Approved by Faculty Senate.

University Studies Course Approval Form

Department: Theatre and Dance

Course Number: 321

Semester Hours: 3

Frequency of Offering: 1/year; one section of 3-8 students

Course Title: Play Directing

Catalog Description: 321-Play Directing-3 S.H.

Study and application of processes affecting play selection, casting and rehearsals. Prerequisites: University Studies Basic Skills Math course; also THAD 210,THAD 231, THAD 307 (or 309), and THAD 310. Open to declared Theatre or Teaching majors and minors only. Concurrent registration in THAD 090 required unless excused by the Department. Offered yearly. Grade only.

This is an existing course that has previously been approved by A2C2.

Department Contact Person: David Bratt

This course is submitted to satisfy the requirements of the Critical Analysis Flag.

Syllabus Listing of Course Objectives / Outcomes:

Students in this course will

(a) review the elements of play analysis;

(b) use these analytical procedures in order to achieve a concept or vision for a production of a play;

(c) express that vision in clear and acceptable written form;

(d) become familiar with the tools of a director: composition, picturization, movement, rhythm, and pantomimic dramatization (also known as "business");

(e) perceive the variety of uses to which these tools may be put;

(f) be able to use these tools to realize their concept or vision for the production;

(g) be able to maintain that vision under the practical pressures of auditions and rehearsal schedules;

(h) become familiar with various contemporary critical and theoretical approaches to theatre and drama

(i) hone their writing and critical thinking skills by writing a series of critical/analytical essays about these theories

The University Studies Program specifies that Critical Analysis Flag courses must include requirements and learning activities that promote students' abilities to

a. recognize and evaluate appropriate evidence to advance a claim.

First, students submit detailed written analyses of the two full-length plays from which they have chosen two scenes to direct. These assignments require them to state a concept or vision for a production of the play (i.e., "advance a claim") and to defend/support that vision statement with various types of textual evidence (action, chrono-locale, character stimuli/responses, character tactics/strategies/goal, and language).

Second, students submit 7-9 short papers on essays which represent a variety of contemporary schools of literary theory and criticism. Some of these papers are reports; others are position papers. The latter require the student to evaluate the quality of the author's reasoning and evidence.

b. apply critical analytical skills in making decisions or in advancing a theoretical position.

One of the criteria by which students' script analyses (above) are evaluated is their ability to support their production vision with logically sound arguments.

Similarly, students' position paper essays (above) require them to evaluate the soundness of the authors' arguments.

c. evaluate alternative arguments, decision strategies, or theories within a systematic framework.

One of the great strengths of Keesey's anthology of critical essays, Contexts for Criticism, is that more than any similar text I know, it provides a conceptual framework by which various schools of contemporary literary theory and criticism can be related to one another. I expect that students' essays on these schools of criticism will show their awareness of this framework.


THAD 321–Play Directing

Spring 2000-2001

David Bratt

PAC 206 X5241 e-mail:

Office: MTWHF 10-11; or by appointment (sign up on office door)


OBJECTIVES: Students in the course will

(a) review the elements of play analysis;

(b) use these analytical procedures in order to achieve a concept or vision for a production of a play;

(c) express that vision in clear and acceptable written form;

(d) become familiar with the tools of a director: composition, picturization, movement, rhythm, and pantomimic dramatization (also known as "business");

(e) perceive the variety of uses to which these tools may be put;

(f) be able to use these tools to realize their concept or vision for the production;

(g) be able to maintain that vision under the practical pressures of auditions and rehearsal schedules;

(h) become familiar with various contemporary critical and theoretical approaches to theatre and drama

(i) hone their writing skills by writing a series of essays about these theories

CRITICAL THINKING FLAG: This course satisfies the Critical Thinking Flag requirement in the WSU University Studies program. It does so by including course requirements and learning activities aimed at promoting your ability to:

(a) recognize and evaluate appropriate evidence to advance a claim;

(b) apply critical analytical skills in making decisions or in advancing a theoretical position; and

(c) evaluate alternative arguments, decision strategies, or theories within a systematic framework.

Those assignments and activities that are designed to achieve these objectives are marked in the syllabus with "A," "B," or "C."

TEXTS: Required:

Catron, The Director's Vision

Keesey, Contexts for Criticism (3rd ed.)

