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Thr 160 Intro to Acting

INTRODUCTION TO ACTING, Theatre #97-160-01
Quest #1 course:  How Do People Understand and Create a Sustainable World?
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh - Theatre Department
Course Syllabus Fall 2014

Professor: Jane Purse-Wiedenhoeft, M.F.A. in Acting Credits: 3
Email: Office phone: (920) 424-4425
Office Location: ACW 119
Office Hours: Mondays 11am – noon and Thursdays 11:15am-1:15pm and by appointment
Class Meets: Tues & Thurs from 9:40a.m. - 11:10a.m. Location: ACW 18 and the Experimental Theatre as our lab.


-The syllabus for the class. (This document that you are currently reading contains all the important information you need to know about the class.)

-“Liberal Education," published by the AAC&U covers the relevance of sustainability to a liberal arts education. It can be accessed through this link:

-D2L posted reading assignments:   Sustainability Learning Goals expected at UW Oshkosh and articles that further develop the definition of sustainability that will be used in this class including those that introduce the three pillars of sustainability.

-Students are required to read the play from which the acting assignment is selected.  (The instructor will assign individual scenes taking into account the individual student and her/his level of experience and/or development.)


WHY IS THE SUSTAINABILITY SIGNATURE QUESTION BEING INCORPORATED INTO AN ACTING CLASS? By connecting our exploration of acting to the sustainability movement and using it as a topic of focus, we are on the cutting edge of a new frontier of producing theatre that is becoming more “green” and sustainable.  To quote the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society Journal, “Broadway shows are more than entertainment.  They have been shaping our opinions about race and religion, death and disease, power and politics.  And now Broadway, through its work with the Broadway Green Alliance (BGA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), is helping to shape opinions about environmentalism too.”  Theatre is a great communicator of the many ideas incorporated in the three pillars of sustainability that we will be investigating.


Definition of Sustainability to be used in this class:

“Sustainability implies that the critical activities of a higher education institution are (at a minimum) ecologically sound, socially just, and economically viable, and that they will continue to be so for future generations. The institution would function as a sustainable community, embodying responsible consumption of food and energy, treating its diverse members with respect, and supporting these values in the surrounding community. A truly sustainable college or university would emphasize these concepts in its curriculum and research, preparing students to contribute as working citizens to an environmentally sound and socially just society.”

--Association of University Leaders for a Sustainable Future (


Why study at a Liberal Arts University? 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. current issues, science and culture) as well as in-depth study in a specific area of interest. Theatre in the Liberal Arts is most effectively employed when it is built on a broad base of knowledge that is demonstrated by the ability to explore knowledge in the laboratory of the classroom and learn how to apply it to real-world settings.  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.


In approaching the University Studies Program’s signature question of, “How do people understand and create a more sustainable world?” we will investigate how the craft of acting is not only relevant to this question but how it is a crucial vehicle of communication in the way society views sustainability now and in the future.  Theatre holds a mirror to society and teaches us what it means to be human and this can be applied to how humans have been able to sustain or not sustain resources, ideas, relationships, political systems, etc.  Yes, it isn’t just the environment.

You will be introduced to the topic of sustainability through lecture and research in order to use it as a lens or filter through which we undertake the acting portion of the class. Theatre is a tool that can be used in advocacy for or against an issue or idea.   Whether or not you are always able to make connections between your creative experiences in the class to sustainability issues, you will be practicing and applying your viewpoint as a performing artist/advocate.  You are approaching the craft of acting as citizens of the world not just as actors in a studio setting.  This course is an acting class that will have a very specific framework within which to have freedom to explore.  The goals below support the pursuit of the artistry of the craft of acting while opening your awareness to a world view of that craft.



The University Studies Program (USP) is your gateway into a 21st century college education at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.  This Quest I course is the first in a series of courses you will take to introduce you to the campus community and all it has to offer, the vibrant city of Oshkosh community and the challenges and opportunities of academic life as you pursue a liberal arts education.  In these courses, you’ll be exposed to three “Signature Questions” that are central to a UW Oshkosh education:

  • How do people understand and engage in community life?
  • How do people understand and create a more sustainable world? (This is the question addressed in this course.)
  • How do people understand and bridge cultural differences?


