Welcome to TA 116—Dramatic Structure & Analysis!

Course Description

This class is for anyone who wants to learn to study theatre as an art form, not just for those learning to appreciate it as a patron. In TA 116 you will learn skills to help you critically analyze a play’s text to see how certain aspects work together to support and strengthen the play’s message. You will learn to find the internal clues left by the playwright in the text to authentically interpret the plays and better grasp their nuances. Even if you have read these plays before and feel you already know them, you will discover new tools to help you understand them (and future plays you are involved with) more comprehensively.

Please be aware that some of the plays, videos, and other materials used in class may contain strong profanity, adult themes, and other things some may consider “strong content.” It is up to you to do the research well ahead of time to find out if you might be offended by anything related to course content. If you discover something you believe will offend your spirit or sensibilities, you need to visit with me well ahead of time to see if an arrangement can be made. In some cases, this is just not possible, but in most cases, especially if you give me several weeks of notice, I am willing to make an accommodation. If you are not willing to do the research necessary to find out about the content of the plays we will be reading, or the films we will be watching, you may want to consider taking this course during another semester with another faculty member.

Purpose of the Class

Learn to critically analyze the structural elements of scripts to create more insightful acting, directing, and/or designing of plays.


There are no prerequisites for this course. Although TA 115 is related to TA 116, you do not need to have taken it to be successful in TA 116.

Course Outcomes

Each student will:

  1. Be able to identify, define, and discuss the basic structural elements of selected works of drama.
  2. Acquire the skills necessary to critically analyze a play's value.
    1. Refine an ability to analyze written and/or performed plays to determine the quality of the plays' scripts.
    2. Be able to recognize the merits of great plays on a deeper level than that of a typical patron.
  3. Develop a defensible personal criteria for determining the dramatic production potential of any play.
    1. Become aware of the gospel influences helping to shape the development of one’s personal criteria.
    2. Learn to persuasively express personal insights that can be supported by the text of the play.
  4. Collaboratively work with others to improve everyone’s:
    1. acquired skills
    2. class experience

Course Requirements

  1. Read weekly in the course text: “Script Analysis for Actors, Directors, and Designers” —Fourth Edition—By James Thomas ISBN: 978-0240810492
  2. Read eight supporting plays:
    1. Oedipus Rex,
    2. A Raisin in the Sun,
    3. The Wild Duck,
    4. The Death of a Salesman,
    5. Mother Courage,
    6. The School for Scandal,
    7. Tartuffe, and
    8. Three Sisters

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  3. Work in small teams to help and support one another throughout the semester.
    1. Learn related vocabulary
    2. Share insights
  4. Attend and analyze at least two full-length live theatre performances during the semester. (This activity will occur outside of class.)
    1. Write an evaluation of those productions using the skills of the course.
      1. Dance performances, Operas, and Operettas cannot be used to complete this assignment.
    2. One is due in the first half of the semester; one is due in the second half of the semester.
      1. Do not procrastinate finding a performance to attend. If you wait until the week the assignment is due:
        1. plays can be already sold out, (You will still be held accountable for this assignment.),
        2. you will find you have fewer options for attending something you would really enjoy, or
        3. other commitments that week will make it difficult to take the time to go.
        4. Finding a play you are really interested in early will allow you to plan ahead so you can get the most out of this activity.


Course Architecture

In an online course, regular and sustained attention to the course is critical. You will not be successful if you try to cram all your learning into short, intensive bursts of study. Be attentive to the reading assignments, course activities, and deadlines. The first week (Week 01, half-week's worth of assignments) will help orient you to the course and give you time to practice using the online tools. You will wrap up the course in the Week 14 (half-week's worth of assignments) by submitting your final assignments.

Please Note

Each week:

  1. Will open 4 days early in order to accommodate students who need more flexibility in their schedule.
  2. Will remain open for 10 days ending on the following Saturday evening.
  3. Has three main due dates

Even though this course is online, it is not an independent study course. In fact, discussion with classmates is a key component of this course. You will be expected to form opinions that can be supported with textual evidence, and come to a greater understanding of the plays through discussions with your classmates. You will be assessed on:

In order to do well, you should expect to spend 3–4 hours weekly for every credit earned. Therefore, you will need to be able to commit 6–8 hours each week to this course. If you are unable to commit to the time demands this semester, please consider taking the class some other time when you can devote the necessary time to completing the workload.

A large portion of time spent in this class will be devoted to the weekly reading assignments.

It is important to be prepared both intellectually and emotionally each week. Theatre in general, and play analysis in particular, are interactive activities by nature. As you interact with others in various assignments, please remember to be kind, considerate, and respectful of differing viewpoints. You can differ in opinions (sometimes the best learning comes when others challenge your thinking), but still be civil. Any violation of basic common courtesy—including interaction with the instructor—will negatively impact your grade.

Read the following article as a reminder of the promises and warnings Elder Bednar addressed concerning entitlement.

Course Activities

This course is organized around three (3) main due dates. Be sure you know when assignments are due so you can devote adequate time to finishing them.

