Drama as Literature


Course Syllabus

We'll be reading between four and six plays this semester, all chosen because of their remarkable dramatic structure, social impact and relevance for our modern thinking. The number we read will depend on how the timing of a thorough exploration of the first four works out. In addition to reading plays, I will endeavor to bring in film productions of each of them for us to watch, which will add to our experience of these stories. I may supplement these major works with smaller plays, articles, or monologues which I'll provide either in hard copy or through weblink.

We will definitely be reading these five plays:
  • Our Town - Thornton Wilder
  • Hamlet - William Shakespeare
  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead - Tom Stoppard
  • The Laramie Project - Moises Kaufman and the Tectonic Theatre Project
  • Death of a Salesman - Arthur Miller

I will pull the plays to follow from this list:
  • Waiting for Godot or Endgame - Samuel Beckett (online)
  • Dutchman - Amiri Baraka
  • St. Joan - George Bernard Shaw
  • Taming of the Shrew - William Shakespeare
  • I Hate Hamlet - Paul Rudnick
  • As You Like It - William Shakespeare
  • The Importance of Being Earnest - Oscar Wilde
  • Selections by Charles Mee (online)

* This syllabus is subject to change, though this website will be updated and I'll make an announcement in class well in advance of any alterations.*

Click here for the week by week outline.

Our academic objectives will include:
  • Deepen an understanding of the genre of dramatic literature: analyze and critically discuss, orally and through writing, meaning and its portrayal through (written and performed) dramatic structure.
  • Respond to dramatic works according to their respective social, economic, political and cultural contexts and synthesize these contexts with student ideas about themes portrayed within.
  • Deliver focused, coherent, rhetorically strong arguments which convey clear and distinct perspectives and solid reasoning.

Class Expectations - Come to class prepared to read, to write, and to discuss.

My goal for this class is that it be enjoyable for you first and foremost. No doubt, we do have some work to do, but there's no reason why we can't endeavor together to make this material exciting for you. Yes, we'll be reading (mostly aloud), writing, and doing some projects and essays. However, since this area is one in which I have a lot of experience and for which I have great affection, I want to couple whatever tasks we have to do in class with a lot of fun and interesting conversation. Much like the Dwarves, who whistle while they work, I aim for us to learn about these plays in a way that's both effective and pleasant for all of us. 

Course materials, BRING EVERY DAY: 
  • Writing utensils (pens or pencils, erasers).
  • Textbook (in our case, whatever play we're reading, unless it's online).
  • Writing journal (required everyday) - I'll be collecting these every week, so be sure that it's a journal dedicated to this class.
  • Binder with plenty of paper (8.5" x 11" college rule) for notes and pressure compositions - you will need this binder to keep papers returned to you, play and author biographies and any other handouts I pass out.
Recommended materials - small flash drive for working on documents in the computer lab; gumption to read!