Early in the semester, you will be taught tools about sustainability that will help you to incorporate it into our semester together.  You will be introduced to a definition of sustainability that will be used as our reference for the semester and you will become familiar with the “3 pillars of sustainability” while we focus on one pillar in particular. (Don’t worry; this is still an acting class…)


The Quest classes are designed to provide a foundation for your education at UW Oshkosh.  Further information about this cutting edge general education model is available at the UW Oshkosh, University Studies Program website.


Acting Specific Goals-After taking this beginning level course you should be able to:

1.         Establish and be a contributing member of a supportive performance based ensemble.  This will serve as a stimulating and creative environment for understanding and putting into action the craft of acting in a safe group oriented environment.

2.         Perform simple psychological actions in a truthful and convincing manner when applied to both improvised and scripted activities.

3.         Demonstrate and gain expertise in the ability to use psychological actions and images to effectively perform a monologue audition piece.

4.         Demonstrate an understanding of the basic objectives used in the acting process in             improvised and scripted work as well as in written analysis of this work.

5.         Observe and recognize action choices that actors use to create effective characters in viewed productions and effectively communicate those observations through written communication.

6.         Complete the Learning Outcomes listed below.


Sustainability Specific Goals-After taking this course you should be able to:

  1. Define sustainability.
  2. Have a working understanding of one of the three pillars of sustainability.
  3. Have a general understanding of the three pillars of sustainability.
  4. Use critical and creative thinking to solve problems and explore the connections between theatre and sustainability.  (A paper will focus on this.)
  5. Carry out library research on a focused topic, present an oral presentation about it and write a research paper to be kept in your permanent ePortfolio.
  6. Complete the Learning Outcomes listed below.


Learning Outcomes

Knowledge: To gain an overview and understanding of the acting process and sustainability:

Acting Knowledge:

You will learn how to use acting as a problem solving tool that can be applied to other disciplines and as a lifelong learning tool.  Specifics include reading and analyzing a play text, writing about what you observe in performance situations and participating in discussions about the reading assignments. You will be prepared for additional acting classes in the department if you have a continuing interest.

Sustainability Knowledge:

Sustainability issues are the lens or filter through which the acting process will be viewed during the semester.  Formal researching of an area of sustainability and presenting your findings in a project specific assignment will include the following:

  • A definition of sustainability.
  • Incorporating the three pillars of sustainability (economic, ecological and social) and including one in detail.
  • Effectively apply the criteria that will be assigned for completing this project.



Application of both areas:

Engage your ideas about how people understand and create a sustainable world when participating in discussions:  You will be expected to combine elements of understanding about both acting and a sustainable world into written work and observations about acting activities.  When are these connections most obvious and effective?  When are these connections not an issue and not related to each other?

Sustainability Application:

  • Identifies different strategies that can be used to address sustainability issues at local, national, and global levels.
  • Relates sustainability to your own life and values.

Acting Application:

To gain an understanding and experiential appreciation of acting skills by applying the principles and techniques that are specific to live theatrical performances:

  • Beginning principles covered will be developing trust in ensemble members, receiving and applying feedback and taking risks in acting activities through use of specific choices.  You will learn to create through both improvised situations and scripted texts.



Sustainability Analysis:

  • Explains the basic interconnections among (ecological, economic, and social) as they relate to an activity, practice, or policy.
  • Compares and contrasts divergent or competing perspectives on a sustainability issue at the local, national, and global levels

Acting Analysis:

To analyze and understand the text of plays and performances, then make appropriate choices which highlight the completed analysis:

  • This will be accomplished through the analysis of the structure of the text of the play.
  • You will develop critical thinking skills through critical analysis of acting, both written and verbal, while exploring the creative aspects of character development.  This will be accomplished through in class improvisational activities, discussions and research.


