Writing Plan Phases
Collecting Baseline Data
First Edition Writing Plan
Second Edition Writing Plan
Third Edition Writing Plan
  • phase completed
  • phase in-progress

These two distinct disciplines share one department with a combined 324 undergraduate majors. Because Theatre Arts & Dance are live arts/practices that take place in specific times and spaces and present their visions in embodied, non-cognitive form, writing within both disciplines involves complex acts of translation. Theatre usually begins its artistic explorations in textual sources, while Dance is a predominantly non-textual art/practice. Theatre Arts & Dance have distinct curricula, few shared faculty, and many adjunct instructors. For these reasons, the department has elected that the two programs pursue the WEC process on parallel tracks and has developed a capacious definition of writing, one that expresses its relationship to multiple intelligences extending beyond the verbal (corporeal intelligence, and visual or spatial literacy, for example), and that sees writing as a medium in which the creative process can be explored, extended, enriched, refined, complicated, communicated, documented, and critiqued.

Theatre Arts & Dance Writing Plan

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Written Characteristics and Student Writing Abilities Expected of Majors in Theatre Arts and Dance

When asked to name the noticeable features of writing in Theatre Arts and Dance and the specific writing-thinking abilities students were expected to develop throughout the major courses of study, the two faculty groups created student-facing documents in which they describe features and functions of written text in both fields:

Why do we write in Theatre?

  • Writing in theatre is a part of the artistic process.
  • Like artistic practice, writing in theatre communicates a vision, experience, or idea.

What makes good writing in Theatre?

  • It is aware of its audience
  • It is multi-disciplinary
  • It is poetic
  • It balances the subjective with the objective

How do we go about writing in Theatre?

  • Writing in theatre originates in research
  • Writing in theatre is similar to the process of rehearsal
  • Writing in theatre requires commitment

What abilities do we need to write effectively in Theatre?

  • Conduct research
  • Unlock and explore the imagination
  • Create descriptions of performance, design components, and/or dramatic texts
  • Identify, interpret, and analyze
  • Create and support a thesis driven argument
  • Develop an awareness of differences between conventions and genres of writing
  • Deepen ideas to reach new levels of complexity
  • Develop self-reflexivity
  • Practice revision

Abilities and Characteristics List – Dance (Summary)

What are the characteristics of writing in Dance?

  • Like dancing, writing in dance is process-oriented.
  • Like dancing, writing in dance is a way of making meaning, a way of knowing, representing, and articulating the legibility of the body.
  • Writing in dance theorizes artistic and social practice within cultural contexts.
  • Writing in dance balances the subjective with the objective.

What abilities to we need to write effectively in Dance?

  • Create detailed, vivid, closely observed descriptions of performances, movements, bodies, images, music, and/or texts
  • Interpret
  • Conduct scholarly and creative research, and recognize its importance to the making and understanding of choreographic work
  • Gather, assess, and apply evidence to substantiate statements and arguments
  • Ask questions of performances, sources, and texts
  • Build complex arguments and deepen thinking
  • Recognize the importance of revision
  • Like improvisation; experiment, take risks, and break boundaries
  • Develop self-reflexivity
  • Express yourself with clarity and technical precision, with an awareness of audience and genres
  • Develop confidence in your own voice, processes, and instincts

Menu of Grading Criteria Used in Theatre Arts and Dance Courses

Members of the faculty identified the following menu of criteria from which colleagues can select and adapt items relevant to course-specific writing assignments:

The text...

  • Identifies target work's key literary, aesthetic, and/or conceptual components, and explains how they provide an evocative, vivid, and/or specific dimension to the work.
  • Offers a convincing account of how the target work is shaped by its original context of production (artistic, holistic, social, political, or philosophical).
  • Makes a persuasive case that the target work speaks to the contemporary context of production (artistic, holistic, social, political, or philosophical).
  • Identifies writer's social location and considers the ways this location shapes and limits his/her perspective.
  • Evokes the "world" of the play (1 above) through the selection and juxtaposition of images gleaned in research.
  • Integrates play texts and corollary visual resources, in order to provide readers with a compelling vision of a target work.
  • Able to usefully synthesize production reviews or scholarly articles in order to identify production trends, traditions, or specific challenges presented by the source text, relevant to the central production concept stated in the essay.
  • Able to usefully synthesize production reviews in order to identify the ways in which student's proposed production concept is original/fresh.
  • Articulates a central conflict that is specific, non-obvious (debatable), and significant.
  • References central conflict throughout documents (explicitly or implicitly) in such a way as it forms a unifying axis of the text.
  • Addresses or acknowledges counter-arguments and/or alternative perspectives.
  • Translates a vision for a performance into the language of artistic practice in ways that readers can discern and/or act on.
  • Expresses ideas with grammatical clarity.
  • Describes development of a creative vision such that readers can understand the passage from subjective response to well-justified concept, and where relevant, to creative vision.

Highlights from the Writing Plan

In implementing its first and second-edition Writing Plans, Theatre Arts and Dance faculty dedicated themselves to providing consistent communication of faculty-developed writing criteria using two compact documents—one for each program. These documents now serve as resources as faculty members develop or revise writing assignments and grading criteria for various courses and distribute writing instruction throughout its curricula.

In 2011, WEC Liaison Margaret Werry and WEC RA Stephanie Lein Walseth published an article based on the WEC Program and Interdisciplinary Studies of Writing (ISW)-funded research:, "Articulate Bodies: Writing Instruction in a Performance-Based Curriculum," Theatre Topics 21:2 (2011), 185-198.

More recently, in implementing its third-edition Writing Plan, the faculty is endeavoring to ensure that colleagues across programs feel that the list of desired writing abilities represents the broadly divergent fields in which they teach. Students and faculty are also being resurveyed about current perceptions and practice of writing, and survey results will be analyzed with results from the initial 2010 survey. Finally, as a method for re-booting Dance faculty's involvement in WEC, a graduate student has been charged with collecting data that portray forms and roles of writing and writing instruction in dance courses. Observation data has been brought to faculty for analysis, interpretation, and action planning.