Monday, December 19, 2011

Hedda Gabler: Background & Samuel Beckett

Henrik Ibsen's play Hedda Gabler premiered in 1891 to negative reviews--the critics found Hedda's controversial character to be a vicious monster. Her character is known today as the female "Hamlet" in theater circles and is one of the most dramatic roles in contemporary and modern theater. Hedda is often portrayed as a feminist heroine fighting a rigid, conservative society, although she is also seen as a villain.

As you watch the film today, please complete the handout notes and turn in at the end of class.

HOMEWORK: Begin working on a musical, social drama (like Hedda Gabler), or an absurdist play in the style of Samuel Becket. Watch at least one of Beckett's plays and respond to his work on the forum (see forum for details).

And now for something completely different...

Samuel Beckett: (Beckett will separate the true playwrights from those who just pretend to be talented or intelligent)
Perhaps one of the strangest plays you are likely to see (there are several, actually--see below) is Samuel Beckett's End Game.

The story involves Hamm, a blind old invalid unable to stand, and his servant Clov, who cannot sit down. They live by the sea in a tiny house. The dialogue suggests that there is nothing left outside—no sea, no sun, no clouds. The two mutually dependent characters have been fighting for years and continue to do so as the play progresses. Clov always wants to leave but never seems to be able (similar to the characters in Waiting for Godot). Also present on stage are Hamm's legless parents Nagg and Nell, who live in trash cans upstage who also bicker continuously or talk inanely.

"The English title is taken from the last part of a chess game, when there are very few pieces left. Beckett himself was known to be an avid chess player; the struggle of Hamm to accept the end can be compared to the refusal of novice players to admit defeat, whereas experts normally resign after a serious blunder or setback."

Endgame lacks action, in Beckett's typical absurdist style. Critics have compared this play with Shakespeare's Hamlet (the protagonist Hamm, for example, is thought to be a shortened version of the name).

The implication in the play is that the characters live in an unchanging, static state. Each day contains the actions and reactions of the day before, until each event takes on an almost ritualistic quality. It is made clear, through the text, that the characters have a past (most notably through Nagg and Nell who conjure up memories of tandem rides in the Ardennes). However, there is no indication that they may have a future. Even the death of Nell, which occurs towards the end of the play, is greeted with a lack of surprise." The play suggests the futility of life, and the random boredom, argument for argument sake, and the waste of human effort.

This scene occurs just after Clov has his opening soliloquy, then is joined by Hamm, who establishes the master/servant relationship between the two characters. Nell and Nagg will appear half-way through the scene to complete the company.

Here's the continuation of the scene. If you like what you're seeing, feel free to watch the rest of the show. Check the sidebar on Youtube to see the continuing scenes or you can view this complete version with actor Michael Gambon (better known as Dumbledore).

Another very strange play is Happy Days by Samuel Beckett. The characters are Winnie and her husband Willie. The play is essentially a monologue. The theme is domestic life. See the handout script to read along with the actor.

And another very strange play is the play Play. This one with actor Alan Rickman. Similarities to the two previous plays are obvious, I think.

And finally Beckett's masterpiece: Waiting For Godot in its entirety. Enjoy!

NOTE: When we return from break, we will be workshopping and preparing our plays for the playwrights' festival, the Geva 10-Minute play festival, and working with the junior drama majors. Please choose one of your scripts: the monologue play, either 10-minute play, the adaptation, the one-act play, etc. to workshop.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fiddler Forum, Play Option, & Ibsen

HOMEWORK: Please post a forum comment on the play Fiddler on the Roof. It is due by the end of the day today (11:59 p.m.).

As your final project in playwriting, you will have a variety of options. Here are a few of them:

1. Collaborate with up to two people (2 works best) to create a musical. You may find it helpful to base your musical as an adaptation (remember those adaptation scripts?) of a well known book (examples might include: Harry Potter! or Tale of Two Cities! or The Eyre Affair!, a well known film: Kane! King Kong, the musical!, or Whatever Happened to Rosemary's Baby!, a well known event: Wallstreet, the musical!, or Evron, the musical!, or a even a religion (The Book of Mormon is playing on Broadway right now, but there have been tons of religious musicals: Godspell! Jesus Christ Superstar!, and others.) The possibilities are endless.