Grading Policy:
  1. Participation - a significant portion of your grade will be based on participation, and it's difficult to participate if you are not here. Because we are reading dramatic literature in class and developing ideas through discussion, participation will entail regular attendance and engaging in group and class discussions, reading the plays aloud and maintaining focus in class. Tardies and absences will count against this grade.
  2. Journals - These will be graded on completion (daily) and on quality (weekly). Each day I'll check to make sure you've done these journal entries, and you'll receive points for effort. Each week I'll read through these journals for quality and length, and a separate point grade will be used here.
  3. Essays and Projects - These will be graded both on your progress, as you'll earn points for having completed drafts and work along the way, and on the final version of either the paper or the essay.
  4. Final Exam - This will be an assessment of your learning throughout the semester, and will consist either of a final essay or project. Either I'll set a writing/project task on the class, or we'll discuss this mid-term and come up with an agreeable final for you.
Class Policies:
  1. No negatives - be respectful of others and their opinions. Ask questions to clarify and allow everyone their voice in the discussion. 
  2. Follow directions - be in your desk and ready to work as soon as you enter the room. Cell phones, cameras, mp3 players, PSPs and other similar electronic devices are to be put away (including headphones) and silenced (off or on silent, not vibrate) as per Eureka High School policy. Any visible electronics will be confiscated immediately.
  3. Respect the rights of your classmates and me to teach and learn from each other. This is a cooperative environment, and we all have something to teach and the opportunity to learn. Rudeness, swearing and uncontrolled silliness have no place in a productive conversation such as ours, so please leave them at the door.
  4. Leaving the room - restroom visits are to be done before and after class - you will be allowed three restroom passes per quarter, which I will track. We are all old enough to manage the business of bathrooms and snacks around class time. Anything beyond three will result in a loss of participation points for day. You are expected to come to class prepared with all required materials, and if you do not have materials that will count as a tardy and a loss of participation points. Passes will not be given to retrieve materials from lockers or cars during class.
  5. No food in class, unless you bring enough for everyone! No gum, please - it only interferes with the speaking and reading. Beverages should be in containers with secure lids.
Attendance and Missed Work:
  • You are responsible for getting missed assignments if you are absent. Work will generally be available online via the blog, or you can contact me or a fellow classmate. This policy is in place to prepare you not only for college-level commitments but professional obligations as well: the more you can take control of your responsibilities the greater power you have over your own success.
  • Friday Inferno pressure compositions and small group assignments can be made up with me during lunch, before or after school, but you are responsible for approaching me to make up these assignments. Journals I check daily, and will be due weekly regardless of your presence in class. If you are absent on collection days, make sure your journal is delivered to me by a parent/guardian or a classmate - if this is not possible, your weekly journal entries will be due Monday, regardless of attendance (parent/guardian, classmate, fax or email). If you are absent for pressure compositions, these must be made up within a week for full credit.
  • Unless you are absent for a legitimate reason, late homework (journals) will not be accepted. Part of the purpose of this website is to alert you to all of your obligations prior to getting underway so there are no surprises and you can prepare for assignments. Early work is always appreciated. See the Early Bird Special and Regular Due Dates page for deadlines. If you miss work and are interested in raising your grade, you may see me for makeup work, however makeup work will be weighted differently (at instructor's discretion), and it is your responsibility to see me for makeup work.
  • Email homework policy. You are welcome to email me documents if you are going to be absent for a due date. If you are going to be absent for major project due dates it is your responsibility to get your project or essay to me through a parent/guardian, classmate, fax or email. If you choose to email me a document, please be sure to bring a physical copy to class when you return. Check the EB page for procedures of getting work to me if you'll be absent. If you choose to email me documents, I will respond to confirm that I have received your work. If you send me something through fax or email and do not receive an emailed confirmation, please keep trying and do not assume I have received it until you hear from me. Technical glitches do occur, so make sure I have received your work.
Occasional absences are understandable and manageable, but it is entirely possible for students with significant extracurricular commitments to succeed in this class, as there will be consistent and abundant support for you to get work done completely and on time. Students who are habitually absent or tardy for any reason should expect their grade to suffer.


Homework for this class will consist of double-entry journal responses, group or timed writing assignments, two reviews of plays which you'll see locally, minor play projects and two multi-draft essays which will demonstrate how well you've absorbed what we've talked about in class. Homework assignments will be posted on the Daily Blog page and announced in class.

Double-entry journals - for homework nightly you'll be required to write a double-entry journal response to the reading which we've done that day or completed that night. Each page of your journal should be divided vertically down the middle into two columns. On the left side you'll write four different passages, dialogue exchanges or pieces of monologues from the play which strike you as especially interesting, curious, thought-provoking, confusing or which otherwise grabbed your attention. You should write down the passage, and then beneath it, write down the speaker in parenthesis and the act and scene number it comes from or the page number it occurs on in your book; this way, I'll know where the quote is coming from. Be sure to leave room between each of these passages, as on the right side, corresponding to each passage, you'll write down your response to the passage. Be ready for these journal entries to encompass more than one page. What you should write for this response is wide open, but consider the following ideas when reflecting on what you've chosen:
  • Why did you choose this passage? What did it make you think of? Does it remind you of another story? an event or person in your life?
  • Who's speaking? What about? How does this moment factor into the play's plot so far? Or into the themes we've discussed?
  • What do you learn about the character(s) from this passage? What do you learn from this passage about the play and its plot, setting, theme? about the playwright?
  • Remember that dramatic literature is meant to be performed, so try and keep the sound of the words in mind as you write about these passages - how did you feel hearing these words said aloud in class, or if you're reading it to yourself, how do you think you'd react to seeing this up on the stage? How might you envision this scene on stage?
These journal entries are my way of seeing how you're thinking about the play and reflecting on its storyline. I'll be collecting them on Fridays and reading them. I may make short comments, but for the most part they are for you to develop your thoughts about the play for discussion, for use in your essays and projects. You will be graded on having done it nightly, and weekly I will be reading them for quality, so your reflection should be indicative of significant thought on whatever passage you've chosen - three word responses are not acceptable. I will do my best to make sure you'll get them back on Mondays. Click here to download an example of the format I'd like you to use for these, or you can click here to see the same example on the website.

