Thursday, December 16, 2010

Projects & Contests

Today, please continue to write your 10-minute play script, or your one-act play script, or your full length play script.

Please complete Charles Busch's play critique and The Piano Lesson critique. Today, we will also pick up Fences by August Wilson. This play is NOT due yet, but for those of you who need a head start or want a more leisurely reading pace, you will have the script to do just that. Eventually, we will write a critique of the play, but for now in lab please complete The Piano Lesson/Charles Busch's play and work on the script.


Gannon, Geva, Lelia Tupper, Rochester AIDS Coalition, Scholastic Writing Awards, and Sokol contests are in. These contests run into January and February. In every case, you have work that COULD be submitted with excellent chances of winning. Instructions and details about each contest are on the front bookcase. You may work on entering these contests for extra credit.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Please work to complete your play evaluation/critiques. See previous post for details. I would like to have these before you go on your winter break--also so that you have minimal responsibility and work due for this class.

Use the time today in lab to complete your project work: writing historical 10-minute, one-act, or full length plays script drafts, and complete your play critique for one of Charles Busch's plays AND/OR complete a play critique of August Wilson's The Piano Lesson.

Students who have completed The Piano Lesson and are ready to pick up August Wilson's Fences, may do so today or Thursday.

For those of you who would like, please watch this interview with August Wilson (with Bill Moyer) The interview was conducted in 1988 (before any of you were born). Note the issues being discussed. Times have changed, but times have also stayed the same.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Play Projects

Please work on the following today:

1. A 10-minute historical play; a one-act historical play; a full-length historical play. Conduct research as appropriate, but don't spend too much time in lab researching at this point. Get your ideas together (see previous notes)and begin writing.

2. A theatre review for one of the plays in Charles Busch's collection & a theatre review for The Piano Lesson. Each review should be about 5 paragraphs.

Instead of discussing the PRODUCTION, you are reviewing the TEXT/SCRIPT. For example: instead of special effects, tech, and set--write about the setting, the stage directions, and how easily or difficult the play could be staged. What kind of theater would be needed to stage the production, for instance, and explain your reason.

Alternatively, instead of the ACTING, discuss character. Instead of DIRECTION, discuss theme. Otherwise, the handout I gave you can be helpful in focusing your response. Look at the THEATRE REVIEWS and material POSTED BELOW! Yes, actually read a few sample models to get the gist.

None of these projects are due yet, but if the class as a whole is not working in the lab, the assignments will be due very soon as I assume you are done.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Playwriting Advice

Once you have settled on a subject or setting, remember to do the following:

1. Find a premise. What is your play going to be about? Why would people want to pay to see it? Try to write your premise in 1-2 sentences BEFORE you begin writing. What is it you want to tell the world!?
2. Decide on the form. Is your play tight enough to be contained in a 10-minute play, a one-act play, or a full length play? Do you have one central action or two or three or four or five?
3. Consider your set and theatrical convention. How is the play going to LOOK on stage? What might a director or actor have to do to make sure your idea comes alive?
4. Spend some time on character. Who is your protagonist(s), and how is the protagonist an antagonist to another character; how is the antagonist a foil or reflection of your protagonist? Remember that most characters don't think themselves as bad people. Everyone has their own motivation. Give your characters motivation.
5. Choose minor characters carefully. Only include characters that help move the play's plot forward. Incidental characters can and should be removed if possible. Otherwise, consider double-casting roles.
6. Characters move from a position of need vs. desire. They want things that they don't need and need things they don't realize they need. This causes internal conflict and makes your characters more interesting.
7. Don't kill a character on stage unless you're writing a comedy.
8. Much of the conflict in contemporary plays is the fact that human beings don't listen to one another. We cannot effectively communicate. While your characters have a NEED TO SPEAK, they are not always listening or understanding one another.
9. Consolidate sets and time as much as possible. If 3 scenes happen in the same place, for example, within a few minutes of each other, condense the time and setting and keep the action in one place at one time. Audiences hate sitting in the dark with nothing to do while a set is changed or actors change costume!
10. Make sure your play script is in play format. Proofread and consider adding detail and imagery to make your writing pop!

Projects & August Wilson

Today, please work on the following projects:

A. Complete and hand in the brainstorming sheet from last class. This should take you less than 20 minutes if you have not completed the assignment yet.

B. Begin working on your play project(s) (see last post for details)

C. Please read one of the plays in Charles Busch's collection of plays (see previous posts): Red Scare on Sunset, The Lady in Question, Psycho Beach Party, or the Tale of the Allergist's Wife. Complete a theater critique of the play. See the previous post for details on how to write a critique.

D. Begin researching and reading The Piano Lesson by August Wilson. Information about August Wilson can be found here.

As a play project, Wilson wanted to track the progress and examine central issues African Americans had to deal with in the 20th century. Each of his plays takes place in a particular decade from the 1900's to the 1990's. Effectively, this is similar to your assignment regarding a historical period.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Reminders: Coffee House

There is a coffeehouse this Wednesday at 7:00 in the Ensemble Theatre. This is a free event. If you go and read one of your poems or short stories, you will get extra credit for this class.

Also: please remember to read the previous posts. The homework (reading one other Charles Busch play) should be done. You may select any of the remaining plays to fulfill this requirement. You will be asked to write a critique of this play.

A play critique is made up of the following parts: a summary of the play and a reaction or analysis of its social worth.

Here's an example about how to write a critique.
And some examples/models: New York Times Theater Critiques.

Here's some advice when writing a critique.
Here's an outline concerning how to write the critique. You should replace the ACTING paragraph with CHARACTERS since you are not watching the play.

The Historical 10-Minute Play, One Act, or Full Length Project

Charles Busch often sets his plays in a variety of historical settings. While most of these are the 20th century, because of the distance from our own time period, these settings can be useful to create satire, parody, or burlesque. Click on these vocabulary words ("burlesque" particularly,) to learn about the word and term. Know these for the upcoming test.

Our next playwright (August Wilson) will also use historical periods for his plays.

Please begin the writing activity below:

Writing Activity:
Brainstorm historical settings that you find interesting.
From your list select the one (or few--yes, you can combine time periods as you need to) that you feel has the most creativity, the most relevance to our society today, or the one that most intrigues you.

Spend some time examining the internet for information about your historical period. Do this relatively quickly, but take notes and begin thinking of potential plots or significant events that happened at that place and time or people who lived during that time period. Use your notes and brainstorming to PLAN your story a bit before you just right in and write, then get stuck and bother your neighbor. Fill out the notesheet for participation credit. Hand in at the end of class.

After your brainstorming period, decide on a few characters. Write brief descriptions of who these people might be. Start with the most interesting major character and work your way from there. Don't worry about incidental or minor characters yet.

Marking period 3 Project:
Decide on the scope of your play. If you think you have enough material for a one act (equivalent to two ten-minute plays), then decide to write a one-act play. If you feel you have two separate ideas OR you feel the idea you have for your play is smaller in scope, choose to write two ten-minute plays. Each play will count as your marking period grade. Finally, for those of you who would like an "A" for this marking period (some restrictions apply), you may choose to write a FULL LENGTH play. This is like two one-act plays, 4 10-minute plays, (or around 40 pages or more). By the way, yes, you can opt to write 2 one-act plays or 4 10-minute plays instead of one FULL LENGTH play.

Beach Party Films & Psycho Beach Party

High School Musical is popular today, but teen films have rocked the entertainment world since the 50s.

"One of the first teen films ever was the 1955 classic ‘Rebel Without A Cause’ which tells the story of a rebellious teenager played by James Dean. He comes to a new town, hangs out with girls, doesn’t do what his parents tell him and stands up to bullies at school – what a hero!

It was the first time that films had ever portrayed young people in this way, and also the first time that society even admitted that young adults - i.e. ‘teenagers’, existed! For this reason it has been seen as a really culturally important film."

Popular films targeted at teen audiences continued to fill the wallets of film producers. In the early 60's this led to the popular beach party film.

Most films starred the same actors and actresses and the story lines were kept simple – usually revolving around couples trying to make the other jealous – sound familiar?

A typical story usually follows teens into their everyday lives, sometimes with characters breaking into song at the twinge of an angst ridden moment. Take a look at some of these links.

Beach Party film history.

Bikini Beach (1964) Original Trailer here.