Skills for Both Areas (both analytical and experiential):

To recognize and identify the acting process of other actors in scene work and in performances that are required viewing:

  • You will write responses to a performance that you attend.

Acting Skills:

To learn, develop and explore physical and vocal skills that are tools of the actor:

  • You will be introduced to vocal/movement warm-ups and approaches.


Engagement through Creativity

Acting Engagement only:

To experiment with and enhance creative skills and artistry in building a character and developing an experiential appreciation for acting technique:

  • Problem solving will be explored in an improvisational setting that promotes creative outcomes and unique possibilities in the creation of a character in scene work, in audition preparations and in communicating.  You will demonstrate an understanding of the problem solving and critical thinking that is incorporated in the acting process through research, rehearsal and performance.



(There is always overlap between the two types of assignments listed below.  The expectation is that a given assignment has a main focus but you are expected to connect the two areas of focus.)


USP Related Assignments:

1 informal opportunity to visit with me and chat☺                            =   15 pts.

(You are welcome to visit or meet with me other times as well…)

Attend a Sustainability related event (October 6th at 7:00pm)           =   20 pts.

Attend an off-campus event as a group                                              =   25 pts.

Making Connections Midterm Assignment:                                      =   50 pts.

Sustainability Research Project making connections with theatre      =   75 pts.

Successful posting of Sustainability Research Project to ePortfolio  =   15 pts.

=200 points

Acting Focused Assignments:

Open/non-scripted scene                                                                    =   50 pts.

Monologue-25pts process/25pts performance                                  =   50 pts.

Group assignment                                                                               =   50 pts.

Attend two UW Oshkosh Theatre Dept. shows@25pts each                      =   50 pts.

(A brief five question quiz will be the tool for confirming attendance.)

Performance Critique Paper – These Shining Lives =   50 pts.

(Using sustainability information as a filter for your observations)

Analysis Paper of the Scene from a play                                           =   50 pts.

Performance of Scene-50pts process/50pts performance                  = 100 pts.

=400 points

Total Points                                                                                       = 600 pts.

Grading Scale:

Letter Grade




100 – 93

600 – 558


92.9 – 90

557 – 540


89.9 – 87

539 – 522


86.9 – 83

521 – 498


82.9 – 80

497 – 480


79.9 – 77

479 – 462


76.9 – 73

461 – 438


72.9 – 70

437 – 420


69.9 – 67

419 – 402


66.9 – 63

401 – 378


62.9 – 60

377 – 360


Less than 60

Less than 360


Listed below are brief descriptions of the assignments required for this class:

  • A sustainability research project that will inform your viewpoint on sustainability throughout the semester and will be uploaded to your ePortfolio, a sustainability midterm project that explores the issues you are studying in both acting and sustainability, attendance at a campus sustainability event to inform the research and discussion that has taken place in the course, completion of a Map-works Survey to help us assist you in your progress as a student here and schedule a time to visit with me outside of class.
  • One open/non-scripted scene, a monologue as a tool for auditioning, a written performance critique that uses your knowledge of acting and observation skills, a scripted scene with a written analysis that is the culmination of the work in the class, attendance at productions and other campus events as required.

  • Attendance at a performance of each of the following productions is required:

University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Theatre Department productions: Our Town, by Thornton Wilder and These Shining Lives by Melanie Marnich. We will discuss each of these performances.  Brief quizzes will be completed to determine students’ attendance at the productions and the earning of the 25 points for each production.

  • Attendance at an off-campus event is required as a group activity.  The plans for this will be announced near the beginning of the semester.
  • Attendance at a sustainability event on campus.  We will be attending the Earth Summit Opening Talk on October 6th at 7:00pm.  This activity will help us to gain additional information regarding current issues surrounding sustainability.
  • Students are strongly encouraged to participate in departmental auditions to gain practical experience in the auditioning process and to be considered for casting in the shows.