Reviews of plays - we are reading dramatic literature, which like music is better seen and heard than read merely on the page. Thus, part of your grade this semester will be to see two productions in one of the several theatres we have locally. On the Links page you'll find the websites for most in the area, and here is the link for the format I'd like you to use when writing these. There will be a lot of productions this spring (you might even see me in a couple of them), so there are ample opportunities to see local theatre. I will announce performances in class and on this site as they come up. EHS players here at Eureka High will be producing Pippin in late March/early April, so seeing that may count toward one of your reviews, if you prefer (admission to this show is free for this class). Attending these plays will cost you a little bit of money (on average a ticket is about that of a movie), and if you're seeing a show outside Eureka transportation will need to be arranged. If you are truly financially unable to see shows in the area, come talk to me and we'll work out an alternative. These reviews should be two pages, neatly handwritten or typed, double-spaced. The first review will be due by April 2, and the second review will be due by June 9. You are welcome to see two productions and turn in two reviews in the first quarter (the second will count for your second quarter requirement), but you must see at least one show and do one review in the first quarter. No late work will be accepted for these. 

Group or timed writing - occasionally we'll be doing writing groups, wherein you'll do some reflecting on your own and then share the results with a group in class. The goal of these will be to reflect in class on the plays' themes, discuss these with small groups, and then report back to the class as a whole about your conclusions. The other writing option we'll explore will be occasional timed writing - the Friday Inferno. These will occur at major junctions in our reading of the plays (like act breaks), and we'll do these in class and I'll read them over the weekend. Unlike the journals, I'll be responding in greater depth to the timed writing in an effort to get you ready for your larger essay assignments. These will be graded for quality of thinking and expression in your writing, not necessarily organization and formal essay formats.

Minor play projects - for several of the plays we read this semester there will be a creative project due (exclusive of the below essay on Hamlet and the second essay which is to be determined). You will be given class time to work on these, but the bulk of the work should be done at home. I have created a list of projects from which to choose for three plays so far, and I will be adding to the list as time goes on - choose from this list one project idea, write a brief description of your plan for it and then complete the project for the grade. These are chances for you to be creative in your reflections on the plays we read, and the grade will be based on how much thought, time and effort go into them. Click here for the Projects page.

Two multi-draft essays - to look either at one play in greater depth or to examine several plays and/or productions we deal with in class, you'll be writing two 3 - 4 page multiple draft essays. You will write one after we have done Hamlet and another at the end of the semester. These essays, drawn from ideas which you've recorded in your journals, discussions in class, and chosen from a list of topics which I'll provide you, will go through a couple of drafts and some peer editing. You'll compose an initial draft and work with partners or in small groups to provide each other with feedback to make the ideas sharper and the writing more concise and persuasive. Essays must follow the MLA format and be typed (see syllabus or click here for an example). Creative projects will have their own guidelines. Click here for the deadlines and Early Bird policy.

Final Exam

Your final exam will be an in-class essay on one of several topics I'll provide which will reflect a comprehensive look at the plays we'll read this semester. This final will be the moment for you to express what you've absorbed through the discussions, readings, productions we'll view, and will not be a challenge provided you participate fully in class.

* The look of the final exam will be revised once the semester begins. *