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Thr 374 Playwriting/Scriptwriting



“One had the right to write because other people needed news of the inner world, and if they went too long without such news they would go mad with the chaos of their lives.” – Arthur Miler


Classroom: Polk Library South 23 / Meeting Time: MWF 9:10-10:10am

Instructor: Bryan M. Vandevender
Office Location: Arts & Communication West 120
Office Hours: TR 11:30am – 12:30pm and by appointment


  • Ball, David. Backwards and Forwards. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1983
  • Durang, Christopher. Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. New York: Perseus, 2013.
  • Garrison, Gary. A More Perfrect Ten. New York: Focus, 2009.
  • Glaspell, Susan. Trifles. New York: Baker’s, 2010.
  • Inge, William. Bus Stop. New York: Dramatists, 1955.
  • Ives, David. Venus in Fur. Evanston, IL: Northwestern UP, 2011.
  • McLaughlin, Buzz. The Playwright’s Process. New York: Backstage, 1997 – Course Packet
  • Parks, Suzan-Lori. Topdog/Underdog. New York: Dramatists, 2002.
  • Additional documents can be accessed via Polk Library’s Electronic Reserves or D2L



  • Bus Stop / February 13-16 / Fredric March Theatre
  • Antigone / April 23-27 / Fredric March Theatre


This course will introduce you to the fundamentals—both theory and practice—of playwriting. Topics will include plot treatment and development, dramatic structure, methods for script analysis, character development, and wrighting behavior. The course will combine lectures, readings, viewings, journal writing, and online discussion. We will also spend a significant portion of our time together learning (playwriting/playwrighting) as a creative process—how to generate and develop ideas, how to turn those ideas into a story, how to make that story compelling, dramatic, and theatrical. We will also work to develop an appreciation of playwriting as an art form. You will learn to use the language of theatre so that you might at once be a playwright and a critic of playwriting.


  • To define/explicate playwriting as a developmental process with production as a key element.
  • To identify and explicate the major elements of dramatic plot.
  • To apply the elements of plot to original scenes and short form plays.
  • To critically analyze and evaluate plays/productions both orally and in writing.
  • To compose and revise one ten-minute play and one one-act play.
  • To demonstrate an understanding of course concepts through discussion and creative work.
  • To utilize the language and vocabulary of theatre in both aural and written form.



Liberal Education is an approach to learning that empowers individuals and prepares them to deal with complexity, diversity, and change. It provides students with broad knowledge of the wider world (e.g. science, culture, and society) as well as in-depth study in a specific area of interest. A liberal education helps students develop a sense of social responsibility, as well as strong and transferable intellectual and practical skills such as communication, analytical and problem-solving skills, and a demonstrated ability to apply knowledge and skills in real-world settings. 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 a well-rounded citizen.  Theatre, as with all areas of the Liberal Arts, is most effectively employed when it is built on a broad base of knowledge.




Due Dates

500 Points Possible

Journal 1

Week Five


Journal 2

Week Eight


Ten-Minute Play

Week Nine


One-Act Play

Week Seventeen


Online Discussion Board

Throughout Semester


Quizzes & In-Class Assignments

Throughout Semester


Theatre Attendance

Throughout Semester


Attendance & Participation

Throughout Semester



A: 500-470

B: 434-420

C: 384-370

A-: 469-450

B-: 419-400

C-: 369-350

B+: 449-435

C+: 399-385

D: 349-300

F: 299-0


This Web-Enhanced Course will be supported by D2L:

What to Expect from a Web-Enhanced Course: This course is designed to meet both face-to-face and virtually.  It is essential that you consult the course site throughout the week to access course announcements, engage in online discussions, submit assignments, check grades, etc. All course documents—syllabus, rubrics, assignment guidelines and such—are posted there.


What the Instructor and Your Peers Expect from You: By enrolling in this course, you have agreed to contribute to weekly discussions by accessing the online discussion board regularly. This will require a team effort, with respect and help for each other, as we build a community of learners. I also expect that you will have a foundational understanding of Internet terms and functions.


What You May Expect from the Instructor: I will Monitor email no less than once a day and respond to messages within 24 to 48 hours, facilitate online discussions, and help build a learning community, both online and in our classroom.


Help Available: If you are having any technical difficulties (e.g., logging in, accessing the discussion board) please visit,, email, or contact the Learn@UW Help Desk toll free at 888-435-7589.



  • ATTENDANCE: Because of the nature of the coursework, which is often interactive, participatory, and collaborative, regular and prompt attendance is not only expected, but will be crucial to your success in this class. More than three unexcused absences will drop your final grade one level per absence: 4 absences will drop an A to an A-; 5 will drop an A to a B+; 6 will drop an A to a B; 7 will drop an A to a B- and so on. Absences may be excused only in circumstances that are extraordinary and documented—serious illness, family death or medical emergency. Out of town travel, unless for a medical reason, is not excused. Absences due to a college-related activity or competition are also not excused. To excuse an absence, please bring me appropriate documentation as soon as possible after the absence; then we will discuss the necessity of makeup assignments for anything you may have missed.  Excessive absences, for any reason, are a problem, and any student who is not able to attend class regularly will be advised to drop. In some cases, your attendance will not only affect your own work, but also you classmates’ work as well.


