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Academic Year: Fall/Winter 2014/2015

Term: 2

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Peter Cockett


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 404

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 27662

Office Hours: by appointment

Course Objectives:

Students will learn basic vocal training techniques to inform their future work as actors and devisors, focusing on the release of the breath, vocal resonance and the clear articulation necessary to effectively perform classical texts. Students will be taught to analyze, understand, perform and manipulate the language and rhetoric of classical texts. They will come to appreciate the physicality of words and the many ways they generate meaning in theatrical space. They will develop the confidence to approach classical texts as informed and critical creators.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Recommended Texts

Shakespeare’s Advice to the Players, Peter Hall

Freeing the Natural Voice, Kristin Linklater

Speaking Shakespeare, Patsy Rotenburg

Performing the Queen’s Men website.

Rehearsal from Shakespeare to Sheridan, Tiffany Stern

Method of Assessment:

The process of the class will move from historical and conventional approaches to the performance of classical text to the more openly creative approach to text work apparent in contemporary devising practice. Initially the class will study the early modern treatment of theatrical texts, learning rules of rhythm and rhetoric, in the development of their monologue performances. They will adopt contemporary mainstream rehearsal techniques for the development of their second scene study and then finally work in groups to deconstruct their scenes and recombine textual elements to devise a performance piece that makes issues present in the original texts speak more directly to our times.

Marking Scheme

Journal: Pass/Fail

Monologue: 20% - Graded before March 13th

Scene Study: 25%

Devised Performance: 20%

Final Paper: 20% - Due April 10th

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 and the devising process. 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 Collaboration on grade and their Final Paper.

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


Using techniques learned in the first classes, students will perform a short monologue or sonnet, either self-selected or chosen by the instructor. The monologue must be written in verse

Scene Study

Students will be assigned scenes and will work together to develop a compelling performance. They will respect the text as it is written and the significance of the text for its contemporary audience, as best that might be discerned, but will look for ways to highlight key issues in their scenes that are of relevance to a modern audience.

Devised Performance

Students will be combined into larger groups for this final exercise. Working with the text of the scenes used for the 2nd Scene Study students will devise a new performance piece. The groups will first consider the central issues in each of the scenes and look for interesting contradictions and syntheses between them, and look for parallel issues within our own world. They will then decide on a subject for their own performance piece, an important idea or issue that they want to address through their performance. The piece they develop will use only the words contained within the text of the scenes but can combine and recombine them into new combinations. They can add whatever set and props they wish but all sound must be created acoustically and the scenes will be lit using the house plot of the Lab.

Final Paper

Topic: Using your experience in this course as a whole as the principle reference point define your understanding of the performance possibilities of classical text and the ways in which a devisor's vocal, physical and intellectual engagement with that text restructure the meanings present in the text. You should refer to your journal entries, your performances and to the assigned course readings. 4-5 pages. Due April 10th.

All papers should be submitted in the assigned Avenue to Learn drop-box and the FILENAME should BEGIN WITH YOUR SURNAME, eg. smith 3WW3 paper.doc.. FAILURE TO DO SO WILL RESULT IN THE LOSS OF 5% FROM YOUR GRADE.


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 be given a zero for Collaboration in the course. Allowances may be made if you can provide a valid doctor’s note.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Late Penalties

Late penalty for written assignments is 2% per day or 10% per week. Assignments will not be accepted more than one week after the due date. In exceptional circumstances, a medical certificate, or the equivalent for a non‑medical problem, must be submitted to the Dean's office (CNH 112) in explanation for late assignments.

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).

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:

Tentative Course Schedule

January 6: Introduction to the Course – Analyzing Classical Text

January 10: One Sentence-One Thought – Choose Monologues

January 13: Metrics and Scansion – Finding the Rhythm

January 16: Making Sounds Carry Meaning - Rehearse Monologues

January 20: Using Figures of Speech– Rehearse Monologues

January 23: PERFORMANCE Monologues (8-10 lines only)

January 27: PERFORMANCE Monologues/Assign Scene Study

January 30: Rehearse Scene Study

February 3: Rehearse Scene Study

February 6: Rehearse Scene Study

February10: Rehearse Scene Study

February 13: Rehearse Scene Study

February 17: Reading Week

February 20: Reading Week

February 24: PERFORMANCE Scene Study

February 27: PERFORMANCE Scene Study

March 3: Development of Devised Scene

March 6: Development of Devised Scene

March 10: Development of Devised Scene

March 13: Development of Devised Scene

March 16: Development of Devised Scene

March 20: Development of Devised Scene

March 23: Development of Devised Scene

March 27: PERFORMANCE Devised Scene

March 31: PERFORMANCE Devised Scene

April 3: Good Friday – No Class

April 7: Class Post Mortem

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