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THTRFLM 3PS3 Devising New Plays: R & D

Academic Year: Spring/Summer 2016

Term: Spring

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Peter Cockett


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 404

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 27662

Office Hours: Tuesday 12-1pm

Course Objectives:

Course Objectives

By the end of the course, students…

  1. Will know how to contribute effectively to the initial stages of a devising process
  2. Will understand the important role intensive research plays in an effective devising process
  3. Will learn how a playful workshop process can create raw material for a theatrical production
  4. Will have a better understanding of the ways different theatrical forms generate meanings
  5. Will have gained a level of mastery in one area of specialization in theatrical production
  6. Will have developed their collaboration skills
  7. Will be prepared to lead their own devising process in the future.


Course Process

Students will be engaged with the research and development for next year’s Fall Major production. The inspiration for the show is the fact that Tommy Douglas, CBC's "greatest Canadian" and founder of the Canadian health care system wrote a master's thesis at McMaster in the 1930s advocating forced sterilization and segregation of people of "sub-normal" morality or intelligence. The performance will reflect on how we can reconcile this position with a man who committed his life to social justice and to improving quality of life for all Canadians. What ideas today might seem good to deeply ethical people but may prove to be misguided in the future? Genetic editing and stem cell research offer enticing possibilities for human development, promising the eradication of diseases and medical conditions but this new technology creates an ethical minefield and challenges us to confront significant social and existential questions.

Initially students must all engage with the research on the topic in order to establish a strong understanding and broad social and intellectual context for our work. Students will then take on specific roles within a production team for an initial workshop phase of the production. They will work in creative collaboration under the direction of the class instructor. The process will be playful and exploratory and students must accept at the outset that all work created in workshop stages may be abandoned and not feature in the final production.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:


Required Texts:

Assigned articles and chapters available through Avenue to Learn and at the library. Details to follow with Individual Research Project assignment.

Method of Assessment:

Method of Evaluation

Individual Research Project                           25% Due May 8th

Individual Skills Demo                                   10%

First Draft Performance                                 20%

Second Draft Performance                            30%

Collaboration 1                                              5%

Collaboration 2                                              10%

Individual Research Project

Each student will submit a 6 page “paper” demonstrating their engagement with the core ideas of the production (double-spaced). They should select materials from the research presented at the beginning of class, but may also conduct independent research on the topic. It may be written in whatever form will best express your thinking: formal essay, notes, stream of consciousness, poetry of any form, or any style or combination of styles they feel will best work for you. But it cannot include images.

The submission will be graded on the following basis:

  1. Has the student read, watched and understood the research material made available to them? (Breadth and accuracy will be rewarded)
  2. Has the student engaged deeply with this material, applying their minds and imaginations fully to master core issues? (Deep reading as opposed to surface reading of materials)
  3. Has the student created a meaningful matrix of connections between the different research materials? (Insight will be rewarded. Valuable syntheses will be rewarded. Useful comparisons will be rewarded. Fine differentiations will be rewarded. Complexity will be rewarded)

Individual Skills Demo

Students must quickly gain mastery of their area of specialization working independently or in peer groups. YOU are responsible for mastering necessary skills. It is not possible for the instructor to guide you through this individually due to the range of skills and class time available. Students will demonstrate their mastery in class through a practical studio exercise, and online through a written submission. The exact nature of the exercise and submission will be defined in class.

First and Second Draft Performances

The class will work together to generate two performances by workshopping material under the direction of the instructor and by working collaboratively together outside of class. Depending on the size of the class, students may be assigned into two or more production teams. Each student will be responsible for a particular element of production, working as part of a complete design team. The presentations will be negotiated collaboratively under the direction of the class instructor. As part of the preparation for the draft performances you will be asked to contribute to the work in progress and delivering on such requests in a timely and effective manner will be an important component of these grades. You are also expected to keep a JOURNAL while working through the process. Anything goes in the journal, it is a living documentation of your work, and will be used as part of my assessment of your level of engagement with the material and the creative process. It can include images, sounds, stream of consciousness writing, scene writing, monologues, formal argument, reflections, plans for workshops, whatever helps you develop the ideas and design of the show.

Collaboration 1 and 2

In this course you will have many collaborators: your assigned groups, your peers in other groups and myself. 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.

You should each also treat me as a collaborator rather than an assessor. 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, then the process will stall repeatedly.


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 ideas of others, keeping the project moving, negotiating creative road-blocks and finding syntheses. On-line discussion forums will be a key factor in my assessment. If you do not engage with your groups online, then I 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.


The grade will be split in two with one 5% assessment delivered following the first Draft Performance and the second at the end of the course.

When you are in class I expect you to be working. If you are not working, you are not participating. You know what work feels like; I know what it looks like and sounds like. Sometimes the creative process stalls but the work should never stop. It can be playful even silly at times but it must always be engaged. Blocks and obstacles are there to be overcome. I am there to help so reach out to me but never stop working at the ideas. As long as you do that, you will get a great mark for collaboration.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:


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 ONE CLASS, you may be assigned 0% for collaboration. Allowances may be made if you can provide a valid doctor’s note.

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 5% per day, calculated from the beginning of your tutorial time, or 25% 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:

2016 Spring: 3PS3 Class Schedule (Provisional)

Tuesday May 3: Introduction to course/Research Demonstration/ Open Discussion of Project and Process/ Selection of Specialties

Thursday May 5: Story-Collection

Sunday May 8, 11.59pm: Individual Research Project due

Tuesday May 10: Story-Collection

Thursday May 12: Individual Skills Demo, in class and submitted on

Sunday May 15: Individual Skills Demo – submission on Avenue due

Tuesday May 17: Workshop

Thursday May 19: Workshop

Tuesday May 24: Workshop

Thursday May 26: First Draft Performance

Tuesday May 31: Post-Mortem First Draft Performance

Thursday June 2: Workshop

Tuesday June 7: Workshop

Thursday June 9: Workshop

Tuesday June 14: Second Draft Performance

Thursday June 16: Post-mortem

Other Course Information:


Work Attire

As this is mainly a studio course, students should wear appropriate attire for work, i.e., loose, comfortable clothing for rehearsal, and old clothes and strong shoes if working on lights or set.

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.