Beach Blanket Bingo (1965)

Muscle Beach Party (1964)

Later, beach films began to combine the two biggest box-office teen film styles: the horror film and the beach film.

Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1966)

Annette Funicello & Frankie Avalon (two big 50's/60's teenage stars)

Charles Busch is using this silly genre to entertain his modern audiences.

The film Sybil is alluded to in the script Psycho Beach Party. Sensational films like these became popular in the 1970's like the film Carrie. Both films were made in 1976.

Additionally, there is reference to Joan Crawford (as a model for Mrs. Forrest's character). Joan was a matinee idol that went on to ruin her career with silly horror films. One infamous film was William Castle's production of Strait Jacket (1964). Many gay audiences are familiar with the campy Mommie Dearest version of Crawford's life. All in all, Joan Crawford played an excellent femme fatale.

Combine this film with beach film trends and a dash of Sybil and Carrie and you get our beloved Psycho Beach Party.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Charles Busch, Crossdressing, & Comedy

Please take a look at Charles Busch's blog. He has placed a variety of play video clips here. Take a look at a few of these. His official website is located here.

Please watch a few video clips, read an interview or two with the author, and learn a little about his background. Please take the next 15 minutes to view this material.

A note about cross-dressing and theatre:

Since theatre began, cross-dressing has been a common occurrence on the stage. As far back as ancient Greek theatre, male actors acted both male and female roles on stage. Later in pantomime, commedia dell'arte, and medieval theatre the tradition continued. Of course, Shakespeare and his contemporaries also used cross-dressing in Elizabethan theatre. Many of Shakespeare's funniest comedies use the trope of cross-dressing, for example: Twelfth Night, As You Like It, and even the Merchant of Venice.

Comedy in theatre:

There are various types of comedy found in theatre today.

Sentimental Comedy examines the tribulations and trials of common people worrying about common things, but it all works out in the end.

Romantic comedies are plays that revolve around relationships. Usually following the love archetype: boy (or girl) gets girl (or boy), boy (or girl) loses girl (or boy), boy (or girl) gets girl (or boy) in the end.

Farce includes fast-paced action, improbable situations, hyperbolic characters, and lots of entrances and exits to cause confusion and conflict.

Satirical plays (taken from the ancient Greek Satyr play form) poke fun at something in society or about human nature that needs to be examined or changed.

Black comedies poke fun at serious topics. These are often considered in 'bad taste' by sensitive, less cynical audience members. Black or 'dark' comedies usually don't end happily.

Absurdist comedies point out the futility of life, using nonsense and trivia to examine that the meaning of life is...well...meaningless. These plays are often metaphorical or symbolic.

HOMEWORK: Please choose 1 play by Charles Busch from the collection. Read this play. Be prepared to summarize and critique it (instructions forthcoming). You may choose any of the following: Psycho Beach Party, The Lady in Question, Red Scare on Sunset, or the Tale of the Allergist's Wife.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

One Act Play Script Due!

Today, please complete and turn in your one-act play scripts. This is a major assignment for this marking period. Please proofread and look over your work before you turn the script in for a grade as grammar and formatting will count.

If you finish early, please read any of the Christopher Durang plays you have not yet read. We will be getting a new script next class.

Advice about writing about comedy scripts

How to Publish a Play

10-Minute Play National Contest

Uptown #9 - 10 minute play

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

One-Act Play Script - Draft & Sister Mary Ignatius

Today please work toward an ending of your one-act plays. Your scripts are a draft and will be workshopped and revised. Plays should be longer than a 10-minute play script (about double or triple) and include at least 2-scenes. If you finish today, please print and turn in your draft. Check your proper play script formatting first!

Play drafts are due Tuesday, Nov. 30, so if you don't finish today, please take the script file home with you and complete for next class.

HOMEWORK: Complete one-act play. Read: Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You. This play (although it doesn't have conventional scene breaks) can be broken into three distinct parts. As you read or watch, note where these scenes occur and how smooth the transition is between part one, two, and three of the play.

Sister Mary Ignatius - Part 1
Sister Mary Ignatius - Part 2
Sister Mary Ignatius - Part 3

Friday, November 19, 2010

Scene #2

Please work on scene #2 for your one-act plays. See previous posts for more details.

Homework: Please read The Nature and Purpose of the Universe (pp. 229) & the Actor's Nightmare (pp. 351) on your own.

The Actor's Nightmare - Part 1

The Actor's Nightmare - Part 2
The Actor's Nightmare - Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Durang's Titanic (Group Reading) & Scene #2

Please watch the following clip from the play Titanic.

Get into the following groups:

Group A: Tashae, Victoria, Justice, Jerry, Jenee, Ledibel, Monica

Group B: Alex, Valerie, Shayla, Marissa, Wade, Alaina, Addie

Group C: Khari, Zach, Aubrey, Whitney, Kennethea, Brianna, Nautica

Please read Durang's play Titanic. Each member of the group should play at least one role. As you read discuss the following:
1. Discuss the setting. How can lights and minimal set pieces be used effectively to keep the flow of action going from scene to scene.
2. Are there any scenes or characters that are not necessary or needed? Which ones? Why might they be included in the plot?
3. What seems to be Durang's theme or point?
4. If you were to write a Titanic play, what would you have done differently?

After reading and discussing, you will be asked to report out for the group.

With time remaining, please work on your one-act plays. Scene Two. See the blog entry below this one for instructions.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Durang's Death Comes to Us All & Adding a Scene

Today, after reading "Death Comes To Us All, Mary Agnes" by Christopher Durang, please do the following with your one-act play.

By now you have about 10 pages (a 10-minute play!) of your one-act. To make a traditional one-act longer, add another scene. This scene can change location if you want (but make sure that the new location works logistically with the first scene). Remember that when shifting setting do so ONLY if the action of the play requires it. Remember also that scenes can change time (keeping the same location).

1. Decide on a previous, parallel, or future scene for your play. The scene can occur before, during, or after the scene you have already written.
2. Include another new character(s) if you need one or them.
3. Keep your theme parallel. Each scene should focus on a similar or the same theme so that the plot compares or contrasts.
4. Write this new scene (3-7 pages).

Christopher Durang plays:
Hardy Boys and the Mystery of Where Babies Come From

The Original Funeral Parlor (with Carol Burnett & Robin Williams)
Funeral Parlor (amateur play)

DMV Tyrant

For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls (Part One)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

One Act Mini Workshop: Finding a Direction & Theme

Today during 1st period please complete the following task with a partner:

1. Read each others plays. Do not worry if the play has not yet been completed, but as a general guideline you should each have about 9-12 pages of script at this point.

2. You and your partner should exchange places while reading (you sit in his/her chair & computer, he/she sits in yours).

3. As you read your partner's play script, please note the following by adding INSERT COMMENTS from the INSERT menu:

A. Give your partner feedback about improper script format. If your partner is making mistakes, please notify him or her about that. Check for grammar mistakes as well.
B. As you read look for inconsistencies or problems with the script. If you have a question about what's going on, INSERT a comment letting your playwright partner know this.
C. Suggest additional scenes: 1. for the beginning or before the beginning of the play (pages 0-2), 1. for the middle of the play (pages 3-9), and 1. for the end of the play or after the play action (pages 8-12...etc.) YOU WILL HAVE MADE 3 SEPARATE SUGGESTIONS by the end of your editing/reviewing time.
D. Look for a theme. What is the main idea the playwright is examining (what is he/she saying about human life). If this is unclear, comment at the end of the script that you are wondering what the point or theme is of the play.

Done? Read your partner's comments about your play. Make changes where necessary. Keep writing the play.

2nd period: Class reading. Please check out Christopher Durang's 27 Collected Plays from the library. We'll read some of these in class for the next few classes. You may remember his play Mrs. Sorken and the One Minute plays.

Information about Christopher Durang.

HOMEWORK: (for Monday, Nov. 15) Please read the information about Christopher Durang. Get to know him a bit and then read any of the plays between pages: 53-228. Like him?, read many or all of these plays. Hate him, read a few more, then decide.

As you read Durang notice how he constructs his plays. Look closely at his dialogue. And, of course, enjoy. These plays are meant to be absurd and funny. Don't take them very seriously, although they often center around serious issues.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Play Structure & the One Act Play

A one act play centers around one main conflict. While you are more than welcome to mention or even present other issues, the short one act form needs to focus on a major idea and one major idea at that.

