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The Playwriting & Screenwriting BA Program | Academic Requirements | Student Learning Outcomes | Minor in Playwriting | Minor in Screenwriting | Courses | Faculty

The Playwriting and Screenwriting Program: Courses

1000–1999 (lower level, freshman)
2000–2999 (lower level, sophomore)
3000–3999 (upper level, junior)
4000–4999 (upper level, senior)


Playwriting I
PSW 1000
/ 4 credits / Fall
An introduction to the basic techniques of writing for the stage, beginning with the story. Multiple short writing assignments emphasize character, plot, diction, subtext, and meaning. They include writing from personal experience, adapting a short story and a classical play, and using a current news story as inspiration. Students discuss Aristotle’s elements as they pertain to the scene, apply basic elements of the craft, read several short plays, and attend performances on campus and in New York City.

Screenwriting I
PSW 1010
/ 4 credits / Fall
Introduces the student to writing a dramatic story for the screen, placing an emphasis on discovery, good work habits, critical assessment, and rewriting as essential to the professional writer. Through numerous assignments, students learn the basics of dramatic story structure, revealing character, writing dialogue, genre, and use of story suspense. All techniques are applied in a final short screenplay.

Plays and Playgoing
PSW 1250
/ 4 credits / Every semester
What makes a play alive, provocative, and vital? Using classics of dramatic literature as well as plays that are new to the stage, students read and examine the ideas and mechanics of the play. An examination of some key texts and theories, including Aristotle’s Poetics, Brecht’s Epic Theatre, Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty, and Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed lead to a fresh look at the old and the new. Students attend plays on campus and in New York City, and meet some of today’s leading theatre artists.

Introduction to Cinema Studies and II
CIN 1500
and 1510 Refer to Cinema Studies Courses for description.


Screenwriting II: Adaptation
PSW 2000
/ 4 credits / Every semester
Using an existing short piece of fiction, students delineate the elements of the story, experiencing their importance and power; translate the short story into a screenplay for a narrative film; and complete two drafts of a 25-page screenplay. In the process, they learn the techniques of adaptation for the screen and a deeper level of dramatic story structure. Emphasis is on discovering the dramatic character when evaluating the merits of a particular adaptation, which extends to evaluating one’s own ideas for a screenplay; introducing genre and story types; and research as a dramatist’s fundamental tool.
Prerequisite: PSW 1010

Playwriting II
PSW 2010
/ 4 credits / Fall
Building on PSW 1000, students read and attend new plays, develop in-class writing exercises, and then write and revise a 30-page play.
Prerequisite: PSW 1000

Shakespeare Then and Now
THP 2205
Refer to Theatre and Performance Courses (Conservatory of Theatre Arts) for description.

The Collaborative Process
PSW 2500
/ 3 credits / Spring
Dramatic writing cannot be effective without an understanding of the collaborative process. Students direct, act, and write in this course, which is taught by a professional theatre director. Each student directs a scene from dramatic literature, writes scenes to be directed and acted by fellow classmates, learns some fundamental exercises for the actor, and develops the beginning vocabulary and techniques of the theatre director.

Theatre Histories I and II
THP 2885
and 2890 Refer to Theatre and Performance Courses (Conservatory of Theatre Arts) for description.

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Screenwriting III
PSW 3000
/ 4 credits / Fall
An introduction to full-length narrative and the three-act structure employed by Hollywood. The art and craft of screenwriting are explored through analysis and developing, writing, and rewriting a screenplay (30 to 40 pages). Techniques covered include overlapping dialogue, establishing shots, voice-over, montages, and creating tension and payoff. The business of the screenwriter, how to pitch, and finding work/selling a screenplay are also covered.
Prerequisite: Junior or senior standing, and PSW 2000 or permission of instructor

The Writer and the Documentary
PSW 3120
/ 4 credits / Spring
In recent years, opportunities in nonfiction work have grown significantly. In this course, students screen and analyze documentary films, and produce their own short nonfiction film on digital video. Field assignments include researching and conducting interviews; written assignments include narration exercises, documentary summaries, and scripts. Students also learn the basics of Final Cut Pro editing software.
Prerequisite: Permission of instructor

