ACMB01 Lec 01– Critical Reading, Thinking, and Writing in ACM Programs
Research Essay (20%)
Theatre as Community and Everyday Life: Behind the Scenes in Anne Washburn’s 10
Out of 12
When enjoying theatrical performances, it is common to centre our focus on those who
are performing (the actors) and those responsible for executing the vision of the
production itself (the director[s]). The final, visible, and polished product of months of
rigorous rehearsal is most evidently displayed to the audience through talented
performers, often dressed in elaborate, eye-catching costumes and stage makeup that
can give the impression of flawlessness or sculpt something shocking or grotesque.
Behind the glamour on the stage, however, is a massive amount of hidden labour,
particularly on the part of the technical team, who work together to ensure that the
production moves smoothly and fosters an ambiance suitable for the material on
display. Without this behind-the-scenes work, theatrical performances would lack the
environmental elements that facilitate both audience engagement and the playwright’s
vision of their work.
Anne Washburn’s play, 10 Out of 12, quite literally “flips the script” on the performercentred
vision of theatre, as it re-centres the audience’s attention to reveal the oftenhidden
work of the technical team that accompanies any troupe of actors in their
performance. Working closely together to pull all aspects of the play together, an
intimate sense of comradery and community develops amongst all involved. This
theatrical community quite literally replaces time spent with family and friends due to the
time (and physical and emotional) commitment involved, especially during tech week.
As Washburn notes, “the play is about the ‘emotional, personal, and psychic cost’ of
work in the theatre” (Essin 119). This work and the ‘cost’ of it is normally hidden, but is
given a place of primacy in 10 out of 12, making it a remarkable piece of metatheatre – a
theatrical work that acts as commentary on the very notion of theatrical work itself. What
was once hidden is brought to the fore, giving audiences a fuller picture of backstage
labour and, ideally, a newfound respect and appreciation for those who work outside of
the (literal or metaphorical) spotlight.
Like an argument essay, a research essay provides a thesis and supports that thesis
through research, observation, and analysis. A research essay brings together multiple
sources (books and/or articles) that address a common theme (or set of themes)
relevant to the thesis you want to explore. As this research essay is based on a play,
you will raise an issue or theme for investigation and address it through the text of the
play itself, the performance of the play, and the research you’ve done on your chosen
issue(s). Note that both the text of the play and the TAPS performance must be referred
to and cited in your essay.
There are a variety of possible topics/themes for exploration in 10 Out of 12, and you
are welcome to develop a research trajectory in line with a topic(s) that you find
particularly interesting. Listed below are some brief summaries of topics for your
consideration. Note that this is not an exhaustive list of research topics, and some may
be addressed in connection with each other, if appropriate.
• Metadrama (i.e., the relation between 10 Out of 12 and the play-within-a-play
contained in the script)
o E.g., How does the production of 10 out of 12 represent metadrama, and
what is its significance?
• Work environment and mental health
o E.g., From Washburn’s description (as above), the play is about the
‘emotional, personal, and psychic cost’ of work in the theatre. How can
work in the theatre be framed in terms of society’s current focus
on “mental health”?
o E.g., Explore how/if comradery and community balance the tedium,
exhaustion, and stress of tech week.
• The implementation of creative art
o E.g., How is the process of putting on a play similar (or not) to producing
other works of art (writing, visual art, film/TV, etc.)?
• Challenging expectations
o How does 10 out of 12 challenge audience expectations and/or the
dominant entertainment culture (e.g., audiences expect a story-line which
this play does not provide)?
o E.g., How can the term “dramaturgy,” in both its theatrical and sociological
meanings be explored through the play?
• Dramaturgy of the actor (character-creation)
o What is the process that actors go through to develop their character and
stage presence to capture the audience’s attention?
o E.g., What is the significance in glimpsing moments in time when people
are just ‘doing’; when there is no main event or story-line, just the comings
and goings of a tech rehearsal?
• Art experiences
o E.g., How is art experienced by those who produce it versus those who
experience it as spectator (this could also bring in the Earthlings exhibit)
• Work relationships/hierarchies
o How are work relationships/hierarchies defined in theatrical work, perhaps
in comparison to other types of jobs?
Your essay should include the following:
1. An interesting and engaging title that gives the reader an idea of the content of your
2. A clearly defined research topic leading up to a thesis statement that is related to 10
out of 12 and which indicates why the research is of importance.
3. Descriptions, summaries and/or paraphrases, using primary and secondary sources,
that orient an unfamiliar reader to the ideas under investigation (write to an audience
that may not have viewed 10 out of 12 or read the review).
4. Relevant quotations that are integrated into your writing and unpacked to show how
you are engaging in conversation with the author being quoted.
5. Include at least four to six academic sources as your supporting material, and cite
them with proper MLA 8 in-text citation.
6. Good essay organization including a well-written introduction and conclusion, and
well-structured paragraphs with clear topic sentences and transitions.
Length: Maximum 7 pages (5-7 pages), plus a separate Works Cited page.
Format: Your essay must follow MLA 8 guidelines for both citation and page layout. Do
not include a title page. A complete resource for MLA 8 essay formatting and
citation is available here: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/01/.
Incorrect formatting and/or citation will result in a deduction of up to one full
Due date: Submit on Blackboard by 11:59 p.m. on Friday, April 6, 2018. This is a
paperless submission. Submissions must be in .doc, .docx, or .pdf format (.doc
or .docx are preferable, but .pdf is acceptable). No other formats will be
accepted. Note that late submissions cannot be accepted as April 6th is the
last day to submit term assignments, as per UTSC policy. If you require an
extension, come see me as soon as possible as there is a formal process that
must be initiated.
Note that there are resources on Blackboard (the links are under “Writing Resources –
Reviewing a Play”) to help you understand how to engage a theatrical work in the
context of academic writing.
Essin, Christin. “10 Out of 12 by Anne Washburn (review).” Theatre Journal, vol. 68,
no.1, 2016, pp. 117-119.
Washburn, Anne. 10 Out of 12. Samuel French, 2016.
ACMB01 Lec 01– Critical Reading, Thinking, and Writing in ACM Programs