2. Write a realistic social play a la Ibsen. More details on this very soon--see below. Use the techniques of naturalism to write a dramatic script.

3. Write an absurdist play (more details will follow next week).


A major 19th-century Norwegian playwright, theater director, and poet, Henrik Ibsen is often referred to as "the godfather" of modern drama and is one of the founders of Modernism in theatre. His works are what we call naturalistic.

Naturalism (1865-1900) attempts to go further from realism to suggest that social conditions, heredity, and environment affects human behavior. Plots often revolve around social problems, characters are often drawn from lower classes and the poor, perhaps in an attempt to explain their behavior.

In Hedda Gabler Ibsen explores infidelity and betrayal. His use of the "secret" as a conventional plot device is excellent. Hedda remains one of the most interesting dramatic characters of the 19th (and 20th) centuries--a juicy role for an actress!

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is a Stephen Sondheim musical, with book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart. It is inspired by the farces of Plautus (251–183 BC), a Roman comedic playwright. The musical is specifically taken from Pseudolus, Miles Gloriosus and Mostellaria, and centers around a Roman slave named Pseudolus as he attempts to win his freedom by helping his young master woo the girl next door. The plot displays many classic elements of farce, including puns, the slamming of doors, cases of mistaken identity (frequently involving characters disguising themselves as one another), and satirical comments on social class.

Fiddler on the Roof & A Funny Thing Happened...

Sholom Aleichem was the pseudonym for Yiddish writer Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich. His collection of short stories Tevye the Milkman and Other Tales inspired the musical Fiddler on the Roof. In 1905 he escaped Russia's Pogroms (more history here folks) to settle in New York, but moved to be with his family to Geneva, Switzerland. His family eventually moved to Manhattan in 1914, but Aleichem died the next year in Geneva. His work was influential as a Jewish writer.

Fiddler on the Roof is based on Aleichem's characters and stories and was written by Joseph Stein (book) and Jerry Bock (music). Lyrics were written by Sheldon Harnick. The play takes place in Russia and is about Tevye (a milkman) who is the father of five daughters. He attempts to maintain Jewish traditions during the Russia diaspora.  Since many of you are a little cloudy about history, please look here for information about the Diaspora (full film documentary). And a lecture by Dr. David Neiman on the Diaspora.

The original Broadway production of Fiddler opened in 1964 and surpassed 3,000 performances. Fiddler held the record for the longest-running Broadway musical for almost 10 years until Grease took that title. It remains one of Broadway's Top 20 productions in all history. The production was extraordinarily profitable and highly acclaimed.winning nine Tony Awards, including best Musical, score, book, direction, and choreography. So There's a lot to learn by reading it.

HOMEWORK: Please read Fiddler on the Roof (listen to the music on our next blog entry) and post a response to the forum (remember that thing?) by Friday, Dec. 16.

Friday, December 2, 2011

One Act Play Project

You are working to complete your One Act plays. Your one act play script should be a minimum of 15 pages (and probably no longer than 30). One acts are longer (obviously) than 10-minute plays. You may include more than one scene in a one-act play, but you still want to think about following the unities. The shorter the play, the more this matters (or you can use a suggested set).

Before you hand in your play, please proofread your work (grammar, syntax, and spelling count), check your play script format, and examine your sentence structure. Dialogue should not be long, twisty-turning-labyrinthine sentences that go on and on and on with many conjunctions like and, or, but--also get rid of those stupid non-words like: um, well, so, etc.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The One Act Play Project & Our Town Notes

Please check Mr. Bodensteiner's blog for today's agenda. There is some wonderful advice about one-act play writing and information and reflection on Our Town.

HOMEWORK: If you are behind in your script writing, write for homework to get caught up in the lab.

