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Unit information: Interpreting Plays in 2015/16

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Unit name Interpreting Plays
Unit code DRAM23128
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Eleanor Rycroft
Open unit status Not open

DRAM11004 Performance Forms and Analysis

DRAM10028 Production Skills for Performance 1



School/department Department of Theatre
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

In this unit, students will learn how to read play-texts in order to understand how they operate on stage and with a view to exploring them in performance. Students will acquire skills in close textual reading, and examine the conventions of dramatic writing in which the play-text is located. They will be introduced to the importance of understanding genre in approaching a play, including the need to be alert to a writer’s deviations from relevant conventions of playmaking. In addition, they will consider the particular theatrical milieu in which the playwright worked, as well as the theatre practices (such as acting, directing and scenography) prevalent at the time of writing. They will also learn the importance of exploring the broader social, cultural and political environment, which influenced the playwright and the audience of the play. The unit builds on Staging the Text, deepening students’ critical and contextual engagement with play texts, which will generally be drawn from a particular period or genre to allow dedicated and focused study.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will have:

(1) applied a range of approaches to reading play-texts and explored how they operate on-stage;

(2) understood how to locate a play in terms of its dramatic conventions, genre and historical period, and the importance of such contextual knowledge;

(3) developed their knowledge of a particular period or genre and the broader social, cultural and political environment, which influenced playwrights and audiences at the time;

(4) interpreted a scene or scenes from a play, informed by contextual understanding;

(5) the ability to stage a scene or scenes, and developed their skills in acting and/or directing

(6) demonstrated the ability to analyse, make critical judgements and evaluate the effectiveness of interpretations and stagings.

Teaching Information

9 x 2 hour seminars; 9 x 3hr workshops; 30-hour intensive production period, which culminates in a workshop production of a play, series of work-in-progress extracts or rehearsed readings of scenes.

Assessment Information

(1) 2000-word essay (40%) ILO 2, 3, 4

(2) Group performance, for an individual mark (40%) ILO 1, 4, 5

(3) Individual workfile, documenting and reflecting on the performance process (20%) ILO 4, 6

The performance duration will vary, depending on its nature, but groups can expect to perform for up to 20 minutes.

Reading and References

David Edgar (2009) How Plays Work, London: Nick Hern Books.

Tom Postlwait and Bruce A. MCConachie, eds. (1989) Interpreting the Theatrical Past, University of Iowa Press.

Harriet Walter (2003) Other People's Shoes, London: Nick Hern Books.

Glynne Wickham (1965) A History of the Theatre, Phaidon.

Raymond Williams (1987) Drama from Ibsen to Brecht, Penguin.

Phillip B Zarrilli, ed. (2002) Acting Reconsidered, Routledge.