Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Baltimore Waltz - Response

Please respond and comment on the play Baltimore Waltz by Paula Vogel.

You may wish to comment on the characters, the theme, the plot, the use of the third actor, the staging, or the writing. What major dramatic question is being asked? Is the play satirical or political? What human lesson are we to learn from reading (or seeing) this play? What surprised you, what interested you, what did you learn about playwriting from reading this play? Etc.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Baltimore Waltz - Part One

Get into two groups of six today. Read the biographical information about Paula Vogel, "about the play", the playwrights' notes, and the letter from Vogel's brother, which was the inspiration for the play's idea.

Begin reading the script. Assign parts with the members of your group. Read the play aloud, so that you hear the dialogue spoken (as it is meant to be).

Stop after each scene and discuss any of the following:
1. The inciting incident
2. The protagonist's goals
3. The antagonist
4. The conflict
5. The importance of setting
6. The rising action/complications (how do these complicate the protagonists' goals?)
7. The crisis/dark moment
8. The enlightenment/epiphany
9. The climax
10. The denouement/the epiphany

Driving Miss Daisy - Personal Comments

Please make one or more of the following comments regarding Driving Miss Daisy (please post your comments to this website):

I don't understand...

I was reminded of...

I think...

I'm surprised that...

I'd like to know...

I realized...

If I were...

The central issue(s) here is (are)...

One consequence of ______ could be...

I noticed...

I wonder...

If ________, then...

I'm not sure...

Although it seems...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Driving Miss Daisy

Please check out and read Driving Miss Daisy by Alfred Uhry. Complete the reading of the play by next class (Monday, Oct. 27).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Night Mother - Discussion & Response

With a partner, discuss and complete the following questions to hand in:

1. What is the essential EVENT that occurs in Night Mother? (one act plays often deal with only one essential event; two act, three act, four act or five act plays deal with two or more.)

2. Who do you consider the play's protagonist; who is the antagonist?

3. Identify the INCITING INCIDENT in the play. What event brings Jessie and Mama into the action of the play?

4. Identify the MAJOR DRAMATIC QUESTION that an audience must ask in the play?

5. What is the conflict of the play? Is this conflict the same for Jessie as it is for Mama?

6. What episodes, complications, or rising action occurs in the play? (name 3)

7. What do you consider to be the crises or dark moment of the play?

8. What would you consider to be Jessie or Mama's ENLIGHTENMENT or EPIPHANY?

9. What is the climax of the play?

10. How does the MDQ (Major Dramatic Question) resolve? Is this a satisfying ending?


Please post your personal response to the play below.

Example prompts (pick one or more to respond to):

Is the play relevant in contemporary society? What did you realize after reading this play? Would you like to act or see this play performed? What aspect about the play did you learn something from: what did you learn about playwriting from the play? Do you think the characters are realistic or well drawn? Which character do you identify with most? Etc.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Night Mother

We are going to read Night Mother today.

1. Go to the library and pick up a copy of Marsha Norman's play Night Mother.

2. Get into groups of 3.

3. Each member of the group should read aloud, playing the part of Jessie, Mama, or the Stage Directions.

4. As you read, discuss as a group the following:

--The inciting incident
--Conflict (conflict needs to include a character's desire/goal + obstacle = conflict)
--The rising action (what is at stake for the characters; how does this change or not change?)
--The crisis (or dark moment)
--The climax
--The resolution
--What TRUTH is Marsha Norman dealing with in the play?
--The Unities: how does Marsha Norman keep the play going for so long with just one set and two characters? What tactics do her characters use to keep each other on stage?
--What kind of catharsis do you experience as a reader?

Playwrights' Festival - Save the Date!

Our annual Playwrights' Festival will occur on November 21 & November 22, in the Black Box Theatre, 7:00.

The show has been cast and is rehearsing. Playwrights should plan on attending the next two weeks of their show's rehearsal to help their actors.

Jeepers, creepers, where did you get those ideas?

“Creativity is 1/10 inspiration, 9/10 perspiration.”

Your writing doesn’t just spring up from the ground
No muse waves a magic wand and inspires you
Writing is work. Period.
How to start

1. Start with a situation.
• Describe an event, an action, or thing happening
• Ask the question “What if…?” or “What happens when…?”
• Think of a setting, and an action or happening in that setting. Complicate the simple action with a problem (a but, whoops, suddenly, or uh oh!)
• Take the time to brainstorm. Think about the situation and how it started, how it continued, how it ended. Take notes in your journal. Outline your situation.
• As you think about your situation, you will also find you are thinking about character and what the action means (theme). Jot those ideas down!

2. Start with a character.
• Begin with a fictional, real, or historical person. Envision who this person is and what this person WANTS (their goal).
• Steal a composite of various people you know, have read about, even yourself.
• Create situations and/or other characters to STOP your character from achieving their goal – this is your conflict.
• In your journal jot down overheard conversations, quotes, and what you imagine your character saying and doing.

3. Start with a theme.
• Some plays start with a germinal idea
• Pick a personal belief about the world, or an issue that you are interested in finding more about – jot down your feelings and thoughts about the topic.
• Start with a statement… “This I believe__________”
• Research your theme so that you confirm or deepen your understanding of the subject.
• Think about characters who might share your vision. Write about them and what opposed them.

4. Cheat
• Borrow ideas from other writers, books, newspapers, etc.

A few DON’T’s

1. Don’t judge your play until it’s written and/or performed.
2. Don’t search for originality. Shakespeare stole his ideas, you can too! What’s important is CHARACTER!
3. Don’t forget to use your notes and journal as a starting place to brainstorm

Drama - Defined!

