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The Actor and the Text

  • Module code: DA4003
  • Year: 2018/9
  • Level: Year 4
  • Credits: 30.00
  • Pre-requisites: None
  • Co-requisites: None

Summary

This module  compliments and extends knowledge and understanding of key concepts of performance developed in Making Theatre Happen by focussing on the relationship between the actor and the written playtext.

There are two interweaving strands and each is designed to serve as a foundation for students' ongoing studies.  Students explore fundamental components of drama such as plot, action, character and dialogue and examine ways in which each is presented in a series of written playtexts.  These plays are studied in detail and each is identified as a pretext for performance.  Students are introduced to ways of interrogating the texts and develop a deeper knowledge and understanding of the relationship between what is written on the page and what is presented on the stage. The same playtexts are also used to explore a range of differing performance methodologies that can be utilised to identify the performance potentials of a text in a workshop environment.  Students are led through cycles of Preparation, Exploration and Realisation - understanding what these terms mean and the actions they consist of will be an important aspect of the module - and not only learn appropriate ways in which to create intelligent and imaginative performance informed by a written text but also develop a range of acting skills necessary to perform them effectively. 

Throughout the module students are also introduced to the basic principles of theatre lighting and sound and will be encouraged to explore the impact of these technical elements when used in a performance context.  

Aims

This module aims to:

  • introduce effective approaches to reading, interpreting and evaluating play texts both on the page and the stage
  • demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the interplay between theories and practices of performance
  • introduce concepts associated with ‘the actor' such as energy, presence, improvisation
  • develop skills in the presentation of ideas through appropriate methods of performance

Learning outcomes

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

  • read, interpret and evaluate written texts, production techniques and performance events
  • identify key components of and processes by which performance is created 
  • recognise and describe the interplay between theory and practice (Research and Information Literacy Skills)
  • recognise the complexity of approaches an actor has to choose from in the creation and development of performance
  • select effective processes in their own approach to acting and develop confidence in applying them (Interpersonal Skills)
  • present ideas and construct arguments in appropriate ways (Key Skills: self awareness)

Curriculum content

  • Introduction to key concepts in the study of playtexts informed by the work of, for example, Wallis and Shepherd
  • Close study of a range of playtexts both on the page and in production
  • Approaches to actor training and psycho-physical preparation such as those developed by Meyerhold, Stanislavski and Grotowski
  • Concepts, principles and techniques including neutrality, energy, rhythm presence and focus central to the work of, for example, Barba, Meyerhold and Lecoq
  • Exploration of the relationship between the actor and the character informed by, for example, Stanislavski, Brecht and Chekhov
  • Importance of improvisation and play as demonstrated in the work of, for example, Copeau and Lecoq
  • Development of academic skills related to writing reflective essays

Teaching and learning strategy

The module is delivered through a combination of lecture-seminars and practical workshops.  In the seminars students are introduced to key components of drama such as plot, action, character and dialogue.  These are further examined, from the perspective of the actor, through the close study of a small number of written playtexts.  Detailed analysis of pertinent academic sources provides theoretical and historical contexts both for the playtexts and significant productions associated with them. The workshops introduce practical approaches to the exploration of the play's characters and themes and explore ways in which these might be realised in performance. Students investigate a range of appropriate systems of performance in both theory and practice.  In this way they develop a more detailed knowledge and understanding of the complex relationship between a written text and a live performance.  

Students will be required to undertake a series of preparatory tasks before each taught session.  These might include reading specific academic sources, seeing a performance, continuing to develop practical work initiated in an earlier class.  The results of this preparation will also inform the content of the subsequent class.

Breakdown of Teaching and Learning Hours

Definitive KIS Category Indicative Description Hours
Scheduled learning and teaching 11 x 3 hour lecture/seminar 33
Scheduled learning and teaching 11 x 3 hour practical workshops 33
Guided independent study Group independent study 156
Guided independent study Individual independent study 78
Total (number of credits x 10) 300

Assessment strategy

A number of opportunities to present formatively assessed work are built into the teaching of the module. These enable students to receive feedback, both from tutors and peers, that can be used to inform the subsequent development of their knowledge of the course concerns.

Formative assessments: At the end of teaching block 1 students work in pairs to prepare and perform a short duologue from one of the plays studied. This is designed to enable them to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of specific aspects of theory and practice to which they have been introduced. It should be approximately 6 minutes long. Students then submit a short reflective essay in which they analyse, evaluate and contextualise the most significant aspects of the creative process that led to their formatively assessed performance. This will be submitted in teaching block 2 and should be approximately 700 words in length.

Summative assessments: In teaching block 2 students submit a summatively assessed academic essay analysing and evaluating specific aspects of theory and practice to which they have been introduced during the module and proposing ways in which they will be applied to the creative process that will inform the summative practical assessment. This should be no longer than 1500 words in length. The summative practical assessment requires students to work in small groups to apply appropriate aspects of methodology explored during the module to the preparation and realisation of a short scene from one of the plays studied. This should be between 8 and 12 minutes in length and will be presented towards the end of teaching block 2.

Mapping of Learning Outcomes to Assessment Strategy (Indicative)

Learning Outcome Assessment Strategy
read, interpret and evaluate written texts, production techniques and performance events Formatively in essay and performance; Summatively in essay and performance
identify key components of and processes by which performance is created Formatively in essay and performance; Summatively in essay and performance
recognise and describe the interplay between theory and practice (Key Skill: research and Information Literacy) Formatively in essay and performance; Summatively in essay and performance
construct arguments and present ideas in appropriate ways (Key Skill: self-awareness) Formatively in essay; Summatively in essay
recognise the complexity of approaches an actor has to choose from in the creation and development of performance Formatively in essay and performance; Summatively in essay and performance
select effective processes in their own approach to creative acting (Key Skill: Interpersonal) Formatively in essay and performance; Summatively in essay and performance

Breakdown of Major Categories of Assessment

Assessment Type Assessment Name Assessment Weighting
PRC Performance 60
CWK Essay 40
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 required to purchase each of the playtexts studied during the module. These will change from one year to the next.

Bibliography recommended reading

  • Braun, E. (ed) (1998) Meyerhold on Theatre. London, Methuen
  • Hodge, A (2000) Twentieth Century Actor Training . London, Routledge
  • Huxley, M and Witts, N. (1996) The Twentieth Century Performance Reader. London, Routledge
  • Lecoq, J; Carasso, J-G; Lallias, J-C. (2000) The Moving Body: teaching creative theatre. Bradby, D (trans) London, Methuen
  • Mamet, D (1998) True and false: heresy and common sense for the actor. London, Faber and Faber
  • Mumford, M. (2008) Bertolt Brecht. London, Routledge
  • Newlove, J and Dalby, J. (2004) Laban For All. London, Nick Hern Books
  • Pitches, J. (2003) Vsevolod Meyerhold. London, Routledge.
  • Shepherd, S. and Wallis M. (2004) Drama/Theatre/Performance. London, Routledge
  • Wallis, M. & Shepherd, S. (1998) Studying Plays. London, Arnold
  • Willett, J. (ed) (1997) Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic. London, Methuen

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