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DRAMA 457 A: Creating Drama

Meeting Time: 
MW 11:30am - 1:20pm
* *
Adrienne Mackey

Syllabus Description:

DRAMA 457A Game Design in Live Performance

Spring Quarter 2021

Mondays & Wednesdays, 11:30am – 1:20pm


Instructor:  Assistant Professor Adrienne Mackey, School of Drama

Office:  Alas, for now we still must continue our learning in virtual space. Some day I hope to meet you all in person. 

Emailamackey1@uw.edu. This is by far the best way to contact me. Email and I will respond within 48 hours.

Office Hours: During this virtual quarter, I will hang out in our Zoom room after classes on Mondays from 1:30 – 2:30pm. Alternately, you can email me to find another time if you ever need to speak with me.


For many game players, games exist for entertainment, for passing the time, for fun.

They are a diversionary activity, meant for relaxation or distraction — a “not- work” space where players are free to engage in fantasy narratives, amazing feats, and rewarding tasks. But what if certain games have become something more?

Mary Flanagan, Critical Play: Radical Game Design


Class Description:

Immersive and interactive plays are exploding in the theater landscape! Why??? Likely because participatory dramas, where audiences have more agency and activation, focus on the superpower of LIVENESS: creating stories where audiences truly have to "be there" and unfold in direct response to what they do. As theater artists start bravely exploring this exciting new territory, many of our assumed "rules" about how plays work are changing. This is where GAMES come to the rescue! Game design offers tools and systems to structure participatory storytelling, build compelling relationships between players and the fictional worlds they enter, and activate a sense of play and fun for everyone involved. This course will offer students a basic foundation on game design tools useful for theater, study examples of genre-bending game/theater hybrid works from current working artists, and give hands on practice at making some of these works yourself. 


Questions I’m excited to explore:

  • What can game design teach us about making better participatory performances?
  • What might theater teach games about storytelling and embodied experience?
  • What are the “super powers” of a medium that is based in liveness?
  • What makes a play a play? What makes a game a game? How are they similar and where do they diverge?
  • What are the unique opportunities of creating in this interdisciplinary space between the two?


Required Materials:

  • Most important: An open mind!
  • No books required for purchase! All readings will be handed out in class or on Canvas.


Grading and Class Work:


One of the MOST important design processes that game makers use is iteration, i.e. taking an idea you have, testing it to see how people respond and then making it better. I have lots of ideas about what I think this class might be but I’m also pretty sure that in our time together we’re going discover new and exciting things that we want to pursue. That means that I’m intentionally leaving some room for emergent play in this course and as such exactly what the work we’ll be doing is still to be decided. Below is my current plan for the quarter, but know that I *HOPE* and *EXPECT* it change as we find out where we want to dive deeper into various subjects and/or projects.

On the same token, I know that it’s stressful to balance life as a student and that this moment, in particular, is one where you are under incredible pressures. I don’t want grades to be a stress. I want this class to be a class you LOVE coming to, a place where trying and gloriously failing, without worry about impact on your long-term educational goals, is a given.

I’ll be upfront: I want it to be easy to do well academically in this space, so long as you show up, try things that excite you, and genuinely are game to play. I’ll do my best to stay transparent about evaluation and grading as things evolve and if you ever have questions or worry about how you’re doing, HIT ME UP! We’ll figure out together how to make this a learning space that’s both rigorous and fun.


  • WEEKLY RESPONSES (10 responses, one per week, 5 points each):

Each week I’ll expect that you’ve participated in the course sessions, either by attending the lectures and discussions live OR by watching them asynchronously and completing a solo version of the group work we do in class. I’ll provide links to the recorded lectures, which I expect you will watch and be familiar with, as well as descriptions of the class discussion prompts, which you should reflect upon on your own time if you weren’t present when they occurred.

In addition, I will email weekly readings, games, videos, etc for you to familiarize yourself with outside of class. I’ll expect you to have reviewed these by the deadlines listed in the Canvas announcements I send them in, generally as prep for the class that will explore the concepts they introduce. I will let you know what readings are required and when they are optional. I like to think of this as “homeplay” rather than homework.   :)

To log a sense of how you’re processing this content, each week I’ll pose an open ended reflection prompt based on all the week’s material, both in lectures and in the homeplay. These may be turned in via writing or as an equivalent length audio recording. Your opinions are never on trial, but honest and critical thinking is expected.


