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DRAMA 213 A: Introduction to Sound Design for Theatre

Meeting Time: 
TTh 1:30pm - 3:20pm
* *
Rob Witmer
Rob Witmer

Syllabus Description:

DRAMA 213 A – Introduction to Sound Design for the Theatre

Spring 2021– Class will meet ONLINE ONLY

Instructor: Rob Witmer (rwitmer@uw.edu)

Class Listserv:

Throughout the quarter, I will use the UW provided class e-mail listserv to e-mail the whole class:


If you wish to contact me privately, please use:


Classes will be conducted using the zoom.us conferencing app. You will need to join zoom.us and create a user profile. You will need a laptop, tablet device or smartphone to join the class meeting with audio and/or video enabled. Note that you can choose to display an photo or icon if you do not wish to connect with video at anytime. Class meetings will be held in my personal Zoom meeting room. The link can be found on the class course Canvas page, and will be the same every week.

With everyone's consent, I will record portions of the class which include lecture content, so that these can be viewed at a later time.

Course Goals:

Understanding the processes by which sound is created, manipulated and implemented for theatrical productions.

Understanding how music is an organization of sounds, and how musical ideas can be created and manipulated as design elements.

Understanding the fundamentals of physical sound, acoustics, digital sound.

Understanding basic equipment used for sound reproduction and reinforcement in theaters.

Attain proficiency in using a wave editor (Audacity) to edit sound files, and an understanding of the programming of digital playback using Qlab software. (Note: Qlab is Mac only; you will not be required to use it.)

Development in the exchange of ideas involving the design elements of sound:
Learning to work in groups

• Generating insights through class discussion

• Sufficiency in presenting sound design ideas.

• Create knowledge in collaboration with other students.

By the end of the course, you should have the tools and understanding to talk about, create, present, and execute a basic theatrical sound design.


Course Outline:

This course will be an exploration of the basic concepts of sound design for the theatre. Although theatre is the main focus, film, tv, and video games will also be considered as vehicles for story which also use sound design techniques. Through weekly assignments and projects, our focus will be on building an understanding of key design elements. The course will culminate in a group project to create the sound cues and design for a portion of a full length play. There will be a written final taken in the final week of class which will evaluate knowledge and concepts explored throughout the quarter.


Assignments will typically given on Monday, and will usually be individual. Assignments should be submitted through Dropbox. Be prepared to discuss your assignment in class, as we will use these as topics of discussion throughout the quarter.


Projects will be assigned in the second half of the quarter. There may be several group-based projects, and one larger final project. Projects should be submitted through Dropbox. Groups will present these projects to the class, and these presentations will be the launching point for class discussion. The final project will showcase the tools and knowledge required to design sound for a play.

Sound journal:

You will be required to keep a weekly sound journal. The journal should consist of three or more entries per week. These entries should consist of an observation, idea, or question about a sound, acoustic experience or environment that you encounter. The first half of this journal will be turned in and evaluated mid-way through the quarter, and the rest at the end of the quarter. The purpose of the journal is not only to observe, but to strengthen vocabulary and writing skills.


We will be using www.dropbox.com to transfer files and turn-in projects. I will make a shared folder, called “213 A Class Files – Everyone” which I will share for everyone. The General folder is for shared class files, assignments, etc. I will also make a shared folder for each student. This will be your personal folder in which you will submit all your projects and assignments.

Audacity and Qlab:

I will be using two programs throughout the quarter . The course requires you to learn how to use both programs. Some basic understanding of the computer is required.

Audacity is a free-ware wave editor. It works on both PC and MAC. The projects for the first half of the class will require you to use Audacity, or a similar wave editor (if you have another).

Qlab is a Mac only, sound playback system for the theatre which is considered an industry standard. I will use Qlab to demonstrate various techniques for cueing and layering sounds. You will not be required to use this program, but there may be assignments which require you to understand how it works.



4.0 = 400 points

25% (100 points) Assignments - (usually given on Monday and due Wednesday)

25% (100 points) Projects (usually given on Wednesday and due Monday)

20% (80 points) Class participation

15% (60 points) Sound observation journal

15% (60 points) Final exam - written; final week of class.

