Course syllabus

Drama 301: Themes and Topics. Semester 2, 2019


Tom Bishop     

Arts 1 (Humanities), Rm 629 ext 87841


Class time:    M 10-12, F 10-12

Workshop time: W 2-4                                                 

Location: Drama Studio, Arts 1 


Overview:  Welcome to Drama 301 for 2019. This course is the most fun I have in my job. I hope you will enjoy it also and that we will learn much from one another this semester. We all have different interests and expertise in theatre that we can successfully pool and develop. Please feel free to ask questions or open discussion on relevant topics at any time, in class or in person or over email.

You should be prepared for extensive practical workshops and exercises on the material studied, both solo and in groups. We will look in particular at dramatic work involving and growing out of the dramatic potential of the mask and especially in the major classic comedy tradition of the Italian (later Europe-wide) commedia dell’arte. Our final project will give you the chance to put together skills learned throughout the Drama major in the performance of a version (YOUR version!), given by workshop groups at the end of the semester, of a major work of the comic tradition (title to be disclosed). 

Our first set of assignments will be around comedy masks and their use. After some introductory sessions on basic mask work and the “neutral” mask, you will perform a short devised piece of your own and then each develop and present an original mask character using a commedia-style mask. After the semester break, you will put some of those characters together in a short skit devised by workshop groups, and then work, finally, on the major play. Help is available throughout the semester both for groups and individuals who need it. Just ask and make a time.

Readings for classes will be provided over Canvas in weekly modules, if appropriate, and you are also expected to work on group projects for a further two hours a week, on Wednesday afternoons. Assessment is based on work in class, both individually and in groups, plus occasional written reflective assessments of your creative exploration and development. There is no examination. 

Contact: I can be contacted at any time for questions or discussions of course concerns at the above addresses. Email is by far the most efficient way to reach me.









Paper Number:  DRAMA301

Days:  MON/ FRI

Convener:  Tom Bishop

Times: 10 am - 12 noon


Beginning Monday




July 22

M: Intro

W: No workshop

1 Tom Bishop




F: Movement and mask 1

2 TB and Pedro Ilgenfritz


July 29

M: Movement and mask 2

W: Working with masks

1 TB and PI




F: Movement and mask 3

2 TB and PI


Aug 5

M: Movement and mask 4

W: Working with masks

1 TB and PI




F: Visiting Artist in Mask

2 Jacob Rajan


Aug 12

M: Neutral mask (indiv)

W: Character mask work

1 TB




F: Jo Randerson

2 TB and Jo Randerson


Aug 19

M: Commedia and mask 1

W: Character mask work

1 TB




F:  Commedia and mask 2

2 TB


Aug 26

M:  Commedia and mask 3

W: Mask character work

1 TB



F:   Mask characters (indiv)




Sept 16

M: Mask group sketch prep

W: Mask group sketch prep

1 TB



F:  Mask group sketch prep

2 TB


Sept 23

M: Mask skits (group)

W: Free

1 TB




F: Final Project 1

2 TB


Sept 30

M: Final Project  2

W: Final Project planning

1 TB




F: Final Project 3

2 TB


Oct 7

M: Final Project  4

W: Final project rehearsals

1 TB




F: Final Project  5

2 TB


Oct 14

M: Final Project  6

W: Final project rehearsals

1 TB




F: Final Project 7

2 TB


Oct 21

M:  Final rehearsals 1

W: Final rehearsals 2

1 TB




F:  Final performances

2 TB






ASSESSMENT in this course will be apportioned as follows:

Attendance and participation:                                                          5% 

Mask work, comprising:      

     Neutral mask exercise                                                                    10%

     Solo character presentation                                                       20%

                       Written report on solo work  (2-3 pp)                    5%

     Group mask sketch                                                                           15%


Final project, incl: Individual performance                                 20%

                       Group mark                                                                          15%

                       Written report on final project (3-4 pp)                10%





There will be no examination in this class.

There will be no foolish wand-waving or silly incantations in this class.

Further details about these various assignments see below and forthcoming.


General course notes and policies:


Excuses: Excuses for late written work will only be accepted in cases of documented medical or family emergency, of which I must be notified as soon as is practicable.


Work completion: Students must complete all assigned work in order to merit a passing grade in the course. Failure to do required work by the end of the course will result in a grade of DNC for the course. You cannot do only part of the work.


