Friday, November 21, 2008

Playwrights' Festival Tonight!

Tonight and tomorrow the Playwrights' Festival will be performing in the Black Box Theatre (7:00). For playwrights' whose work is being presented, your attendance is mandatory. For classmates in the playwriting class, you must attend at least one of the shows (tonight or tomorrow). Tickets for playwrights' are free. Other audience members are $5.00. The Improv Troupe will be performing before and after our show. Their tickets are $2.00.

The improv troupe has asked us to answer the following questions. Please answer these on a separate sheet of paper and send to our shared file (in Playwriting so that our printer can have a rest.)

Please answer these questions:
A statement you should never say to your mother:

Somewhere you’d never like to be left alone:

A category that should never be used on Jeopardy:

If there were no fire what would you use to keep you warm?

If you could vacation in any year in history what would it be?

The most dangerous occupation that you can think of:

Where would be the ideal place to go on a date?

What are you holding in your hands?

What did you want to be when you grew up?

What is that on your head?

Your answers may be used during the Improv show this weekend.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

No Exit - No Exit

Please complete your reading of No Exit.

To turn in: For each character, identify their major goal or motivation in the play. For each character, determine whether or not the character obtains that particular goal.

Then, please post a short personal response to the play.

Monday, November 17, 2008

No Exit

Today we will be reading No Exit by Jean Paul Sartre. A little information before you begin:

Jean-Paul Sartre (21 June 1905 – 15 April 1980) was a French existentialist philosopher, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, political activist, biographer, and literary critic. He was one of the leading figures in 20th century French philosophy.

In 1964 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, but declined it stating: "It is not the same thing if I sign Jean-Paul Sartre or if I sign Jean-Paul Sartre, Nobel Prize winner. A writer must refuse to allow himself to be transformed into an institution, even if it takes place in the most honorable form."

He is one of last century's greatest existentialists (the branch of philosophy that seeks to answer the question: what is the meaning of life?) As you read, consider Sartre's answer. For modern humans, he may be right.

No Exit is Sartre's best known play. Only one act, the play epitomizes the value of creating characters in conflict. Each character: Garcin, Estelle, and Inez are perfectly balanced to challenge each other. This is conflict. Each of your characters in a play should act as antagonist to another character. The best plays have characters who are at once dynamic and also protagonists and antagonists at different moments. No Exit is a great example of this theatrical tool in motion.

Here's an essay on the play. Please read this before you begin.

(This document was originally published in Dionysus in Paris. Wallace Fowlie. New York: Meridian Books, Inc., 1960. p. 173-5.)

JEAN Paul Sartre's No Exit was first performed at the Vieux-Colombier in May 1944, just before the liberation of Paris. Three characters, a man and two women, find themselves in hell, which for them is a living-room with Second Empire furniture. Each of the characters needs the other two in order to create some illusion about himself. Since existence, for Sartre, is the will to project oneself into the future--to create one's future--the opposite of existence, where man has no power to create his future, his hell. This is the meaning of the Sartrean hell in the morality play No Exit. Garcin's sin had been cowardice, and in hell he tries to use the two women, who are locked up forever with him in the same room, under the same strong light, as mirrors in which he will see a complacent and reassuring picture of himself.

This play, an example of expert craftmanship so organized that the audience learns very slowly the facts concerning the three characters, is Sartre's indictment of the social comedy and the false role that each man plays in it. The most famous utterance in the play, made by Garcin, when he says that hell is other people, is, in the briefest form possible, Sartre's definition of man's fundamental sin. When the picture a man has of himself is provided by those who see him, in the distorted image of himself that they give back to him, he has rejected what the philosopher has called reality. He has, moreover, rejected the possibility of projecting himself into his future and existing in the fullest sense. In social situations we play a part that is not ourself. If we passively become that part, we are thereby avoiding the important decisions and choices by which personality should be formed.

