Room 101 Murphy Hall
Phone: 612/522-9053
e-mail: sulli008@umn.edu


Fall Semester 2016
3 Credits



Tuesdays     1-2:15 p.m.
Room 25 Murphy Hall

Selected Thursday  1-2:15 p.m.
Jungle Theater
2951 Lyndale Ave. S.


Tuesdays       Noon-3 p.m.        Room 101 Murphy Hall


DAN SULLIVAN was theater critic for the Los Angeles Times for 20 years. Earlier he covered Off Broadway theater for the New York Times and reviewed theater and music for the Minneapolis Tribune. For 12 years  he directed the O’Neill Theater Center’s National Critics Institute, where he still teaches.


1. To provide hands-on experience in writing accurate and engaging arts/entertainment copy.
2. To provide an informed look at how an important Twin Cities arts organization creates and markets its work.


Some goals and topics we’ll address:

Arts Reporting

  • Getting all the facts
  • Asking the right questions
  • Structuring the story
  • ”Fairness and balance”

Arts Reviewing
All of the above, plus:

  • Analyzing the performance
  • Finding your lede
  • Finding the right tone
  • How to say yes, no, and maybe

The Jungle Theater Process

  • This season’s challenge: New leadership
  • Raising the money
  • Finding the talent
  • Producing the show


On TUESDAYS we’ll read and discuss our writing at Murphy Hall. Assignments may include a  pop-music review; an advance article on a new Jungle Theater production; an interview with a local film maker; a commentary piece on a current arts controversy; a dramatized fairy tale; a costume description, etc. Rewriting is always encouraged and sometimes required.

On SELECTED THURSDAYS we’ll meet at the Jungle Theater where we’ll hear from various Jungle artists and staffers on their craft. This season we’ll follow two Jungle shows: Idris Goodwin’s “Bars and Measures” (Aug 26-Oct. 29) and Sarah Rule’s “The Oldest Boy” (Nov. 6-Dec. 18).

We’ll also hear from a variety of Twin Cities artists and arts journalists. Recent guests: indie film maker Jennifer Kramer; Star Tribune arts reporter Graydon Royce; Minnpost music critic Michael Anthony; Minnesota Spokesman Recorder opinion writer Dwight Hobbes; Star Tribune film critic Colin Covert; and Star Tribune theater critic Ed Huyck. These sessions are, in effect, press conferences, with questions expected from everybody.


Weekly handouts instead. These provide your textbook and are required reading. You may also need to purchase tickets for certain arts events (Jungle Theater shows are free.) Total cost shouldn’t exceed $40.


  1. Eight writing (or rewriting) assignments.
  2. A clip file
  3. A final project.
  4. A final exam. Details below.


For the first half of the semester, you’ll compile a folder of clips from recent local or national arts/entertainment stories. Two examples will be required each week: a winner and a sinner. Selections should be no longer than two grafs and mounted on  standard copy paper. Explain in five or six cogent lines why the example succeeds or fails. First assignment: an effective lead versus a lame one. Due: next Tuesday (Sept. 13.) Final clip files due: Thursday  Oct. 27.


A 1,200-word interview with an artist, critic or Jungle Theater staffer, to be assigned. This can be a standard interview, a Q and A, an “as told-to” piece or an original form of your own invention.


Part multiple-choice, to show what you’ve learned over the semester; part essay, to show how you’ve progressed as a writer.


Forty per cent of your grade will be based on your written work; 30 per cent on your class participation; 20 per cent on the final exam (plus one or two quizzes); 10 per cent on the final project. Class participation includes your readiness to contribute to class discussions; your willingness to critique the work of your classmates and to be critiqued by them; your resourcefulness in providing thoughtful questions for our guests; your courtesy and professionalism.

Grade Values

“A” on written work means that the piece could be published as is, not necessarily in Rolling Stone, but somewhere. “B” means that the piece needs tweaking. “C” means that it needs substantial revision.  “D” means that it didn’t work at all. (See Appendix.)

DEADLINES are firm, as in the real world. Late copy will lower your grade (one grade off per day late.) Continued late copy won’t be accepted.

PROOFREAD aggressively. Assume you made at least two errors and root them out.

ATTENDANCE is taken at every class and will be factored into the final grade. Woody Allen:  “Sixty per cent of success is showing up.” (When asked if the quote was accurate, Allen replied: “No. Eighty per cent.”)


1. ARRIVE ON TIME. On Thursdays, you’ll need at least a half-hour to get from the university to the Jungle Theater. (45 minutes if you’re taking the bus.) Don’t schedule another class just before or just after J4171 or you’ll have problems.

