Logo for: Northern Virginia Community College --Student Centered / Community Focused


Theatre Appreciation -- SPD 141 -- Online Course

--online course--

-SUMMER 2005, SPRING 2005,
FALL 2004 & SUMMER 2004-


Instructor: Dr. Eric W. Trumbull, Professor, Theatre / Speech


3 Credits


ELI Policies and Procedures
Contacting the Instructor
Beginning the Course
Other Considerations
Tentative Schedule



 The purpose of this Theatre Appreciation class is to increase students' understanding, appreciation, and critical perceptions of the theatrical event. Readings and lectures will focus on the elements of theatrical practice; artists and innovators of theatre throughout history; and on the theatre's development as an art form and a social phenomenon; participation in class forum discussions and sharing of critiques and short reports will offer avenues to explore students' individual theatrical interests; and optional attendance at theatrical events will offer first­hand experience in theatre arts.

Entry Level Competencies:  Since this course is taught entirely over the World Wide Web, you should also be familiar with how to use a standard Web browser (Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer) and electronic mail. Students are expected to be reasonably proficient in written and spoken Standard American English. Familiarity with computers, the Internet, and e-mail are also necessary for the best success in this class.

Each student MUST have an activated e-mail account and MUST send e-mail to me from that account within the first two weeks of class so that I can identify your e-mail address.

Each student must log on to the SPD 130 OnLine Forum on the VCCS Blackboard at least twice a week to read and post messages concerning class or theatre-related issues or concerns.


This section of SPD 141 is a distance-learning course. We will not see one another, but we will be in contact: 

you will post comments to public forums; 

your instructor and fellow students will respond to your comments and you will read and respond to other students' comments

you will send and receive e-mail 

you will call the instructor occasionally to keep in touch. 

In short, you will not be isolated, although you will be doing your work apart from other students. Since this course is on the Internet, you need to have access to the Internet, including an e-mail address, and be reasonably familiar with how the Internet works in order to do the course work. 

You will need to pass at least two of the three exams you are required to take in order to pass the course.

Failure to complete ONE of the critiques OR one of the presentations / web pages will result in a grade no higher than a "C." Failure to complete TWO of the critiques OR TWO of the presentations / web pages or ONE OF EACH will will result in a failing grade.


Americans with Disabilities Act -- Statement

If any student with any kind of disability has difficulty using any of the materials on these pages, please contact me for any help I can offer you.

I have made the assumption that most students have relatively fast computers and internet connections; if any of you have any difficulty using any of the material in this class, please contact me for any help I may be able to offer.






During this course you will learn to:

a. Distinguish characteristics of theatre that differentiate it from other art forms

b. Describe the major components of the theatrical event

c. Describe the functions of the various theatre personnel

d. Define specific terms relating to the study of theatre

e. List and describe the parts of a play

f. Describe the different forms of drama

g. Distinguish between theatre and drama

h. Describe the different parts of plot

i. Read and write critiques on major plays: one critique MUST be on one of the assigned plays; the other two MUST be on plays other than those assigned

j. Describe characteristics of theatre in various periods of history

k. Participate in online activities involving set design and construction, directing, acting, and playwriting

l. Develop an appreciation for theatre as an art form and a reflection of society

m. THREE required exams
    The THIRD EXAM will be a SHORT OPINION ESSAY -- for which you cannot study as it will be based on your opinion only -- and I recommend that, if you want to reduce your trips to a Campus testing center, you plan on taking BOTH EXAMS TWO AND THREE ON THE SAME DAY.

n. Participate with a group of others in the class to present two short papers, which will be presented as PowerPoint presentations or web pages (click here to get information) on specific aspects of theatre (to be determined during the course), depending on students' individual areas of theatrical interest. [Look at the Project Suggestions and Research Topics pages for possible presentation or web page subjects, or check with me on your own ideas...].

o. Participate in forum discussion activities with other members of the class

p. Write two critiques of plays that you read or see during the semester: one critique MUST be on one of the assigned plays; the other one MUST be on a play other than those assigned