Today, please write monologues for each of your three characters. We need to know who these people are and why they're on stage. Use your skills at writing monologues to further develop your play. You may put your monologue ANYWHERE in the script.

TIP: monologues slow down the action. So you might want to use them where you want this sort of effect. For example, as a transition or near the beginning of a scene.

Done with your monologues? do the following:
1. Keep writing and developing your play scenes.
2. Identify your beginning (inciting incident) and climax (point of highest tension in your play). If you don't have one, build these into the script.
3. Tired of writing? Check out the blog entry below this one and get advice from other professionals concerning writing plays. There's even a short one act play in there somewhere.

Play Structure (intro):

Ever wonder about the spelling of playwright? Why not playwrite? Well, it's because a "wright" is someone who builds. The idea is that a playWRIGHT carefully constructs and builds a play. We craft plays, not just write them.

Way back in antiquity, Aristotle (that famous Greek philosopher) wrote a book called the poetics about how to write a play. He said that every play needs the following elements:
1. Plot
2. Character
3. Thought (by which he meant theme)
4. Spectacle (special effects, props, costumes, scenery, etc.)
5. Diction (effective dialogue)
6. Song (music)

Apart from #6, all plays usually include these things. But dialogue can be beautifully written and with enough imagery and detail can come close to song.

We know that a play needs conflict because all plays involve human struggle. That's what they are written to examine. A playwright is like a philosopher in that all effective plays (even the funny ones) deal with human struggle and use human themes to communicate the human condition. Plays are an attempt to understand some truth about humans and our world. Make sure your play speaks to this tradition.

Please turn in your homework ?'s concerning Structure, Scenario, & Writing

Thursday, November 4, 2010

One Act Play: Scene One (draft) & Play Structure

Today, please complete your scene draft. When you have completed your scene draft (see below), add another character and have that character enter.

Every time a character enters a scene this is a new FRENCH SCENE. French plays (Moliere) used this scene break style as opposed to single, well-defined scene breaks (like Shakespeare).

Continue your play with this new character interrupting and entering the scene. Try to add 2-5 pages with this new character interacting with your previous two characters.

NOTE: You may structure the timing of this scene any way you wish. If your previous scene is complete and you want to add the third character BEFORE that scene, feel free to do so. You can also find a place in your script where you interrupt the dialogue between your two characters with the third character.

HOMEWORK: Please read the article: Structure, Creativity, Scenario, & Writing. Answer the following questions (for homework to be turned in next class):
1. How can a writer avoid or work through 'writer's block'?
2. How can a playwright become more creative and use critical thinking?
3. What is a scenario? What use or help is a scenario to a writer?
5. When making a scene or french scene, what advice does the article give a young writer such as yourself?

Some key ideas: "Creative people look for options to increase the range of their choices."

"Writers write, whether we feel like it or not. We write whether we're inspired or not. We write whether we're in the mood to or not."

"Creativity may hit us at any time but, if we've been observant and thoughtful during the rest of our day, it's more likely to occur while we're actually putting thoughts down on paper." --William Downs & Robin Russin.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The One Act Play: Scene One

From your character bank please select two characters you would like to develop and use in a one-act play.

Most beginning playwrights start with short one-act plays. Usually these plays are anything between 15-minutes to about an hour long. In this way, the one-act is similar to a short story (not a short-short or sudden fiction) but has time to develop characters, perhaps in more than one scene, but usually consolidates time, setting, and number of characters. It generally deals with a single important action or incident in a character's life that is developed and examined through the play (as opposed to longer full length plays that have subplots). These plays are usually continuous in time, taking about the same amount of real time as the play takes to act. Theater companies usually produce more than one one-act at a time.

Some tips:
--Keep a single set (and try to keep the unity of time)
--Limit the number of characters (remember that small roles can be doubled, but this is not realistic so use it sparingly)
--Keeping your set and prop requirements simple is the key to being produced as an unknown playwright. Keep that in mind as you write.
--Remember your actors; make sure the part you are writing for them is interesting enough and compelling enough (this goes for the director as well).

Write a scene between 2-characters. Your scene should be at least 3 pages.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Mystery of Irma Vep & the Dumb Waiter

Today we will complete our reading of The Mystery of Irma Vep by Charles Ludlam.

Our next play to read and consider is Harold Pinter's The Dumb Waiter. This will conclude our two person plays. Please read the script and watch the BBC performance of this play.

Information about Harold Pinter is here. Please read about him. This is also a link to his website. You can gather more information here as you please.

The Dumb Waiter part one
The Dumb Waiter part two
The Dumb Waiter part three
The Dumb Waiter part four
The Dumb Waiter part five

There will be a test on Pinter (biography information), the Dumb Waiter, The Mystery of Irma Vep, Charles Ludlam (biography information), The Ridiculous Theater Company, Tuesdays With Morrie, and Ludlow Fair on Monday. You should know characters, important or key information on these contemporary plays and playwrights, plot elements, major conflicts, and the structure of a 2-person play as it relates to these scripts.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Workshop - Revision & The Mystery of Irma Vep

1st period: please conclude your workshop and begin revising your plays.
--Correct mistakes
--Add details and strengthen your writing. Remove vague statements and words and replace with specific and effective imagery.
--Correct punctuation & syntax (remember to keep your lines short, declarative, and active)
--Correct formatting
--Finish the script for those of you who had incomplete play scripts
--Hand in when you have completed your revision (due by Monday, next week)

2nd period: During second period we will begin reading Charles Ludlam's The Mystery of Irma Vep in honor of Halloween and the 2-person play form.

If you finish early 1st period, please look here for information about Charles Ludlam. Read the manifesto about Absurdist theater. Please also read about the Ridiculous Theater Company.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Workshop 10-Minute Plays

During the year we will be entering 10-minute play contests and some of these plays might be produced in our own Playwrights' Festival in March. Before that happens, our scripts have to be the best that they can be.

Today, get into the following groups and analyze the following scripts. For each script, please fill out a rubric and make a few comments about what you thought about the play. Do you think actors would like it? Do you think a director would like it? Do you think an audience would like it? And give a reason why. If there are issues that the playwright needs to know, please list these as well:

Group A: Justice, Khari, Wade, Shayla, Jerry

Group B: Brianna, Victoria, Alaina, Marissa, Alex

Group C: Valerie, Whitney, Adeline, Ledibel, Zach, Monica

Group D: Aubrey, Kennethea, Jenee, Nautica, Tashae

I will collect the workshop forms at the end of the workshop. This is counted as participation credit.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tuesdays With Morrie; 2 Person One Act

Please complete your reading in groups of Tuesdays With Morrie. Afterward, please use your 2 characters from the character questionnaire and put these characters in a scene. Begin writing the scene. Your scene should only be one setting and involve both characters as protagonist and antagonist to each other. This is an ongoing project at this point.

We will workshop your 10-minute plays next class.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sleuth, Ludlow Fair, Tuesdays With Morrie

Today we will finish the film Sleuth and discuss it with Ludlow Fair. During the second half of the class, please get into groups of 3-4 and read Tuesdays with Morrie out loud with each other.

As you are reading, pay close attention to the dramatic movement of the characters. These plays don't have a lot of physical action (albeit they do have a lot of prop work). The action of the play is largely created by the antagonistic and "protagonistic" qualities of the two major characters. Each character acts as a foil and antagonist to the other.

Also pay attention to the theatrical conventions in the play. How is the story told so that it could be easily produced on stage for a paying audience?

Ask: Why would people go to the theater to see this play instead of watching a movie or reading a book? Discuss.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Character Questionnaire & Sleuth

We are going to be examining a variety of 2-person plays. To start off with the end of the marking period, let's watch the film Sleuth. This film, re-written by Harold Pinter (playwright) was originally made in 1972 and written by playwright Anthony Shaffer.

Please turn in your homework: the questionnaire for the two characters in your character bank.

New Homework: Please read Ludlow Fair by Lanford Wilson. Examine Rachel and Agnes' characters.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

10 Minute Play Draft Due Today! & Character Bank

Today, please continue and complete your 10-minute play drafts. Make sure your formatting is correct, proofread, and print. We will be workshopping these plays in a little while.

When you have completed your drafts, please read the article: "Casting Your Characters."

