Contact a Humanities Office or Academic unit.
Find your course outlines.

THTRFLM 2AA3 Acting As Devising

Academic Year: Winter 2018

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Peter Cockett


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 404

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 27662

Office Hours: by appointment

Course Objectives:

The course will introduce students to the foundational principles of psychological realism – Canadian culture’s dominant approach to performing scripted text. It will focus on the active, intentional, interpretive role the actor plays as creative agent in the performance of scripted text. Students will learn the analytical and pragmatic skills through which actors create the illusion of spontaneity in the performance of scripted dialogue and compel the attention of the audience. 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 should be a noticeable improvement in the students’ mastery of realist acting techniques, their ability to apply them in performance, and their understanding of the cultural politics of psychological realism.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Required Texts:

Journal Articles and Chapters available through Avenue to Learn. Please find under Content

Other Recommended Texts:

Rodenburg, Patsy. The Actor Speaks

Theatre Visits:

There will be one compulsory theatre visit, details to be arranged.

Method of Assessment:

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 work independently and in pairs on a series of scenes for performance in class and receive critical feedback from the instructor and fellow students. Much of their success in the course will depend on their ability to rehearse these scenes rigorously in preparation of the in-class performances. Their experience of their 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 readings. The first paper will serve a diagnostic purpose in preparation for the final paper.

Method of Evaluation

Journal                                                5%

Silent Scene                                         10%

First Scene Study                               20% Graded before March 16th

Written Analysis                                 5%  Due the day of the First Scene Study performance

Second Scene Study                            25%

Final Paper                                          20% Due April 16th

Collaboration                                       15%


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 scripted text, 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. There is a 5% grade directly assigned to the journal but the level of their engagement in your journal will also influence your Collaboration grade, your Written Analysis and your Take-Home Exam.

The journal should be kept in a word processing file and regularly posted to the assigned drop-box on Avenue. Use the same file and keep re-posting.

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 demonstrate your understanding of the way that objectives, obstacles and actions combine to create compelling performances on stage. 300 words.

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. Papers submitted as PDFs will not receive written commentary

Second Scene Study

For the final exercise, students will be assigned scenes from existing plays. They should apply all that they 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.

Take-Home Exam

Topic: Acting using the techniques of psychological realism demands actors identify with their characters. Discuss the social value of this artistic process and its challenges and potential problems. You should use your own performances as the principal reference point but you may refer to other performances when you think they would better support your argument. You should show that you understand the principles of naturalistic acting. You should refer to the assigned class readings, 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 Lauren Love's article. 5-6 pages. Due April 16th

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. Files submitted as PDFs will not receive written commentary.


A lot of our work will be done together as a group and you will be graded on your punctuality and professionalism, 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 collaboration. Allowances may be made if you can provide a valid doctor’s note.

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. Late papers will receive no written commentary.

NB. Students with disabilities can receive accommodations to assist them in the completion of their assignments and exams. Please contact the Student Accessibilty Services. 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:

See schedule on Avenue to Learn

Other Course Information:

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.