Thr 374 Playwriting/Scriptwriting
The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Departments of Theatre and English
Playwriting/Scriptwriting 374/375/529/ 530/329/330
Professor Richard Kalinoski
Tuesdays and Thursdays 1:20 to 2:50 PM; Arts and Communication 147
Required Text : Playwriting: Writing, Producing and Selling your play. Catron, Louis E. (Waveland Press, 1984, 1990 )
-Other texts: Performances of plays on campus: February 13, 14, 15, 16, 17…The American Dream and Zoo Story by Edward Albee; 13-16 at 7:30 PM and 17 at 2:00 PM. .
Student directed one-act –No Exit by Jean Paul Sartre; experimental theatre, March 7,8,9 7:30 PM
Playwriting Contest reading April 10--evening; Video of DEATH OF A SALESMAN by Arthur Miller
The Madwoman of Chaillot : April 24, 25, 26, 27 at 7:30 PM and April 28 at 2:00 PM
12:30 PM to 1:15 PM Tuesdays and Thursdays in office at 218 Arts and Communication West
Other hours by appointment
Phone: 920 424 0937
CLASSROOM: Arts and Communication 147 (may move)
Theatre as a part of the Liberal Arts
The liberal arts engage students in the study of the human condition by exploring the disciplines broadly defined by the sciences, the arts, culture, literature and history. THEATRE is a small component of these human endeavors but its reach is ambitious. Theatre has been historically dedicated to the act of imitating, replicating and representing our lives. In many ways it is the ultimate “liberal” art if one understands the word “liberal” to mean generous or broadly encompassing. Theatre is a collaborative art—painting, acting, directing, visual design, elocution, sound design and several allied crafts are all components of theatrical art.
Theatre’s mandate is to explore any and all facets of lives—it demands intellectual rigor and multifarious artistic abilities. Theatre is primarily interested in uncovering the truth about how we live. It is this search for truth that puts theatre into the very core of liberal pursuits. Theatre is a geniune liberal art.
Objectives of the Class:
Students will gain an intellectual understanding of the principles of writing for the stage:
--the play is a story enacted by actors who are interpretive artists
--a play depends on the action of a protagonist who makes a decision which impacts him/herself and others
--a play must exist in a confined space and must challenge the audience’s imagination to journey inside or beyond that space
--a play is not a tv program, not a film, not a novel
--plays must communicate with language, gesture, emotion, thought
Students will practice the art and craft of playwriting by conjecturing, writing, hearing a one-act play and revising that play.
Students will gain an enhanced understanding of the artistic opportunities of writing for the stage.
Key elements of the class:
--students are asked to bring sufficient copies of each of their drafts of their one-act play so that members of the class may read aloud. These copies must be formatted in the manner learned in this class.
--students should strive to offer criticism which is thoughtful and USEFUL….comments like “I don’t like this kind of play”, “this is bad writing” and “ I would do it this way” are not helpful. Your responsibility is to assess what is effective, what is not and make suggestions of issues for the playwright to ponder—as well as to ask probing and relevant questions.
--Your responsibility in every case is to be present; to take part in readings as needed; to offer helpful criticism—to foster what is effective and working and to suggest what seems to not be working. You are an audience and a critic and a playwright in this class. And, you are a reader. In general, useful criticism is criticism which does not pander—which is not “nice” for the sake of being “nice” but which attempts to offer a direction, a solution, a pathway or an idea. Useful criticism is that which supports the work done by student colleagues---“here is why this is good…here is why this works effectively”. Explain why. “I like this because it’s good “ is not useful.
Challenges of PLAYWRITING
Playwriting is a public activity. The work of a playwright is almost always meant to be shared in a public arena, out loud, before an audience. The playwright has two fundamental audiences :
1. the cast and crew of her play
2. the audience that comes to see the community effort of the cast and crew and the playwright (together). Playwrights and actors share many of the same responsibilities—the actors carry the story the playwright has fashioned and the PLAYWRIGHT DEPENDS ON THE ACTORS.