Know the following terms:
Flat vs. Original character
Supporting Character
Physical antagonist
Abstract antagonist

Please create a character bank in your journal/notebook. List names that you might use in a play and a short 2-3 sentence description for each name. These characters do not need to be fleshed out completely yet, but the more detail you provide, the more vivid they will be. Try to come up with about 10.

Choose 2 of these 10 and complete the character questionnaire in your packet. The questionnaire is due next class, so please complete for homework.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The 10-Minute Play Draft

Today, continue to work on your 10-minute play drafts. If you are working diligently on your projects, we can set the due date for next class. If you are collectively not working on the play it is due today at the end of class.

Either way, review the advice about writing a 10-minute play below.


There are generally two different types of play script format. One is preferred over the other, although most literary managers will accept either.

Please consult the handout I gave you last class to check your format. You may also link to this website for advice and examples of correct script formatting.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The 10-Minute Play

Before you begin the 10 minute play, you will need a premise: the organizing theme or idea that defines everything in the play. A good premise will indicate an interesting inciting incident, help you start off your drama with some effective action or conflict, and will carry you through to the end of your play. The things to remember about 10-minute plays is that they are similar to short stories:

They have a premise
They have a dramatic situation (setting, characters in action, & a complication)
They have a beginning, middle, and end
They have a tight structure (most never change scene or setting)
They are at most 10 pages long.
There are usually fewer than four characters. Often two or three at most.
The beginning of the play starts at a very early POINT OF ATTACK.
By the end of the first page or the top of the second the argument or conflict has been presented.
The play usually has only one conflict and one plot line.
There is not much exposition. By the middle of the first page, exposition has been stated.
The end of the play falls very close to the climax. Only a few lines are devoted to resolution.
Most plays deal with the exceptionally brief, but powerful moment in a character's life.

Take the advice from the handouts I've given you about where to find ideas. Search through these, check the 38 dramatic situations for help (see link page to the side), write about what you believe and what you know to be true. Brainstorm, but move on today with your idea. You should write a good solid 3-4 pages today in the lab.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Amadeus & Projects

After chatting about the show please complete your monologue projects. These are due today. When you finish, please begin work (if you haven't already) on the 10-minute play project.

Khari's film can be viewed on my teacher website under the Creative Writing Department Student films link.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Please continue to work on and complete your monologue projects (due next class, Oct. 1). If you complete your project, please follow the directions below to begin your 10-minute play project. Today, please work on these two projects.

A reminder that tomorrow we will attend the production of Amadeus. Please make sure you have read the handout before you attend. Dress appropriately and bring a bagged lunch. We will gather in the Commons at 9:30. Please remind your teachers today that you will be missing 3-8 period.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Monologue Project/10 Minute Play Project/Amadeus

Our class is preparing to attend Geva's production of Amadeus on September 30 at 9:30-1:30. I have provided you with information about the play. Please read it by Thursday so you are prepared to see the show. Field trip forms MUST be completed by Wednesday or I cannot take you out of the building. Please turn in field trip forms as soon as possible. Let your teachers know (periods 2-8) that you will be attending a play Thursday.

Before you use the lab time writing, let's read two 10-minute plays and examine them. We should be able to find the play's premise. As we read, please look for it.

After reading today, please continue to write your monologue project (draft due Friday, Oct. 1) or if you have completed that, begin working on the 10-minute play project (due Oct. 12).

All instructions for these projects are posted below. Please read or review the guidelines and directions carefully.

HOMEWORK: Complete field trip forms; Read Amadeus info packet. Monologue project due Oct. 1.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

10-minute plays (a review) & the monologue project

After reviewing the elements that comprise a 10-minute play, please complete the 10 minute plays in the handout I gave you with your group (posted below).

When you have completed the reading, please continue to work on your monologue projects (due Oct. 1) or you may move on to the next assignment:

The 10-Minute Play.

Before you begin the 10 minute play, you will need a premise: the organizing theme or idea that defines everything in the play. A good premise will indicate an interesting inciting incident, help you start off your drama with some effective action or conflict, and will carry you through to the end of your play.

Take the advice from the handouts I've given you about where to find ideas. Search through these, check the 38 dramatic situations for help, write about what you believe and what you know to be true. Brainstorm.

Then begin writing a 10-minute play.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Ten Minute Play

Please take 30 minutes (and only thirty minutes) today to work on your monologue projects. These should be starting to form and will be due October 1. If you are filming, you better start doing that so that you have time to edit.

After 30 minutes, please stop writing & prepare to meet with the following groups:

A. Addie, Monica, Zach, Brianna, Aubrey

B. Alex, Justice, Nautica, Valerie, Whitney

C. Jerry, Ledibel, Jenee, Shayla, Kennethea

D. Khari, Wade, Tashae, Victoria, Alaina

Read the six 10-minute plays out loud with each other. Each group member should take turns reading the roles and stage directions. Please read the entire packet (perhaps there will be a test on these...)

The form you are examining is the 10-minute play. We did a little of this during the last two years. The things to remember about 10-minute plays is that they are similar to short stories:
They have a premise
They have a dramatic situation (setting, characters in action, & a complication)
They have a beginning, middle, and end
They have a tight structure (most never change scene or setting)
They are at most 10 pages long.
There are usually fewer than four characters. Often two or three at most.
The beginning of the play starts at a very early POINT OF ATTACK.
By the end of the first page or the top of the second the argument or conflict has been presented.
The play usually has only one conflict and one plot line.
There is not much exposition. By the middle of the first page, exposition has been stated.
The end of the play falls very close to the climax. Only a few lines are devoted to resolution.
Most plays deal with the exceptionally brief, but powerful moment in a character's life.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Ntozake Shange, quiz, & What on Earth Gave You That Idea?

"Drama requires characters who want things they don't have yet, who need things they don't recognize yet, who are in conflict with people and forces arrayed against them."

Before we take our quiz on "For Colored Girls...," let's discuss this play as a class. After our quiz, please complete the following:

1. Please read the article: "What on Earth Gave You That Idea?" Answer the following questions to turn in by the end of class:
A. Where do writers get their ideas?
B. When evaluating an idea what must a writer consider?
C. What is a 'Premise'?
D. What are two ways to experience life?
E. What is at the core of a good dramatic idea?

The article makes a point about the 36 dramatic situations by Georges Polti. Please link to this page on our link page to your right. Read a few of the 36 dramatic situations (you must click the hyperlink). Which ones interest you? Which ones can you relate to? Which ones have you seen in literature or film? Discuss these 36 dramatic situations with a neighbor today.

After all that, please use this time in lab to work on your monologue projects.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls...

For 2nd Period:

Today we are going to read Ntozake Shange's choreo-poem and masterpiece For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf.

Please watch this short interview with the playwright.

We have been reading a series of plays where monologues play an important and powerful role in the storyline of the play. In fact, way, way, way back during the ancient Greek period (about the 5th century BCE), theatre performances began as long "choral" odes--essentially monologues where the chorus sang in what is called a dithyramb.

After a while, the first actor: Thespis (actors are now called thespians) separated himself from the "chorus" and began to play various roles--and dialogue began!

Please take an index card with a specific role. Play that part today.

Getting Into Character, Monologue Project, For Colored Girls

The first 15 minutes of class today, please read the article: "Getting Into Character" and answer the following questions to hand in at the end of 15 minutes.

1. What's in a character? What should a playwright include in his/her character building to make a "good character"?

2. According to the article, most characters come from what primary source?

3. What basic traits should a playwright include when creating a character?

4. Why should a playwright avoid stereotypical characters?

After this time, please spend some time considering this advice about creating characters. Then use the next 10-15 minutes in class working on your monologue projects. If you have finished writing a monologue, create a second one or go back and add details, revise, and edit the first draft.

Remember: This is an on-going project. Doing a little at a time will complete the project by the deadline.

Period 2: At the end of period 1, we will be going to the textbook room to get the Choreopoem: For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf. When we return to this clas, we will begin reading it together.

HOMEWORK: Please complete the play For Colored Girls. Expect a test on the play for Friday.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Monologue Project

After our quiz, let's chat a bit about the play Monster. Those of you who would like to share one of the monologues you have written so far, may do so at the end of our discussion. If you finish the quiz early and are waiting for others, please take a look and begin work on the project options below.

