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THTRFLM 2BB3 DesigningAsDevising

Academic Year: Winter 2017

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Prof. Patrick Brennan


Office: L.R. Wilson Hall 2015

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 20379

Office Hours: Fridays 10:30 to 12:30 or Sunday 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 February 27, 2017 Value = 10%

Pick one of the following texts:

The Tempest by William Shakespeare,

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui by B. Brecht

Shakuntala by Kalidasa

The Emperor of the Moon​ by Aphra 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 of thought!

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 contemporary production.

B. Honours Performance Series Production assignment. Value 30% 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, 2017

C. Scenographic Etudes -  Each student will create a study tool focusing on a major figure or company in theatre practice. First you will produce a page with a short distilled piece of writing on the subject and images and links to support research.

Due January 19, 2017 Value 5%

Then 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.​ It could have a direct connect to the theatre artist studied or be indirectly connected. 

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 3rd or 6th, 2017. Value 25%

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

Small Projects

A.  Looking at Light - Written assignment - Due January 23, 2017 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

B. Sound and space - Written assignment - Due February 6, 2017 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, 2017 Value 15% 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:

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 9th, 2017 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 15th, 2017 to discuss your final assessment.