Students who have not turned in a draft of their 10-minute play and their Adaptation are likely to fail this marking period. Please make sure you turn these drafts in by Friday for minimal credit. No late work will be taken after that. Incomplete work (from previous drafts) may be completed and turned in for credit.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Researching a Setting & Our Town

Today, please check out Mr. Bodensteiner's blog for the agenda. You will be researching a setting in which to write a play.

Our Town uses a SUGGESTED SET design. In other words, the setting is suggested (not really built). This allows actors to utilize the stage and create the "setting" by acting (something they like to do.) It is similar to improv in that the setting is suggested, not expected to be built by the techies. The famous scene with the ladders in Our Town is a brilliant bit of suggested stage business, with the ladders acting as two separate house windows from which the lovers can converse. Very clever.

Our Town (with Paul Newman as the Stage Manager)
Our Town (End of Act I, High School Production)
Our Town (the film)

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Piano Lesson & Our Town

You will be having a test today on the Piano Lesson. Please see Mr. Bodensteiner's blog for details.

The next play on our agenda: Our Town by Thorton Wilder. Please check out the biographical information on Wilder.

 We hope everyone has a relaxing Thanksgiving break.

HOMEWORK: Please read Our Town.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Piano Lesson: The Ending

Please refer to Mr. Bodensteiner's blog for today's agenda.

It is important to pay close attention to character motivation in a play. One of the tips for good playwriting is to give your characters interesting motivations.

But how do we do that?

Motivation in plays is developed by characterization: what a character does (actions), what a character says, and what other characters say about another character. A character's motivation is often closely tied to the major conflict and theme of a play. Actors read scripts carefully looking for motivation for their characters. It is an essential skill for an actor. A playwright needs to help these actors out by making sure that each character has a purpose and a reason to act and say what he/she does.

As you read The Piano Lesson, consider the motivation behind each character. What does this character want? Why do they want it? How do they go about getting it?

HOMEWORK: Please complete the Piano Lesson and study for the test on Monday.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Piano Lesson: The Middle

Today we will continue reading The Piano Lesson. Please read up through Act 2, Scene 2 in class. Pay close attention to the songs in Act One, Scene Two and Act Two, Scene One. For more details, please refer to Mr. Bodensteiner's blog.

I will be giving out your progress reports. Please share these with parents/guardians. The Adaptation Project (another major project) is not yet reported on this report. If you have not completed or turned in this project please do so immediately. It is past due.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Piano Lesson

Your adaptation is past due. If you have this project completed, please turn script in now. Forum post for the play Salome has been extended to Sunday at 11:59 p.m., but I will not be taking late work for this assignment.

Please take a look at Mr. Bodensteiner's blog here:

HOMEWORK: Please complete up to scene 2 in the Piano Lesson. Post a forum response for Salome on our forum before Sunday.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Charles Ludlam Scenes

Salome & Oscar Wilde

For homework, please read Salome by Oscar Wilde. There is a bit of information you should be aware of before attempting the play.
  • Salome is a story adapted from the Old Testament. Originally, the story is meant to suggest the decadence of King Herod, as he lustfully offers to fulfill any wish made to him by Salome. She, of course, takes advantage of him and asks for the head of John the Baptist served to her on a platter. 
  • Salome is one of the greatest female villains in all of classical literature. In this production, Wilde gives her some very poetic and difficult monologues. Her monologue wooing John the Baptist is particularly fun. Enjoy the evil.
  • The dialogue in this play is very affected. The idea that plays should sound natural and normal is a convention occurring just around the time that Wilde is writing. He is a poet, however, and a bit old fashioned in his writing style. His other works are much more conversational and the dialogue sparkles with wit. This is not the case here. The dialogue is meant to be stilted, formal, and poetic--not realistic.
  • The non-realistic dialogue gives the play a certain dream-like quality. Even in its dream-like state, the play is highly representative (metaphoric or symbolic) and creepy. Personally, I love the ending, albeit it may come as a sudden shock to the system for young contemporary audiences like yourself.
  • If you can stomach it, here is Ken Russel's lewd production of Wilde's Salome in its entirety. Make some popcorn and watch.
  • Other staged productions: Sergiy Salome, Salome, Black Moon's Salome, Franciscan Univ's Salome, a full production of Salome
Peruse the brief bio of Oscar at the Official Oscar Wilde page. This short biographical film is also helpful. Please watch.