With the remaining part of the class, you may choose one of the two projects:

1. Using one of your monologues, have an actor or friend prepare and "act out" your monologue. Before you hand over your script, please revise it. Remove tired or vague language. Add more specific details. Develop your character. Record the monologue at least three times, each at different angles or camera shots (close ups, extreme close ups, medium shots, long shots, etc.) Once you have filmed the monologue, edit the film using our editing software. You may, as the models, have a neutral background or shoot the film on location (appropriate to your character's speech).

Here's an example:
Skinhead Girl
Joined At the Head

2. Write a one-person show made up of monologues. You should have at least five or more monologues that connect thematically (Talking With) or keep a central character and story line from one of your monologues and develop the story to include other voices (like Monster). You may use or re-edit the monologues you have created, or, write new ones that support your story/theme.

The deadline is on-going. Your monologue project will be due before the end of the marking period. You will have time periodically while we are reading and learning playwriting to work on this long-term project. Do note that other writing exercises and projects will be given during this marking period, so don't delay or waste your time in class. Get started on this project as soon as you are able.

Just like a fiction story or poem, the audience should easily identify and be able to answer the following after watching a monologue.

A. Who is the character speaking?
B. Why is the character speaking?
C. To whom is the character speaking (the audience)?
D. What is the major conflict or event occurring in the speech?

If you are able to answer these four basic questions, your monologue is well on its way.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Writing Monologue Tips

Please read this advice this morning before you attempt the post below it.

"Some of the most famous and memorable moments in theatre history – moments including phrases like, “to be, or not to be” or “now is the winter of our discontent,” which are internationally renowned – are from dramatic monologues.

Since Shakespeare’s time, the dramatic monologue has grown and developed to have countless uses in the world of theatre (as outlined in the article, What is a Monologue?), but the general definition remains the same: a monologue is a speech, usually somewhat lengthy, delivered by a single actor in a play or film.

But how do you go about writing a powerful and effective monologue? What follows is a look at the crucial elements to consider when you are working on your next theatrical monologue, whether dramatic or comedic.

Keep Your Character’s Voice Distinct and Consistent

Since a monologue involves a single character speaking for an extended period of time, you need to make certain that your character’s voice is distinct to his or her personality, and that it remains consistent, not only throughout the monologue itself, but also from before the monologue, and continuing through the remainder of the play.

This is not to say that your character’s monologue cannot reflect a change in attitude. Your character, for example, may be incredibly kind to her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend to her face and then turn around and perform a monologue about how much she hates her. What the audience needs to know is that this shift is intentional. If your intentions as the playwright are not clear, your writing will come across as inconsistent and your audience will quickly lose interest.

Pay Attention to the Rhythm and Shape of Your Monologue

Even though a monologue may be only a short part of a much longer play, it needs to have a shape and rhythm of its own. A monologue in any form is a story, so like any story, it should have (generally) a beginning, middle, and end. When writing your monologue, consider where its high point, or climax, is, and always make sure that every line is helping the audience get to and from that point effectively.

Without shape, your monologue will probably make it seem as though your character is either ranting or rambling. Use concise language and selective editing to keep your monologue from becoming dull or seemingly pointless – losing your audience’s emotional investment, even for five minutes, could keep them at a distance for the remainder of the play.

Know Your Audience, Know Your Audience, Know Your Audience!

This is by far the most important element of writing any monologue, and cannot be reiterated enough times. As you are writing (and later revising) your monologues, make certain that you know who your audience is. The word “audience” in this case is not referring to the group of people who will sit and watch a production of your play. Rather, the “audience” of your monologue is the person (or people) to whom your character is speaking when they deliver each specific monologue.

Knowing who your character is speaking to will shape your monologue significantly. It will give your character a distinct voice (imagine, for example, how differently you would address your mother and your best friend), a distinct attitude, and will help your audiences in production to understand what your characters’ intentions are.

Imagining that your character is speaking to “the world” or “to society” is not good enough – next time you are working on a monologue, try to revise your work with a specific audience in mind for your character, even if it’s just an experiment, and note how much stronger the piece becomes."

--Andrea Beca

Talking With (Talking With the Class) Monster & Monologues

Please turn in your monologue homework (monologue #2, see previous post) and the answered questions from Talking With.

Today, for the first 1/2 of the class, please do the following exercise:

1. Using the program "Photobooth", create 3 pictures of yourself in different moods (with different effects to symbolize each mood). You may wish to use the locations from the effects menu. If you need a new setting, use Google IMAGES, pick a place like Paris or London or Rome or a street corner or farm, etc. and quickly choose a picture background by dragging the picture to your desktop, then drag it onto the "drag background here" spaces.

2. After you have completed step #1: then, write a monologue in which you fictionalize yourself. Allow your character to move through the feelings, or express the three moods you created. You have the first period to complete this exercise. At the end of period one, please print out your monologue and hold on to it for a moment.

PERIOD 2: Period 2 we will discuss Talking With as a class. After our discussion, choose one of the three monologues you have written and prepare to share this by reading it with passion and energy to the class.

HOMEWORK: Please read MONSTER by Dael Orlandersmith. You can read a short interview with her here. Complete Monster for homework.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Jane Martin & Talking With

Please turn in a copy of your homework (the monologue we started last class) today.

Before we begin taking a look at the play Talking With, please read about Jane Martin here.

Now, in groups of 1-4 please read the play Talking With out loud with your group (or silently if you are alone). As you read, pay attention to how the playwright engages the audience and tells an interesting story that develops the single speaking character.

As you read, please stop at the following pages/monologues and view them together in your group. Discuss how performances help or harm the text before you move on.

Audition (monologue, page 25-27)
Here's another version. This one uses nice camera work, although cuts part of the monologue text. Please view it here.

French Fries (monologue, page 61-63)

If you don't finish the play today in class, please watch "Marks" here. The sound isn't great on this one, but for some of you, it is better than reading it out loud.

Once you have completed the play, please answer the questions posted on the blog entry below. These questions can be done in your group (make sure you put everyone's name on a single answer sheet) or alone and turned in today or first thing on Thursday.

HOMEWORK: Complete Talking With. Then follow these directions for MONOLOGUE #2.
1. Find a picture. This can be one of you, your family, or anything else (for example from a magazine or newspaper). Make sure there is a person in the picture.
2. Either create a monologue from the POV of the pictured person, or from the character viewing the picture (as if in that space).
3. Develop your character. Make up details and back story as you see fit. Your monologue should be at least 3 or more paragraphs.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Talking With by Jane Martin (play assignment #1)

Today, we are going to check out Jane Martin's play Talking With from the library. After we return from checking out the script, get into groups of 1-3 and read the play.

As you read, answer the following questions (write them out to hand in next class):

1. What did you think about the play as a whole? Did it surprise you or please you or frustrate you? Explain why you reacted to the play in this way.

2. What is the premise of "Talking With"? In a sentence or two, explain what you think is the premise or main idea/theme of the play.

3. The "audience" for each character changes as the play continues. How does the author help a viewer or reader understand who the character in question is "talking with..."? Overall, by the end of the play, who do you think the playwright Jane Martin is "Talking with...?" Support your opinion.

Please complete "Talking With" for homework, if you do not complete the play in class. The handwritten questions are due next class: 9/7, along with your first monologue project.

Please bring your scripts with you next class to discuss this play.
Today we will cover the course criteria, go over some school related house-keeping information you might need, and pick up our first play: Talking With by Jane Martin from the library. See the post above for information about this play.

Last year, I made a point of explaining that to create an appropriate play script, a writer needs to consider 3 things:

1. Character
2. Place (setting)
3. Action

These three elements are essential to create a situation.

To create a situation for a character, a writer should know:
1. Who her character is and what the character wants
2. Where the character is physically
3. What action the character is currently doing in that location or setting

Once these 3 questions are answered, the writer can COMPLICATE the dramatic situation by adding a simple "Oops", "But...!", or "Uh Oh!"

Example: Jane is a new playwriting student who wants to become famous. She has paid a lot of money to learn the craft of writing from a famous playwriting teacher whom she admires. She has just been asked by her teacher in front of the entire class to explain why she wants to write plays. Jane begins to tell her story to the rest of the class, but (Oops, but...!, Uh Oh) after a few minutes into her story she is noticing her classmates falling asleep, and the teacher is looking annoyed with her. This motivates Jane to try another tactic.