Playwriting III
PSW 3200
/ 4 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
Students submit plays to be developed in a reading series with actors and a director. Each class is devoted to one play—rehearsed by the actors and director, read for the class, and discussed by all. The collaborative process and vocabulary of constructive criticism are developed. Writers revise their plays during the semester and actors develop crucial play-reading techniques and flexibility.
Prerequisite: Junior or senior standing, and PSW 2010 or permission of instructor

Writers’ Scene Workshop
PSW 3230
/ 4 credits / Fall
Explores the fine anatomy of writing the scene, with emphasis on writers looking at their work from the perspective of the director and on working with actors. Students write and direct a dramatic scene in digital video and learn to produce their video, using Final Cut Pro editing software and the basics of camera/lighting techniques.
Prerequisite: PSW 2000

Writing for Television
PSW 3300
/ 4 credits / Every semester
Screenings and discussion of various forms of the medium, including the sitcom, television movies, and documentary and experimental forms. Students write a script that is critiqued in class and rewritten, with concentration on the world of the story, tone, character, style, dramatic tension, pacing, and evolving narrative.
Prerequisite: PSW 1010 or permission of instructor

Book Writing: Story Structure in Musical Theatre
PSW 3310
/ 4 credits / Every year
Examines the history and craft of storytelling in musical theatre. Students consider song topic and placement to structure a short original musical. The ability to read and write music is not required.
Prerequisite: PSW 1000 and 1010

The TV Writer’s Room
PSW 3400
/ 4 credits / Spring
Students experience the real-world model of collaboratively writing a television series in a “writer’s room.” With the instructor as “show runner,” the class creates a half-hour series and together writes a pilot episode. Each student then writes an episode for the series. Episodic story structure, weaving multiple story lines, the tradition television series, and newly emerging variations are covered.
Prerequisite: PSW 1010

Writing the Web Series
PSW 3500
/ 4 credits / Fall
The landscape of short-form, online, episodic storytelling is surveyed, and each student is required to conceive a short-form episodic series, create the show “bible,” and write and produce a pilot “webisode” for that series. Emphasis is on story structure and telling a story in a nontraditional form.
Prerequisite: PSW 1010

Documentary Theatre: Performing Real Life
THP 3500
Refer to Theatre and Performance Courses (Conservatory of Theatre Arts) for description.

Adapting Literature for Performance
THP 3725
Refer to Theatre and Performance Courses (Conservatory of Theatre Arts) for description.

Junior Seminar in Playwriting and Screenwriting
PSW 3880
/ 4 credits / Spring
Students develop ideas for their senior project—a play or screenplay. They research, develop, and present their scenarios to the class for response and critique.
Prerequisite: PSW 2000 and 2010; CIN 1500 or 1510; THP 2885 or 2890; and permission of instructor

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Making New Plays
PSW 4150
/ 3 credits / Spring
Writers and actors learn tools for working together on new plays. Taught by a playwright and a director, the class studies different collaborative models, including devised theatre, and explores communication strategies for working through creative friction. The course culminates in a final showcase on campus.
Prerequisite: Permission of instructor

Senior Colloquium in Playwriting and Screenwriting
PSW 4880
/ 2 credits / Fall
During the solitary pursuit of writing their first full-length play or screenplay, students come together regularly to share in-process work for feedback and critique. A completion schedule is created, and assignments are given to aid in the scriptwriting discovery process. Classes are also devoted to visiting professionals who relate their experiences in the business of being a playwright or screenwriter.
Prerequisite: PSW 3880

Senior Project I and II
SPJ 4990
and 4991 / 4 credits (per semester) / Every year
The two-semester culminating project for playwriting and screenwriting majors. In the fall, students meet regularly with their mentor and write an outline and rough draft of a full-length stage play or screenplay, culminating in a reading of the draft. The spring semester is devoted to a significant rewrite of the play or screenplay under the guidance of the mentor. This work is expected to be at a professional level.
Prerequisite: for a playwriting senior project, PSW 2010 and THP 2885; for a screenwriting senior project, CIN 1510 and PSW 2000; for a television senior project, PSW 3300 and two PSW electives

Updated Mar. 21, 2016

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Please direct updates for this page to the managing editor in the Office of the Provost and Academic Affairs. To add a course, please refer first to the Faculty Handbook.

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