Oscar Wilde is often quoted and noted for his epigrams (short pithy sayings):
"No man is rich enough to buy back his past."

"Men become old, but they never become good." -- “Lady Windermere's Fan”

"A man who moralizes is usually a hypocrite, and a woman who moralizes is invariably plain." -- “Lady Windermere's Fan”

"Nowadays all the married men live like bachelors and all the bachelors live like married men." -- “The Picture of Dorian Gray”

"One should never trust a woman who tells one her real age. A woman who would tell one that, would tell one anything."-- “A Woman of No Importance”

"Crying is the refuge of plain women but the ruin of pretty ones."-- “Lady Windermere's Fan”

"Men know life too early. Women know life too late. That is the difference between men and women."-- “A Woman of No Importance”

"Women are meant to be loved, not to be understood." -- “The Sphinx Without a Secret”

"It takes a thoroughly good woman to do a thoroughly stupid thing."-- “Lady Windermere's Fan”

"Women give to men the very gold of their lives. But they invariably want it back in such very small change." -- “The Picture of Dorian Gray”
 Monty Python Sketch

Adaptation Project & Some Writing Advice

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, we'll leave these to the 10-minute play category) but a one-act 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). 
LAB WORK: Please complete your play adaptations. The first draft of these "one-acts" will be due at the end of class. If you do not finish today, please complete and turn in on Thursday.

HOMEWORK: Please read the play Salome and post a response to our forum. Complete your adaptation, if you did not complete it today.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Adaptation Project, part 2

Today in lab, please continue working on completing your adaptation script. This project will be due Monday, Nov. 7.  If you get tired of writing or need a break, please work on your homework (reading Charles Ludlam's play adaptation of "Jack and the Beanstalk").

Adaptations can either be free adaptations (with wild interpretations of the playwright) or can be close adaptations of the original material. It is a matter of preference. Free adaptations allow for, yes, more freedom, but may annoy your audience who is expecting to see the story as it was written originally by the author (an impossibility, at best). How close you are to the original text depends on you. Neither FREE or CLOSE adaptations are incorrect in an of themselves.
Some famous adaptation plays:

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare by Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jess Winfield
Desdemona by Paula Vogel (Baltimore Waltz)
Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard
Salome by Oscar Wilde
Please read the article from this link & take notes for a quiz on the playwright: Charles Ludlam interview.

HOMEWORK: Please read Charles Ludlam's Jack and the Beanstalk. Note where in the script Ludlam changes or stretches the original story.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Adaptation Project

Brainstorming: take a minute or two to think about short stories you have read and enjoyed. Write down at least one title or author whose work you liked. Share with the class. You have five minutes to ask other students what their favorite stories are. If you also like that story, note it in your journal/notebook with the name of the person who also liked that story, then return to your seat.

Many playwrights (and filmmakers) rely on short fiction for their material. Short fiction can make excellent stage or film material, as there is not as much to cut as in novel length text. Audiences are more willing to watch a well-known story, as opposed to the new work of an unknown writer. Either way, a writer can learn a lot about story structure and writing by adapting a published or polished piece of writing. Adapting our own short stories or poem cycles can be an excellent and empowering task as well.
1. Adapt a favorite short story (or poem) into a one-act play. Length is determined by the story you pick but should be at least 5 pages and no more than 20.
2. You may use one of your own short stories, or you may pick any famous or published short story.
3. You are free to change location, consolidate settings, events, and characters to fit the limitations and structure of plays. When adapting, it is customary to cut and edit various details that wouldn't work on stage. Try using plot techniques like the time lock, the trap, Sarcey's Principle of Offstage Action, and the Unities to narrow your focus (otherwise you'll end up with a thousand scenes and a hundred pages of script).
4. You may also dip into film studies and write a film script for your preference. Please check the film script format here and make sure you are writing in proper film script format.
5. Please give credit to the original author. If you are the original author, attach a copy of the original story with the play script.
6. You may work with up to one other writer for this project. You can, of course, work alone as well.
Here are a few websites with short stories to consider for brainstorming ideas.