Beginning of Week (see Calendar)

  1. Preparation Material Reading Assignment:
    1. Thomas Textbook
    2. Related Play
  2. First major post in the discussion board
  3. Team Google Doc created and shared with team members

Midweek (see Calendar)

  1. End of Chapter Questions
  2. Engagement in weekly discussion board (at least two additional posts)
  3. First major contribution (insight) on the Team Table Work Google Doc

End of Week (see Calendar)

  1. Final posts in the discussion board (at least one additional post)
  2. Completed Team Table Work Google Doc (Dramatic Discussion and Terms and People to Know) and corresponding Report: Team Table Work
  3. Accountability Quiz

Other Activities

Weekly Flow

A typical week (W02–W13) contains the following activities:

Study Assignment

Thomas Textbook

This textbook will be your primary resource for learning the skills and completing assignments in this course. You will need to stay current in the Thomas readings in order to be able to participate effectively in the course.

Play Reading

There will be an assigned play to read and analyze using the skills you are learning in most weeks. However, twice during the semester the same play will be used for two consecutive weeks.

Class Discussions

The discussion board will be a key component in understanding the plays, and will be particularly important to you as you seek to hone your script analysis skills. The weekly discussion board will be the place for you to talk with your instructor and classmates about what you are learning. In order to do well in the course you will need to be active in these discussions, talking with and learning from your classmates.

Team Table Work Google Docs

You will be placed in small teams with some of your classmates to work together practicing your analysis skills and sharing new understanding about the plays you are reading. Each week your team will work together to complete a Google Doc consisting of vocabulary and a discussion of your team's greatest insights and questions.

Assignment: End-of-Chapter Questions

At the end of each chapter you will read in the Thomas text, a number of questions can be found. Your instructor will select a few of these to discuss in the Class Discussion. You'll answer the remaining questions on your own in this assignment.

Report: Team Table Work

The Team Table Work Report provides an opportunity to give an account of the efforts and accomplishments of you and your team members as you work together. Extra Credit can be awarded to team members who put forth exemplary effort to help their teammates.

Accountability Quiz

This quiz helps you to account for some your activities each week, assess what has gone well, and think about what might be improved. This is the only way to get credit for some of the activities that you do, so be sure to complete it every week.

Additional Production Analysis Write-Ups

Attend and analyze at least two full-length live theatre performances (not movie versions) outside of class. Your written analysis should reflect the skills you have developed throughout the course.


In the very rare case that your circumstances do not allow you to attend a live performance, let your instructor know as soon as possible. Your instructor will work with you to define an alternate assignment.

Course Materials

You will need the textbook, Script Analysis for Actors, Directors, and Designers—Fourth Edition—by James Thomas. ISBN: 978-0240810492. This text will be the basis for all course discussions and assignments. It's an earlier edition, which means you should be able to find it quite cheaply if you look around just a little. Some students have spent over $70 while others have spent less than $10.

Though most students report finding Script Analysis a valuable resource, you may choose to rent the book if you don't want to buy it. Just make sure that the rental period covers the entire semester as you will be using the book throughout the entire course.

You will need access to the following play texts. A link to an acceptable online version of the script will be posted for each of the plays, but you may use your own personal text or anthology with your instructor’s permission. Play texts are also available in your public library and in various play anthologies. You may also find additional, helpful information on Youtube, Amazon or other online sources.

  1. Oedipus Rex, Sophocles, 430 BC
  2. A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry, 1959
  3. The Wild Duck, Henrik Ibsen, 1884
  4. Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller, 1949
  5. Mother Courage, Bertolt Brecht, 1937
  6. The School for Scandal, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, 1777
  7. Tartuffe, Moliere, 1669
  8. Three Sisters, Anton Chekhov, 1901


The general breakdown of course points is as follows:

Assignment Name Points Total Points
Assignment: End-of-Chapter Questions 10 x 15 150
Class Discussions 13 x 20 260
Team Table Work Google Docs (W02–W13) 12 x 10 120
Report: Team Table Work (W02–W13) 12 x 15 180
Accountability Quiz (W01–W14) 14 x 10 140
Report: Production Analysis (one in week 7; one in week 14) 2 x 100 200
Total Points Possible 1050

Grading Scale

Letter Grade Percentage Range
A 93 - 100%
A- 90 - 92%
B+ 89- 87%
B 83 - 86%
B- 80 - 82%
C+ 77 - 79%
C- 70 - 72%
D+ 67 - 69%
D 63 - 66%
D- 60 - 62%
F 59% and below


A few extra credit points may be earned by attending and writing up an additional Production Analysis. It will be worth about 1/3 of the original assignment.

Late Work Policy

Assignments are due on the day indicated. Work that is late hampers both your and your classmates' ability to fully participate in the course, and will be accepted only at your instructor’s discretion. No late work will be accepted without first obtaining permission from the instructor. Inform your instructor before the assignment is due of your extenuating circumstances. Any late work that is accepted is subject to a penalty as determined by your instructor.

Other Policies

The University has established and posted policies concerning Sexual Harassment, Plagiarism, and Disabilities Services. Please review the following University documents:

Final Note

The instructor reserves the right to change any part of this syllabus at any time during the semester in order to adapt to changing course needs. You will be notified prior to any changes that may take place, so pay attention to communication from your instructor.