Acting and Not Acting: The Dialectics of Performance (DRA1004)

StaffMrs Emily Kreider - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15.00
NQF Level4
Pre-requisitesEntry to Drama through UCAS
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module aims: 1. to introduce students, through both group practice and individual practice, to Drama as a process and to Acting as a craft; 2. to explore some of the uses, ideas, theoretical material, and training strategies that relate to both of these activities.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. work imaginatively and confidently, with focus and clarity, in a group-orientated, studio-based learning environment
  • 2. research, plan and lead theorised workshops for other students
  • 3. understand and analyse the role and significance of 'play' in the development of 'plays';
  • 4. expand any limited definition of a theatrical 'play' beyond the staging of a verbal, dialogue-driven text
  • 5. operate effectively and reliably, as part of a team, in a devising context.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 6. develop the ability to relate to others in theatrical processes and performances - to work effectively with others in small task-orientated groups, and to initiate and sustain straightforward creative, analytic and interpretative work (within strict time limits);
  • 7. utilise basic research tools effectively and to begin to understand how to translate theory into practice;
  • 8. develop basic library and IT skills (in independent self-directed research);
  • 9. develop confidence in the ability to contribute research to small groups in effective presentations and to evaluate visual evidence (and analyse, critique and manipulate complex material);
  • 10. engage critically and analytically with physical discipline, and develop a basic understanding of physicalisation in performance;
  • 11. begin to learn how to explore theoretical concerns through practice, and vice versa, and to synthesise findings in simple practical and written tasks.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 12. develop basic personal research skills - to identify and evaluate at a basic level personal learning strategies;
  • 13. develop group co-operation skills, including the ability to give and receive constructive critical feedback, and to develop confidence in (or improve) communication skills and simple analytic abilities in discussions;
  • 14. develop confidence in basic performance skills and presentation, both of dramatic practice and researched material;
  • 15. express and communicate straightforward creative ideas and images - to develop the ability to initiate and sustain creative work, both group and solo;
  • 16. learn to collaborate in various groups and group sizes, develop confidence in aspects of teamwork and presentation
  • 17. begin to develop the ability to balance self-direction and collaborative work - to demonstrate basic self-management and collaborative working skills, undertake basic problem solving and critical analysis - to learn to value one's own and others ideas and beliefs.

Syllabus plan

Using an integrated series of studio exercises and seminars, this module explores and introduces an analysis of play, game-structure and narrative, the performer's resources, actor-audience relationships, and rehearsal skills. Exercises and seminars, including the presentation of a 'practical seminar' and the guiding of studio exercises by each student, lead to the presentation of a devised performance at the end of the module. Each student keeps an analytic log-book of their process. Weeks 1-3 (PLAY): The first section of the module focuses on the practical exploration of, and study related to, topics such as children's games, sensory exercises, improvisation and theatre games. These sessions provide an important foundation for later work. In tandem with the timetabled studio sessions, a self-directed group study project (the 'practical seminar') is shared between a small group of 3-4 students. It involves researching a designated book concerned with ideas and practices associated with the term 'play', and drawing on the book to create an informative, 45-60 minute workshop for a group of about 20 students. Weeks 4-9 (PLAYS): The second section of the module focuses on the practical exploration of, and study related to, 'plays'. Carrying forward the sense of 'play' from the first stage of the module, the module expands its definition of 'plays' beyond verbal texts to include such models as sound and/or movement compositions, structured improvisations, visual scripts and image-based theatre pieces. In tandem with the timetabled studio sessions, self-directed time is set aside in order that small groups of 6-7 students can begin to prepare for the final devising task. Each student is given a one-to-one, mid-module tutorial with a tutor. Weeks 10-11 (DEVISING): The third section of the module focuses on the students (in groups of 6-7) devising a piece of theatre or structured 'play', drawing on practices and study encountered earlier in the module. Staff and peer feedback is offered during the devising process. The practical section of the module culminates in a series of shared performances and critical feedback. CREATIVE ANALYSIS: Each student writes a creative analysis, which focuses on the synthesis of material encountered during the PLAY and PLAYS sections of the module. The aim is to make connections between ideas and practices encountered in practical seminars, those explored in staff-led sessions, and those encountered in the students' own reading, theatre-going and personal research.

Staff-led group sessions; student-led group and individual practice; individual study and research related to the practical seminar, the devised performance and the creative analysis; reflective seminars; mentoring of practice; one-to-one tutorials; and keeping a log-book.


Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities66weekly staff-led studio sessions
Scheduled learning and teaching activities33weekly independent group-led studio session
Guided independent study201Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Log book1-4, 7-8, 10-12, 15, 17verbal feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Continuous assessment of studio based practice401-7, 9-17verbal feedback
Small group performance2015 minutes1, 3-7, 9-17verbal feedback
Creative analysis (essay)402,000 words1-4, 7-8, 10-12,17written feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Continuous assessment of studio based practiceEssay 2,000 words1-7, 9-17Referral/deferral period
Small group performancepiece of written work 1,000 words1, 3-7, 9-17Referral/deferral period
Creative analysis (essay)Creative analysis (essay)1-4, 7-8, 10-12,17Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Barker, Clive, Theatre games: a new approach to drama training. London: Methuen, 1977.

Boal, Augusto, trans. Adrian Jackson, Games for actors and non-actors. London: Routledge, 1992.

Hahlo, Richard & Peter Reynolds, Dramatic Events: How to Run a Successful Workshop. London: Faber, 2000.

Heddon, Deirdre & Jane Milling, Devising performance: a critical history. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

Huizinga, Johan, Homo ludens: a study of the play-element in culture. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1949.

Johnston, Chris, House of games: making theatre from everyday life. London: Nick Hern, 1998.

Johnstone, Keith, Impro: improvisation and the theatre. London: Eyre Methuen, 1981. Oddey, Alison, Devising theatre: a practical and theoretical handbook. London: Routledge, 1994.

Opie, Iona & Peter, Children's games in street and playground. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969.

Schechner, Richard, Performance studies: an introduction. London: Routledge, 2002.

Spolin, Viola, Improvisation for the theater: a handbook of teaching and directing techniques. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1983.

Tufnell, Miranda & Chris Crickmay. Body space image: notes towards improvisation and performance. London: Dance Books, 1993.

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Library-based video documents by Exeter graduate theatre companies, who use devising techniques to create work across a range of genres: Speak Bitterness and Making Performance Educational Video by Forced Entertainment; Shelf Life and The Night Before Christmas by Theatre Alibi; Six Dead Queens and Pushing Daisies by Foursight Theatre. Devised performances at Exeter Phoenix and the Northcott Theatre.

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

drama, theatre, acting, not-acting, play, plays, devising, actor training