Drama: (Greek for “To act”)
“An imitation of an action” – Aristotle
Drama—written and performed—is the reproduction of people performing actions. People doing!

In good narrative one action causes another action which causes another action, etc.

The plot, then, is simply an order of actions which hopefully affect a viewing audience.

Drama should not show people in rest or inaction – this is boring.

Drama should focus on the actions of people rather than the actions or problems that happen to people.

Drama then = people doing things which cause other people to act
A conflict of people, ideas and wills that must rise to a resolution
A contest of opposing forces (conflict)
Imitated actions which tell a story

Journal Activity:

1. Find a story in the news that is still ongoing (an election campaign, a war, a murder trial, a custody battle, the Rochester City School District budget problems, etc.)
2. Identify the conflicts involved (both large and small)
3. What dramatic questions surround the story?
4. What is at stake for the “actors” in the drama (politicians, parents, children, defendants, etc.)
5. Make a list of all the possible outcomes for this ongoing conflict
6. What will the struggles and their outcomes tell you about the people involved and our world in general once the conflict is concluded?

Aristotle's Poetics - A Helpful Guide for Playwrights

Aristotle’s Poetics

Plays need the following six elements:

Action or Plot
--often what the audience remembers most
--Actions should cause a “reaction”
--“Activities” are simply dramatic “busy work” – (a fist fight, a shouting match, etc.)
--In shorter plays, focus on one main action (one act)
--Longer plays may have more than one action (two acts, three acts, etc.)
--Action should lead to a climax (a confrontation between the protagonist and

--Most important for a playwright
--Characters must keep an audience interested
--Characters should have a purpose and motivation to be effective in a scene or play
--Characters should “act”
--Give characters concrete (not abstract) goals
--Characters should change (become dynamic characters)
--Create characterization by what a character says and does; about what other characters
say about the character
--Your protagonist should be “struggling for something” (Pro-Agonize)
--Test out your characters: Are they interesting to YOU?

Thought or Idea (theme)
--Something of value for the audience to think about (often abstract)
--It is not the quality of the idea that matters most, but rather the quality of the
ideas depicted by the actions (i.e. character’s actions) of the play
--A play is short relatively, so ideas need not be grandiose and terribly complex
--Use your own personal/societal/spiritual concerns
--Failing that, use the audiences personal/societal/spiritual concerns
--Characters may state the idea overtly – in speeches, dialogue, directly to the audience
--Or the actions of the characters lead the audience to understand the theme
--Don’t (always) hit your audience over the head with the “idea” stick

Language, diction or verbal expression (dialogue)
--Good dialogue will tell the audience what it needs to know: the setting, time, period,
place, character, conflict, theme, etc.
--Allow language to emphasize the “verb” – allow it to be active
--Language must tell what has happened (exposition), what is happening (action), and
what may happen (a promise to the audience)

Music or song
--Not just for musicals, think about imagery, tone, alliteration, and the sounds of the
--Sometimes, the use of music can be very powerful or add to the conflict of the

Spectacle, image or visual adornment
--Whatever looks neat on stage (a sword duel, costumes, elaborate sets, any traveling
Broadway show…etc.)
--Bare stages are good for fewer distractions
--A lot of spectacle can make a badly written play better…slightly….

Brief Summary of Aristotle's Poetics

Aristotle’s Poetics (circa 330 B.C.E.)

1. People like to imitate and learn.
2. Arts (Epic poetry, tragedy, comedy, dithyrambic poetry, flute-playing, lyre playing) are all modes of imitation. Just as color and form are used by artists, the voice, language, and harmony are used singularly or in combination. IE. Theatrical arts are REPRESENTATIVE of reality, not reality in and of themselves.
3. Objects of imitation should be above our common ilk; characters in a play/subject matter should be of high quality (and scope).
4. Poetry soon broke into two parts: tragedy/comedy. Serious poets would write about serious subjects; Humorous poets would write about frivolous and happy subjects.
5. Tragedy originated out of the dithyramb (choral ode); Comedy out of phallic songs.
6. Aeschylus limited his chorus, introduced the “second” actor, and made the dialogue take the leading part of the play.
7. Sophocles introduced the third actor.
8. As tragedy deals with noble subjects, comedy imitates men worse than average.
9. Tragedy is different from epic (although both are serious) in length, in one kind of verse (narrative form); epic includes tragedy, but tragedy does not necessarily include epic.
10. Aristotle’s six parts of a play:
a. Plot
b. Character
c. Theme (Idea)
d. Spectacle
e. Melody
f. Language (diction)
11. Plays should have a beginning, middle, end
12. Plays should not include so much as to bore, or too little
13. It is better in a tragedy for a good person to come to ruin, rather than a bad person
14. It is better to create catharsis from language and plot, rather than spectacle
15. Characters should have a discovery (peripety) (plural peripeties)
16. The chorus should act together as a “character” and integral to the whole
17. Characters should act according to verisimilitude (semblance of reality).
18. Diction should be clear, correct, poetic, but not inessential.
19. Plot should be made up of probable events
20. The poet, being an imitator (like a painter) must represent things either as they are, or as they are said to be, or as they ought to be – which is accomplished by skillful use of language to create a catharsis in the viewer of a play.

The Murky Middle (Even More Advice)

Aristotle wrote that stories should have a beginning, middle, and end. Middles can be difficult. You might have a smashing opening to a stor...