The Short Story Library: American Literature
Edgar Allan Poe stories
Short Stories

Example: The Tell Tale Heart (Edgar Allen Poe, starring Vincent Price) (monologue play)
Santaland Diaries (David Sedaris, from the stage production)
The Lottery (Shirley Jackson, part one)
Thank You, Mam (Langston Hughes, clip) 
A Perfect Day for Bananafish (J.D. Salinger)
Lamb To the Slaughter (Roald Dahl, from Alfred Hitchcock Presents) 

By the end of class today, you should have 1. picked a story and 2. begun to work on the adaptation.

HOMEWORK: Continue working on your play script. Plan on completing by the end of the week.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Playwriting Rubric

4 = Exemplary (A/A+): Play is written in correct (standard) playwriting format for actors/directors. Title is intriguing, symbolic, and/or original. Plot structure adheres to and enhances Aristotelian elements; Cause and effect is well done, logical and creative; conflict is intriguing and creative; the playwrights' message is universal and comments thoughtfully on the human condition; play has intriguing, original characters; setting is original and interesting, but also practical for theatrical space; stage directions are specific, producible, enhance the action of the play and do not get in the actor/reader's way; dialogue is original, compelling, appropriate for characters; characters have clear and appropriate motivation; there is a clear progression of conflict/events, leading to a dark moment (crisis), enlightenment, and climax for the protagonist; dialogue sounds natural; play follows the three unities of time, place, action (when appropriate); scenes are well developed, each ending with a climactic moment, constantly moving the plot forward; staging is creative, appropriate and play is clever and producible. Few minor grammar errors.

3 = Accomplished (B/B+): Play is written in standard publishing playwriting format, or format for actors/directors has a few mistakes. Title is appropriate, but may not be as clever or creative as 4 above. Plot is appropriate and uses several Aristotelian elements, but not to the same level as 4. Cause and effect is more or less appropriate for the situation; playwright has a message, but may not be as original or creative as 4. Setting is appropriate and practical, but not as clever or interesting as 4. Stage directions are used appropriately; dialogue is appropriate for verisimilitude of characters and setting; dialogue mostly sounds natural; play mostly follows unities, but may rely on one more than another; main characters have appropriate motivation, with some errors or lack of development; scenes are developed, but may not always progress the plot; staging is appropriate and producible, but not as clever as 4. Some minor grammar errors.

2 = Promising (C/C+): Play attempts standard playwriting format, but may have several errors. Title is present, but does not necessarily support theme, tone, or symbol. Plot borders on cliche or sentimentality; plot may lack some Aristotelian elements. Cause occurs without effect or there are errors in plotting; playwrights' message may be trite or melodramatic or over done; characters may be unoriginal, lacking motivation or development; setting is standard and largely uninteresting; dialogue sounds stilted or melodramatic, unreal; play does not always follow the unities; characters may lack motivation or play includes too many minor characters; scenes are sketchy or undeveloped, conflict is too easily resolved; scenes may not advance the plot; staging is awkward or expensive or cinematic; grammar errors distract the reader/actor.

1 = Beginning (D): Play is not in playwriting format. Title is absent or untitled. Play may be incomplete, plot and characters flat or undeveloped, or as a "2" but may also be late. Work is not up to 11th grade level or standards. Grammar mistakes and writing errors make reading difficult.

10 Minute Script Due

Today, please complete your 10-minute play script. Before you turn in your work, please make sure your format is correct and remove any non-essential dialogue (particularly ums, and wells, and so on). Reduce your sentence structure to avoid overusing compound and complex sentences. Simple sentences are more direct. Proofread and correct mistakes in grammar and punctuation.

