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THEATR-110 - Understanding Theatre - Allan Trautman

Course:Understanding Theatre
Professor:Allan Trautman
  • Online
Course Length:
  • 8 Week


Allan Trautman, Instructor

Understanding Theatre is an introductory course that is grounded in everyday experience (for non-Theatre majors), and detailed enough to give Theatre majors a good foundation for their studies. I like my class to be participatory, fun, and interesting from week to week. Just because you're working by yourself in an online class does not mean that you're working alone!

I love attending theatre and teaching theatre. Its roots go back to the earliest forms of storytelling—probably small groups of people sitting around a fire with their tribe—while at the same time it is completely contemporary, exploring what it means to be a human being in today's world. All forms of storytelling we see today, from YouTube videos to network television and feature films, began with theatre.

This semester I have retooled my course to use a different textbook, one that's less expensive, more streamlined, more directed at helping you with your final critique assignments, and, perhaps most importantly, more fun than the previous textbook. The chapters are a little shorter, more to-the-point, and breezy.

Course Description

In this course, we will pursue some fundamental questions: What is theatre? Why and how do artists make theatre? Why and how do we attend and study theatre? How does theatre influence, shape, transform, and enrich our identities? How is theatre influential in the shaping of our culture, and how does our culture shape our theatre?

Understanding Theatre will give you an overview of world theatre history and practice. We will analyze theatre and the theatrical event from the audience perspective. Your culminating activity will be to write critiques of two theatrical events you attend. Readings will cover aspects of production such as acting, directing, design, and playwriting, as they are practiced throughout the world and over time. We will examine how theatre traditions have been created, as well as how they have been adapted.

What to Expect in this Course

I’m going to run this course as an “ungraded” class. This is new to most people so let me tell you why. The simple answer is that I believe that this is the best way to support you, both as humans and as my students. I have been studying concepts related to assessment, equality, learning styles, and general best teaching practices for quite some time now and I’ve concluded that I cannot in good conscious keep teaching in the standard method. I will probably make mistakes in implementing this plan, but I am asking you to go on this journey with me as I continue to grow as an instructor and, I hope, as a human being. I invite each of you to do the same.

The work we do in this class is meant to help support ongoing learning and a growth mindset. I will provide feedback at various stages along the way to help you improve. And each submission will get credit as long as you give it your full effort. This means that during this class you will:

  • Focus on understanding and learning, not on your mistakes.
  • Work for yourself, not for me.
  • Take risks and challenge yourself, not play it safe.
  • Use feedback to learn and grow, not be penalized

I hope on a practical level that the typical stress level associated with trying to "get it all right" shouldn't be present in this class. If you ever feel stressed out by this class, then please come to me right away so that we can identify what the challenge you are facing is and we’ll work together to create a solution.

I am required to give you a grade at the end of the course, but the day-to-day work will not receive a grade. Rather, all the various individual pieces will be run using a complete/incomplete system. I will be providing feedback in the form of comments and questions that are meant to engage and grow your work. There will also be peer interaction and feedback as well as personal reflection on your own work. The goal here is to provide an environment that excites you in the learning while removing the stress (and sometimes focus on) the grade as the final product. Should you be uncomfortable with this process, that is to be expected. This is new and different. However, if you find this process creating more anxiety than it alleviates, please come and talk with me at any point. If you are worried about your grade, your best strategy is to participate and complete the assignments. If an assignment does not feel productive, I am always willing to find ways to adapt the assignment that better suits your personal needs.

Types of Assessments

During the semester, you will be engaged in six types of activities.

  1. Student-lead (and other types of) discussions: You will facilitate online discussions with your classmates for some weekly modules. In other weeks, discussions will follow a different format, to avoid getting in a weekly rut. Student-led discussions consist of:
    • Posting an original prompt (question) about the reading material,
    • Replying to others’ comments in your thread, and
    • Replying to others’ questions in their threads.
  2. Individual homework assignments: These are occasional weekly assignments you will complete as part of some weekly modules. Examples of such assignments include:
    • Writing personal responses to course material,
    • Analyzing play structure, and
    • Analyzing a critique of a theatrical production.
    • Writing a practice critique and giving each other feedback on it.
  3. Play critiques: You are required to view one pre-approved live theatrical performance by a college or professional company during the semester—preferably the show produced on campus by the Theatre Department. You will write a critique for the production.
  4. Tests: There will be three tests spaced throughout the semester. Each covers one section of the textbook over a number of modules.
  5. Quizzes: Short weekly quizzes on the chapter material. Each week is a practice quiz covering the previous week’s material. Also you will have a chapter summary quiz covering the current week’s material.

