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DRAMA 254 A: Intro to acting skills

Summer Term: 
Meeting Time: 
MTWTh 10:50am - 12:30pm
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Zane New Headshot
L. Zane Jones

Syllabus Description:



L. Zane Jones, Senior Lecturer


Introduces specific skills to the beginning actor and non-actor.

This online acting course will focus on some introductory on-camera technique as a means to cover the basic skills an actor needs to create compelling characters. The close-up, two-character scene work and improvisation will be at the core of the practice. No previous experience required.


Course Objectives

“Acting is behaving truthfully under imaginary circumstances.” – Sanford Meisner

The core methodology of Stanislavsky-based acting technique:

The “Magic IF” and given circumstances, spontaneous engagement in physical and/or psychological action(s) and active analysis of the text.

Super-objective: The desired outcome for character above and beyond the scope of the text.

Objective / Through Action: The overarching goal of a character within a given dramatic text.

Action: What the character does to initiate change in another character or situation.

Tactic: How the character goes about fulfilling the Action.

Given Circumstances: The context, relationships and facts that govern a dramatic situation a character is placed in.

Conflict: That drama is based on conflict and opposing agendas by characters as described above.

Dramatic Narrative: That units of dramatic action contain a beginning, a middle and an end, with a central EVENT, which is at the center of the unit’s identity.

Event: That a dramatic event is defined as a specific moment in time and space when circumstances change due to conflict, causing discovery in characters and permanent change in character relationships.


“ Stanislavski saw that it is easier to give the audience a clever ride than a real experience. But his fundamental intuition was that acting is more than seeming to be real. Above all, he knew that acting and pretending are utterly different and that the distinction is both subtle and crucial. In a way all his work helps to explain that difference.”   - Declan Donnellan, Introduction to AN ACTOR’S WORK, Konstantin Stanislavski


ACTING: The Art of Transformation

Central to our work together is the desire to support and expand the use of our imagination and to cultivate healthy, dynamic and courageous artistic expression.


Course Description

Zoom meetings: M-TH 10:50am - 12:30pm PT -  We will meet as a group via Zoom once every other week.

First full class meeting: Monday 6/22

At our first meeting - we will divide the class into two groups.

As noted in this schedule, Sections A and B will meet on alternating days-

Section A: Mon/Wed

Section B: Tues/Thurs

Students will be  asked to keep a journal with thoughts and responses to the assigned readings.

Journal writings are due every Friday by 5:00pm PT. Please submit these writings via email directly to the instructor:

There will be two assignments -

Assignment #1 - students will select a monologue from either -


Anna Deavere Smith states, in regards to casting, that “It is the author’s intention that actors would portray characters outside their own race, gender, age, “type” within a diverse company of actors.

Please keep this in mind when selecting material for both assignments – challenge yourself – take on a role you wouldn’t ordinarily play.

Assignment #2 - students will select a monologue/scene from a television or film script of their choice - or - they can select another monologue/scene from one of the assigned texts .


Week One: 

The Art of Acting

Reading Assignment for the week (Journal entry due Friday 6/26):

LETTERS TO A YOUNG ARTIST - pp. 7 - 54  (Intro - Basics)

Mon. 6/22

10:50am – ZOOM Class Meeting 

Introductions and Course Overview


Tues. 6/23

10:50am - ZOOM Class Meeting

Personal Stories – Please share a story from your life describing something important, significant, profound or interesting. This story should be no longer than 2 minutes. Be as detailed as possible.


Wed. 6/24 - A Section - 10:50am -  Zoom meeting

Passion Speech - details for this assignment will be emailed to you.


Thurs. 6/25 - B Section - 10:50am -  Zoom meeting

Passion Speech - details for this assignment will be emailed to you.


Week Two:

Reading Assignment for the week (Journal entry due Friday 7/3):

LETTERS TO A YOUNG ARTIST - pp. 57 - 108 (Relationships and Work)


Mon. 6/29 - A Section - 10:50am -  Zoom meeting

Assignment #1 - Readings and Improv


Tues. 6/30 - B Section - 10:50am -  Zoom meeting

Assignment #1 - Readings and Improv


Wed. 7/1 - A Section - 10:50am -  Zoom meeting

Assignment #1 - Off Book (lines memorized) 


Thurs. 7/2 - B Section - 10:50am -  Zoom meeting

Assignment #1 - Off Book (lines memorized) 


Week Three: 

Reading Assignment for the week (Journal entry due Friday 7/10):

LETTERS TO A YOUNG ARTIST - pp. 111 - 173 (Matters of the Mind, Matters of the Heart and Keeping the Faith)


Monday July 6

No ZOOM class meeting.