Finished early? Get started on our next assignment:
1. Adapt a favorite short story (or poem) into a one-act play. Length is determined by the story you pick but should be at least 5 pages and no more than 20.
2. You may use one of your own short stories, or you may pick any famous or published short story.
3. You are free to change location, consolidate settings, events, and characters to fit the limitations and structure of plays. When adapting, it is customary to cut and edit various details that wouldn't work on stage. Try using plot techniques like the time lock, the trap, Sarcey's Principle of Offstage Action, and the Unities to narrow your focus (otherwise you'll end up with a thousand scenes and a hundred pages of script).

Here are a few websites with short stories to consider for brainstorming ideas.

The Short Story Library: American Literature
Edgar Allan Poe stories
Short Stories

HOMEWORK: Please read The Monkey's Paw by W.W. Jacobs for Halloween. Here's a preview.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

10 Minute Play (writing) & Formula

After our quiz today, please continue working on your 10-minute play draft. This is due Friday. Please use the time in lab for what it is designed for: writing. If I see the majority of you off task, I assume your work is done and I'll slide deadlines earlier.

If you have finished already, feel free to write a second play draft for extra credit. The more plays you write, the more experience you receive and the more options you have when sending work to contests and submitting plays to theaters.

HOMEWORK: Please read the article on Structure: Story & Plot and answer the 10 questions for Friday.

Monday, October 24, 2011

George S. Kaufman Play/Musical Scenes

George S. Kaufman & some 10-Minute Play Advice

Please read about George S. Kaufman. Please look at his biographical information and read about the Algonquin Round Table, the 1920's, The Marx Brothers, The Gershwins, and Moss Hart. Answer the questions to be handed in by the end of class.

George S. Kaufman is best known for his Marx Brothers comedies, but also the famous You Can't Take it With You and The Man Who Came to Dinner. Here's one of his 10-minute plays: "If Men Played Cards As Women Do." It can be found on page 423. Please read it alone or with a group of 4. Then get ready to write today.

The 10 minute play has gained quite a bit of respect over the last few decades. Starting as a theater gimmick and festival curtain risers, the 10 minute play can usually be produced with little or no budget, a theater can produce several new playwrights in an evening, and the plays are short (lacking the attention span one needs when seeing Shakespeare)--which appeals to a contemporary audience.

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 to 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 ideas from your journal, reading, or handouts, or your own memory & imagination; check the 38 dramatic situations for help (see link page to the side) if you can't think of anything.

If you are focused, you should be able to write a 10-minute play in 80 minutes or less.

Forum response for Trifles is due today. Please complete.

HOMEWORK: Complete forum post. Read "Here We Are" and "The Still Alarm." Expect a quiz on the two Kaufman plays and Parker's play next class.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

10-Minute Play Draft & Sample Plays

A - Task ONE. Today, please get into groups of 3-4 to read "Einstein & the Angels", "Esla & Frinz Go Partying", and "Deer Play", three 10-minute plays. Each play has a beginning, middle, end--just like Aristotle said they should, and the characters and situations are creative. This is not the same old, same old blabbing with tired and typical characters. As you read, note how the playwrights use character, situation, and build plot--all within a few pages.

After reading each of these plays, discuss with your group 1. 3 things you noticed, observed, or had questions about the play, 2 things you learned about playwriting, and 1 thing you would have changed had you written the script. Write your comments on the sheet provided to hand in for participation credit.

B - Task TWO. Alone, go back to your seats and prepare to write your 10 minute play draft. Review play script format, if you need to (see links and previous assignments). Use any of the brainstorming activities of the past few classes, along with your character designs from September (your journal) and look for interesting choices. Create a play that is imaginative, but takes into consideration the form of stage writing and the constraints. Your play is short (5-8 pages) and should focus on one main conflict or idea.