  • MAKING STUFF! (4 total projects, each at 10 points):

In addition to studying these ideas I’ll expect you to create actual art using the tools we explore. These projects will be presented in class so that you can get hands on experience making something and seeing how people respond. Currently, I’m imagining four projects spread throughout the term, each an experiment on a theme or idea we’ve uncovered in the lectures. These may be solo projects or group efforts, we’ll figure this out as we go. If a given idea really feels exciting, we might expand it and cut one of the projects. It’ll depend on what we find most exciting.


  • ONE ON ONE MEETINGS (2 total, each at 5 points):

Twice during the quarter you and I will meet one on one to talk about the content of the course and dialogue about your creative projects. I’m not grading you on your ideas, more that you show up prepped and ready to have a conversation as a fellow artist. I am currently imagining one of these at the midway point and one near the end of the quarter.


Grading Scale:

4.0-3.9: A       3.8-3.5: A-      3.4-3.2: B+     3.1-2.9: B       2.8-2.5: B-      2.4-2.2: C+

2.1-1.9: C       1.8-1.5: C-      1.4-1.2: D+    1.1-0.9: D       0.8-0.7: D-     

Any student under 0.7 points will receive a failing (E) grade.

You may always email me if you are unsure about your progress in class or want feedback about your work.


Expectations on Attendance and Your Work in the Course:

This course will be part lecture and part practical discussion and collaboration. In my ideal world, you’re present for each class and in conversation with your peers about the ideas we explore. That said, if you do decide to take part asynchronously, I’ll expect you to spend the equivalent of our four hours in class sessions studying this material on your own. I am a big believer that learning requires DOING. So the more time you test, try and explore, the more you’ll discover.

I also believe in creating a life that consists of more than hard work (that’s why I study play for a living) and we are living in an unprecedented moment of stress and trauma. I trust you are showing up and doing your best, and I believe in working with you to make this class work for you. If you are having a tough time, please contact me ASAP. Know that if I see you dropping back or missing assignments consistently, I’ll likely reach out to check in and make sure you’re ok.

Last, in our Zoom moment, I love getting to see your faces to help me gauge responses. However, if you need privacy, for whatever reason, know that I will not penalize you for having your camera off. You are in control of your needs as a learner and while I ask you to be as present as you are able, I want you to feel comfortable and able to work in a way that supports your current context and needs.


Conduct In Class:

The following notes are required for this class. If you stay in this course I expect you to follow these guidelines:

  • FAIL BIG! Part of my emphasis on process over product is that the more we focus on being perfect, the less likely we are to discover something new. I don’t evaluate you based on how well things turn out but on how wild and daring you’re willing to try.
  • Avoid distractions. Cell phone interruptions are distracting to the entire class. Checking email in another tab pulls you out of present tense focus. Do your best to minimize outside distractions while in class. (Emergency exceptions should be discussed prior to class).
  • Be respectful of other classmates. Making stuff is hard and uneven in its progress. One week you may bring in something awesome and then for the next three weeks everything might feel wooden and terrible. It happens to everyone, even the most talented creators, so remember when giving feedback that failure is part of the process. To be creative requires support and mutual trust, so let’s offer each other dignity and kindness to each other as best as we are able in our work together.
  • Do not discriminate others on the basis of gender, sexuality, race, class, ability, nationality, age, etc. This includes “teasing” or “joking,” even if your intention is to be friendly. It will not be tolerated. This should be an inclusive and supportive space and I aim to create that to the best of my ability as an educator.
  • Please call ME in if you feel like I’m not creating a class in which you can be your whole self. As a person who walks through the world with a wealth of privileges, I know that I have blind spots. To invoke activist and educator Jay Smooth, I subscribe to the “dental hygiene” model of anti-discrimination: I don’t brush my teeth once and assume they are forever good to go and the same goes for the approach to creating an inclusive educational space. It’s ongoing the practice of learning, listening and making changes accordingly that is the measure of success. Therefore, if something I do harms you or makes you feel excluded, I very much hope you feel comfortable enough with me to let me know. I will do my best to listen with open ears and THANK YOU for being generous enough to offer that perspective. If you need to voice a concern anonymously or beyond this scope, see the link on voicing concerns under the “Respect for Diversity Statement” section below.
  • Approach the work with bravery and curiosity. Exploring new creative territory requires you to dare to go places that are unknown and, hopefully, exciting. I make the promise not to push to places you are not ready to go to, especially if you voice those concerns. In return I ask that students are willing to try to the best of their ability, even if an exercise seems strange. If you are confused about why we’re doing something, ASK! Chances are your questions are those of others in the room and offer an opportunity to learn together. You are graded based on how you dig in over the course of the class and not an external measurement of how “good” your work is.


