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Academic Year: Fall/Winter 2014/2015

Term: 3

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Catherine Graham


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 403

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 27665

Office Hours: Wed. 2:00-3:00 or by appointment

Course Objectives:

Students will collaborate in small groups to produce a short piece of theatre that addresses a specific social issue, experiments with specific artistic forms, and/or addresses a particular theory of performance or production. The students’ approach will be experimental and the production work treated as research. This course will deepen student understanding of the dialectical connections between research, analysis, and creation that are central to the practice of devised theatre and the Theatre and Film Studies program. Students will learn to engage with important social issues and master techniques needed to communicate their ideas to a local audience. The work will strengthen their understanding of the production processes and the social significance of the decision-making involved. Students will learn to work collaboratively towards a common goal, defining shared ideas and production protocols. Within their groups, students have the opportunity to specialize in specific roles in order to develop their expertise in one or more aspects of theatrical production.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Students will find research materials relevant to their groups’ work, with the assistance of the instructors.

It is highly recommended that students see professional productions as often as possible in the course of the year in order to contextual their own work.

Method of Assessment:

Research Poster (Individual Assignment) Sept. 15:     5%

At the outset of the process each student will conduct library research and present their group with four articles and books on their topic that they feel would be valuable to the process. The group will select one article/book for each member to focus on.  The group member will create a research poster on that material.  Your research should establish the cultural/intellectual context in which your group is creating its performance and should inspire your group's creative process. Each student will write an abstract of their article and select three key quotes that will communicate the scholar/critic/artist’s understanding to the class and show its relevance to the group’s creative process. The research should be presented in a visual format, on Bristol Board, with relevant images. Students should provide two photocopies/printouts or links the article.

Statement of Intent and Performance Style (Group Assignment)  Sept. 25 :    5%

Each group will write a Statement of Intent of no more than three sentences that clearly articulates the artistic and social intent of the show.  Why are you doing this?  What do you hope an audience will do as a result of seeing your show? This statement will inform every stage of the process going forward and act as the touchstone for future artistic decisions. It may be revised later to reflect new directions decided by the group as a whole. Your work will, in part, be assessed on the degree to which it fulfills the intentions articulated in this statement.

Working in their creative groups, students will collect audio and visual material that establishes the style of their performance and defines the dramatic world of the play. Each student will arrive in class on September 18 with material for a collage that will be assembled as a group and presented one week later. Items in the presentation might include original sketches and art work, cuttings from magazines or newspapers, fabrics or other materials, photographs, images or video taken from films, TV or the internet, sound cues, and short musical excerpts. The material can be presented to the class on Bristol board, via digital projection, or be a mix of both media. This presentation will be a vital step establishing your performance protocols and the style of your show.

Script Synopsis and Performance Protocols (Group Assignment) Oct 2:    5%

Each group will present a synopsis that summarizes the action of their performance and describes each of their characters.  This will be accompanied by 5-6 performance protocols that identify basic rules of performance that directors, actors, and designers must follow in creating the performance.

Scene Experiment (Group Assignment)  Oct. 24 (to be confirmed):     10%

Working with their new cast, each group will present a scene or scenes from their show. All production elements should be integrated into this presentation. The scene experiment should grow out of the work done in class and should demonstrate core performance ideas and/or challenges.  Each group will define their goals for the presentation in writing one week before the presentation. The presentation itself can take a discursive approach, presenting options for discussion and inviting critique. The class will provide feedback on the experiment that will help the group further develop their ideas.

Scene Experiment Paper (Individual Assignment)  Nov. 4:     10%

Using the feedback from their peers as a starting point, students will analyze their scene experiment, demonstrating their understanding of the complexities of the relationships between their production choices and the cultural purpose of their work. The 3-4 page paper should address the writing, acting, and integration of design elements. This paper will serve as a diagnostic test of the student’s ability to write about production exercises in an effective way. 3-4 pages.

Honours Thesis Project: The Production (Group Assignment)  35%

Honours Performance Series public presentation will take place in March, with the schedule to be determined in November.  Final evaluation of projects will take place in April. The grading system for each student will be depend on their area of specialization within the project and will be negotiated with the instructor. Productions will be assessed on clarity and complexity of expression, precision and creativity in execution of technical resources, and the social impact of the issues raised. The grade will take into account the development of the show from inception, through skeleton script, first draft of script, draft performance, to the final staging in the Robinson.

Final Reflection Paper (Individual Assignment):  15%

Following the post-mortem and written feedback from the Theatre and Film faculty, all students will write a six-page paper analyzing the process and the way their production met or failed to meet with the objectives expressed in their thesis statement. The paper is DUE one week after receiving feedback from the instructor on the final performance.

Collaboration (Individual Assignment)  Continuous, grades assigned in Nov. and April:  15%

In this course you have many collaborators: your assigned group, your supervisors, students from 30P6, your peers in this course, your actors, etc. 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. This is especially important when working with students from 30P6.

You should treat your instructors as a collaborators rather than simply assessors. 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, the process will stall repeatedly.  There are a number of presentation deadlines you need to meet that are not graded as separate assignments, but as part of your overall Production and Collaboration grades.  You will be penalized on collaboration if you do not deliver these items on time but you will not be graded on each one individually. We hope this will encourage you to make provisional decisions in a timely manner that we can then revise and refine as the show develops.

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 provide an important record of discussions and decisions in your group and will be a key factor in the assessment of your collaborative skill and engagement. If you do not engage with your groups online, then we 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 scene experiment and the second at the end of the course.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

This is a self-reporting tool for undergraduate students to report absences DUE TO MINOR MEDICAL SITUATIONS that last up to 5 days and provides the ability to request accommodation for any missed academic work. Please note, this tool cannot be used during any final examination period. You may submit a maximum of 1 Academic Work Missed request per term. It is YOUR responsibility to follow up with your Instructor immediately (NORMALLY WITHIN TWO WORKING DAYS) regarding the nature of the accommodation. If you are absent for reasons other than medical reasons, for more than 5 days, or exceed 1 request per term, you MUST visit your Associate Dean's Office/Faculty Office). You may be required to provide supporting documentation. This form should be filled out immediately when you are about to return to class after your absence.

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:

To be determined in class, in consultation with the instructor.

Schedule of topics will be kept up-to-date on the course Avenue site as collaborative work progresses.

Other Course Information:

Course Avenue Site

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 day and use it to develop group and class collaboration. The Avenue site should be the PRINCIPAL VEHICLE OF COMMUNICATION for your group. Your participation and production grades will be partly determined by the number and quality of your postings in discussion groups. Computer facilities are available in Humanities computing labs TSH 206 and TSH 209, or the CIS labs in KTH B121.