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Beyond Text: Advanced Dramatic Writing

  • Module code: DA6010
  • Year: 2018/9
  • Level: Year 6
  • Credits: 30.00
  • Pre-requisites: successful completion of level 5 Drama or equivalent
  • Co-requisites: none

Summary

This module is an optional module for all Drama and Creative Writing students at Level 6 and runs throughout the academic year.  Responding to the changing status of live performance in the twenty-first century, the module explores alternatives to the mainstream 'dramatic' tradition of playwriting. It takes into consideration how cultural shifts such as the advent of new technologies and a global community are or might be reflected in contemporary writing for the stage and in media-based performance (for example audio drama and experimental film). Students encounter a selection of play-texts and performances from the historical and contemporary avant-garde which act as prompts to their creative explorations of playwriting and performance writing methods and techniques.  Students are encouraged to be experimental and innovative in their own writing, and to question the role of both the theatre and the playwright.  This is a practical and creative module that may involve performance-based exercises (for example improvisation and task-based performance) as well as writing ones.

The module develops understandings and themes encountered in DA5005 The Play Today and is particularly suited to students who achieved a pass or above in DA5001 Write Action.  The module is ideal preparation for students who are considering Master's Level study in playwriting (particularly Kingston University's MA Playwriting), as well as those looking to pursue performance-making after graduation.

Aims

This module aims to:

  • deepen students' understanding of the principles of performance writing in the contemporary and historical avant garde
  • expose students to a range of performance writing techniques drawn from these areas of practice
  • encourage experimentation and a degree of creative risk-taking in students' own writing
  • develop advanced analytical and critical skills in relation to performance writing (including students' own or their peers' work-in-progress)
  • practice these creative and critical skills, and develop an enhanced understanding of the writing process, through a series of increasingly demanding writing tasks

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, students will be able to:

  • create short pieces of performance writing for live or media-based performance that respond to contemporary cultural shifts and avant-garde forms in engaging and stimulating ways (Key Skill: Creativity and Problem Solving)
  • employ their understanding of avant-garde forms such as postdramatic performance or verbatim theatre in the analysis and creation of performance writing
  • begin to question existing models of the writing process while also successfully navigating the demands of producing work on time and to set briefs
  • begin to experiment with existing lay out conventions while also communicating their intentions and ideas clearly (Key Skill: Communication Skills)
  • contribute meaningfully to the development of new performance writing through giving feedback, participating in practical explorations and performance of new work (Key Skill: Interpersonal Skills)

Curriculum content

In semester one, students practice a range of performance writing techniques and strategies through short guided exercises and independent writing tasks. These creative approaches will relate to up to five themes of the contemporary or historical avant garde, each of which will be introduced and illustrated through the study and practical exploration of existing play texts. Themes/plays/creative techniques studied in the first semester may include:

  • Improbable Theatre's The Devil and Mr Punch illustrating how meaning can be produced through scenographic elements such as staging, costume, lighting, costume and the use of puppetry.
  • Tim Crouch's The Author considered in the light of current challenges to the playwright's authorial dominance. Techniques: destablising the author-audience dynamic; speaking from the audience; using 'plants'; staging the author
  • Alecky Blythe's London Road and DV8's Can We Talk About This? reflecting how a preoccupation with the 'real' may nevertheless employ non-realist performance elements. Techniques: capturing 'real' text; working with found text; text & movement
  • Dada and Surrealist performance (eg Apollinaire's The Breasts of Tiresias) illustrating principles of confrontation and fragmentation. Techniques: automatic writing and 'cut up'
  • The Wooster Group's To You the Birdie! as an example of deconstructing the cannon. Techniques: textual analysis, deconstruction

In semester two, students develop their own performance writing with tutor and peer support, through feedback workshop and a small-scale performance of work-in-progress.

Teaching and learning strategy

Teaching block one will be structured around the selected themes, with each theme being considered over two or three weekly 2-hour workshop/seminars.  These theme-based 'blocks' will each include analysis and practical explorations of the selected play-texts and guided creative exercises.  A reciprocal relationship is thereby set up between the analysis of existing play-texts and the creation of new ones: existing practice serves to inspire the students' work and open avenues for creative exploration; creative practice deepens their understanding of the texts and of the methodologies employed in their creation.