Today, let's write a monologue. (Due: next class, Tuesday, September 7)

Create a character. Answer the 3 basic questions about your character, place, and action. Complicate the situation to make it dramatic.

Rules: Your monologue should only have one person talking (that's why it's a monologue!) and your monologue should reveal something unique or personal about your character. It should sound a little like a first person POV short story if you do it right. Your first draft should be no more than 2 pages (preferably one full page is great). The monologue should be written in standard play script format.

Please feel free to post questions here, or ask for help.

Assignment draft due: Tuesday, September 7

Welcome Back!

Our new academic year will begin with Playwriting in room A239 on September 2. Welcome back and I hope you all had an enjoyable vacation. Please note that you can access my teacher web page under the links to the right.

What's there?
The course criteria information for this class
Supporting information and links to all my class blogs
Access to student made films and writing

By the way, a hearty CONGRATULATIONS goes out to Khari for his avant garde film, which was a finalist in the Rochester Teen Film Festival. Along with prizes, Khari's film will be screened at the prestigious 360/365 Rochester Film Festival this coming April. Way to go, Khari!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Friday, June 11, 2010

End of Year/Course

Today as we end our year examining a CGI Animated film: Open Season.

Please hand in your homework (see below) and your film project if you have not completed this project yet.

Please feel free to post a comment about what you liked and didn't like in this course.

Have a good finals week!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Film Test, Blockbusters, and the 1970's

After your film test, please read the article on "The Home Video Invasion", "Blockbusters", and "CGI" to complete this course of study in film. After reading these short chapters, please post a comment and question to this post.

Sony unveiled their VTR (video tape recorder) in 1967, but it wasn't until the 1970's that it took the world by storm. The early versions cost a prohibitive $1,000 to $4,000! That's about 8-10 I-phones and at least as many TiVos. Watching movies in your home again threatened the movie industry, but under the Betamax VCR (1975) viewers could watch pornography without feeling guilty about it (the internet had not yet established itself). As fall-out, the porn and "X" film production grew and later would help release a whole host of B-films which would not receive a wide release in cinemas.

Steven Spielberg (American New Wave director/Auteur) filmed his blockbuster Jaws in 1975. The success of the book and the film began to show the possibility of mass-produced entertainment and give film a legitimacy through popular culture. There were few film programs in colleges and schools at this time. You may recall Spielberg's other work (mostly blockbusters, like Jaws).

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
E.T. (1982)
Jurassic Park

George Lucas on the other hand created the single most influential film in the 1970's with his space opera (part IV) of the seminal Star Wars (1978). Both Jaws and Star Wars became the first two films to make more than $100 million, rocketing both directors into fame!

Star Wars (1977)
Raiders of the Lost Ark and the famous "melting face scene just for fun - SPOILER."

In 1982 the film Tron (1982) effectively used CGI for its special effects. Since then CGI has been married to the Hollywood Blockbuster.

Westworld (1973)
The Black Hole (1979)
Star Trek (1979)

As you might note, CGI greatly improved the sci-fi genre.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Final Exam Review

Directors of the 1950's/1960's:
Alfred Hitchcock
Mike Nicols
Steven Spielberg
Ed Wood
Stanley Kubrick
George Lucas
John Ford
George Pal
John Frankenheimer
Arthur Penn
Brian De Palma
Sam Peckinpah
Martin Scorsese
Woody Allen
John Cassavetes
Francis Ford Coppola
William Friedkin
Dennis Hopper

Producers of the 1950's/1960's:
Samuel Z. Arkoff & AIP
William Castle
Roger Corman
Ed Wood
Walt Disney

Actors/Actresses of the 1950's/1960's:
Sidney Poitier
Jayne Mansfield
James Dean
James (Jimmy) Stewart
Vincent Price
Natalie Wood
Elizabeth Taylor
Cary Grant
Marlon Brando
Elvis Presley
Marilyn Monroe

Films/Film Clips:
Rebel Without a Cause
Bonnie & Clyde
Easy Rider
The Manchurian Candidate
Psycho, The Birds, Torn Curtain, Rear Window

1950's/1960's Film history:
3D films
The Cold War & Sci-Fi films
the Multiplex
The Invention of Television
The beginning of the Vietnam War
Drive-In theatres
American New Wave
British Film Invasion
MPAA and the Film Rating System
Epic Films
Angry Young Man films
Beatles' Films
Rock & Roll's influence on film

Film Project Due! Review for Final Exam

Please turn in your responses (if you have not posted them) and read the article on the MPAA and American New Wave Directors.

Your final exam covering the 1950's and 1960's film material will occur on Wednesday (next class). A review will be posted above for your assistance.

Please continue and complete your fiction film projects. These are due today! Please drop MP4 files into the workshop folder when you have completed your editing.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

June 3rd Agenda

Please continue to edit and work on your films. Do read and complete the instructions below (Tuesday's post).

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Important 1960s Films

The coffeehouse readings have been moved to Friday at 7:00 in the Ensemble Theater. Sorry for the confusion.

Take a look at these clips. Choose one category and respond in writing to this question:
After viewing the sample clips here, choose a contemporary film that reminds you of what you watched. Explain the connection and answer: do you think the connection is on purpose or by accident? Why? This comment/response will be due next class (June 7).

1960's Epic/Costume Drama Films:
Spartacus (1960) Tony Curtis, Laurence Olivier, Charleton Heston
El Cid (1961) Charleton Heston
Cleopatra (1963) Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton
Becket (1964) Richard Burton & Peter O'Toole
The Sound of Music (1965) Julie Andrews & Christopher Plumber
Doctor Zhivago (1965)
The Lion in Winter (1968) Peter O'Toole & Katherine Hepburn

Angry Young Man Films:
Look Back in Anger (1959)
The Loneliness of the Longdistance Runner (1962)
The Caretaker (1963)
The Leather Boys (1963)
If (1969)
Easy Rider (1969)

Beatles' Films
A Hard Day's Night (1964)
Help! (1965)
Yellow Submarine (1968)

Famous/Influential Directors:

Stanley Kubrick: Lolita (1962), Dr. Strangelove (1964)
John Ford: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
George Pal: The Time Machine (1960), Jason & the Argonauts (1963), One Million Years BC (1966)
John Frankenheimer: The Young Savages (1961), The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
Arthur Penn: The Miracle Worker (1962), Bonny & Clyde (1967), Alice's Restaurant (1969)
Alfred Hitchcock: Psycho (1960), The Birds (1963), Marnie (1964), Torn Curtain (1966)
James Bond Films: Dr. No (1962), Goldfinger (1964)

African American Films:
Sidney Poitier: A Raisin in the Sun (1961), Lilies of the Field (1963), To Sir With Love (1967), Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)

1960's Film/Film Project

Continue to work on your film project. Please complete the film questions for Thursday. You should read and take notes from AMC's Filmsite (Tim Dirks): under the film history by decade section.

The last Coffeehouse of the year is tomorrow: 7:00 in the Ensemble Theatre. All are welcome!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Alfred Hitchcock

Please take a look at the link on Alfred Hitchcock. Read the articles "About Hitchcock", Anecdotes, and "Alfred Hitchcock and the making of a film culture".

Here are a few clips from Hitchcock's 50's films:

Dial M for Murder (1954)
Rear Window (1954)
Vertigo (1958)
North By Northwest (1959)

After reading and viewing the clips, please work on your fiction film projects.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

B-Flicks & Film Project

Today, please read about Samuel Arkoff, Ed Wood, and Roger Corman--all influential "B" horror/suspense film makers. As you watch it is important to consider why these films were made, who the audience was for these horrible horrors, and how these producers, directors, and film makers went on to influence our contemporary horror/suspense film making.

After reading and watching, please respond to this post with a comment about what you thought. You are free to comment on any of the following: (please refer to specific clips/films & use examples) what purpose does the horror flick serve in society? How does marketing a film through trailers entice or ruin the movie? How were horror films of the 1950's similar or different from those in our own time? And, of course, other reactions.

After viewing and commenting, please continue to work on your film projects. Those of you who have shot footage, please download and prepare the clips for editing. Those of you who have not yet started, please remember the deadline is June 7. The camera may be signed out, but please realize we only have one. Plan ahead and progress with your project.