  • Attend class and be punctual-I need you to be here or you will miss things!  Being on time is one of the most important expectations of students and of actors.
  • Commitment:  Listen, focus on the work at hand, be a supportive member of the class and disciplined in your work ethic.
  • You will be expected to rehearse outside of class time although there will occasionally be time available to rehearse during the regular class time. This is considered homework for this class.
  • An assignment schedule will be distributed after I see how this specific group of students is functioning as a community.  Then I adapt the semester schedule for you.  Depending on how we structure the semester, the schedule may be distributed in several week sections.
  • Specific assignment criteria will be posted on D2L and/or distributed and discussed in class.
  • Be dressed appropriately and ready to work by the time class is scheduled to begin.
  • Complete assignments on time.
  • Participate in discussions.
  • All electronic devices must be turned off during class - phones, laptops, iPods, etc.  These can be very distracting during acting explorations.  Occasionally, we will use these devices as part of our work in class-these I will announce.  In case of an emergency, distribute the phone numbers of the Theatre Department office, 920-424-7042 and campus security as back-up.
  • No eating or gum chewing in class.  They interfere with the actor’s instrument. You may have water in a closeable/reusable water bottle in class. No other beverages allowed.
  • If you have concerns or questions about ANY aspect of the class, please make an appointment to speak with me so we can address your concerns as soon as possible.  My door is always open!
  • Treat other students, the professor and yourself with respect.  Bullying or Harassment won’t be tolerated.  Use good judgment regarding appropriate behavior in class.
  • Academic honesty and integrity is expected.  Plagiarism or other cheating will result in a zero on the assignment and appropriate official steps will be taken as listed in university level materials.


Class Attire

Please wear clothes in which you can exercise such as work-out clothes that aren’t excessively revealing.  You will be spending time moving around, doing warm-ups and improvisational acting that requires ease of movement.  No dresses or tight fitting clothes such as jeans.  No flip flops, high heels, baseball caps, hats, sunglasses etc.  If your hair blocks your face or line of vision, please bring something with which to secure it out of the way.


Attendance Policy

You are expected to attend class and to be on time or you will miss out on important parts of our process.  Participation is an integral part of the work being done in this class. Three absences are allowed.  These absences are to be used for sickness and/or emergency.  If you must miss class please email me so I can make adjustments for that day of class or notify your scene partner or group if they are expecting you.  This should occur prior to class time. For each absence beyond the three allowed absences, the end of semester grade will be lowered one grade level for example: a student with a B+ for the semester who has had four absences will receive a final grade of B, for five absences, a grade of B-, for six absences a C+ and so on… (If there is a major medical reason for multiple absences a specific doctor’s note is required and the student should be contacting the Dean of Students regarding all classes affected.)

If you arrive after class has begun, it is up to you to inform me at the end of class or immediately following the class that you arrived late so I give you credit for that day. If you forget to inform me at the end of class an email reminder received that same calendar day will suffice.  If you are late to class on a regular basis, points will be subtracted from the total semester points at the end of the semester at my discretion depending how often the late arrivals occurred.   If you arrive a ½ hour late or more to class it is considered an absence as is leaving a ½ hour or more before the end of class.  Scheduling a doctor’s appointment or scheduling an advising session during class time is not excused.

If the weather conditions are questionable, I will follow the recommendations as recorded on the UW Oshkosh weather line which is (920) 424-0000 and/or as announced on local television and radio stations.  Weather alerts are usually announced on campus digital displays and sent out through email.


General Information

-Papers will be graded on original thought, successful completion of criteria, grammar usage, spelling and general paper writing skills.  All papers must be word processed using black ink, contain consistent spacing-double spaced is preferred with a 10 or 12 point font.  Back to back pages are acceptable in order to save paper. Papers need to be turned in on time which is at the beginning of class on the due date. Late papers will have 10 points deducted from the total points earned per day late. (After class = one day late.)

-Performance assignments must be performed on the due date – no make-ups allowed.