In teaching block two, students work in groups up to five students, in order to support each group member's ongoing performance writing through discussion, feedback and practical explorations of ideas and draft scripts. Each group will also present extracts from their members' work-in-progress to the whole class (for example, as rehearsed readings, performances, recordings), for feedback and discussion. Students are expected to work independently on the development of their own work, on supporting their peers through giving feedback on ideas and drafts, and in preparing presentations of their work

Breakdown of Teaching and Learning Hours

Definitive KIS Category Indicative Description Hours
Scheduled learning and teaching 11 X 2 hour seminar/workshops in semester 1 22
Scheduled learning and teaching 11 X 2 hour workshops, presentations and feedback in semester 2 22
Guided independent study preparatory reading and set writing tasks 70
Guided independent study independent writing for assessments 140
Guided independent study peer feedback and rehearsals for semester 2 presentations 46
Total (number of credits x 10) 300

Assessment strategy

Students are summatively assessed through the following elements (percentage weighting and performance times are indicative):

1. portfolio of performance writing (submitted at the beginning of teaching block 2): Up to 3 pieces of script to a total estimated performance time of 15 minutes. 40%

2. performance writing (submitted after the end of formal teaching): a single piece of original performance writing to a total estimated performance time of 15 minutes. 60%

Students' learning is assessed formatively through the presentations of work-in-progress in teaching block two, when students will receive peer and tutor feedback. Students will be able to draw on this feedback in planning what ideas of their assessment 1 submission to develop for assessment 2.

The teaching block 2 peer-support groups are also a source of formative assessment, whereby students will be encouraged to discuss ideas and give feedback on work-in-progress as part of their independent learning.

In teaching block 1, tutor and peer formative assessment will be provided in response to work produced through class and independent exercises.

Mapping of Learning Outcomes to Assessment Strategy (Indicative)

Learning Outcome Assessment Strategy
create short pieces of performance writing for live or media-based performance that respond to the contemporary cultural shifts and avant-garde forms in engaging and stimulating ways(Key Skill: Creativity and Problem Solving) formatively in work in progress presentations, peer and tutor feedback and peer-support groups; summatively in portfolio of performance writing and single piece of performance writing
employ their understanding of avant-garde forms such as postdramatic performance or verbatim theatre in the analysis and creation of performance writing formatively in work in progress presentations, peer and tutor feedback and peer-support groups; summatively in portfolio of performance writing and single piece of performance writing
begin to question existing models of the writing process while also successfully navigating the demands of producing work on time and to set briefs formatively in work in progress presentations, peer and tutor feedback and peer-support groups; summatively in portfolio of performance writing and single piece of performance writing
begin to experiment with existing lay out conventions while also communicating their intentions and ideas clearly (Key Skill: Communication Skills) formatively in work in progress presentations, peer and tutor feedback and peer-support groups; summatively in portfolio of performance writing and single piece of performance writing
contribute meaningfully to the development of new performance writing through giving feedback, participating in practical explorations and performance of new work (Key Skill: Interpersonal Skills) formatively in work-in-progress presentations, peer and tutor feedback and peer-support groups

Breakdown of Major Categories of Assessment

Assessment Type Assessment Name Assessment Weighting
CWK Portfolio of performance writing 40
CWK Performance writing 60
Total (to equal 100%) 100%

Achieving a pass

It IS NOT a requirement that any major assessment category is passed separately in order to achieve an overall pass for the module

Bibliography core texts

Students will be provided with extracts from the selected plays-texts, which are likely to change from year to year

Etchells, T. 'On Performance Writing' in Etchells,T. (1999) Certain Fragments: Forced Entertainment and Contemporary Performance. London & New York, Routledge

Bibliography recommended reading

Arts Council (2010) Writ Large: New Writing on the English Stage 2003-9. London, Arts Council

Behrndt, S. and Turner, C. (2006) Dramaturgy and Performance. Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan

Freeman, J. (2007) New Performance/New Writing. Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan

Lane, D. (2010) Contemporary British Drama. Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press

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