*** Submit video of Character Etude Assignment by 5:00pm PT  - send the youtube or vimeo link to:

Character Etude: explore and express something essential about your situation, relationship(s) and/or needs in the story using the following elements:

Text (from the play), a static image, music, movement/sound, and pedestrian activity.

You should rehearse and develop each of these elements separately – then once established – explore ways that you might assemble them into a 2 minute piece.

Video the etude and submit the link via email.


30 minute One-on-one coachings - assignment #1 - OFF BOOK (lines memorized)

Tuesday July 7

10:30am - Ted

11:00 - Annika

11:30 - Skylier

12:00 - Brandon

12:30 - Carin

Wed. July 8

10:30am - Ziqi

11:00 - Derrick

11:30 - Zachary

12:00 - Chandler

12:30 - Sachin

Thurs. July 9

10:30am - Victoria

11:00 - Saron

11:30 - Bonnie

12:00 - Tyler


Week Four:

Reading Assignment for the week (Journal entry due Friday 7/17):

LETTERS TO A YOUNG ARTIST - pp. 177 - 206 (Art and Society and The Death of Cool)


Mon. 7/13 - A Section - 10:50am -  Zoom meeting

Assignment #1 - Performance  (B Section invited to attend)


Tues. 7/14 - B Section - 10:50am -  Zoom meeting

Assignment #1 - Performance (A Section invited to attend)


Wed. 7/15- A Section - 10:50am -  Zoom meeting

Assignment #2 -  Readings and Improv


Thurs. 7/16 - B Section - 10:50am -  Zoom meeting

Assignment #2 -  Readings and Improv


Week Five: 


Mon. 7/20 - A Section - 10:50am -  Zoom meeting

Rehearse Assignment #2 - off book


Tues. 7/21 - B Section - 10:50am -  Zoom meeting

Rehearse Assignment #2 - off book


Wed. 7/22  - Full Class ZOOM Meeting

Performance - Assignment #2 - all students will share their work.


“I feel that the only thing that really matters in art and life is to go against the tidal wave of literalism and literal-mindedness to insist on and live the life of the imagination. A painting has to be the experience instead of pointing to it. I want to have and give access to feeling. That is the riskiest and only important way to connect art to the world – to make it alive. The rest is just current events.”         - David Salle



The criterion for grading this course is based on the Instructor's perception of the student's level of understanding and application of the lectures/discussions, demonstration elements, textual assignments, scene work and monologue work, week one through ten as well as for finals.

PARTICIPATION (30pts.) Students are expected to be prompt, attentive, engaged and prepared to work. 

SCENEWORK / CREATIVE PROGRESS  (60 pts.) Students will be evaluated on the following criteria: Preparation – Students are expected to rehearse outside of class, to commit regularly to work on the text at home and to come to class prepared, off book, rehearsed, and ready to play, as assigned.  Commitment – Level of engagement, depth of insight, energy of investment, and passion for expression will be evaluated. Receptivity – Willingness to accept and apply suggestions from the instructor and cultivation of an open mind and heart in approach to every story will be evaluated.

PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT  (10pts.) Respectful attention to others in class, respectful rapport with the instructor, creative humility and support, and keeping commitments to your partners outside class are essential qualities that must be cultivated.

100pts – 4.0

99 pts – 3.9

98 pts. – 3.8

97 pts. – 3.7

96 pts – 3.6

95 pts – 3.5



A Note about Course Content

Throughout history, theatre and performance have grappled with complicated subject matter, including violence, sex, and psychological and emotional conflict. To this end, much of the world’s theatre and performance is “adult-themed” and includes references to or representations of violence, intimate sexual activity, and adult language (including coarse terms, obscenities, and slurs). Performance is a forum in which the world’s conflicts can be contemplated and discussed, and performance can often even be a tool for positive change. As such, the School of Drama believes the formal classroom environment and related academic activities, including productions, lectures, and other events, should be respectful spaces where sensitivity to personal backgrounds, experiences and beliefs can be balanced with rigorous and thoughtful discourse.


If you believe material and/or experiences in the course will compromise the success of your learning, please consider one or more of the following options: 1) approach your instructor and share your concern: you may be able to find a suitable alternative arrangement or assignment; 2) contact a Livewell Student Advocate in Health and Wellness who will help determine how a past incident may be impacting your academic success and will work with your courses and professors:; 3) Contact UW Student Coaching and Care, which has staff trained to help students in distress and in need of multiple levels of support:


 Student Conduct



Plagiarism is defined as the use of ideas, words, or creations from a publicly available work without formally acknowledging the author or source through the use of appropriate quotation marks and/or references. Both the University of Washington and the School of Drama take plagiarism very seriously. Plagiarism may lead to disciplinary action by the university against the student who submitted the work. Any student who is uncertain whether their use of the work of others constitutes plagiarism should consult the course instructor for guidance before submitting coursework.