After confessing her sins to Garcin, Inès acknowledges her evil and concludes with a statement as significant as Garcin's definition of hell. She needs the suffering of others in order to exist. The game a man plays in society, in being such and such a character, is pernicious in that he becomes caught in it. The viscosity of such a social character is the strong metaphor by which Sartre depicts this capital sin and which will end by making it impossible for man to choose himself, to invent himself freely. The drawing-room scene in hell, where there is no executioner because each character tortures the other two, has the eeriness of a Gothic tale, the frustration of sexuality, the pedagogy of existentialist morality. The least guilty of the three seems to be Garcin, and he suffers the most under the relentless intellectualizing and even philosophizing of Inès. At the end of the play, Garcin complains of dying too early. He did not have time to make his own acts. Inès counters this (she has an answer to everything, Garcin is going to say) with the full Sartrean proclamation: "You are nothing else but your life."

No further argument seems possible after this sentence, and the play ends three pages later when the full knowledge of their fate enters the consciousness of the three characters and Garcin speaks the curtain line: "Well, well, let's get on with it. . . ." This ultimate line which, paradoxically, announces the continuation of the same play, was to be echoed ten years later in the concluding line of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot. The two plays bear many resemblances both structurally and philosophically.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Colored Museum Project & Miss Julie Test

Your 2-5 page scripts are due at the end of class today. The class chose the theme: death. How cheerful!

A quick note of advice about skits vs. plays:
Skits are often drawn from real-life experiences or rather the focus of the skit is often on the mundane, minor aspects of human life or popular culture. Plays tend toward more over-arching broad human themes (such as death).

After you complete your quiz on Miss Julie, please complete your 2-5 page script with a death theme. No homework.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Colored Museum Activity

Gather together as a group. Select one person to act as coordinator. This person should make sure everyone in the group has had a chance to talk and brainstorm ideas.
One or two people should act as recorders (secretaries) and write down ideas the group presents.

Use the nomative technique to go around the group and brainstorm ideas. Coordinators should make sure that everyone has had an opportunity to speak.

Your task:
1. come up with a contemporary theme that the group will write about. In The Colored Museum, the theme deals with African-American identity.
2. After the group agrees on a contemporary theme to explore, brainstorm ideas for skits. Members of the group should jot down the ideas they like.
3. After brainstorming ideas for skits and having a few ideas floating around, go back to your computer stations and write your skit.
4. The skit should be between 2-5 typed pages - in proper playwrighting format.
5. Turn in your skit Thursday at the end of class.
6. Complete Miss Julie for Thursday. There will be a quiz.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Colored Museum & Miss Julie

Plays, plays, plays. Plays can take the shape of many different types and styles. Sometimes the play is political, other times it is "a slice of life," with little more meaning than allowing people to look at their lives.

However, just as it is impolite to discuss politics and religion at a dinner party, some plays have an axe to grind, take a specific position on an issue, and explore controversy or important societal issues quite nicely. Some plays try to shock and move an audience into action, or help change a person's mind. Afterall, it takes quite a bit of persuasion to make a change in the world. And that is what playwrights' want -- change!


Here's two plays. Both controversial in their own times. Each "shocking" in their exploration of "truth."

Please complete The Colored Museum in class. Please read Miss Julie as homework. Be prepared for a test on Monday.

As always, look for the MDQ. As you read Miss Julie, pay attention to the use of the three characters (and thier goals), the theme, the use of the unities, and the social message.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

2 minute play - skit exercise

Choose one of the following settings:

A bank lobby
A truck stop
A dentist's office (waiting room)
Cheerleading camp
A boiler room
A voting booth
A news anchor desk
An office cubicle
The food court of a mall
An executive's office

Choose two of the following characters (for each character, determine their goal or motivation before writing)

A fireman
The boss
Jose "Lupe" Rodriguez
Doctor Padine
A mother
Mrs. Fitts
Mr. Gorgalski
An accountant
[student's choice] - may only choose this option once

Situation: Choose one:

1. A declaration of love
2. A secret
3. A need to confront/expose a mistake or problem
4. A need to fit in
5. An interruption

Using a location, situation, and two characters, create a quick play "skit" (no more than 2 pages) - plan to turn this in at the end of class.

The Mystery of Irma Vep Response

Please respond to the play "The Mystery of Irma Vep" by Charles Ludlum.

Remember that your responses should show critical thinking - what caught your attention as a new playwright? How might you use this script as an example for your own writing? What unique or clever ideas does the script hold? What character(s) was most compelling to you and why? Comment on the staging or the MDQ (major dramatic question).

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...