2. EYES ONLY. We are at the Jungle on an off-the-record basis. Material written for the class isn’t for online or print publication.

3. KEEP UP. Missing a class is the same as missing an important rehearsal. A step in the process gets lost and you deprive your colleagues of your company.

4. THINK FAST. Theater folk learn to make their notes in pencil. If the Jungle needs to change its schedule overnight, so must we. I’ll keep you posted via email.

5. STAY FOCUSED. No texting. “Be here now.” You knew that.


  • CLIP FILES DUE – Thursday Oct. 27
  • FINAL PROJECT DUE – Tuesday Nov. 29
  • LAST CLASS – Thursday Dec. 15
  • FINAL EXAM WEEK – Dec. 17-23



For undergraduate courses, one credit is defined as equivalent to an average of three hours of learning effort per week (over a full semester) necessary for an average student to achieve an average grade in the course. For example, a student taking a three credit course that meets for three hours a week should expect to spend an additional six hours a week on coursework outside the classroom.

Registration in this course is by A-F only.

A – Achievement that is outstanding relative to the level necessary to meet course requirements.

B – Achievement that is significantly above the level necessary to meet course requirements.

C – Achievement that meets course requirements in every respect.

D – Achievement that is worthy of credit even though it fails to meet fully the course requirements.

F – Represents failure and signifies that the work was either completed but at a level of achievement that is not worthy of credit or was not completed.

I  (Incomplete) – assigned at the discretion of the instructor.  An incomplete grade will be considered only when documented, extraordinary circumstances beyond control, or ability to anticipate, prohibit timely completion of the course requirements.  Incomplete grades are rare.  Requires a written agreement between instructor and student.

Course Grade Changes

Questions about course grade changes should be directed to your instructor; or you may contact the Student Conflict Resolution Center at 612-624-7272 for assistance. Grade changes will be made only when there is evidence of an error in grading and/or recording of a grade.
General Expectations and Extra Credit

Students are responsible for all information disseminated in class and all course requirements, including deadlines and examinations. The instructor will specify whether class attendance is required or counted in the grade for a class.  A student is not permitted to submit extra work in an attempt to raise his or her grade unless the instructor has specified at the outset of the class such opportunities will be afforded to all students.

Sale of Notes

Lectures given in this class are the property of the instructor. They may not be recorded without prior permission from the instructor. They may not be used for any commercial purpose. This includes the sale of notes to a retail distributor who reproduces them for resale to other students. Students found to be in violation of this policy may be subject to discipline under University policies.
Scholastic Misconduct – Definition

Scholastic misconduct is broadly defined as “any act that violates the rights of another student in academic work or that involves misrepresentation of your own work.  Scholastic dishonesty includes, (but is not necessarily limited to): cheating on assignments or examinations; plagiarizing, which means misrepresenting as your own work any part of work done by another; submitting the same paper, or substantially similar papers, to meet the requirements of more than one course without the approval and consent of all instructors concerned; depriving another student of necessary course materials; or interfering with another student’s work.”  Proven scholastic misconduct will result in a course grade of F.

Students with disabilities that affect their ability to participate fully in class or to meet all course requirements are encouraged to bring this to the attention of the instructor so that appropriate accommodations can be arranged. Further information is available from Disability Services (180 McNamara Alumni Center). Note:  Students with special needs may receive this syllabus and other course materials in alternative formats upon request.  Contact the SJMC Student Services Center for more information, 612-625-0120.

Sexual Harassment

University policy prohibits sexual harassment as defined in the 12/11/98 policy statement.  Copies of the 12/11/98 policy statement on sexual harassment are available at 274 McNamara Alumni Center or HYPERLINK “http://www1.umn.edu/regents/policies/humanresources/SexHarassment.html” online.  Complaints about sexual harassment should be reported to the University Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action at 274 McNamara Alumni Center.

Excused Absences

Students will not be penalized for absence during the semester due to unavoidable or legitimate circumstances. Such circumstances include illness of the student or his or her dependent, participation in intercollegiate athletic events (see the Administrative Policy: HYPERLINK “http://www.policy.umn.edu/Policies/Education/Education/ATHLETICSTUDY.html” Intercollegiate Athletic Events during Study Day and Finals Weeks: Twin Cities, which prohibits intercollegiate athletic competition during study day and finals week except under certain circumstances), subpoenas, jury duty, military service, bereavement, and religious observances. Such circumstances also include activities sponsored by the University if identified by the senior academic officer for the campus or his or her designee.