Introduction to Playwriting | Arts and Science Online

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Introduction to Playwriting

DRAM 251/3.0

A hands-on introduction to the craft and techniques of playwriting.

Learning Outcomes

After completing DRAM 251, students will be able to:

  • write a play – which includes being able to:
    • construct a believable and engaging plot;
    • write believable and engaging dialogue for multi-faceted characters;
    • understand how the text of a play can conceal and reveal emotional subtext;
    • exploit the supposed “limitations” of the live theatre to their advantage, using symbolism and theatrical techniques to convey a story;
    • accept dramaturgical advice from others in a professional way, unencumbered by shame or defensiveness, and use it in their writing;
    • work collaboratively with directors, actors, designers and stage managers in script workshops and in rehearsal.
  • and understand, and assist in, the playwriting of others, which includes being able to:
    • create, and recognize and analyze the inner plot structure of plays written by others;
    • and critically analyze playwriting by others, and offer useful and coherent dramaturgical support.

Description

Intended Student Outcomes, or, What This Course Is For: To complete this course, students will demonstrate their ability to:
- build a plot;
- create characters;
- understand what the words “action” and “motivation” mean;
- understand what plays are for, in terms of “theme” and “message”;
- exploit the limitations of live theatre and use them expressively.
In other words, “Introduction to Playwriting” is designed to introduce you to playwriting. So, since I have yet to find a better way to learn to write plays than by writing plays, each of you is going to write one: a first draft of a 15- to 30-minute-long one-act, on a topic of your choice (subject to some restrictions), under the guidance of the rest of the class, our T.A., and myself. The Play is due a week after the final class.
The students in this class will be divided into groups, called “labs”, of five or six students each. (In the first of our weekly videos, I mistakenly say “ten” students; this is incorrect.) Every student is to write five to ten pages of new material per week, and dis-tribute it on line to the other members of the student’s lab, our T.A., and myself. This ma-terial must contain both some dialogue and some notes, each week.
The material can be submitted at any time during the week, from just after mid-night on Monday morning to midnight on the following Sunday. This term, however, be-gins on Thursday, Sept. 6, so our first week is a 10-day “week,” running from just after midnight on Thursday morning, Sept. 6, to midnight on Sunday, Sept. 16. I will take advantage of that long first week by asking you to submit your first week’s material by midnight on that Sunday, Sept. 16.
Each student is also expected to read his or her lab-mates’ submissions, and write comments on the submissions; the comments, too, will be distributed to the other lab members. My T.A. and I will also read all of the submitted material and comments, and make our own contributions. The comments should not take the form of value judgments on the quality of your lab-mates’ work, but rather the form of suggestions on where to take the work next. (Praise and encouragement, however, are always helpful.)
The official name of this course is “Playwriting and Dramaturgy I”. “Drama-turgy” means reviewing, editing and helping with another person’s script. We all form inevitably warped impressions in our minds of our lab-mates’ work, and send them sug-gestions based on those inaccurate images. The playwright’s job is to sift among those suggestions and choose what works best for the play. Don’t by shy about taking an active part in the analysis and discussion of your lab-mates’ work. It helps them, of course: even feedback that wildly misunderstands the play can be helpful, suggestions that may seem silly are valued in this course, and the “dumb” idea often opens the door to a useful idea. But also, giving them your feedback both motivates them to help you when it’s your turn, and familiarizes you with the workshop process.
There are also four specific Assignments through the term, two of which are versions of a specific kind of exercise called a “Seven-Eleven”. I will describe each Assignment in more detail in its own handout. Each Assignment is due by midnight on Sunday at the end of the week after it is assigned. There is one exception: Assignment 3 is due on Week 7, which, this term, is a shortened week to allow for our two-day midterm break (Oct. 25 & 26). Therefore your deadline for that assignment is extended to the following midnight, Monday night, Oct. 29. (Your deadline that week for the regular, un-graded weekly pages will still be Sunday, Oct. 28.)
            Finally, one more feature: we are going to use the video conferencing program “Zoom” to have a live, real-time group discussion among the members of your lab, with all our seven or eight faces on screen together (including myself, and, I hope, our T.A.), once during the term for each lab. These are yet to be scheduled. That discussion will be an informal conversation about how each of you are doing with your play, including sug-gestions from the rest of the lab for each individual student – pretty much the same sort of work we’ll be doing in written form during the rest of the term, but on this occasion, orally, and with faces to attach to the names.
 