If you get stuck or need a break from writing, watch these videos for advice on playwriting. Watch them, even if you finish your play. They have some good advice that will help you succeed.
Video #1: Top Tips
Video #2: Status Quo
Video #3: Building a Plot
Video #4: Formatting a play script (optional viewing, for those who don't understand the form)
HOMEWORK: Please read Trifles by Susan Glaspell. Post a response to the forum by next class (Monday, Oct. 24) in which you examine the status quo; identify the major dramatic question and whether or not you felt the playwright kept your attention. If she did, how did she do it? If she didn't, why not--what would you have changed? and finally, pick one of the characters and discuss how this character is utilized by the playwright in the play. What is the author's purpose for this character? How does the character help develop plot, conflict, or theme?

If you get lost or need assistance understanding anything in the script or its characters, look here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cleaning House a Bit: An Important Note

We are entering the second marking period. By the end of this marking period you will have completed various 10-minute and one-act plays, read widely in contemporary theater, and learned more about crafting scripts for the stage.

Sadly people are not reading the required articles. Only a handful of you are reading anything on your own. Can't happen, folks! I'm going to have to give you more homework this marking period until I can trust that you are completing the assignments and can ease off the busy work.

Some students refuse to write responses and commentary to the forum. This marking period, we will get a little tougher. Please take this class seriously. You are required to complete the assignments in a timely fashion, with thought, and where needed, a lot of creativity. Fall back on those techniques we taught you. Writing is a process. You get stuck--unstick yourself. Not sure how? Ask.

For those of you who are trying your best, please note that I am aware of this. I thank you for putting your time and energy into learning the craft of playwriting. Hopefully, you are getting something out of the experience. Keep up the good work and effort!

Today's class, please complete the following:

1. Read the article about Commedia Dell'Arte.
Please note that there are three pages to this article.  Read them all, then go to step #2.

2. Take the in-class test (see handout) and turn it in by the end of class for participation credit.

3. When you have completed your test and turned it in, please go back to the brainstorming activities and do them (see post Oct. 7 and Oct. 14). When you have completed these brainstorming activities, you will be asked to use your brainstorming ideas to create a 10-minute script (5-8 pages in play script format). You can find play script format on the link section of this blog. Please review the format carefully.

4. If you haven't done so yet, please complete your forum question concerning Charles Busch. See post, Oct. 13 homework. If you do not finish this in class, it is homework. You are already late if you did not post and your homework will count as only partial credit (original assignment was due Monday by 11:59 p.m.). Please make a habit of completing your homework and keeping on track with assignments.

HOMEWORK: Finish any plays you want to read in the Charles Busch collection. Next class we will be reading other plays for homework. Clear your schedule. Put math and science and social studies and foreign language on hold for a moment and focus on your major, please. Focus on your academics in those academic periods, not during our classes.

Extra credit: Those of you IN or going to 39 Steps can gain extra credit. Here's how:
1. If you are a viewer: review and critique the play. You should know about Aristotle and what he said a play should have to be well written. You should have learned about premise, the major dramatic question, theme, plot, character development, creativity and the Unities.  Comment on the play production. What worked on stage; what surprised you; what did you like and not like--but apply what you know--using the vocabulary of theater to express it. Write your critique on the forum. Get extra credit.
2. If you are in the show: talk about your experience. What was it like getting cast in the show, rehearsing, being directed, putting the play up on stage, wearing the costumes, what was it like back stage, what did you think about your fellow actors, director, stage crew, stage manager, producer, etc. What did you like and dislike about the process of being in a play. What did you have trouble with? What worked or came easy to you? What have you learned about writing plays by acting in this one? Write your reflection on the forum. Get extra credit.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Gathering more ideas

Try one of these exercises:

1. Choose a historical figure and one of the types of comedy. Mash the two things together. Perhaps King Tut is going out on his first date with his sister? or Shakespeare finds himself trapped in an absurdist situation. Pick a historical character, choose a genre and think about the possibilities!

2. Create characters based on old Commedia Dell'Arte or pantomime plays (see below), but update them for today's contemporary audience.