Horner, Webb, Miller Harbrace College Handbook (13th or later ed.)

or Kirkland, Dilworth, Concise English Handbook (4th or later ed.)


Alberts, Rehearsal Management for Directors

Bratt, Analyzing and Synthesizing Playscripts for Production

Grote, Script Analysis

Possein and Hanson, Self-Defense: A Student Guide to Writing Position Papers

You must also be very familiar with Shakespeare’s The Tempest, which is probably in your Theatre History/Dramatic Lit anthology.

ASSIGNMENTS: This is an extremely demanding course. It should be a higher priority for your time and energy than nearly anything else you might be thinking about doing this semester–certainly a higher priority than possible involvement in Studio Season productions. Assignments will include:

textbook and script readings,

lab hours (5 hours of work on Main Season shows)

in-class exercises,

journal entries;

attendance at WSU’s Main Season theatre production

production critique of the Guthrie’s production of Virginia Woolf or some other professional show,

about nine short critical reading papers (called ‘reports’) (A, B, C),

two complete scene analyses (A, B, C),

scene productions, and


Plan on devoting a minimum of 8 hours per week outside of class time to work on assignments in this course.


Exam on directing textbook and lectures 10%,

scene productions 30%,

scene analyses 30% (A, B, C),

written ‘report’ papers 20% (A, B, C)

production critique 10%.

Thus the scenes you direct affect more than half your final grade, in the form of their direction and your written analyses of them.

I reserve the right to significantly change your final grade (i.e., by at least 20%) by taking into account such factors as attendance, the quality of your in-class exercises, journal entries, fulfillment of ‘lab’ hours, and your participation in the discussion of assignments. I regard all the work as essential; accordingly, any work not submitted will result in an F for the course.

ATTENDANCE: I will take attendance daily. You are allowed three free skips for illnesses and other unavoidable problems. ANY additional absences will affect your grade in the course. You are required to attend at least 2/3 of the scene presentations for both Scene I and Scene II, regardless of when they are scheduled. Part-time jobs or other commitments will not excuse you from this requirement.

SCENE PRODUCTION: You are to direct and present two scenes for the class, instructor, and invited guests. In addition, you are to arrange for the instructor to attend at least one rehearsal of each of your scenes. Make these arrangements at least one week in advance.

Scene I requirements:

The scene will be 8-12 minutes in length. It must either be chosen from the play list below or must be approved by the instructor by the date indicated on the syllabus. In either case, it must adhere to the following requirements:

1. 8-12 minutes in length, excerpted from a full-length play. To time the script, read it out loud twice, once fairly slowly and again fairly quickly; then average the time of the two readings.

2. Climactic in nature, i.e., one in which a major character discovers something which will alter his or her future plans. Include in your scene the moment of discovery, the character's readjustment, and the start of his or her new course of action.

3. Not arbitrarily ended by the author in such a way that it does not include all the moments described in #2. Practically speaking, this means that the play should probably be divided into two to five acts, not many brief scenes or episodes with a curtain or blackout between them.

4. Three or four characters, at least three of whom are together onstage for at least half the scene. Remember that the more characters there are, the more trouble you'll have casting. Also remember that more women will audition than men.

5. Modern serious realism--not Expressionism, Symbolism, Absurdism, etc., and not comedy or farce. It should not have been written prior to 1850.

6. The setting should probably be an interior.

7. Don't edit the scene. That is, don’t cut lines within the scene (you may of course begin after the beginning of the scene or end before its ending).

8. Use proscenium staging.

9. Be prepared to use very limited sets, props, and costumes and no make-up or lights. Think of this as the final rehearsal before all the tech stuff arrives.

APPROVED LIST for Scene I (read a few scenes to determine whether the play might interest you; if it doesn't, read another):

Henrik Ibsen (Hedda Gabler, Wild Duck, Ghosts)

some August Strindberg (Miss Julie, Dance of Death)

G.B.Shaw (Pygmalion, St. Joan, Major Barbara)


John Osborne (Look Back in Anger)

Arthur Miller (Death of a Salesman, All My Sons, Crucible, View from the Bridge)

Tennessee Williams (Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Night of the Iguana)






Eugene O'Neill (Anna Christie, Desire under the Elms, Long Day's Journey into Night)

William Inge (Picnic, Come Back Little Sheeba, Dark at the Top of the Stairs)

Robert Anderson (Tea and Sympathy)

Lillian Hellman (Toys in the Attic, Children's Hour, Little Foxes)

Sidney Howard (They Knew What They Wanted)

Paul Zindel (And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little)

Lorraine Hansberry (Raisin in the Sun)

Frank Gilroy (The Subject Was Roses)

Also OK but difficult for college actors and directors are:

Edward Albee (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf)

Michael Cristofer (Shadow Box)

T.S. Eliot (Cocktail Party)


Scene II requirements: the scene should be 15-20 minutes in length and should have no more than 5 characters. Other elements are your decision.

