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Writing Across the Curriculum

THE 327: History of Theatre II
Writing in the Majors Guidelines
Professor David Sullivan

Role of Writing

Writing in the Theater Major

Writing is essential to the work of theater artists and audiences as we engage with writing at several levels. The life cycle of a theatrical production itself begins with the creative writing of a play and culminates in the critical writing of theatrical reviews in newspapers, periodicals, and websites. For the artists in the production process, writing enables us 1) to record our initial thoughts about a play, 2) to analyze and synthesize dramatic and theatrical elements, 3) to clarify our vision or concept of the play to be produced, 4) to communicate that vision as expressively and clearly as possible to collaborators, and 5) to persuade funders, producers, critics, and sponsors to support our work. And perhaps most importantly for the good of the art, the act of writing about a play—about how a play is structured, what it is “about,” how its world should be created on stage in three dimensions, and how an audience should experience a production—challenges us to make more informed, rigorous, and honest artistic choices. Vague notions or gut feelings are tested in the act of writing, which reveals on the page the truth of our claims about the play and the art.  

Writing in THE 327, History of Theater II

In History of Theater II, students utilize writing to explore the world of a play and its historical context, to compare theatrical developments across centuries and cultures, and to communicate our interpretation or vision for a play or theatrical event. While we often use journals and narrative forms of writing in performance/studio courses, students will engage here in informative, explanatory and persuasive writing that mirrors the actual writing of professional theater artists--especially dramaturgs, designers, and stage directors--throughout the production process. Through these writing exercises, we will develop not only our writing skills but also our capacities to think and to communicate like self-directed theater artists.

Disciplinary Writing

In this course students will gain facility with the following genres or types of writing:

Writing as part of the daily practice of a theatre artist (actor, director, dramaturg, designer, producer):

  • Personal reflections on historical plays.
  • Summaries of critical responses to plays and productions.
  • Script analysis exercises of representative historical plays.
  • Explications of character, theme, dramatic action, dramatic structure.
  • Dramaturgical or literary analysis (e.g. historical context and/or structural analysis of representative plays).

Writing as scholarly process:

  • Investigation of production history organized by a claim.
  • Literary analysis organized by a claim.
  • Critical response to an argument in theatre history.

Expectations of Students in a WIM Course

In this course students will:

  • Complete readings by the assigned date.
  • Complete informal writing exercises (inside/outside of class) in response to readings.
  • Formulate questions out of their own intellectual interests within the course.
  • Write claims with supporting evidence in response to their questions.
  • Write for a variety of audiences.
  • Participate collaboratively with students in writing exercises and peer editing workshops.
  • Revise writing as required.

Expectations of Faculty in a WIM Course

In this course faculty will:

  • Provide frameworks for script analysis of historical plays.
  • Offer informal writing exercises that help students to understand challenging historical texts and to formulate claims.
  • Facilitate in-class writing workshops and outside-of-class writing conferences.
  • Design relevant formal writing assignments that mirror writing tasks that theater artists undertake in their professional lives, such as production concept proposals, dramaturgical essays, artist statement or press release on a historical play, interviews.
  • Scaffold formal, high-stakes writing assignments as multiple assignments.
  • Provide written and verbal feedback, both formative and evaluative, on drafts of student writing to assist students in revising their writing.
  • Create opportunities for students to revise their writing.
  • Provide a variety of real-world examples of writing tasks related to theatre history (American Theatre magazine, Spotlight: Huntington Theatre Season Guide, etc.).
  • Provide a variety of real-world examples of writing in a lively, thoughtful, and engaged voice, speaking to its audience (e.g. New York Times Theatrical Reviews, journal articles).
  • Provide opportunities for students to make their work public and interact with peers, and professionals.

Criteria for Assessing Student Writing

  • Does the writing engage with/respond to motivating questions in a full and interesting way?
  • Does the writing evidence a specific audience?
  • Does the writing evidence a lively, thoughtful, and engaged voice speaking to its audience?
  • Is the writing clear, organized and appropriate for its audience?
  • Does the writing evidence command of standard American grammar and usage, and vocabulary?