Ed Wood & Roger Corman

From IMDB:

Ed Wood (Jr.) (10 October 1924 – 10 December 1978) was an American screenwriter, director, producer, actor, author, and editor, who often performed many of these functions simultaneously. In the 1950s, Wood made a run of cheap and poorly produced genre films, now humorously celebrated for their technical errors, unsophisticated special effects, large amounts of ill-fitting stock footage, idiosyncratic dialogue, eccentric casts and outlandish plot elements, although his flair for showmanship gave his projects at least a modicum of critical success.

Wood's popularity waned soon after his biggest 'name' star, Béla Lugosi, died. He was able to salvage a saleable feature from Lugosi's last moments on film, but his career declined thereafter. Toward the end of his life, Wood made pornographic movies and wrote pulp crime, horror, and sex novels. His posthumous fame began two years after his death, when he was awarded a Golden Turkey Award as Worst Director of All Time. The lack of conventional film making ability in his work has earned Wood and his films a considerable cult following.

Glen or Glenda (1953)

Jail Bait (1954)

Bride of the Monster(1955)

Plan Nine from Outer Space (1956) Written and shot in 5 days! (and it shows!)

Roger William Corman (born April 5, 1926), sometimes nicknamed "King of the Bs" for his output of B-movies, is a prolific American producer and director of low-budget movies, some of which have an established critical reputation: many of his films derived from the tales of Edgar Allan Poe.

Corman has apprenticed many now-famous directors, stressing the importance of budgeting and resourcefulness; Corman once joked he could make a film about the fall of the Roman Empire with two extras and a sagebush.

It Conquered the World (1956)

The Little Shop of Horrors

The Raven(1963)

The Terror (1963)

The Masque of Red Death (1963)

Samuel Z. Arkoff


"By the early 1950's, Samuel Z. Arkoff was a brash lawyer scratching out a living by representing his in-laws and the Hollywood fringe, which included many of now-infamous director/angora-clad transvestite Edward D. Wood Jr.'s social circle. Arkoff was physically imposing and capable of scaring anyone who opposed him. One of his clients was Alex Gordon, a screenwriter who had submitted an unsolicited script to Realart Pictures, an outfit that was profitably re-releasing 20-year old movies, often under new titles conjured up by it's owner, Jack Broder.

One such film, Man Made Monster (1941), had just been re-issued as The Atomic Monster, coincidentally the same title of Gordon's screenplay. Zarkoff, smelling blood in the water, paid Mr. Broder a visit and incredibly, obtained a $500 settlement. Broder's sales manager, James H. Nicholson was dumbfounded by Zarkoff's ability to extract a dime out of his tightfisted boss and proposed a partnership. American Releasing Corporation was founded in 1954 and their first release was a low-budget feature by 29-year old producer Roger Corman. Made for less than $50,000, it netted $850,000 and Corman was brought into the fold as a silent partner.

By 1955 the company was renamed American International Pictures, or simply AIP within the industry. Initially focusing on westerns on the premise that locations came cheap, and although profitable, Arkoff was unhappy with the returns and solicited theater owners for advice on what types of films filled seats. By the mid-1950's, thanks to television, the audience numbers had dwindled considerably with the key demographic now teenagers and young adults, who craved horror movies and drive-ins. AIP jumped into the horror genre with both feet and made a fortune. Under the aegis of Nicholson and Arkoff, the company survived in a constricting industry by catering to the whims of the teenage trade and adapting to trends.

AIP's long (350-plus) roster of kitsch classics, running the gamut from horror to rock'n'roll, from juvenile delinquency to Italian musclemen, and from Edgar Allan Poe to Annette Funicello, have formed their own unique niche in film history. His company became infamous for clever advertising schemes that were often more entertaining than AIP's movies. Arkoff never tolerated egos and his films were more often than not, profitable, thanks to tight budgets and a sharp understanding of the target market. After Nicholson's 1972 resignation, Arkoff assumed full control of the company and remained in charge until the 1979 merger with Filmways prompted his own departure. He then became the head of Arkoff International Pictures."

Beast with a Million Eyes (1955)

I was a Teenage Werewolf (1957)

Attack of the Puppet People (1958)

Teenage Caveman (1958)

War of the Colossal Beast (1958)

High School Hellcats (1958)

Two of my personal favorite Vincent Price films (which never really were horrifying, but fun, nonetheless):
The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) Here's the trailer.

Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1973) Here's the trailer.

Partner Nicolson's last picture was:
Legend of Hell House (1973) a particularly entertaining and effective horror film.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Rebel (Conclusion), Film Project, & William Castle

Today, we will watch the conclusion of Rebel Without a Cause. Your character sheets are due at the end of the period, as well as your Drive-in Theatre homework.

After the film: read, watch, and post a response to this post in 2-3 paragraphs or so about the clips and information you learn about William Castle (see below). This is due at the end of class.

With remaining time, please work on your fiction film project.

The Wonderful World of William Castle

Competing with a growing television audience, filmmakers in the 1950's had to entice viewers into seeing their films. The worse the film, the greater the need for effective trailers. Of the best promoters of his directing and producing work, William Castle shines over all others. See why below!

William Schloss was born in New York City. Schloss means "castle" in German, and William Castle probably chose to translate his surname into English to avoid the discrimination often encountered by Jewish entertainers of his time. He spent most of his teenage years working on Broadway in a number of jobs. He left for Hollywood at the age of 23, going on to direct his first film when he was 29. He also worked an as assistant to Orson Welles, doing much of the location work for Welles' noir film, The Lady from Shanghai.

Castle was famous for directing low budget B-films with many overly promoted gimmicks. Five of these were scripted by adventure novelist Robb White.

After a long career, William Castle died of a heart attack in Los Angeles in 1977.

His films include:

Macabre (1958): A certificate for a $1,000 life insurance policy from Lloyd's of London was given to each customer in case he/she should die of fright during the film. Showings also had fake nurses stationed in the lobbies and hearses parked outside the theater.

Utube clip: Macabre:

House on Haunted Hill (1959): Filmed in "Emergo". An inflatable glow in the dark skeleton attached to a wire floated over the audience during the final moments of some showings of the film to parallel the action on the screen when a skeleton arose from a vat of acid and pursued the villainous wife of Vincent Price. The gimmick did not always instill fright; sometimes the skeleton became a target for some audience members who hurled candy boxes, soda cups or any other objects at hand at the skeleton.

The Tingler (1959): Filmed in "Percepto". Some seats in theatres showing the Tingler were equipped with larger versions of the hand-held joy buzzers attached to the underside of the seats. When the Tingler in the film attacked the audience the buzzers were activated as a voice encouraged the real audience to "Scream - scream for your lives."

13 Ghosts (1960): Filmed in "Illusion-O". A hand held ghost viewer/remover with strips of red and blue cellophane was given out to use during certain segments of the film. By looking through either the red or blue cellophane the audience was able to either see or remove the ghosts if they were too frightening. 13 Ghosts.

Homicidal (1961): This film contained a "Fright break" with a 45 second timer overlaid over the film's climax as the heroine approached a house harboring a sadistic killer. A voiceover advised the audience of the time remaining in which they could leave the theatre and receive a full refund if they were too frightened to see the remainder of the film. About 1% demanded refunds, but were subjected to demasculation and called "cowards". Homicidal clip.

Mr. Sardonicus (1961): The audiences were allowed to vote in a "punishment poll" during the climax of the film - Castle appears on screen to explain to the audience their options. Each member of the audience was given a card with a glow in the dark thumb they could hold either up or down to decide if Mr. Sardonicus would be cured or die during the end of the film. Supposedly, no audience ever offered mercy so the alternate ending was never screened.

(1962): Each patron was given a "Magic" (gold colored plastic) coin which looked nice, but did absolutely nothing.

Strait-Jacket (1964): Castle had cardboard axes made and handed out to patrons. This film, by the way, starred Oscar winner (not for this film) Joan Crawford - Mommy Dearest herself.

I Saw What You Did (1965): Seat belts were installed to keep patrons from being jolted from their chairs in fright.

Other film trailers from William Castle:

The Old Dark House (designed by Charles Addams: the illustrator/writer who created "The Addams Family")
The Night Walker
Let's Kill Uncle
Thirteen Frightened Girls

William Castle acted as producer to Roman Polanski's direction of:
Rosemary's Baby
The film remains one of the most artistic Castle productions ever made. Clip here.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Rebel - Part Deux & Viewing homework

Today, please watch Rebel Without a Cause and answer the character grid (to be turned in after the end of the film).

