Course Description

How does a written text become a living, shared moment in the performance space? Actors, directors, playwrights, critics, and audiences all play a role at varying stages of the process, influencing each other and the shape of the final production through explicit and implicit means. This writing course introduces a range of historical and contemporary plays and a variety of writing tasks in order to explore current debates about the nature and purpose of live theater as well as the relationships between performance and text. This course is rooted in the idea that bringing a written text to the stage engages a range of intellectual challenges that reach beyond the theater and are central to effective scholarly writing. For example, adapting a short story into a performance script requires interpretation and analysis through close, critical reading, while presenting an historically important play involves extensive research into both primary and secondary sources in order to answer persuasively the urgent dramaturgical question, “why this play now?” Advocating textual analysis as a way to discover and generate meaning, From Page to Stage invites students to practice moves of scholarly argument and rhetoric that apply across the academic curriculum.

Rationale for Assignment Sequence

The purpose of the first essay assignment, a textual analysis, is to give students practice selecting and arranging evidence in support of a claim. The emphasis on textual elements provides a foundation for later assignments that require combinations of textual, thematic and dramaturgical analysis. Involving both creative and analytical writing, the second assignment asks students to put into practice the techniques of literary expression they analyzed in the first essay. Students describe and reflect on the process they followed in developing their 10-minute play in a short essay that might serve as an introduction to the primary text. Turning from textual analysis and adaptation to live performance, the third assignment asks students to write as reviewers, following Chemer’s principles, in order to answer the question, “why this play now?” In addition to integrating the kinds of thinking and writing students practice in the first two essays, the third assignment connects work in the classroom to experiences in the real world. The culminating assignment engages students in substantial academic research and encourages reflection on the guiding question of the course, “how does a written text become a living, shared moment in the performance space?” Students apply their understanding of the methods of textual and rhetorical analysis they have practiced to evaluate and respond to the existing scholarly conversation concerning an historically important play.

The materials and description for this course were revised in 2012.

Course Documents

Pre-Draft Assignments, Activities:

Previous versions of the syllabus:

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