  • TARDINESS: While some instances of tardiness cannot be helped, chronic lateness is disruptive and disrespectful. As our time together is limited, class will begin promptly at 8:00am. Late arrivals of more than fifteen minutes or early departures will count as 1/3 of an absence.


  • PARTICIPATION, & COMMITMENT: Students are expected to participate actively in all class assignments, discussions, exercises, performances, demonstrations, projects, etc.

  • MAKE-UP POLICY: If you miss graded work because of an absence, please schedule an appointment with me to discuss it. Late work will only be accepted in circumstances that are extraordinary or documented.

  • GRADING/DUE DATES: Written assignments are due at the start of class on the due date or via D2L Dropbox by 4:00pm on the due date. Work received at 4:01pm or later is considered late. Late written work will be subject to a 10 % grade reduction for each class period the assignment is late. Assignment grades will be posted on D2L for your perusal. If you have any questions regarding grading or a grade for a particular assignment, please schedule an appointment to speak with me during office hours. Questions about a specific grade must be posed to me in writing within 72 hours of the grade distribution. Please follow your progress on D2L throughout the term. Once final grades have been posted on TitanWeb, they are final and will only be changed due to legitimate, clerical errors.

  • PERFORMANCE ATTENDANCE: You will be required to see three live theatrical performances this semester. Tickets for these performances are available at the box office in Fredric March Theatre or by calling 424-4417. You can also purchase tickets online at <>. There is a chance that performances will sell out, so please purchase your tickets early. There is no excuse for missing a performance. If you fear that you might have a problem attending a performance, please speak to me as soon as possible. Please submit your program to receive credit for attendance.

  • ONLINE JOURNAL: Throughout the course of the semester, you will be required to keep an online journal of in-class and out-of-class writing exercises. Journal assignments are designed to stimulate ideas for future plays. I will grade your online journals, hosted by our course D2L site, at two different times during the semester. It is your responsibility to make sure that your online journals are complete and up to date prior to these due dates. You will be graded on your journal’s completeness and the evidence of effort that your journal entries demonstrate. Please see D2L for additional information related to the online journal assignment.


  • DISABILITY ACCOMMODATION POLICY: If you need accommodations because of a disability, have emergency medical information to share with me, or need special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please inform me—both in person and in writing—immediately. See me privately after class, or at my office. To request academic accommodations (a notetaker, for example) students must also register with Disability Services. For other resources for students with disabilities, visit

  • ACADEMIC INTEGRITY: Academic honesty is fundamental to the activities and principles of a university. All members of the academic community must be confident that each person's work has been responsibly and honorably acquired, developed, and presented. Any effort to gain an advantage not given to all students is dishonest whether or not the effort is successful. The academic community regards breaches of the academic integrity rules as extremely serious matters. Any acts violating the university’s policy of academic integrity (copying from another's quiz or exam, using unauthorized materials during academic exercises, submitting plagiarized work) will be reported to the Dean of Students and subject to disciplinary action. Sanctions for such a breach may include academic sanctions from the instructor, including failing the course for any violation, to disciplinary sanctions ranging from probation to expulsion. Including any published material (in print or online) within a paper you submit without proper citation is plagiarism. When in doubt about plagiarism, paraphrasing, quoting, or collaboration, consult the course instructor. Suspected instances of dishonesty will be reported to the Provost. For this course, examples of academic dishonesty include, but are not limited to:
  • Collaborating with a classmate to the extent that your own work is not apparent
  • Copying another student’s quiz.


For more information about academic dishonesty, visit


  • INTELLECTUAL PLURALISM: The University community welcomes intellectual diversity and respects student rights. Students who have questions concerning the quality of instruction in this class may address concerns to either the Departmental Chair or Divisional leader All students will have the opportunity to submit an anonymous evaluation of the instructor(s) at the end of the course.

  • COURSE EVALUATIONS: Because I value your feedback and want to be sure the class best meets your educational goals and needs, we will issue both mid-semester course evaluations and end-of-semester course evaluations as well. Both types of course evaluation are anonymous.

  • WITHDRAWL: The final day to withdraw from this course is March 19.

Some Final Thoughts and Expectations from the Instructor

  • I’m happy to talk with you about assignments and/or your progress in the course during the office hours listed above.  Please see me to schedule an appointment. Feel free to contact me with questions or concerns at any time.
  • Please consult D2L regularly for announcements and updates, especially if you have been absent. All course documents—syllabus, rubrics, assignment guidelines and such—are posted there. Please consult your syllabus first when in doubt about due dates and course policies.

  • Please turn off and put away all cell phones, electronic games, CD players, mp3 players before class starts.

  • Always bear in mind that writing is a process. You will work closely with your classmates. You will need to give and receive constructive criticism. Writing is an expressive and creative art and everyone’s creativity is welcome. It is important that we applaud and encourage each other’s work. At the same time, constructive criticism is essential and necessary for you to grow as writers. You will be expected to give each other honest and thoughtful feedback. This feedback should be given and taken in the spirit of helping you to improve. Giving and receiving constructive criticism is tantamount to a productive workshop environment.