Each critique will be of productions you attend or plays you read during the semester (details can be found here...);
Presentations / web pages will be on subjects relating to a specific area of theatre studies (details can be found here...)
Each is to be a two­ to three­ page paper, typed and double­ spaced on standard­ size (8 1/2" x 11") paper, and should be send to me as an attachment in MS Word format. They will demonstrate college - level writing and will be graded based on content and presentation. While a variety of qualities may pass for "college level," at a minimum it means that that writing is appropriately concise and clear; spelling, punctuation, and grammar are accurate (sentences are complete, subject/verb and pronoun/antecedent agree, etc.); and your work is reasonably neat. Proofread your work, or have someone else proofread it, and make any corrections as neatly as possible on the final paper. Use any standard form for bibliographic entries.

COMPLETED Presentations / Web pages should include the URL for the item; if you cannot post on the web, send it to me and I'll post in online for other students to view when finished.


Please be aware of an ELI policy applicable to this course:

Students are limited to submitting only:


this policy will ensure that you must pace yourself during the semester, and will ensure that your instructor is better able to deal with each student's papers as they are each submitted.

PLEASE: Do NOT submit more than one presentation / web page or critique to me during any seven-day period.

NOTE: I will now be LOWERING the grade of any Presentations / Web pages or critiques but the first received by me in a 7-day period (unless, of course, arrangements have been made with me beforehand). DO NOT submit more than one Presentation / Web page or critique to me in a 7-day period or your grade will suffer!



Each critique should be e-mailed to me as an attachment (in MS Word 95 or later format -- check with me about sending papers in other formats), which I can then post on the internet with my comments.
DO NOT post critiques in the "Digital Dropbox" section of Blackboard as I will not be looking there to get them.
DO NOT send critiques by fax or regular
snail-mail, as I will be unable to post them on the internet.


PLEASE NOTE:  for all papers you submit for this class (critiques, presentations / web pages, extra credit), you MUST include the following information at the top of your paper; include it as part of the text of the paper and not as a header, as this will make it easier for me to mark the document electronically:

Your Name
Your Class (SPD 141, Theatre Appreciation)
The semester for which you are registered (i.e.: Fall 2004, Summer 2004, etc.)

The Assignment (i.e.: Critique One, Paper Two, etc.)
Date of submission


This information MUST be included on ALL written assignments.






Book cover: Edwin Wilson ,The Theater Experience, 9th edition   

Edwin Wilson ,The Theater Experience, 9th edition (WITH CD-ROM -- Do NOT buy a book without the CD-ROM!),McGraw-Hill, 2004.

You may purchase the textbook for this course at any of the five NVCC bookstores. See ELI Policies and Procedures for locations and phone numbers. You may also purchase your textbook by mail by calling (888) 744-7839. Purchasing textbooks by mail takes longer, so order your book early. 

PLEASE: Read this important information about the relationship between the text and the class "lectures."


Sophocles -- Oedipus Rex (This play will sometimes be called Oedipus Tyrannus [or Tyrannos] or Oedipus the King ["rex" and "tyrannus" both mean "king"] and may sometimes be found together with the rest of the trilogy, which includes Antigone and Oedipus at Colonus)

Henrik Ibsen -- A Doll House

Arthur Miller -- Death of a Salesman

Mark Hollman & Greg Kotis -- Urinetown (use Internet Explorer with Flash enabled to view this site).


You may purchase your own copies of these plays, or you may borrow them from a library. A few of the classical plays are available on the Internet, and some are not. I highly encourage you to view as many of them as you can; many are on video or film, which you could rent or which are available at various libraries (including some of our campus LRCs). For instance, the Greek, Roman, and Medieval plays are available in various versions at our Woodbridge Campus LRC; A Doll's House is available in a variety of versions [the Golden Age of Television version, for instance, with Julie Harris and Christopher Plummer; or newer British versions, one with Claire Bloom and Anthony Hopkins, and another with racier portrayals of Nora and Torvald]; the original Broadway cast of Death of a Salesman can be heard on LP (remember those?), and there is a video of the show with Dustin Hoffman as Willie. 

