Beginning Directing


Dr. Amy Seham
Spring 2004 —Tues/Thurs 12:30-2:20
Office: FAC 221, ext. 7460
Office hours: Tues/Thurs 2:30-3:30 and by appointment

Required Texts:

The Director's Companion Mel Shapiro
Wadsworth Anthology of Drama. Worthen


Required Performances:

Good News! Feb 19-29 Anderson Theatre

Scenes from an Execution May 6-9 Anderson Theatre

Outside Production TBA Minneapolis

Specific Goals: To develop basic skills in the art of directing (analysis, interpretation, communication and staging) through 1) Study of elements and processes of directing; 2) Short scene projects in staging using personal material and Fefu, Dumbwaiter or Glass Menagerie. 3) Short reports on the work of prominent directors; 4) Planning and staging a longer scene from a play from our anthology; 5) Critiquing the work of others; 6) participating in other in-class exercises and discussion of assigned readings.

Attendance: ATTENDANCE WILL AFFECT YOUR GRADE! Theatre means being there. You cannot learn this material by merely reading a book and taking a test. Attendance is critical -- as with any rehearsal or performance. Plan to be on time. You will be expected to participate fully and enthusiastically in class exercises and to rehearse and prepare performance projects outside of class time.
o After two unexcused absences, your overall grade will be reduced (from B+ to B, for example) and will continue to be reduced with additional absences. Missing half the class periods of the semester is automatic failure. The ONLY excused absences are those with a doctor's note, or dean's note. Job interviews, rides to the airport, all-nighters are never excused absences. Leaving early or returning late from spring break are NOT excused absences. Tell your families now not to plan on it!

Grades indicate the following:
F= assignment not fulfilled
D= careless, sloppy, or poorly prepared work
C= satisfactory work
B= assignment distinguished by clarity, energy, insight, or originality
A= assignment shows all the above qualities to an unusually high degree.

Grade breakdown:

Long scene with production book: 30%
Short scene 20%
Autorama/Tension scenes 10%
Presentation/paper on director/production 15%
Critique 5%
Participation/Discussion/Attendance 20%

No grade will be issued for the course until set pieces, props and costumes are appropriately returned. Please read and observe "Rules for the Black Box."

PERSONAL SCENES: Create and stage two "autobiographical" scenes. The first will be the "autorama exercise" described in The Director's Companion, page 4. The second
will be the dramatic tension exercise described on page 11. Each scene should be under 10 minutes. For the first scene, use yourself as the principle performer. For the second, you should use other members of the class as your actors.

Short SCENE: Stage one short scene (of about five minutes) from Glass Menagerie, Fefu and her Friends, or Dumbwaiter. Your objective is to make clear and strong the basic atmosphere and situation, the relationships, the conflict, the dramatic tension and the development. Policies for scheduling and using the Black Box must be strictly observed.

PRESENTATION ON A PROMINENT DIRECTOR/PRODUCTION: Research and prepare a short (10 minute) presentation on an important director and/or production to help inspire classmates about the various approaches to directing. Use visual aids and create a hand-out with key information to share with the class. A list of suggested directors will be distributed in class.

LONG SCENE WITH PRODUCTION BOOK: Stage a longer scene from a play of your own choosing -- preferably from our Anthology. The play may be or any style but should be modern -- i.e. post-1900. Scenes will be performed on the last two days of class, or if necessary, at an alternate time. You are responsible for finding your own actors. They may be classmates, but they need not be. It is important that you find actors who are willing to put in the necessary time rehearsing and learning lines. Make sure they are available on the scheduled performance day/time. All the scenes will be performed in the Black Box.
PEER CRITIQUE: All Scenes must have at least one rehearsal critiqued by the professor, and an additional rehearsal critiqued by one or two classmates. You must critique at least one other student’s scene. Watch the scene, give feedback along the lines of directing choices as discussed in class.

Scenes should include a PROGRAM that indicates the title, playwright, director, actors and roles, time and setting. Added DIRECTOR'S NOTES will be considered a plus.