Group assignments (logistics): For some of the work in the class you will be placed in a group of six or seven to develop joint projects. Each group will attend the two-hour Wednesday workshop session every week for preparing projects. We will rotate the Studio space to make it available for all work to in, but space constraint means we will also have to use the dressing rooms. Groups are expected to work efficiently on their own, building on class exercises but using their own skills and expertise. Instructors may visit group workshops from time to time, and are available to visit by invitation. As all workshops are at the same time, there will be opportunities to rotate membership during the semester. For each of assignments, you will be with a different group.


Group assignments (assessment): Group projects will be graded collectively. For the final project assignment, there will also be an individual performance assessment, separate from the group mark. There will be opportunity for each group member to comment on and assess internal group dynamics (this rewards the committed and detects the slacker). Peer assessments can affect individual grades in extreme cases (up or down).


Reports (individual) After the two major assessment units (Mask, Final), you will submit a short, but cogent and reflective report on the assignment. Questions to be addressed may include: what did you do, what challenges did you face, what did you learn, what was difficult, how did you face problems, what further questions has the assignment raised for you as a performer, or in your understanding of drama? These reports are due for Mask (report due Mon Sept 2), and Final Project (report due Mon Oct 28).

Attendance:  Regular attendance is expected. Necessary absences should be cleared in advance, or formally excused afterwards by doctor’s note or other documentation. Repeated absences (more than three) will reduce the final grade. Really. Lots of unexcused absences may result in a grade even further reduced, possibly even failure.

Plagiarism:  Plagiarism is the deliberate, unacknowledged use of other people’s words, work or ideas as your own.  In a formal academic context, it constitutes dishonesty.  It is especially important in the case of Website information to document your sources. Defaulters will face failure in part or all of the course and may be reported to the University. Be warned! If you are in any doubt, ASK ME. (Fortunately, plagiarism in this class is almost impossible, but I give the warning just to make things clear).







  1. Attendance and participation
  • Come to class
  • Participate in exercises
  • Ask questions and share thoughts
  • Discuss your experiences of your own and others’ work with the class


  1. Mask Work (individual and group)


  • “Neutral mask”
    • This short exercise will require you to prepare, rehearse and present a “sequence” of experiences that your neutral mask will pass through in a short performance of 1-3 minutes (1 min minimum; 3 mins maximum)
    • Details will be forthcoming during classes with Pedro Ilgenfritz.
    • Grade will be based on:
      • Clarity and definition of the neutral mask presentation
      • Vividness of the mask’s experiences
      • Variety and coherence of the experiences and the transitions between them.
  • “Character mask”

Individual: You will use one of the various character masks provided to invent and flesh out a “character” of your own imagining, including developing an “environment” for that character, and presenting him or her to the class in a ten-minute performance and discussion.

  • Grade will be based on:
    • Vividness of the individuality crafted using the mask
    • Concision, range and impact of the monologue
    • Physicality and effectiveness of the “sell” to the audience
    • Effective choice of setting, scenario and props, as appropriate
  • Group: Once your individual characters are developed, you will work together with your group after the break to devise a short performance together based on an assigned scenario. The piece must include some or all the characters from your group.
    • Grade will be based on:
      • Completeness and originality of response to the scenario prompt
      • Creativity of solution to the problems presented by the scenario
      • Effective deployment of the (selected) character masks in the scene
  1. Final project (individual and group)
  • Groups will be assigned one of the Acts of a classic comedy scenarioto work on as a semester project. You are at liberty to adapt the text to your needs and strengths, and are encouraged discuss your ideas with me throughout the semester. You would be well advised to start thinking and working together on this early, though more intensive time will be set aside in the last weeks of semester. The play contains many issues and problems of interpretation and staging, which can be informed by your work in comic performance through the semester. It should also be a fun and exciting challenge.
  • Final project performances will have both an individual and a group component to the grade, as follows:
  • Theindividual component will assess aspects of the performance that are down to you as an individual actor, such as:
    • Knowing your lines and cues
    • Clear understanding of the meaning of your part
    • Physicalisation of the character
    • Prompt and effective interaction with other actors
    • Individual contribution to the successful presentation of the material
  • Where a group member is not an ACTOR in the scene, but is assigned a production role (director, design, stage management) the individual assessment will be based on that aspect of the presentation.
  • The group component will assess aspects of the performance that are down to you your group as a whole, such as:
    • Creative conception of the whole act
    • Clear understanding of the style and direction of the action
    • Set, costume and lighting design and implementation
    • Ensemble playing and overall performance arc




Course summary:

Date Details