I'm afraid the only ways I can think of for you to get a copy of Urinetown is to buy the libretto or buy or borrow the CD from a library; I highly recommend seeing the show or listening to the CD as you read the libretto, as the whole "story" will then make much more sense. 




IMPORTANT NOTE: ELI Policy States the Following:
"Students who do not send in their minimum required assignments as specified by the instructor by the last withdrawal date (shown on the first page of your Quick-Start Syllabus) will be administratively withdrawn with no refund."
For this class, the "minimum required assignments" are:
AT LEAST ONE of the required assignments: Critique, Presentation / Web Page, or Exam.

To request a grade of Incomplete for this course , you must have satisfactorily completed the following course work:
at least 50% of the total assignments for the class, which equals SIX out of the twelve assignments.


The following is a breakdown of percentages for each assignment:

Exam 1 --                                 -- 15%

Exam 2 --                                  -- 15%

3 Web Exercises--                    -- 15% (3 @ 5%)

2 Critiques --                          -- 25% (2 @ 12.5% each)

2 Group presentations /
             web pages--              -- 20% (2 @ 10% each)

Online Participation --           -- 10% (includes AT LEAST SEVEN Blackboard "Discussion Board" readings and postings)

Exams will be based on textbook readings, class lectures, plays read and seen, and class discussions.

Note that the scale above is a guide only. The instructor reserves the right to curve the scale to reflect the overall class performance.

This syllabus and schedule may be changed if necessary. You are expected to comply with any announced changes.



Grading Scale

A90-100 points90-100 percent
B80-89 points80-89 percent
C70-79 points70-79 percent
D60-69 points60-69 percent
FFewer than 60 pointsLess than 60 percent


Since ELI courses are self-paced, you take exams when you are ready. You must take the exams at one of the five NVCC Campus Testing Centers. See ELI Policies and Procedures for locations and phone numbers and information about proctors for students who live outside the Northern Virginia area. Call the Testing Center before you go to make sure they will be open and will stay open long enough for you to complete the exams. Take along a photo ID and the appropriate Exam Pass

There are two exams in this course, both consisting of objective (multiple-choice / true-false) questions with the possibility of one or two short essay questions; allow about 1-2.hours to complete each exam.

PLEASE NOTE: Blackboard Peculiarity: Exams one and two each have essay questions; exam three is nothing but an essay question. Blackboard requires me to assign points for each of the essays; I've assigned 5 points for each. What this means is that when you finish exams one and two, your percentage score out of the total possible points will not be as high as it actually is: Blackboard thinks, and will indicate to you, that your raw score includes at least 5 extra points that you did not get -- I have to assign you a score of "0" on your unanswered essays. SO -- count the number of correct answers you got on the objective part of the exam and add the number of points you received for the one essay -- that will equal your total score for the exam.


ELI Policies and Procedures 
This is an Extended Learning Institute (ELI) course. ELI courses differ from campus courses in several important ways, including enrollment dates, communication with faculty, assignment completion requirements, and exams. You must follow ELI's policies and procedures if you take this course. Read (or review) ELI's Policies and Procedures before you begin the course. 


Contacting the Instructor 


--You may contact me through regular e-mail at etrumbull@nvcc.edu or by telephone at my Woodbridge Campus office (703) 878-5750 (leave a voicemail message if I do not answer). If you send e-mail, please try to get in the habit of putting "SPD141" (quote marks unnecessary) in the subject line of your e-mail (clicking on my e-mail address above should open your e-mail program and place that text in the subject line for you).

This is THE BEST WAY to get in touch with me other than e-mail. DO NOT bother to try me by telephone at ELI, as my voicemail there will direct you to call my Woodbridge Campus phone number instead.

You may also call me to schedule a meeting in person at my Campus office in Woodbridge. 


Beginning the Course 


To begin the class, go back to the main page at



Other Considerations
Other Considerations  


Course Accommodations

If there are any students in this class who have special needs because of a learning disability or any other kind of disability, please feel free to discuss your situation with me. You MUST let me know of the disability within TWO WEEKS of the start of class or within TWO WEEKS of diagnosis of such a disability, and your disability MUST be documented with the Counseling Center.