A BRIEF SUMMATION of the Activities in the CourseEach week, there will appear on the website, under “Modules,” a video lecture on principles of playwriting, written by, directed by, and starring, me. There will also appear a written transcript of the text of each video. You are required either to watch these videos or to read their transcripts. You are expected to write five to ten pages of their play each week, and submit them to the other members of their Lab and to me and my T.A. (The pages to be submitted are not listed in the schedule below; they are due every week.) You will have four written Assignments. And on one occasion during the term for each Lab, as yet unscheduled, we will have a video conference and actually talk to each other in real time.

Terms

Fall 2018
Course Dates: 
Sept 6 - Nov 30, 2018
Exam Dates: 
N/A

Evaluation

20% - Seven-Elevens (x2)
20% - Exercises (x2)
35% - The Play
25% - Participation in Lab Discussion & Dramaturgy

**Evaluation subject to change**

Instructor

Professor John Lazarus (lazarusj@queensu.ca)

Instructor message

Welcome to DRAM 251: Introduction to Playwriting! I’m your instructor, John Lazarus. I’ve been a working Canadian playwright since 1970, and have taught playwriting for about 25 years, first at Vancouver’s Studio 58 and then here at the Dan School, beginning when it was the Queen’s Drama Department in 2000. I’ve also taught sporadically at my alma mater, the National Theatre School of Canada, and at Vancouver Film School.

After graduating from N.T.S. in 1969, I lived in Vancouver for 30 years, working at various times as an actor, critic, broadcaster, playwright, screenwriter and teacher. My own plays include Babel Rap, Dreaming and Duelling, and Village of Idiots, as well as four one-act plays for young audiences, published by Playwrights Press as the anthology Not So Dumb. I’ve also written for film, TV, radio, newspapers, magazines and blogs. I look forward to working with each of you.

Time Commitment

Students can expect to spend approximately 10 hours a week in study/practice and online activity for this course.

Course Resources

About SOLUS

SOLUS is Queen’s Student On-Line University System. You’ll have access to a SOLUS account once you become a Queen’s student. You’ll use SOLUS to register for courses, add and drop courses, update your contact information, view financial and academic information, and pay your tuition.

About OnQ

onQ is Queen's online learning platform. You'll log into onQ to access your course. All materials related to your course—notes, readings, videos, recordings, discussion forums, assignments, quizzes, groupwork, tutorials, and help—will be on the onQ site.

About Credit Units

Queen’s courses are weighted in credit units. A typical one-term course is worth 3.0 units, and a typical two-term course is worth 6.0 units. You combine these units to create your degree. A general (three-year) BA or BSc requires a total of 90 credit units.

Computer Requirements

To take an online course, you’ll need a high speed internet connection as well as a microphone and speakers to be able to watch videos, hear sounds, and participate in interactive online activities. A webcam is recommended but not necessary.

System Requirements:

  • Laptop or Desktop computer purchased within the last 5 years. (mobile devices are not supported)
  • Windows Vista SP2/Mac OSX 10.9 or higher
  • Up to date versions of Firefox, Internet Explorer or Safari. Please note that Google Chrome is not recommended for use in our courses.
  • Most recent version of Adobe Reader and Adobe Flash

 See also Getting Started.

Dates/Deadlines

The deadlines for new applications to Queen’s Arts and Science Online courses are in our Upcoming Application Dates section.

Grading Scheme

The information below is intended for undergraduate students in the Faculty of Arts and Science. Academic Regulations in other Faculties may differ.

Letter Grade Grade Point
A+4.30
A4.00
A-3.70
B+3.30
B3.00
B-2.70
C+2.30
C2.00
C-1.70
D+1.30
D1.00
D-0.70
F0.00

GPA Calculators
Have your SOLUS grade report handy and then follow the link to the Arts and Science GPA calculators.

How does this affect my academics?
See the GPA and Academic Standing page.

Follow the link above for an explanation of how the GPA system affects such things as the Dean’s Honour List, requirements to graduate, and academic progression.

Frequently Asked Questions on the Grading Scheme
Please follow this link to the FAQ's

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees vary depending when you start, your year, faculty, and program. Fees for Summer Term 2018 first-year Distance Career Arts & Science Domestic students are as follows: for a 3.0-unit course, $685.90; for a 6.0-unit course, $1371.80 See also Tuition and Fees.

Campus Bookstore

All textbooks can be purchased at Queen’s Campus Bookstore.

Non-Queen’s Students

All Queen’s Arts and Science Online courses are open to students at other universities. Before applying as a visiting student, request a Letter of Permission from your home university that states that you have permission to take the course and apply it to your degree. See also Apply.

Academic Integrity

Please see Queen’s policy statement on academic integrity for information on how to complete an online course honestly.