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!

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...