Respect for Diversity Statement:

The diversity students bring to this class (including gender identity, sexuality, dis/ability, age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, nationality, religion, and culture) should be honored as a resource, strength and benefit. I will do my best to create an online environment in which each class member is able to hear and respect others. If something is said or done in the virtual classroom, in a discussion, or in the group project process, by myself as instructor or by other students, that is troubling or causes discomfort or offense, the impact of that experience is something important, deserving of attention and I would like to know about its occurrence. The School of Drama has developed the following resource that can help you navigate how to proceed if you would like to voice a concern beyond one of us as your instructor:



Academic Accommodations:

Your experience in this class is important to me. It is the policy and practice of the University of Washington to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law. If you have already established accommodations with Disability Resources for Students (DRS), please activate your accommodations via myDRS so we can discuss how they will be implemented 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), contact DRS directly to set up an Access Plan. DRS facilitates the interactive process that establishes reasonable accommodations. Contact DRS at disability.uw.edu.

Pandemic Accommodations:

These are particularly difficult times, and I aim to accommodate students as best as I can. The university has resources or health and wellness, please take advantage of them if you want or need to. https://wellbeing.uw.edu/

If you are experiencing technical difficulties with remote classes, please alert me to discuss accommodations.

Most importantly, please take your self-care seriously.


The UW Food Pantry:

A student should never have to make the choice between buying food or textbooks. The UW Food Pantry helps mitigate the social and academic effects of campus food insecurity. We aim to lessen the financial burden of purchasing food by providing students with access to food and hygiene products at no-cost. Students can expect to receive 4 to 5 days’ worth of supplemental food support when they visit the Pantry. For information including operating hours, location, and additional food support resources visit https://www.washington.edu/anyhungryhusky/the-uw-food-pantry/

Academic Honesty:

Students at the University of Washington are expected to maintain the highest standards of academic conduct. Cheating, plagiarism and other forms of academic misconduct are considered serious offenses and could result in a variety of disciplinary actions, including suspension or permanent dismissal from the University.

For more information on Academic Honesty (Cheating and Plagiarism) see:


For information on Student Standards of Conduct see:




Religious Accommodations:

Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy (https://registrar.washington.edu/staffandfaculty/religious-accommodations-policy/). Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (https://registrar.washington.edu/students/religious-accommodations-request/).

Disability Resource Services:

The process of artistic creation should be equally available to every student regardless of disability! 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.

Guidance for Students Taking Courses at UW from Outside the U.S.:

Faculty members at U.S. universities – including the University of Washington – have the right to academic freedom which includes presenting and exploring topics and content that other governments may consider to be illegal and, therefore, choose to censor. Examples may include topics and content involving religion, gender and sexuality, human rights, democracy and representative government, and historic events.

If, as a UW student, you are living outside of the United States while taking courses remotely, you are subject to the laws of your local jurisdiction. Local authorities may limit your access to course material and take punitive action towards you. Unfortunately, the University of Washington has no authority over the laws in your jurisdictions or how local authorities enforce those laws.

If you are taking UW courses outside of the United States, you have reason to exercise caution when enrolling in courses that cover topics and issues censored in your jurisdiction. If you have concerns regarding a course or courses that you have registered for, please contact your academic advisor who will assist you in exploring options.


Safe Campus: https://www.washington.edu/safecampus/

Call SafeCampus at 206-685-7233 anytime – no matter where you work or study – to anonymously discuss safety and well-being concerns for yourself or others. SafeCampus’s team of caring professionals will provide individualized support, while discussing short- and long-term solutions and connecting you with additional resources when requested.


Catalog Description: 
Covers learning and application of creative methodologies for the theatre artist. Students study established systems of creative development, the use non-dramatic source texts as a foundation for adaptation into dramatic theatre pieces. Emphasizes artistic entrpreneurship, group collaboration, and applied narrative theories.
GE Requirements: 
Arts and Humanities (A&H)
Last updated: 
February 2, 2021 - 9:02pm