Standards of Conduct and Academic Integrity: (see WAC 478-121)

The following abilities and behavioral expectations complement the UW Student Conduct Code. Communication: All students should attempt to communicate effectively with other students, faculty, staff, and other professionals within the School of Drama, expressing ideas and feelings clearly and demonstrating a willingness to give and receive feedback. Students must be able to reason, analyze, integrate, synthesize, and evaluate in the context of the classes they take, and to engage in critical thinking in the classroom and other professional settings. Behavioral/Emotional: Students must demonstrate the emotional maturity required for the utilization of intellectual abilities, the exercise of sound judgment, and the timely completion of responsibilities in their classes. Further, students should maintain mature, culturally sensitive, and respectful relationships with students, faculty, staff, and other professionals within the School of Drama. Students must be willing to examine and change behaviors when they interfere with productive individual or team relationships. Problematic behavior documented: Problematic behavior will be documented by the School and, if deemed appropriate, forwarded on to the University Committee on Community Standards and Student Conduct. If a pattern of behavior or a single, serious lapse in the behavioral expectations becomes evident, the steps below will be followed and the student will be advised that their continuation in the class and/or major is in jeopardy. The student’s instructor and/or appropriate program advisor or teaching assistant will document, either verbally or in writing, the concerning behavior and notify the student that they are receiving a warning. Notification of the warning will be forwarded on to the Executive Director of the School and to the Committee on Student Conduct and Community Standards via email or in hard copy. The warning identifies what the concerning behavior was and warns that any further disruptions or concerning incidents will result in the student being asked to leave the class. When incidents occur that represent a significant impact to the program or its participants, students may be asked to leave immediately without prior warning.



Grading Procedures



An Incomplete is given only when the student has been in attendance and has done satisfactory work until within two weeks of the end of the quarter and has furnished proof satisfactory to the instructor that the work cannot be completed because of illness or other circumstances beyond the student's control. To request an incomplete the student must complete the Incomplete Grade Request form. To obtain credit for the course, an undergraduate student must convert an Incomplete into a passing grade no later than the last day of the following quarter. An Incomplete not made up by the end of the following quarter (summer excluded) will be converted to the grade of 0.0 by the registrar unless the instructor has indicated, when assigning the Incomplete grade, that a grade other than 0.0 should be recorded if the incomplete work is not completed. The original Incomplete grade is not removed from the transcript.


Change of Grade Policy

Except in case of error, no instructor may change a grade that he or she has turned in to the registrar. Grades cannot be

changed after a degree has been granted.


Grade Appeal Procedure

A student who believes he or she has been improperly graded must first discuss the matter with the instructor. If the student is not satisfied with the instructor's explanation, the student, no later than ten days after their discussion with the instructor, may submit a written appeal to the Executive Director of the School of Drama with a copy of the appeal also sent to the instructor. Within 10 calendar days, the Executive Director should consult with the instructor to ensure that the evaluation of the student's performance has not been arbitrary or capricious. Should the Executive Director believe the instructor's conduct to be arbitrary or capricious and the instructor declines to revise the grade, the Executive Director, with the approval of the voting members of their faculty, shall appoint an appropriate member, or members, of the faculty of the School of Drama to evaluate the performance of the student and assign a grade. The Dean and Provost should be informed of this action. Once a student submits a written appeal, this document and all subsequent actions on this appeal are recorded in written form for deposit in a department file.


Access and Accommodations


Equal Opportunity

The University of Washington reaffirms its policy of equal opportunity regardless of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, disability, or status as a disabled veteran or Vietnam-era veteran. This policy applies to all programs and facilities, including, but not limited to, admissions, educational programs, employment, and patient and hospital services.


Disability Accommodations

The School of Drama places great importance on the experience of all students in its classes. Students who have already established accommodations with Disability Resources for Students (DRS) should communicate their approved accommodations to the professor at their earliest convenience and make an appointment to discuss their needs in the course.


Students who have not yet established services through DRS, but who have a temporary health condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations (conditions include but not limited to; mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical or health impacts), should contact DRS at 206-543-8924 or or DRS offers resources and coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities and/or temporary health conditions. Reasonable accommodations are established through an interactive process between you, your instructor(s) and DRS. It is the policy and practice of the University of Washington to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law.

Catalog Description: 
Introduces specific skills to the beginning actor and non-actor. No previous experience required. Topics vary Recommended: None needed. Offered: S.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
April 22, 2020 - 9:12pm