Please read these! They are part of your success in this course.

Your success in class depends on your ability to understand and apply concepts that can be best mastered by participating in class activities


It is expected that you will do your own work. If it is discovered that you have taken your work from another source (either written document or a student’s work), you will receive an "F" and be dismissed from the class. There may also be additional action taken by the College.

 --Disruptive Behavior

Disruptive or abusive behavior on the Internet classroom that distracts from the learning-teaching process will not be tolerated. You are expected to do your very best to improve your own knowledge and abilities and to support other students in all aspects of the class. You are expected to behave with consideration and respect for others.

Special note:
This course is designed to conform to the objectives established for all courses in the SPD Program at NVCC, which include the following:
Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to report increased self-confidence; express your ideas with verbal fluency; apply knowledge of nonverbal communication in sending and receiving messages; demonstrate critical thinking skills in sending and receiving messages; demonstrate organizational skills; adapt messages and behaviors to different communication contexts; employ listening and responding skills adapted to different communication contexts; and demonstrate an understanding and respect for cultural and social diversity.


Tentative Schedule
Tentative Schedule: This class is "continuous enrollment," meaning that students enroll at different times throughout the semester they register for. You are expected to complete the course within a sixteen-week time period, starting from your enrollment date, using the following schedule as a guideline: 


Index of Lessons

Date                                                               Agenda                                               Assignments
Week 1: UNIT I:

What is theatre? 


Origins, Theories

 Send e-mail to the instructor at etrumbull@nvcc.edu within the first two weeks of start date.

Send e-mail periodically -- about once every 4 weeks -- throughout the semester just to check in and let me know of any concerns you may have.


Read discussion board messages and post a message on the Discussion Board (go to the VCCS Blackboard at http://bb.vccs.edu.
You must post at least one message in each Blackboard discussion board (except "Class Issues / Concerns," and "Terms / Definitions" --- but please post messages there if appropriate), and you are of course encouraged to read and post messages frequently

Read the "Introduction" from Wilson


Post an introduction to yourself in the Blackboard Discussion Forums

Week 2: 

Elements of theatre 

Theatre as Art and Performance
Audience and Theatre 

 Chapter 1


Week 3The theatre environment 

Society, critic, and theatre

Audience and Theatre 

Chapters 2 and 3


By this time, you should have posted comments to the "Theatre as Art" discussion board...
Week 4: The Playwright and the theatre  Chapters 8 and 14


Critique One
Week 5:

The Playwright and the play 

 Chapters 13 and 15


Read Oedipus Rex


Web Exercise One

Week 6:Types / Styles of Theatre

Chapters 9 and 10


By this time, you should have posted comments to the "Oedipus Rex" discussion board...
Week 7: 

Chapters 11 and 12

Read A Doll House

Week 8: 





Week 9: 

Unit II: Theatre Personnel

The actor and the theatre 


Chapter 5


By this time, you should have posted comments to the "Doll House" discussion board...


Group Project One

Week 10: The actor and the theatre 

Chapter 6

Web Exercise Two
Week 11:  The director and the theatre 

Chapter 7


The Director and Producer


Read Death of a Salesman


Week 12:The designers and the theatre 

Chapters 4 and 16


The Designers


By this time, you should have posted comments to the "Acting/Directing/Designing" discussion board...

Week 13:The designers and the theatre 

Chapters 17 and 18


The Designers (cont.)

History of Stage Lighting


Critique Two


Week 14:




Read (and listen to, if possible) Urinetown


By this time, you should have posted comments to the "Death of a Salesman" discussion board..


Web Exercise Three

Week 15



By this time, you should have posted comments to the "Urinetown" discussion board..


Group Project Two

Week 16  EXAMS 2 & 3



To begin this course, choose one of the units below.

To see a detailed listing of lessons click Index:

Course Main Page

A Note about the Textbook


This page and all linked pages in this directory are copyrighted © Eric W. Trumbull, 1998-2005.

This page last modified: April 25, 2005