  • As this is a college level course, some of the material we consider might be “R-rated.” We are all adults here, so please conduct yourself as such. If you have a question or concern about the appropriateness of any material, please speak with me privately.

  • I believe that playwrights have the right to offend, shock, displease, challenge, and otherwise overwhelm the audience with truth. I don’t believe in censorship. The only rule of playwriting that I believe holds is: “Don’t Bore Your Audience!” That said, I am personally very bored with gratuitous obscenities and writing which is violent (particularly to women) and hate-filled. Grading plays is a subjective art by a subjective teacher of playwriting; consider yourself warned and yet encouraged.



This Calendar is Subject to Change



Reading: Durang: Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike; Hemingway: “Hills Like White Elephants”

Journal: Why I Want to Write Plays


M 2/3: Introductions / Review Syllabus

W 2/5: Discuss “Hills Like White Elephants” 

F 2/7: Discuss Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike


Reading: McLaughlin: Chapters 1, 8, & 9; Inge: Bus Stop

Journal: Overheard Conversation; Did You Bring It?


M 2/10: Discuss McLaughlin

W 2/12: Discuss Bus Stop

F 2/14: Journal Writing




Reading: McLaughlin: Chapters 2 &3; Ball: 7-36; Sophocles: Oedipus (D2L)

Journal: Marriage Proposal; Game Play


M 2/17: Discuss Bus Stop Performance; Discuss McLaughlin

W 2/19: Discuss Ball and Oedipus

F 2/21: Journal Writing



Reading: McLaughlin: Chapter 4; Ball: 37-78; Glaspell: Trifles

Assignment: Play Idea Worksheet (One Ten-Minute Worksheet and Two One Act Worksheets)

Journal: Wrighting Behavior


M 2/24: Discuss McLaughlin and Ball

W 2/26: Discuss Trifles

F 2/28: Journal One Due



Reading: McLaughlin: Chapter 5; Ball: 79-96; Parks: Topdog/Underdog

Assignment: Short Form Character Biography

Journal: Character Milestones, Timeline


M 3/3: Ten-Minute Play Conferences

T 3/4:  Ten-Minute Play Conferences

W 3/5: Discuss Topdog/Underdog

F 3/7: No Class Meeting: Writing Day


Reading: McLaughlin: Chapter 6; Selections from A More Perfect Ten (TBA)

Assignment: Long Form Character Biography

Journal: Returning a Mattress; Three Words Per Line; Scene With No Dialogue


M 3/10: Discuss A More Perfect Ten Selections; Discuss McLaughlin

W 3/12: Readings of Ten-Minute Drafts

F 3/14: Readings of Ten-Minute Drafts




Reading: McLaughlin: Chapter 10

Assignment: Read and Respond to a Colleague’s Play


M 3/17: Readings of Ten-Minute Drafts

W 3/19: Readings of Ten-Minute Drafts

F 3/21: Readings of Ten-Minute Drafts







Reading: McLaughlin: Chapters 7 & 11

Assignment: Read and Respond to a Colleague’s Play

M 3/31: Readings of Ten-Minute Plays; Final Drafts of Ten-Minute Plays Due

W 4/2: Readings of Ten-Minute Plays

F 4/4: Readings of Ten-Minute Plays


Reading: Ives: Venus in Fur; McLaughlin: Chapters 7 & 11

Journal: Other Voices Monologues


M 4/7: Discuss Venus in Fur

W 4/9: Journal Writing

R 4/10: One-Act Play Conferences

F 4/11: One-Act Play Conferences





Reading: McLaughlin: Chapter 12

Assignment: Plot Cards; Plot Treatment; Character Milestones


M 4/14: Journal Two Due

W 4/16: TBA

F 4/18: TBA


Assignment: Read and Respond to a Colleague’s Play


M 4/21: Readings of One Act Plays: First Drafts

W 4/23: Readings of One Act Plays: First Drafts

F 4/25:  Readings of One Act Plays: First Drafts


Assignment: Read and Respond to a Colleague’s Play

M 4/28: Readings of One Act Plays: First Drafts

W 4/30: Readings of One Act Plays: First Drafts

F 5/2: Readings of One Act Plays: First Drafts




Assignment: Read and Respond to a Colleague’s Play


M 5/5: Readings of One Act Plays: First Drafts

W 5/7: Readings of One Act Plays: First Drafts

F 5/9: Readings of One Act Plays: Second Drafts



Assignment: Read and Respond to a Colleague’s Play

M 5/12: Readings of One Act Plays: Second Drafts

W 5/14 Readings of One Act Plays: Second Drafts

F 5/16: Readings of One Act Plays: Second Drafts Final Drafts of One Acts Due


Theatre 374/English 329 – Spring 2014

I have read the syllabus for this course. I understand the policies and expectations for Theatre 374/English 329 and agree to comply with them. Failure to return this signed page to the instructor by Friday, February 14 will result in a loss of ten participation points.


Student: ________________________________________  Date: _______________________

by Alderson, James M last modified Feb 10, 2014 01:00 PM