-No class:  Thursday, November 26th Thanksgiving Break (The university has class on Monday and Tuesday of that week with Wednesday through Sunday off.)


MEET WITH YOUR PROFESSOR-You need to schedule an informal time to talk with me about how things are going for you at UW Oshkosh and in the class.  The new experiences that are part of college life can be both exciting and daunting. I am here to listen and to help when you need a faculty member’s outlook or input.  I will bring a sign-up sheet when we are scheduling this.

USP Peer Mentor-As a part of this course you will have access to an upper-class student to help guide you on your “Quest.”  The peer mentor will attend campus events with us, be a part of many class sessions, answer questions you have about UW Oshkosh if I am unable to answer them and help you with MAP-Works, D2L and ePortfolio.  Our mentor is Katie Loomis and you can reach her at

MAP-Works (Making Achievement Possible Works)

MAP-Works is a survey that is all about you!  To help you have a wonderful first-year of college, we need you to take the survey.  A few weeks into September, you will receive an email from, inviting you to take the survey and then as a check in a few weeks into October.  Advisors, hall directors, instructors and many other people on campus will use this information to help you be successful and to provide you with what you need.  You will receive a report with suggestions on how to achieve your goals; please review it.  (Suggestion: Please bring your first MAP-Works survey report with you when you talk with me during the office chat that we will schedule if it occurs after you get the results.

Early Alert Grades:  After the third week of class, you will receive a grade for your overall progress in this course and each of your first semester courses.  This program is called, “Early Alert” and it provides you with an Early Grade Report from faculty.  Early Grade Reports will indicate if you have academic performance or attendance issues – no letter grade.  You will receive specific steps you can take and resources you can access to improve your performance in the class.  It is common for students to be unaware of or over-estimate their academic performance so this will help you to realistically know how you are doing in the course. You will receive an email during the 5th week of classes.  It is important to read the entire email carefully.  (These Early Alert grades are not permanent and will not appear on your transcript.)

ePortfolio Requirements: As you move through your courses at UW Oshkosh, you will archive your learning in an ePortfolio.  The ePortfolio can be found in D2L.  The ePortfolio will help you keep track of papers, speeches, reports, projects, and other assignments in your Quest and Explore courses, so that you can see your progress and connect ideas across different classes. Later in the USP classes you will take an advanced writing course that asks you to draw on all your other USP courses.  The ePortfolio has the resources that you have put there for yourself.  You can continue to use this portfolio in your major classes, so you are ready for your Capstone course or experience as you near graduation. You can also use the ePortfolio after you graduate as evidence of your learning to employers or graduate schools.  In all USP courses, a specific assignment has been designated to be uploaded to your ePortfolio.



ME!! I am here for you so ask me for help.  If I don’t know, we will find the answer!

Center for Academic Resources: The Center for Academic Resources (CAR) provides free, confidential tutoring for students in most undergraduate classes on campus.  CAR is located in the Student Success Center, Suite 102.   Check the Tutor List page on CAR’s website ( for a list of tutors.   If your course is not listed, click on a link to request one, stop by SSC 102 or call 424-2290. To schedule a tutoring session, simply email the tutor, let him/her know what class you are seeking assistance in, and schedule a time to meet.

Writing Center: The Writing Center employs specially trained students with a passion for helping their peers become better writers.  The services it offers are beyond merely checking for grammar; instead, the Center strives to teach students the process of good writing.  Appointments are free, confidential, and are at your convenience.  For more information, email, view their website ( ), visit them at SSC 102, or call 424-1152.

Reading Study Center:  The Reading Study Center is an all-university service whose mission is to facilitate the development of efficient college-level learning strategies in students of all abilities.  The center offers strategies for improved textbook study, time management, note-taking, test preparation, and test-taking.  For more information, email, view the website (, visit them in Nursing Ed Room 201, or call 424-1031.


The professor reserves the right to modify the syllabus to accommodate the needs of the students.

by Alderson, James M last modified Sep 15, 2015 09:54 AM