Community and Inclusivity

We acknowledge that meeting as a class online will pose a set of circumstances that are unique and new to many of us. For that reason, we will work to uphold the following community norms:

      1. Respect and support each other

      2. Actively listen

      3. Contribute and ask questions

      4. Take risks

      5. Monitor your own airtime

      6. Recognize intent vs. impact


Principles – added Spring 2020


1.    Nobody signed up for this.

  • Not for the sickness, not for the social distancing, not for the sudden end of our collective lives together on campus

  • Not for an online class, not for teaching remotely, not for learning from home, not for mastering new technologies, not for varied access to learning materials

2.    The humane option is the best option.

  • We are going to prioritize supporting each other as humans

  • We are going to prioritize simple solutions that make sense for the most

  • We are going to prioritize sharing resources and communicating clearly

3.    We cannot just do the same thing online.

  • Some assignments are no longer possible

  • Some expectations are no longer reasonable

  • Some objectives are no longer valuable

4.    We will foster intellectual nourishment, social connection, and personal accommodation.

  • Asynchronous content for diverse access, time zones, and contexts

  • Synchronous discussion to learn together and combat isolation

5.    We will remain flexible at all times and adjust to the situation.

  • Nobody knows where this is going and what we’ll need to do to adapt

  • Everybody needs support and understanding in this unprecedented moment








Access and Accommodations:

Your experience in this class is important to me. If you have already established accommodations with Disability Resources for Students (DRS), please communicate your approved accommodations to me at your earliest convenience so we can discuss your needs in this course.

If you have not yet established services through DRS, but 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), you are welcome to contact DRS at 206-543-8924 or uwdrs@uw.edu or disability.uw.edu. 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.

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 uwdrs@uw.edu or disability.uw.edu. 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.


Safety and Evacuation

Evacuation routes are posted throughout the building. In case of a fire, please evacuate and go to the evacuation assembly point, locations of which are posted on building walls. In case of a power outage or earthquake, please stay where you are and, for the latter, protect your head and neck. Students with disabilities which could impair evacuation should notify the instructor early in the quarter so accommodations can be made.


Student Concerns about a Course, an Instructor, or a Teaching Assistant

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is defined as the use of one’s authority or power, either explicitly or implicitly, to coerce another into unwanted sexual relations or to punish another for their refusal to engage in sexual acts. It is also defined as the creation by a member of the University community of an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or educational environment through verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.


If you are being harassed, seek helpthe earlier the better. You may speak with your instructor, your teaching assistant, Drama Undergraduate or Graduate Advising, or the Executive Director of the School. In addition, the Office of the Ombud (206 543-6028) is a university resource for all students, faculty and staff. Community Standards and Student Conduct Office (cssc@uw.edu) is also a resource for students.


Concerns about Instructors

If you have any concerns about a course or the instructor in charge of a course, please see the instructor about these concerns as soon as possible. If you are not comfortable talking with the instructor or not satisfied with the response that you receive, contact the School of Drama’s undergraduate or graduate advisor. If you are not satisfied with the response that you receive, make an appointment with the Administrative Assistant to the Executive Director in Hutchinson 101 to speak with the Executive Director.


Concerns about Teaching Assistants

If you have any concerns about a teaching assistant, please see them about these concerns as soon as possible. If you are not comfortable talking with the teaching assistant or not satisfied with the response that you receive, contact the instructor in charge of the course. If you are not satisfied with the response that you receive, you may follow the procedure previously outlined, or contact the Graduate School in G-1 Communications.


Class 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: hwadvoc@uw.edu; 3) Contact UW Student Coaching and Care, which has staff trained to help students in distress and in need of multiple levels of support: ajmyhre@uw.edu.



Catalog Description: 
Explores the how and why of sound and music for theatre. Includes different uses for audio in plays; choosing sounds and pieces of music; basic editing of music, environments, and effects; designing a cohesive world of sound.
GE Requirements: 
Arts and Humanities (A&H)
Last updated: 
February 11, 2021 - 9:12pm