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Thr 338- Improvisational Acting


Course Syllabus: Theatre 97-338-01
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh - Theatre Department
Spring 2015

Professor: Ms. Jane Purse-Wiedenhoeft    Credits: 3
Office phone: (920) 424-4425       Class Location: ACW18 & Theatre Labs
Email:        Class Meets: Tues and Thurs: 1:20-2:50pm
Office Location: ACW119 Office Hours: By appointment


  • READ THIS SYLLABUS and understand what is included within it.
  • There are no required texts for this class.  Reading assignments will be distributed in class or posted on D2L that will relate to the work we are exploring in class.
  • Please bring a small spiral notebook reserved for use in this class only. It is for writing down exercises and personal observations-about your process and the process of the group.  You will keep an ongoing record of the improvisational work that we create. Bring it every day as part of being prepared for class.
  • When creating the performance assignments, researching topics of interest will require additional reading depending on the project.
  • No required texts for the class.
  • Near the start of the semester, a brief schedule overview will be distributed and/or posted.


  • The goals are to build an ensemble of actors who are comfortable working together in a creative process and exploring a variety of improvisational theatre strategies.
  • The main objective of the course is to use the strategies and tools explored to begin the process of creating and developing performance pieces.
  • I have a structure in place for the class. I will allow you partial ownership in what we do as the semester unfolds.  We will discuss this in class.  I am approaching the course as an acting seminar made-up of multiple units covering a variety of processes and information.


Both informal and formal improvisational strategies will be implemented as a part of this process.  Second City Improvisational strategies as developed from the work of Viola Spolin and Paul Sills will provide much of the focus for this work.  Contact Improvisation will be introduced as a tool to highlight the other improvisational strategies.  Historical contexts of improvisation will be introduced as well. You will utilize these tools to develop original performance pieces as an individual and within groups.


You will be performing, observing others perform or assisting with improv workshops that take place both on and off-campus.  I am trying to find a time for us to work with local high school students. Most workshops will be scheduled during our regular class time.  There may be several that are scheduled at other times but will be scheduled around the availability of class participants.


  • Commitment:  Don’t worry about doing something right or wrong – explore and enjoy!
  • Attend class regularly and punctually!
  • Be dressed appropriately and ready to work at the beginning of class.  Wear comfortable clothing that allows you to move freely.  We will be doing improvisational movement activities and floor/mat work.  Footwear: bare feet, socks or tennis shoes.
  • Complete assignments on time.
  • Participate in class activities and exercises with a sense of discipline and commitment.
  • Participate in discussions.  Have opinions about what you have read. Have opinions and make observations about your work and the work of others in the class.
  • All electronic devices must be turned off - phones, laptops, iPads, etc.  In case of an emergency the theatre office can serve as a contact number which is 920-424-7042 or contact campus security.  There will be times when I will let you use electronic devices as a tool for an assignment.  I will announce this in class.
  • No eating or gum chewing.  They interfere with the actor’s instrument.  Water is the only beverage allowed in class but it must be in a water bottle with a closeable top to prevent spilling.
  • There will be a brief break provided each class session to get water and use the rest room.
  • If you have a concern about any aspect of the class, please make an appointment to meet with me so we can discuss it and address it.
  • Treat others in the class, the professor and yourself with respect at all times.  There will be no tolerance of any form of harassment including racial or sexual in nature.
  • Academic honesty and integrity is expected at all times.  Plagiarism or other cheating will result in a zero on the assignment and appropriate official steps will be taken as determined by university policies.


  • Attendance is required and you are expected to be on time. Participation is an integral part of the work being done for this class.
  • Three absences are allowed for emergencies including: illness, family illness, death in the family, etc.  Do not use an absence to attend an advising meeting or because you don’t feel like coming to class-students seem to always get sick or have something crop up for which they do actually need that allowed absence.  Please email me if you won’t be in class because due to the nature of the class absent students can affect what I have planned for a given day or if you are working with a partner or group, I can let them know your status.
  • For each additional absence after 3 absences, 20 points will be subtracted from your total number of semester points earned as well as 20 points from the participation points. This means that if you have 4 absences you lose 40 points; if you have 5 absences you lose 80 points.
  • If you establish a pattern of often being late to class, you will have additional participation points subtracted accordingly. This will be at my discretion depending on how late you arrived.  (The same thing goes if you need to leave class early.)
  • If you arrive after attendance has been taken, it is up to you to inform me immediately following the class in order to receive credit for attending.  If you forget to inform me, an email received that same calendar day will suffice.


  • Email is the official communication tool for this class in alignment with the university.
  • All papers must be typed.  Papers will be graded for completion of required content criteria and general writing skills.  Papers are expected to be turned in on time.  Criteria sheets for the written assignments will address how points will be handled if the written assignment is late.
  • Missed performances or presentations can’t be done after the date the assignment is due unless prior permission is granted by the professor.  This is in keeping with professional expectations in the discipline of theatre.
  • NO CLASS DATES:    Thursday, March 19th - Outside of class assignment
  • Tuesday and Thursday, March 24th and 26th - Spring Break
  • If weather is questionable, we will follow announcements found on Titan Alerts, T.V. and radio and/or listed on the UWO recorded weather line @ (920) 424-0000.


Participation:                        100 points            100
This area covers participation in and commitment to daily work, improvisational explorations, discussions about reading assignments and working collaboratively as a member of the class.  You start with 100 points and can only have points taken away.  Items that will take away points are being a disruptive member of the class, not being prepared with an assignment and absence/tardy points listed earlier.

4 miscellaneous assignments                 25 points each            100

3 miscellaneous assignments                 50 points each            150

Attendance at The Boy Inside and Oh, Pioneers        25 points each            50
(A five question quiz on each show will determine this)

Individual Improvisation                    100 points            100
(50 points for process, 50 points for performance)

Group Improvisational Performance Piece
(50 points for process, 50 points for performance)        100 points            100
Total number of points                                =    600

Letter GradePercentagePoints
A 100 - 93 600 - 558
A- 92.9 – 90 557 – 540
B+ 89.9 – 87 539 – 522
B 86.9 – 83 521 – 498
B- 82.9 – 80 497 – 480
C+ 79.9 – 77 479 – 462
C 76.9 – 73 461 – 438
C- 72.9 – 70 437 – 420
D+ 69.9 – 67 419 – 402
D 66.9 – 63 401 – 378
D- 62.9 – 60
377 – 360
F Less than 60 Less than 360

LIBERAL ARTS STATEMENT - Theatre is a collaborative creative process requiring a broad knowledge of the human condition to be successful.  The importance of theatre in society is well documented and understanding the role it plays in society contributes to the development of well-rounded citizens.  Theatre holds a mirror to society and teaches us what it means to be human.  Theatre, as with all areas of the Liberal Arts, is most effectively employed when it is built on a broad base of knowledge.
(The professor reserves the right to modify the syllabus to accommodate the needs of students in the class.)

by Alderson, James M last modified Jan 30, 2015 06:22 PM