Faculty of Arts


Drama: Topics and Themes


This course focuses on several topics around working with an audience, especially in comic acting and comic forms. You should be prepared for extensive practical workshops and exercises on the material studied, both solo and in groups. Topics of exploration will include: laughter, the comic actor and the audience, clowning, styles of comedy and the comic, the social spaces of performance, and so on. We will look in particular at traditions of the mask and mask performance in commedia dell’arte and elsewhere, extending into later work and to non-mask work that can be transformed by mask knowledge, such as work by Shakespeare and Beckett. Our final project will be a performance of sections of a classic comedy addressed and redevised by the class in groups.

Readings for workshop sessions will be provided over Canvas in weekly modules, and you are also expected to work on group projects for a further two hours a week, on Wednesday afternoons. Assessment is based on work in class, both individually and in groups, plus occasional written reflective assessments of your creative exploration and development. There is no examination. 


During this course you will develop expertise, experience and strategies in the following areas:

  • Improvisational games and exercises
  • Theories of laughter and their relevance to comic structures and performance
  • Theory, traditions and practical performance of mask work, both individually and in groups
  • Enhanced acquaintance with standard comic structures and aspects of clowning (skits, business, shtick, improv and so on)
  • Enhanced acquaintance with Shakespearean language and comic structures
  • Scenarios and strategies of working in group project environments


Provisional class limits for 2021:

Enrolment is limited to 30 students. First priority: students with a Drama major ranked by grade in DRAMA 302. Second priority: Any Drama majors who have not yet sat DRAMA 302 ranked by grade in DRAMA 204. Third priority: Drama minors ranked by grade in DRAMA 204. Fourth priority: other students who have passed DRAMA 204 ranked by grade in DRAMA 204. Fifth priority: students in non-Drama majors ranked by grade in Drama-related courses. Sixth priority: students with other demonstrable experience in the dramatic arts.


Coursework only.

Availability 2021

Semester 2


Coordinator(s) Professor Tom Bishop




Coursework only


DRAMA 301: 15.0 points


DRAMA 202 or 204 and approval of Academic Head or nominee


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