Submitted by Ron Bashford on Sunday, 9/5/2010, at 10:46 PM
important note on requisites

Please see the "Important Note On Requisites" in the Learn More About This Course section of this course site.

SYLLABUS and course comments DOWNLOAD

You may download a printable copy of the syllabus here:   THDA 45 Syllabus 2010FTHDA 45 Syllabus 2010F

You may download helpful course comments here:    THDA 45 Course CommentsTHDA 45 Course Comments

It is important that you are familiar with both documents.  An online version of the same information follows.

Course description

This course explores the process of directing plays for the stage. Studio exercises develop skills in key areas: interpretation of form and artistic intent; perception and sensibility in rehearsal; effective communication with actors; and balancing the interplay between action and text.  Students stage scenes from distinct categories: plays in verse, realistic plays, and non-realistic or less literal modern and contemporary plays. Special emphasis is placed on the role of dramaturgical understanding in the creation of meaningful stage action.


Required Texts
(available for purchase locally at Amherst Books)

King Lear, by Shakespeare (Arden)
The Cherry Orchard, by Anton Chekhov (translation by Tom Stoppard)
The Empty Space, by Peter Brook

Plays for Classwork
(from Dept. of Theater and Dance; additional copies may be in Frost Library, or you may want to buy select titles)

I do not expect you to read all of these plays.  However, I do expect you to read closely and completely any play you choose for scene or other exercise work.

Group I
Thornton Wilder’s Our Town
Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire
Arthur Miller’s Death of A Salesman
Tony Kushner’s Angels in America Part I: Perestroika
Christopher Shinn’s Dying City

Group II
Samuel Beckett’s Not I
Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot
Sarah Kane’s Crave
Caryl Churchill’s A Number
Mark Ravenhill’s Shopping & F***king

Group III
Euripides’ The Bacchae (C.K. Williams translation)
Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night
Shakespeare’s King Lear
Molière’s The Misanthrope (R. Wilbur translation)

Assignments Overview
This is a process-oriented course.  We will work through technique exercises, textual analysis and studio directing work at a pace that supports your development.  I ask that you to write about your experience on a weekly basis, and to write two longer formal essays.  Your work will be in the following areas:

  • Exercises in aspects of directing & text analysis
  • Individual scene directing (1-3 scenes)
  • Weekly writing portfolio
  • Formal essays (2)
  • Group-directed project(s)

Grading (and attendance policy)
It is not possible to succeed in this course without excellent attendance.  Activities are inter-related, and the largest portion of your course grade will be based on your work in class.  Your course grade comprises:

Written work
Weekly writing portfolio                                                    10%
Formal essays                                                                       20%
Individual scene directing results & process learning              30%

Group & class work and overall development as a director    40%

Course Schedule
This is an approximate outline of our work together.

  • Your weekly writing is due on Mondays, starting September 20 through December 6.
  • Formal essays will be due October 13 and November 17, respectively.  
  • Exercises, scene work and group projects are ongoing.  I will announce additional written exercises or reading assignments in class, particularly in the first few weeks.

Week 1
September 8: Introduction
Read King Lear for work beginning next week.
Begin looking at plays from the list for scene work choices.

Week 2
September 13 & 15: Discussion, text analysis & directing exercises
Read The Cherry Orchard for work beginning next week.
Finalize scene choices & organization; begin rehearsing on your own, outside of class.

Week 3
September  20 & 22: Discussion, text analysis & directing exercises
Read The Empty Space by Peter Brook for discussion next week.
Possible start of scene work presentation

Week 4
September 27, 29: Discussion, text analysis & directing exercises
Discuss The Empty Space

Week 5
October 4 & 6: Scene lab


Week 6
October 13: : Scene lab
First formal essay due        

Week 7
October 18 & 20: Scene lab

Week 8
October 25 & 27: Scene lab    

Week 9
November 1 & 3: Scene lab        

Week 10
November 8 & 10: Beginning of large group project work            

Week 11
November 15 & 17: Group project work
Second formal essay due
Last chance for scene work presentation 


Week 12
November 29 & December 1: Group project work

Week 13

December 6 & 8: Group project work

Collected writings portfolio due

Week 14
December 13 & 15: Group project work

There is no examination for THDA 45 during the Examination Period.

The absolute deadline for any outstanding writing is 5 p.m. on December 20.

Statement of Intellectual Responsibility and Implications

Please review Amherst's Statement of Intellectual Responsibility.

Some implications of the Statement of Intellectual Responsibility for THDA 45 are listed below.

  • Our work is cooperative by design.  Indeed, creating theater depends on developing skills in collaboration and good communication.  In order to maintain optimal learning conditions, it is your intellectual responsibility to yourself and to your peers to attend all scheduled class meetings, to cooperate in scheduling and attending meetings outside of class necessary to complete collaborative work, and to communicate conflicts, time-management problems and related issues openly and promptly.
  • Writing that you submit to me must be your own.
THDA 45 course comments

Here are some additional comments you may find helpful to orient yourself to work in this class.

Starting out

In the first few weeks, we will undertake a series of exercises and topic discussions in text analysis and directing.  Please expect targeted assignments from one class meeting to the next.  Keeping up with the reading as indicated on the schedule is essential.  As soon as you have scene work ready to share in class, we will begin that phase of our work.

Embracing the process

Directing is a complex activity that combines a variety of skills.  Each of you will bring different strengths to our collective learning experience.  By appreciating the diversity of others’ perspectives and abilities, you will enhance your own development.  Learning to direct is a process that happens in different ways for different students, and not always in a “straight line.”

Writing (and keeping a notebook or journal)

You should keep personal, informal notes about your experiences in class, reading and rehearsing.  You should follow any impulse to conduct research related to your work, and keep research notes together with your personal notes.  I think you will find that your notes will be helpful in completing weekly writing and essay assignments.  Please save your all your writing assignments to submit as a collected portfolio on December 8, along with any other materials you would like to include.  I will provide additional guidelines.

Scene work and later group-directed work

You will serve as actors in one another’s scenes, and divide other responsibilities as you see fit.  The number of scenes you undertake as a director is up to you: you may find it useful to keep exploring the same scene, or to move on to new ones.  Studio time will be used to discuss your work, and to explore the process of directing in a lab rehearsal format.  My goal will be to move through comments on scene work relatively quickly, so we can maximize the number of times each of you presents work.  Overall, during class meetings you may present work as a director, act in a scene directed by a peer, or simply observe and contribute to the discussion.  All of these activities will help you grow as a director.
In order to explore issues related to collaboration, ensemble and story-telling more deeply, we will do longer group-directed project work toward the end of the semester.

Rehearsal time outside of class meetings

Our limited class time will be spent discussing your work-in-process and considering rehearsal techniques.  Our studio time will be most productive if you have spent time preparing.  In order to make adequate progress, you will need to arrange time together outside of class to meet and rehearse.  I recommend that you arrange a minimum of 2 hours per week for this purpose, though some weeks you may want to rehearse significantly longer.  It may be helpful to arrange this time as a regular part of your weekly schedule.

Memorization & public presentations

When acting in scenes you should make your best possible effort to memorize your lines as soon as possible, or at least well enough to act freely with script-in-hand as for reference only.

Please keep open the possibility that we may want to present some of your work publicly outside of regular class time.  We will discuss this possibility together.