HOMEWORK: Please view the 1950's Drive-In notes/clips/materials below. Explain in a few paragraphs how drive-in theatres helped to create the B-movie genre, how these films reflected the fears and topics of the day, and why the films might have appealed to a teenage audience. Do you feel that films today still market to your age group? Provide examples when answering.

Drive-In Theatres

A little history.

Richard Hollingshead, a young sales manager at his dad's Whiz Auto Products, invented something that combined his two interests: cars and movies.

Richard Hollingshead's vision was an open-air movie theater where moviegoers could watch from their own cars. He experimented in his own driveway in New Jersey. Hollingshead mounted a 1928 Kodak projector on the hood of his car, projected onto a screen he had nailed to trees in his backyard, and used a radio placed behind the screen for sound. Clever!

The inventor subjected his beta drive-in to vigorous testing: for sound quality, for different weather conditions (Hollingshead used a lawn sprinkler to imitate rain) and for figuring out how to park the patrons' cars. He lined up the cars in his driveway, which created a problem with line of sight. By spacing cars at various distances and placing blocks and ramps under the front wheels of cars, Richard Hollingshead created the perfect parking arrangement for the drive-in movie theater experience.

The first patent for the Drive-In Theater (United States Patent# 1,909,537) was issued on May 16, 1933. With an investment of $30,000, Richard opened the first drive-in on June 6, 1933 at a location in Camden, New Jersey. The price of admission was 25 cents for the car and 25 cents per person.

The design did not include the in-car speaker system we know today. The inventor contacted a company by the name of RCA Victor to provide the sound system, called "Directional Sound." Three main speakers were mounted next to the screen that provided sound. The sound quality was not good for cars in the rear of the theater or for the surrounding neighbors.

The largest drive-in theater in patron capacity was the All-Weather Drive-In of Copiague, New York. All-Weather had parking space for 2,500 cars, an indoor 1,200 seat viewing area, kid's playground, a full service restaurant and a shuttle train that took customers from their cars and around the 28-acre theater lot.

Please take a look at these clips. Drive in down memory lane...

Clip A.
Clip B.

Science Fiction (or sci-fi)

The Cold War and the fear of nuclear annihilation by the communists is reflected in the many b-films made in the 1950's. Here's a sampling. Enjoy!

Forbidden Planet (1956) (starring Leslie Neilson, this is based on Shakespeare's The Tempest)

The Blob (1958) (starring Steve McQueen)

Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957)

Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) Ed Wood’s terrible film masterpiece!

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958)

Attack of the Giant Gila Monster (1959)

Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Fiction Film Prep (Script due today) & Rebel Without a Cause

During period 1:

Today please complete and print out your script. For your next film project, if you are planning to work with others (up to 6 other students can collaborate on a film), get together in your small groups and read each others' scripts. Decide on the best script to use for your short narrative film. You, of course, may elect to work alone in which case please start thinking about the following:

1. Plan my film. Who will I need as actors in this film? Do I have friends or family members that might be willing to help me out?
2. What locations will I need to shoot? Can some established shots be still pictures from the internet or from my own digital camera?
3. What props, set pieces, or costumes will I need to acquire to make the film work?
4. Fill out a storyboard for each scene (see PAGES, there's a template there).
5. Create a shooting calendar. How much time is the film shooting likely to take? Begin to organize and plan ahead.

2nd period:

We will begin screening: Rebel Without a Cause starring Natalie Wood and James Dean.
As you watch the film, please prepare a character action grid for two of the following characters (you can mix & match them):

Jim Stark, John "Plato" Crawford, Judy, Frank Stark, Goon.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Disney Animation (Personal Response)

Walt Disney continues to dominate animation and live-action blockbuster family films. Here's some samples. Please watch and post a comment below about your reaction and/or personal thoughts about what you're seeing:

The Brave Engineer (1950)
Morris, the Midget Moose (1950)
Lambert the Sheepish Lion (1952)
Social Lion (1954)
Hooked Bear (1956)
Goofy cartoon (Cold War 1951)
Donald Duck short (1954)
Chip & Dale short (1954)
Paul Bunyan (part one) (1958)
Paul Bunyan (part two) (1958)

Feature Films:
Cinderella (1950)
Alice in Wonderland (1951)
Peter Pan (1953)
Peter Pan 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
Old Yeller (1957)

1950's film

Today: Please read and research information about the 1950's using the film site, by decade.

Afterward, please take a look at some of the following clips/trailers for 1950's films.

Harvey (1950) James Stewart
Blackboard Jungle (1955) Sidney Poitier and another clip here. Blackboard Jungle.
The Bad Seed (1956)
The Wild One (1953) Marlon Brando
Tennessee Williams: A Streetcar Named Desire (Marlon Brando, 1951), Suddenly Last Summer (Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift, 1959), Cat On a Hot Tin Roof (1955) (Elizabeth Taylor & Paul Newman)
James Dean: Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
East of Eden (1955)
Giant (1956) with Elizabeth Taylor

Jailhouse Rock (Elvis Presley - (1957)

The Robe (1953)
Ben Hur (1959)

Marilyn Monroe:
All About Eve (1950) Bette Davis
How to Marry a Millionaire (1953)
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
The Seven Year Itch (1955)
Some Like it Hot (1959)

From Here to Eternity (1953) Montgomery Clift, Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr
Tale of Two Cities (1958)

For the remainder of the class, please complete your script as well. It is due Monday, May 17 (see below for instructions/models).

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Short Script Project

You have read some scripts, you have seen many films. Now it's your turn to write a very short film script (4-6 pages). Due: Monday, May 17. Finished early? Start filming!

Some advice:

The problem with short films is that they are short. You do not have the luxury for long, character and plot development. The inciting incident should attack the plot just before the climax. This means characters need to be depicted quickly, using visual clues that establish setting, character, mood, conflict and theme.

To help you, follow the steps outlined below with appropriate advice:

1. Decide on the message or theme of the script. What do you want to say to the world about the world?

2. Decide on the best genre to convey your message clearly.
A. Sample genres (how the story is told): realistic drama, comedy, black comedy, farce, romantic comedy, historical drama, sci-fi, fantasy, western, chick flick, urban, musical, action, suspense, horror, mystery, educational, gangster, martial arts, etc.
B. Sample styles (how the camera is used): film noir, expressionistic, slapstick, screwball comedy, exploitation, naturalistic, formalistic, avant garde, b-movie, surrealism, bollywood, parody, silent, mockumentary, Hitchcockian, gritty, neorealism, dogma 95, etc.

3. All films (and stories) need three basic components:
A. A setting (or world): You need to establish a world (diegesis) quickly in order to move quickly to explore a character’s problem. Setting your film around a familiar event or ritual helps make this happen: a funeral, a birthday party, a graduation, Thanksgiving with odd parents, etc. The more recognizable the setting, the more you can focus on the problem and character. It also helps to give your story a finite time frame. Giving internal deadlines helps pace the film.

B. A character (or protagonist): characters are interesting because of their goals. What does your character want that she cannot do without? The stakes should be high enough for an audience to care. Wanting a sandwich is not good enough, unless the character is literally starving and this is the last sandwich on earth. Drive your character to act by a specific want, need or obligation. Even if the character isn't aware what it is she wants, the audience needs to know this up front and quickly. Otherwise we will lose interest.

C. A problem (or conflict): your problem should reflect your theme. You want to convey your message or world view to the audience. Think how problems facing the character may help do this. Keep notching up the stakes for your character until the concept sounds interesting. Make the character suffer a bit (and act) before rewarding or completing your plot line.

4. POV matters. Snow White from the Witch's POV is a different story than that of Prince Charming. It's all a matter of perspective. Pick an interesting perspective.

5. If you don't know what your theme is, neither will your audience.

6. Successful short short films focus on one moment or event. This moment should be something important or significant not only from the character's perspective, but also important/significant to the general audience member.

7. Limit dialogue. Film is a visual medium. Use its strengths to your advantage. Show don't tell.

Need help? Inspiration? Models? Look here!

Simply Scripts (short film samples)

Here are some websites with short film samples (videos).
Student Short Films (public access TV show featuring student films)
Futureshorts (another site to watch short films)

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...