that structure contemporary social relationships. You should refer to your journal entries, your performances and to the assigned course readings. You will not be able to achieve higher than a B in this paper without reference to Love's article. 4-6 pages. Due April 15th.

All papers should be submitted as a WORD PROCESSING FILE (Word, Pages, OSWord) through the assigned the Avenue to Learn drop-box and the FILENAME should BEGIN WITH YOUR SURNAME, eg. smith 2AA3 paper.doc. FAILURE TO FOLLOW THIS SIMPLE INSTRUCTION WILL RESULT IN THE LOSS OF 5% ON THE PAPER


A lot of our work will be done together as a group and you will be graded on your commitment to the exercises set, your willingness to confront acting challenges and improve your skills as a performer, your engagement with the process in your online journal, your critical support of the work of your peers, your ability to listen and process the ideas of others, and your contributions to class discussion of the issues in the course. I expect everyone to come to class ready to work and I know what work looks like. Students who do not engage fully with the process each and every time they step into the Performance Lab will receive lower grades for collaboration.


You will be working in groups so failure to attend class can potentially harm the work of your peers. Attendance in class therefore is compulsory. If you miss more than two classes, you will receive 0% for participation. Allowances may be made if you can provide a valid doctor’s note.


Rehearsal Attire

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

Health and Safety

Students should always take care not to endanger themselves in the process of performance. The Performance Lab’s rules of conduct must be obeyed at all times. Any students needing to introduce staged violence to a scene, including the throwing of any object may do so only after consultation with the instructor.