Too, it is always fundamentally important to attempt to understand the limitations and opportunities presented by the theatre. Theatre is a place for imagination—where the playwright LEADS the audience toward empowering their aggregate imagination. Contemporary theatre, especially compared to film, is SMALL. This is not small in terms of size of story or in terms of potential greatness; this is small in terms of intimacy….a successful playwright will understand that uncovering the details of a few characters’ lives will most likely be more effective than trying to explore a great many characters in massive and panoramic settings.
Attendance: You should attend class because you have a responsibility in this course which is beyond your own immediate interest—you are being asked to help others learn by responding to the plays presented.
By thinking and speaking about the work of others you gain tools for evaluating your own work.
If you miss more than one unexcused class period your grade will drop by one whole point…upon the third unexcused absence another point drop and etc.
Please know that I am acutely aware that as a creative class PLAYWRITING is very difficult to grade. Still, the university requires it:
Class participation and written critiques of performances 25%
Improvement from first exercises to final draft of one act play 50%. Your improvement grade on your final draft (draft 2 or 3) constitutes your entire grade on your one-act play…any previous low grades will be eliminated if the final draft demonstrates improvement. Each draft
will receive a grade. (if your first draft earns a c and your next draft improves the play significantly the c is erased and you earn the improved grade only. )
100 % total.
The Schedule for Spring 2013:
29 Introduction to the class. Student profiles. Discussion of syllabus. Discussion of texts. The uses of attending theatre. The contract between
audience and theatre artists. Lecture on concepts and 6 elements of
drama (Aristotle). Discussion of community of artists.
In class writing exercise: profile of a character from your life. No homework assignment.
31 Reading aloud from profiles; discussion of the function of character. Assignment : pages 7 thru 17 in Catron.
Discussion of uses of liberal education. Discussion of major assignment—the one-act play—goals of the one-act play.
Thoughts about the challenges of playwriting. Significance of re-writing
(playwriting is re-writing). Return of previous in-writing exercise. In
class writing exercise—monologues—show not tell. Assignment: read
pages 17 thru 35.
5 Quiz on pages 7 thru 17. Discussion of issues raised by reading
assignment. Discussion of one-act play assignment; students need to
write a sentence or two (no more) stating what their proposed play will
be about—to read and hand-in on February 7, 2013. Reading
assignment: page 19—26.
7 Students read aloud their statements of intention. Commentary.
Discussion of reading assignment.
12 Introduction of Zoo Story and etc. (opens Weds., 13th.) Hand out
guidelines for responding to plays. Responses due on 19 February.
Assign : pages 45 thru 58.
14 No class—see the Albee plays. (see schedule above).
19 Discussion of Zoo Story and The American Dream; collect responses.
Quiz on pages 45 thru 58. Introduce DEATH OF A SALESMAN.
Begin screening Death of a Salesman. Assign: page 82 on talky plays.
Hand out guidelines for one-act play assignment. Assign one-act play
21 Death of a Salesman; DISCUSSION. Assign: pages 97 thru 107
26 Quiz on pages 97 thru 107. Discussion of plot; plot and character—
28 Declaration of one-act plays: character, plot…what happens to these people?
Students hand in written short outline/statement of their play. Assign pages
153 to 161. Discussion of format.
5 Quiz on pages 153 to 161. Discussion of character. Assign: page 163
7 Review of content; further specific discussion of character. No Exit
opens at 7:30 PM. Attendance required ( on March 7,8 or 9).
12 Test on all readings/discussion. Discussion of No Exit.
14 Draft of one-act play due—FIRST DRAFT. First readings aloud.
19 off for vacation
21 off for vacation
26 Continued readings of first drafts. Discussion in class
28 Continued readings of first drafts. Discussion in class.
2 Readings continue. Discussion of plays. Students bring one page of
their play to class on April 4.
4 Close examination of one-page—selected from group of pages.
9 Second drafts of plays due; reading aloud of SECTIONS of those
plays. April 10 evening…reading of playwriting contest winner
11 Discussion of playwriting contest winner’s play. Second drafts
16 Second draft readings
18 Second draft readings
23 Second draft readings; see Madwoman of Chaillot (24-28).
25 No class, see Madwoman…
30 Discussion of Madwoman of Chaillot; readings of 2nd drafts.
2 Final drafts due. Sections read in class.
7 Reading and discussion of last drafts of plays (3rd)
9 Final notes on playwriting; readings of sections of last drafts.