SCENE ANALYSES (A, B, C): You are to submit complete written analyses of the scenes you have chosen to direct. These two scene analyses are major assignments and should be taken very seriously indeed. They represent a significant amount of work.

The two scene analyses are to be submitted before the dates on which we will audition actors for Scene I and Scene II, respectively. If you do not submit the analysis by that time, you will not be permitted to participate in auditions or to cast actors from the auditioners. This in turn will require you to find actors elsewhere, which will seriously affect the quality of your scene presentation and may even make it impossible for you to complete that assignment, thus earning you an F in the course.

Save these analyses when they are returned to you and include them in your THAD portfolio, which you will develop in THAD 495-Senior Seminar.

Each analysis is to include the five sections below.

Important: sections 1 through 4 should each conclude with detailed summary statements which make clear what you learned about the playscript, its characters, or its action as a result of doing the portion of the analysis which you are reporting on in that section. (I do not include section 5 in this requirement because that section is itself devoted to this sort of summary activity.)

In the instructions, "SA" stands for the Script Analysis textbook used in the THAD 119-Playscript Analysis course. My lectures on analysis are based on this book. "Bratt" stands for the instructor’s sccript analysis textbook.

1. ACTION CHART for the entire play (see SA, 46-51; Bratt 21-27)

2. ESTABLISHMENT OF CHRONO-LOCALES for the entire play (see SA, 58-59; Bratt 39-43)


a. CHARACTER ACTION CHART for the entire play. Include only those characters who appear in your scene (see SA, 70-71; Bratt 64-77 ff)

b. BEATS, INTENTIONS, AND OBJECTIVES. On a copy of your script, mark and label the beats, intentions, and objectives of characters in your scene (see SA, 93-98, for discussion of intentions and objectives; refer to class discussions for explanation of beats)

c. GOALS. In a series of essays, establish and argue for the correctness of your understanding of the goals of the characters in your scene (see SA, 83-86). Include a statement and explanation of each character's goal, a discussion of those character actions which your goal statement adequately explains or accounts for, and a discussion of any character actions which your goal statement does not adequately account for.

4. LANGUAGE. Examine and discuss the significance of the language used by each character in your scene (use SA, 132-33, as a guide). Include specific findings regarding each character and a summary statement discussing what you learned about each as a result of this step in the process.


a. Do an EXPECTATION CHART for the entire play (see SA, 164-65).

b. In an essay–not a single paragraph–discuss the intended impact upon the audience of the play as a whole.

c. In an essay–not a single paragraph–discuss the significance of your scene in terms of 5a and 5b

Note: the essays referred to in 5b and 5c are very important: they make it clear what it is you are trying to accomplish in the scene you are directing.

WRITTEN REPORTS (A, B, C): These nine papers are described as ‘reports’ on the schedule pages in the syllabus. There are two kinds of ‘reports,’ described below as ‘a’ and ‘b.’ You are to write no more than six of the ‘a’ reports and no fewer than three of the ‘b’ reports. All are to be typed, double-spaced, maximum 1" margins, maximum 12-point font).

a. 1-2 pages. These are true ‘report’ papers: in them you identify the basic distinguishing characteristics of the critical or theoretical approach described in the essay. Your ‘a’ report is summarizing the contents of the essay, using paraphrase, not an unending series of direct quotations.

b. 2-3 pages. These are critiques (or, in the terms of Possein and Hanson, ‘position papers’), not mere reports. In them you are to oppose one specific claim made in the essay. Your ‘b’ critique should present arguments, supported by evidence, which criticize either the accuracy of the claim or its usefulness for people interested in the production of theatre.