The PRODUCTION BOOK is a complete record of your analysis, interpretation, and preliminary staging ideas for the long scene you stage. It should be organized in a hard binder and should follow the outline I will provide. The production book should be essentially completed (except for blocking) before you begin to direct your scene and should be shown to me. It is a plan for production as well as a journal of your progress.
Production book will also include a two-page SELF ASSESSMENT on the final performance, and a two-page PEER CRITIQUE discussing the issues you saw, and the concepts you discussed when you critiqued a classmate’s scene-in-progress and again in final performance.

OUTSIDE CRITIQUE: A two-page analysis of the directorial work on either our field trip play or some other show approved by me. Concentrate on the director's choices in terms of concept, staging, actor coaching and other tools we have discussed in class.

This syllabus is detailed for your convenience. It is up to you to be responsible for assignments listed without additional reminders. This syllabus may be adjusted by the professor if time constraints demand it. You will be informed of any changes.

SCHEDULE (subject to change or adjustment)

Week 1 Feb 10-12
For Thursday:
Read Director's Companion Introduction and Chapter One
Begin to prepare Autorama (due next Tuesday)
Read Dumbwaiter (hand-out) and discuss.

Week 2 Feb 17-19
Tues: Autorama scenes

Thurs: Read Glass Menagerie and materials for discussion
Read Chapters 3 and Four in Director's Companion
In class exercises.

See Good News!

Week 3 Feb 24-26
Tues: Dramatic Tension scenes.

Thurs: Read and discuss Fefu and her Friends
Read Chapter 5 in Companion

Week 4 March 2-4
Tues: Short scene chosen
Read chapters 6-7 Shapiro
In class exercises

Thurs: Chapters 8 Shapiro. Staging exercises.
Bring a ground plan for your scene.
2 directors presentations________________________________________

Week 5 March 9-11
Tues: Chapters 9-10 Shapiro
Read Insane Asylum hand-out for use in class
Discuss blocking of your scene
2 director presentations ___________________________________________

Thurs: Chapter 11 Shapiro
Discuss concept of your scene
2 director presentations_________________________________________

Week 6 March 16-18
Discussion of actor coaching
Using Neutral monologues handed out in class, coach your partner in the interpretation you have chosen for the monologue

2 director presentations___________________________________________

Thurs: Read True West for use in class
Continue discussions
2 director presentations ___________________________________________

See Building Bridges show Saturday!

Week 7 March 23-25
Tues: Short scenes performed
Thurs: Short Scenes performed

Week 9 March 30-April 1
In-class exercises-- Staging.
Long scene chosen and submitted for approval along with
one page initial concept.
Begin "diary" as part of your production book.

SPRING BREAK April 3-April 12

Week 10 APRIL 13-15
Tues-- Read for discussion A Tempest by Aimé Césair
In class exercises--Concept and design.

Thurs-Hand in ground plan for long scene
Production book begun and scene cast.

Week 11 APRIL 20-22
Tues-- In class exercises--- Rehearsal techniques. Staging.
Bring specific staging problems and questions
Using classmates, show a key cartoon frame or tableau depicting the Beginning, Mid-point (climax) and End of your scene. Discuss whether each ground plan serves the needs of the scene.

Thurs-- Hand in rehearsal schedule and one page progress report
In-class exercises
Rehearsals progress

Week 12 APRIL 27-29
Tues-- In class exercises-- Actor coaching and staging
Bring specific issues encountered in your scene

First hour: QUIZ on assigned materials INCLUDING hand-outs on director reports, plays read, Shapiro chapters assigned.

Second hour: Open rehearsals
(Schedule at least one session with Amy and one with classmate coach)

Hand in one page rehearsal report

Week 13 May 4-6
Tues: Open rehearsals
(Schedule at least one session with Amy and one with classmate coach)

Thurs: Open Rehearsals
(Schedule at least one session with Amy and one with classmate coach.)

See Scenes from an Execution

Week 14 MAY 13-15
First hour: Discussion of Scenes – update on scenes. ALL!

Second hour: Open Rehearsals
(Schedule at least one session with Amy and one with classmate coach)

Thurs: Long scenes performed

Week 15 May 18 (last day of class)
Tues: Long scenes performed

o Discussion of final scenes held on scheduled exam day or agreed meeting day TBA.
o Promptscripts /outside play critiques/class responses due on scheduled exam day.

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