Textbook Information

Main course textbook

Another Opening, Another Show: A Lively Introduction to the Theatre, Third Edition
by Tom Markus , Linda Sarver, et al. | Apr 26, 2019

ISBN: 9781478637271

Play script

by Lynn Nottage 

ISBN: 9780822237648

Other Relevant Course Information

Is this online course right for you?

All work in this course occurs online.  There are no face-to-face meetings. This course requires the same time commitment as the face-to-face version.

You can log in at any time convenient to you, the time of day that you complete your work is more flexible than it would be with an in-person class. But there are weekly deadlines, which means this is not a class in which you can complete work far behind your classmates or make up work during the last weeks of the term. This is not a learn-at-your-own-pace course. For example, if your first discussion post one week is late, that makes it difficult for others to take part in the discussions, so you lose points.

I expect students to sign on to Canvas five times a week to retrieve and submit assignments and to participate in discussions. If you will not be able to do this, this is not the course for you. You should not plan to sign in and work on the class a few hours before each deadline.

Success in this course relies upon your commitment to do the coursework independently. If you prefer to have hands-on guidance and face-to-face interaction, take the in-person version of this class. To succeed in and enjoy this course, you need to be self-reliant, self-aware, motivated, disciplined, and focused. Also, since the majority of your input will be written rather than oral, you need to be able to express yourself clearly in writing.


The textbook is not optional. To be successful in this course you will need to rent or buy a new or used textbook, either online or physical. All tests and discussions, and some assignments, stem from the textbook. This starts with your first chapter discussion in Module 1. If you do not get the textbook, I don’t see how you can pass this class.

Additional Resources


This course can be accessed on the first day of class via Canvas at Log into Canvas using your CanyonsID single sign-on:

  • CanyonsID Username is your COC student email address (Ex:
  • CanyonsID Password is your COC student email password

Please visit the Get to Know Your Online Classroom page for help logging into Canvas and for tips on using Canvas and Zoom. Canvas Chat Support is also available 24/7 for any Canvas related issues.

Online Education

Check out the Online Education website for more information on a variety of topics that can help you be a successful online student such as: exam proctoring, learning styles, computer skills, and tips for student success. If this is your first online course, feel free to take our online learning readiness assessment to assess your skills.

The Learning Center (TLC)

The TLC provides FREE online tutoring resources to COC students!

Academic Accommodation Center (AAC)

College of the Canyons AAC provides educational services and access for eligible students with documented disabilities who intend to pursue coursework at COC. A variety of programs and services are available which afford eligible students with disabilities the opportunity to participate fully in all aspects of the college programs and activities through appropriate and reasonable accommodations. For more information on their services visit the Academic Accomodation Center website.

Online Counseling

The Counseling Department offers appointments online. You can schedule an appointment by visiting the Online Counseling website. Counselors can help you map out a plan to reach your educational goals as well as advise you on course selection and registration.

Management of Stress and Mental Health

Often the pressure on our students is very strong, involving academic commitments, relationships, outside jobs and family pressure to name a few. The staff and faculty of College of the Canyons are here to see you succeed academically and care about your emotional and physical health. You can learn more about the broad range of confidential student services, including counseling and mental health services available on campus by visiting the Student Health & Wellness Center in the Student Services Building (across from the bookstore). The phone number is 661-362-3259 that you can call 24/7. You can also e mail for an appointment at At the Canyon Country Campus the Health Center will be in the new Student Services Building.

Also, the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline number is now 988. All students at COC are encouraged to enter that phone number in their cells. You can call it when you, or someone you know, is having thoughts of suicide or is in severe distress.

You can also now use the Crisis Text Line: Just text "Courage" to 741741. Someone will get back to you immediately. Its free, 24/7, and confidential.

Veterans Resource Center

The College of the Canyons Veterans Resource Center is a department within the Student Services Division at the college, created to help veterans and veteran dependents with applying to College of the Canyons, enrolling in classes, and requesting VA Education or Vocational Benefits. For more information please visit the Veterans Resource Center website, email or phone (661) 362-3469.


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Last updated: 10/16/2023 Sub#: 1347