Thus, the ‘a’ reports are like news stories or book reports: they accurately and ‘objectively’ describe facts: ‘this is what the essay says.’ The ‘b’ critiques, on the other hand, are critical essays: they challenge the accuracy or pertinence of one aspect of the essay.

PRODUCTION CRITIQUE: After seeing a full-length, live, professional theatrical production, submit a critique of that production, dealing with each of the elements below. You may divide your critique into six parts without trying to write an introduction or conclusion to the paper as a whole and without linking parts. In other words, this assignment does not require you to write a "unified" essay.

Double spaced, 1" margins, 12-point font. See the ‘Note’ on the schedule page of this syllabus regarding the due date for the Production Critique.

In each of the six parts of the critique, you should (a) give detailed examples; (b) explain why you regard the examples as successful or unsuccessful; and (c) in the case of unsuccessful examples, describe what the director might have done to be more successful.


1. Groundplan (in a multiset show, pick one setting)

a. identify the acting areas (using the definition given in class)

b. discuss their usefulness and ways in which the ground plan might have been improved

2. Composition: discuss the successful or unsuccessful use of the elements of composition you have learned about in class by giving a detailed analysis of at least two specific scenes.

3. Picturization: discuss at least two successful or unsuccessful moments.

4. Movement: discuss at least two successful or unsuccessful uses of a series of movements.

5. Rhythm: discuss at least two successful or unsuccessful uses of rhythm to build to a climax or to retreat after a climax.

6. Business: discuss at least two pieces of business or pantomime which were particularly effective or ineffective.

EXAM: take-home essay and in-class. The latter will consist of short essay and objective questions and will take about 45-60 minutes to complete.






Note: Your Production Critique paper is due 2 days after you have seen the production. If you are basing the critique on a Guthrie production, the due date is marked on this schedule; if you don’t, it’s not. On 1/26 you are to submit the name of the production on which you intend to base your critique.



Intro to course

Ch. 1-7, 15; submit two choices for Scene I (if not from approved list)



Summarize analytical techniques


ACTF week of 1/17-23



No class



No class?



No class?


Submit two Scene I choices; Ch. 11-14



Organize Scene I auditions; rehearsal orgnztn lecture

Submit name of production for Critique



Tool 1 (composition) lecture



Composition: slides


1/29 Misalliance; Guthrie; 10 am



Composition: exercises



Composition exercises



Tool 2 (picturization) lecture

Ch. 17-18


One-Act Contest 2/5, PAC Main Theatre; DanceScape 2/10-12



Picture exercises



Picture exercises



Ground plan lecture

Ch. 9-10, 16


Audition Scene I on 2/14-15; cast scenes on 2/15 as a group



Tool 3 (movement) lecture

Submit Scene I analysis



Movement exercises



No class



Movement exercises



Tool 4 (rhythm) lecture

Ch. 8, 19



Tool 5 (business) lecture



Dr. Meeker on Keesey General Intro

Read Keesey General Intro Submit 2 choices for



Discuss rehearsals/problems

Ch.20 date/time/place of Scene I



Discuss Keesey Historical Criticism

Keesey pp9-16,40-52 performance OK’d by Jim



Spring Break 3/4-19








Scene I performances 3/21-24, 3/26-28



Organize auditions for Scene Two

Submit two Scene II choices



No class



No class


3/25 Darker Face of the Earth; Guthrie; 10 am



No class

Critique due (if on Darker Face of the Earth)



Discuss Scene I performances



No class


Rumplestiltskin 4/4-8




Paper on Keesey




See Doll House video




Paper on Keesey



Audition Scene II on 4/10-11; cast scenes on 4/11 as a group




Paper on Keesey; Submit analysis of Scene II




Arena/thrust staging lecture

Skim Appendices A,B,C;




Paper on Keesey





Paper on Keesey




Discuss rehearsals/problems




Paper on Keesey





Paper on Keesey; submit two choices for




Discuss rehearsals/problems

date/time/place of Scene II




Paper on Keesey performance OK’dby Jim



4/29-30 Shakespeare in the Park




Paper on Keesey




Discuss rehearsals/problems




Paper on Keesey



Scene II performances 5/6-12



No class



No class



No class


5/13; Guthrie; Plough and the Stars; 10 am



Final Exam: Tuesday, 5/16, 8:00 a.m. Critique due (if on Plough and the Stars)

Commencement: 5/19