Toppling the "watcher at the gates" : restaging writing as improvised rehearsal
Thesis (M.A.)--Georgetown University, 2010.; Includes bibliographical references.; Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format. My experiences as an improvisational (improv) actor and director and my work as a teacher of writing suggest that there is a strong connection between the writing process and the way in which an improv acting troupe prepares for a public performance. Specifically, the structure and content of an improvised acting rehearsal provide a model for how composition instructors could re-incorporate the generation of ideas--what is often referred to as "prewriting" or "brainstorming"--into all stages of the writing process. I argue that we as instructors must generate a creative response to our students' reluctance to make what they see as mistakes in their writing and to truly embrace writing as thinking. As composition theorist Peter Elbow argues, writing can "be...[an] ideal medium for getting it wrong" [original emphasis] ("Shifting Relationship" 286). However, for many of our students, a draft is a textual space within which the instructor will point out their errors and correct their mistakes, not a tool with which to discover what it is they truly think. In this work, I will examine how composition instructors can use some of the fundamental elements of an improv acting rehearsal to create what I call the "improvised classroom," a creative, collective space within which a writing teacher can re-present prewriting as an ongoing opportunity to create ideas and to test them, one which a writer can take advantage of throughout the writing process.
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