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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : English Literature

Postgraduate Course: The Craft of the Playwright I (ENLI11178)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits40 ECTS Credits20
SummaryThis 40 credit course will, through seminars and workshops on students own developing folio, introduce students to the theory and practice of writing for live performance. The course will encourage students to unlock their own personal creative voice as well as building skills in a range of techniques for conceiving, developing and structuring their dramatic writing through practical exercises. It simultaneously enhances students¿ ability to think reflect critically on their own and others, writing through engagement with critical texts, theatre history, philosophy and visits to live performance. Input from established professional theatre-makers into the workshop element of the course will introduce students into the role of the writer in the process of developing script for live performance.

Please note this course is ONLY available to students on the MSc Playwriting programme.
Course description This course examines the basic mechanics of writing drama for the stage, including characterisation, creating a dramatic universe, and plot and structure. It considers naturalism as the dominant form in Western dramaturgy and how any given play text either adheres to or deviates from the key structural principles of this genre.

Each week in seminars, we will examine the dramaturgical area under scrutiny through close reading and discussion of 2 or 3 key play texts from across a wide range of eras and genres. Students will prepare a close reading of the text in small groups and present their findings in the seminar. A further discussion, sometimes accompanied by practical exercise will be led by the course leader.

Alongside seminars, students will develop their own 50 minute play text. To support their writing, they will present at the bi-weekly class workshop at least twice during the semester to receive critical feedback from other students and the class tutor.

In week eight of the semester, a team of professional actors and a leading theatre director is invited to come and work on the students' developing script. All students sit in for the full 2 to 3 day workshop to receive feedback on their work, and learn how script development works at a professional level.

The following is a example of the course as it was in the 2015-16 academic year, but may be subject to change year by year:

1. The Moment of Theatre: ¿An audience comes to participate¿ Phyllis Nagy (Nicola McCartney)

2. Endings: ¿Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it¿s awful.¿ Samuel Beckett (Nicola McCartney)

3. Character & Action 1: ¿Motion is the basis of Art.¿ Stanislavskii

4. Character & Action 2: ¿People aren't evil and people aren't good. They live how they can one day at a time. They come out of dust they go back to dust, dusty feet, no wings, and whose fault is that?¿ Caryl Churchill

5. Character & Action 3: ¿All we are is a bit of talking nitrogen.¿ Arthur Miller

6. Creating a Virtual World 1: ¿You cannot use theatre as you use a page to write on.¿ Edward Bond

7. Creating a Virtual World 2: ¿Make something be seen that¿s invisible¿ Sam Shepard

AND professional development workshops on Tues 3 and Weds 4 th November

8. Essay completion week

9. Dialogue: 'Most writers don't know that actors are never better than in the pauses or in the subtext. They give them too many words. In a play, words are parentheses to the silences.' Yasmina Reza

10. Plot, The Seven Parts: '. . . what drew me to theatre was precisely the opportunity it provided to join word and image, word and action, to force language to encounter the three dimensions of the theatrical space.' Beth Herst


Tues 11-1pm in weeks 3,5,9 and 11

Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2017/18, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  15
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 400 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 18, Dissertation/Project Supervision Hours 3, Supervised Practical/Workshop/Studio Hours 8, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 1, Other Study Hours 16, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 8, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 372 )
Additional Information (Learning and Teaching) Professional Development work with theatre makers on students own scripts
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Folio comprising of writing for performance of 50 minutes, for a maximum of 3 actors.
Feedback Feedback is given in four stages:

- the concept and the structure for the play is discussed and agreed with the course leader after submission of a synopsis in week 3; a one to one meeting wit the course leader during week 9; and students can visit the course leader during offer hours for more feedback throughout the semester

- during class workshops throughout the semester as the script develops

- during the script development workshop with the team of professional actors and directors in week 8

- detailed written feedback on the submitted script when marks are returned
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Be introduced to different techniques for the development of writing for live performance.
  2. Develop their dramaturgical skills for development of text for live performance
  3. Enhance their critical skills as readers and consumers of text for live performance
  4. Learn how to give and receive critical feedback on their own and others work, and how to evaluate, and respond to that feedback in the future development of their writing for the stage
  5. Learn how to work collaboratively with directors and actors within a professional context to create work which is ready for performance.
Reading List
Here is a sample reading list from the 2014-15 class, but which is revised each year and will change:

Primary Texts:
Shakespeare, William. The Complete Works. Norton, 2002.
Churchill, Caryll. Plays: Four (Collected Plays vol. 4): Hotel; This Is A Chair; Blue Heart; Far Away; A Number; Drunk Enough To Say I Love You?; A Dream Play. Nick Hern, 2008.
Harrower, David. Knives in Hens. Methuen Drama, 1997.
Friel, Brian. Plays 1: Philadelphia Here I Come, Freedom of the City, Living Quarters Aristocrats, Faith Healer, Translations. Faber, 2001.
Eldridge, David. Incomplete and Random Acts of Kindness. Methuen Drama, 2005.
Handke, Peter. Plays: "Offending the Audience", "My Foot My Tutor", "Self Accusation", "Kaspar", "Ride Across Lake Constance", "They Are Dying Out". Methuen, 1997.
Ibsen, Henrik, trans. Watts, Peter. A Doll's House and Other Plays. Penguin Classics, 2003.
Chekhov, Anton, trans. Peter Carson. Plays: "Ivanov", "The Seagull", "Uncle Vanya", "Three Sisters", "The Cherry Orchard". Penguin, 2004.
Albee, Edward, The Collected Plays:Vol 1. Duckworth, 2008.
Williams, Tennessee. 27 Wagons Full of Cotton. New Directions, 1966.
Pinter, Harold. Betrayal. Faber, 1998.
Beckett, Samuel. The Complete Dramatic Works of Samuel Beckett. Faber 2006.
Barker, Howard. The Bite of the Night. Calder, 1988. Anderson, Davey, ed. Scottish Shorts, Nick Hern, 2010. Bond, Edward. Plays: One - Saved, Early Morning, The Pope's Wedding. Methuen, 1977.

Secondary Reading:
Brook, Peter. The Empty Space. Penguin, 2008.
Kee, Robert, Story: Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting, ; Methuen Publishing Ltd (16 July 1999)
Mamet, David, Three Uses of the Knife (Diaries, Letters and Essays): On the Nature and Purpose of Drama, ; Methuen Drama (1 April 2007)
Ayckbourn, Alan, The Crafty Art of Playmaking, ; Faber & Faber 2004
Edgar, David, How Plays Work: A Practical Guide to Playwriting, ; Nick Hern Books; Key Concepts in Drama, Pickering, Kenneth; Palgrave Macmillan (13 April 2005) Shepherd, Simon & Wallis, Mick, Studying Plays, ; Bloomsbury Academic; 3rd Revised edition edition (29 Jan 2010)
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Additional Class Delivery Information There are:
- 9 seminars
- 4 class workshops (unless the class size changes in which case more may be offered)
- two one to one meetings with the course leader or tutor
- a 2-3 day workshop with professional actors and a director on students' scripts
KeywordsCotP1,Playwriting,dramaturgy,performance,creative writing,theatre
Course organiserMs Nicola Mccartney
Tel: (0131 6)50 3629
Course secretaryMiss Kara Mccormack
Tel: (0131 6)50 3030
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