Summer 2020 Courses

THEA 501: Playwright’s Lab (4) Ristau

All students, faculty, staff, and guests meet regularly for readings of student work, guest presentations, exercises, and discussion. Students submit an example of their best work for available public reading slots. Students whose work is selected for readings are responsible for arranging, rehearsing, and presenting them. A moderated discussion follows each reading. Grades are primarily based on attendance and energetic participation with clear, perceptive, and informed analysis in discussion. Course must be repeated three consecutive summers.

THEA 510: Playscript Analysis and criticism (4) Gogerty

Intensive critical analysis of the playscript as a blueprint for production covering representative texts from a range of theatre styles, genres, and periods. Plays are considered in both their original historical/cultural context as well as implications for contemporary audiences. Course covers major approaches to dramatic criticism and the tools used in theatre research. Required course for first-year students.


This course is designed to take the emerging playwright through the turbulent Sixties (1961 to l974, thirteen years underscored by the Vietnam war). Old societal strictures were breaking down on every corner, across America people were clamoring for new ways of thinking, and within a few small blocks in the East Village of New York City,  theater artists were re-inventing the art form with little regard for the past. By the course’s end, students should be inspired anew in their thinking about the limitless possibilities of their art.


Guest seminars focus on a specific topic within the expertise of the instructor. This year’s seminar will be taught by John Bergman, one of the nation’s leading experts and practitioners in the field of drama therapy. Using a combination of lecture, readings and creative role playing exercises, Bergman will address the history of using theatre to address the needs of specific populations, such as the handicapped, incarcerated, troubled youth, mentally ill, sexually abused, and others.

THEA 520: Narrative Theory and Dramatic Structure (creative) (4) Ristau

Introduction to the basics of storytelling and the creation of dramatic texts using both organic and formulaic models with an emphasis on the one-act play. Students will learn to observe the world for meaning, build characters, place characters in settings, write monologues, create dialogue between characters, and lay the groundwork for longer, more substantive work. This is a required course for first-year students.


Writers are given guided instruction in creating stage plays which incorporate music. Students will be given some historical background in American Musical Theatre, Revues, and straight plays which incorporate original compositions. Students will have an opportunity to meet with and possibly work with a composer on short pieces which use music to help tell the story.


The study and practice of translating autobiography and memoir into a theatrical form. Students will examine other autobiographical theatre texts from solo performances to more traditional plays and playwrights as a launching point for creating their own intensely personal and autobiographical theatre pieces.

THEA 570: FIRST DRAFTS (4) Ristau

In this intensive workshop students come to each class with a completely new play resulting in six new first drafts over the six-week course, each in a different style or genre and incorporating a set list of prompts. While it is possible that these first drafts might eventually be developed and revised into final drafts, the emphasis is on mastering the discipline necessary to produce substantive work on a deadline as well as reinforcing the student’s understanding of the fundamentals of play structure.

THEA 571: Advanced workshop (4) gogerty

A workshop course in which students further develop skills in the writing and analysis of stage plays. Designed for students with prior experience in playwriting. Students will bring to the class a project they would like to further develop through the workshop format – involving analysis by other students and careful, intentional questioning by the instructor. The course is similar in structure to THEA 575, but where that course is an advanced version of Narrative Theory’s targeted exercises and emphasis on exploratory writing, this course functions as an advanced version of Playscript Analysis in which students bring the same dramaturgical analysis to their own play as they formerly did with the work of established playwrights.  Work for this class must not have been previously submitted for credit in any other course without the written consent of both the current instructor and the instructor for whom the work was originally submitted, along with prior approval of the program director, as this course is intended for the development of new materials. The final for this course is a submission ready draft of the play, properly formatted and ready for production. Ideally, this course is taken in the final summer of study, in place of THEA 501.

Directing Certificate Courses Open to Playwrights:


Focused instruction on directing and rehearsal techniques with particular emphasis on approaching the new play when the playwright is attending rehearsals. Students who complete this course will have the confidence to determine whether problems lie in the unfinished text or in the performer’s approach to the play and how to come up with practical ways to differentiate between them.

THEA 561: Directors and playwrights in collaboration (2) Ristau

Guided instruction leading up to the reading of a new play in Festival, and also functioning as a production meeting with participation of the playwright and performers discussing process and progress toward the presentation of the work to the public. All students enrolled in the certificate in New Play Directing will be required to direct a reading in the Hollins Playwright’s Festival, which presents ten new play readings to industry professionals from all over the world. This course is designed to guide directing students through the process of collaboration from the initial read and interview with a playwright, development of concept in consultation with the playwright, and included practical exercises to ensure that when it comes to the test the playwright and director are on the same page. Monday meetings function as a kind of production meeting for the festival readings and will include Festival playwrights. Wednesday sessions are open only to the directing students to discuss their process and problems under the supervision and guidance of the instructor. Repeated each summer.

Performance Certificate Courses Open To Playwrights


Nuts and bolts practical instruction in how to manage your career as a professional performer, and how to showcase your experience as someone experienced in new play development. A practical guide to managing your career as a performer. How to present yourself professionally, audition successfully, be selective in choosing opportunities, and make smart choices in the real world. Subjects covered include headshots, portfolios, agents, internships, showcase performances, working in other mediums like film and television, demo reels, and Actors Equity.


Intense and rapid training in a variety of performance techniques and styles with an emphasis on applications to new play development. Building on prior experiences in performance, this course will guide students through intensive instruction in mask work, character creation, movement, improvisation, commedia and other performance techniques with an emphasis on how to apply them to working on new plays.

THEA 565: Ensembles in Collaboration (2) Henke

All students enrolled in the Certificate in New Play Performance will be required to perform in at least one, but no more than two, Hollins Playwright’s Festival readings. This course is designed to guide performance students through the process of collaboration from the initial table read with the playwright through final performance. The course affords performers an opportunity to debrief their experiences with an experienced theatre professional with expertise in best practices. Performance students are encouraged to serve as readers for festival season and selection and are invited to sit in on the casting session for Festival — at which time they will be able to make preferences known, hear frank discussions of casting needs by directors and playwrights, as well as having input on final casting decisions. Such transparency can be challenging, but is extremely instructive for all concerned.

THEA 574: ADVANCED SCENE STUDY (Creative) (4) Henke

This course provides guided instruction in selecting, preparing and performing two-person scenes from contemporary texts. Through this advanced training in scene study, performers will be better prepared to apply these specific performance strategies to interpreting the evolving characters and contexts found in new plays still under development in rehearsal. This course builds on the foundational courses Playscript Analysis and Ensembles in Collaboration, taken during the first year of the program.

Course offerings dependent upon meeting minimum enrollment requirements.