Playwriting – Into the West


Advanced Creative Writing, Into the West — English 2308

Course Description and Rationale: This class is a beginning playwriting course which focuses on the intensely perceptive and incisive writing form called the dramatic monologue.

Course Prerequisite: Students are required to take English 1301 before taking English 2307. Students must produce proof of the prerequisite (a transcript, etc.) to the professor during the first week of class.

Textbooks and Materials: "In the West," the original collection of monologues written by Big State Company members in collaboration. (to be provided)and "In 2 the West" the original collection of student/faculty monologues; "Extreme Exposure: An Anthology of Solo Performance Texts from the Twentieth Century" edited by Jo Bonney.

Assignments: You will be required to write weekly, both in class and outside of class. You will generate over fifteen ‘scratch’ monologues out of which you will pick three to develop into performance monologues. You are invited to bring your lap top to class to do the in class work, or to write them in your notebook. You then take that monologue home and rewrite it to turn in the following week. All of the work you create, every draft and its rewrites, are kept in a portfolio that is turned into the Creative Writing department at the end of the semester.

The weekly reading informs what your in class writing exercises are based on. Its very important that you read your assignments before coming to class. Its important that you read the critical introductions to each of the assigned monologues in your text as well.

History: The curriculum for this workshop was developed from a collaborative writing/acting/directing workshop that was created by an award-winning regional theatre company, Big State Productions, in the mid-1980s. That workshop was entitled "In the West" and resulted in a long-running hit theatre production of the same name and an independent film entitled "Deep In the Heart" which was produced in the 1990s (starring British actors Kenneth Cranham and Amanda Root, as well as writers and actors from the original play production).

In The West was intended as an artistic "response" to the renowned photographic essay "In the American West" by Richard Avendon, commissioned by the Amon Carter Museum of Fort Worth, Texas. Those strikingly memorable black and white photos of real people throughout the American West inspired the participants of the IN THE WEST workshop to write and perform brief monologue portraits that captured the same intensity and deep insight of a photographic moment, from the perspective of people who actually live "in the West."

Jim Fritzler, who was the artistic director for Big State Productions conceived of the workshop as an exploration. After bringing together a diverse group of people, he posed the question: is it possible to create the theatrical equivalent to the black and white, stark and realistic images that Avedon captured? What was intended as a week-end performance ended up running for ten years, culminating at the Kennedy Center Washington D.C. and the independent film it inspired.

Course Objectives and Outcomes: Students enrolled in this class practice writing original solo performance texts. In order to accomplish this end result, students will utilize Aristotle’s elements of drama which include: character, action (plot), ideas, language, music and spectacle. They will also be introduced to performing and directing concepts so that their monologues are effective source material for the annual "In 2 the West."

Grading System: Instructor-specific.

Attendance: Instructor-specific.

Withdrawal: Instructor-specific.

Incompletes: A grade of incomplete is only considered under extreme or emergency circumstances.

Scholastic Dishonesty: Acts prohibited by the college for which discipline may be administered include scholastic dishonesty, including but not limited to, cheating on an exam or quiz, plagiarizing, and unauthorized collaboration with another in preparing outside work. Academic work submitted by students shall be the result of their thought, work, research or self-expression. Academic work is defined as, but not limited to, tests, quizzes, whether taken electronically or on paper; projects, either individual or group; classroom presentations; and homework.

Academic Freedom: Institutions of higher education are conducted for the common good. The common good depends upon a search for truth and upon free expression. In this course the professor and students shall strive to protect free inquiry and the open exchange of facts, ideas, and opinions. Students are free to take exception to views offered in this course and to reserve judgment about debatable issues. Grades will not be affected by personal views. With this freedom comes the responsibility of civility and a respect for a diversity of ideas and opinions. This means that students must take turns speaking, listen to others speak without interruption, and refrain from name-calling or other personal attacks.

Student Discipline: Classroom behavior should support and enhance learning. Behavior that disrupts the learning process will be dealt with appropriately, which may include having the student leave class for the rest of that day. In serious cases, disruptive behavior may lead to a student being withdrawn from the class. ACC’s policy on student discipline can be found in the Student Handbook under Policies and Procedures or on the web at: http://www.austincc.edu/handbook.

Office of Students with Disabilities: Each ACC campus offers support services for students with documented physical or psychological disabilities. Students with disabilities must request reasonable accommodations through the Office of Students with Disabilities on the campus where they expect to take the majority of their classes. Students are encouraged to do these three weeks before the start of the semester. Students who are requesting accommodation must provide the instructor with a letter of accommodation from the Office of Students with Disabilities (OSD) at the beginning of the semester. Accommodations can only be made after the instructor receives the letter of accommodation from OSD.

Course Outline/Tentative Schedule: Instructor-specific.