3. Play around with the idea of cross-dressing. Consider the types of comedy. Come up with situations and reasons why a girl dresses like a guy or a guy dresses like a girl.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Comedy & Charles Busch

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.

PLEASE READ: An article 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. Post your response on our forum (see question posted on the forum). 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. Due Monday, Oct. 17 at 11:59.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Today you will be taking the PSAT during our class periods.

HOMEWORK: Please select one of Charles Busch's plays (not Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, as we will complete our reading of this in class.) Be prepared to write a response essay on the forum for the play script you have chosen to complete. 

Friday, October 7, 2011


Plays often start with a conviction, a belief, or some issue that a playwright wants to expose, examine, or discuss. In the plays we have read, such themes as suicide, HIV, dying, racism, self-deprecation, aging, dating, feminism, etc. have been used.

In order to begin your journey into writing plays, take a moment to brainstorm some ideas:

  • If you were going to die tomorrow, and this play includes your last words to the human race, what MUST you say before you go? Make a list of things you HAVE to say to the world.
  • Make a list of common, ordinary settings. Make a list of uncommon or unusual settings.
  • Jot down time periods that interest you. Choose a time period other than our contemporary period.
  • Make a list of secrets that people you don't know have. Assume a good friend told you these secrets. What are the secrets?
  • Make a list of relatively well known stories, poems, books, or films that you hated (or loved) enough to poke fun at.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Baltimore Waltz & David Ives

Today we will complete Baltimore Waltz. Please post a response to the forum about this play by Thursday, Oct. 6 at (11:59).

HOMEWORK: As above; please complete your reading of David Ives' plays and post to the forum as well by Thursday, Oct. 6.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Plot Technique & Baltimore Waltz

Most plays begin with an EVENT: a unique and significant moment in a character's life (or characters lives). In plays all scenes should be thought of as "events".

Events can be almost anything: an unusual incident, a special occasion, a sudden visit, or any kind of crisis.

An event that starts off the play is called the inciting incident: the point of attack, the turning point in the life of one or more of your characters. Some playwrights call this moment the "disturbance". Whatever term you choose, you want to start off your story with a strong reason for the events in the play to occur. As the play continues (particularly in plays with more than one scene) more events may occur in a story. The inciting incident is the first one.

A protagonist usually confronts the inciting incident from a position of weaker power or disadvantage. Starting with a protagonist who has all his stuff together, who can easily defeat or solve a problem, makes for a boring play.

The beginning of a play ends when the protagonist(s) make(s) a major decision. This major decision should set him or her or them on a collision course with forces that will oppose and perhaps destroy him/her (aka: antagonist). This should be a decision. A decision to act, a decision that causes the antagonist to confront the protagonist, etc. A major decision makes a protagonist active in the plot.

The inciting incident and the major decision help to create the MAJOR DRAMATIC QUESTION: MDQ. The MDQ is, as stated earlier, the question that keeps an audience interested in the plot of your play. The MDQ is also attached to your overall theme. For example: MDQ: will action (and therefore revenge) be possible for Hamlet?

The middle of a play is fraught with a series of obstacles (rising action). During the middle, you need to pay attention to the 3 C's: conflict, crisis, and complication. These 3 C's will lead to the dark moment of your play (more on that later).

Conflict can be person vs. person (often true in plays), person vs. self (also common), person vs. society (common as well if done correctly), and person vs. nature (God, etc.) (not as great, but some plays do this one perfectly.) The more interesting the conflict the more interesting the play. Crises and complications cause the conflict to be more interesting. The crises is a critical moment--a place in time for the protagonist to act, make a decision--that usually has consequences. Complications are problems (usually unforeseen) that arise to thwart or challenge the protagonist.

As you read the play the Baltimore Waltz please note the event, the inciting incident, the protagonist, major decision, the MDQ, the conflict, crisis, and complications.

Please complete and respond or comment on the play Baltimore Waltz by Paula Vogel on our forum.

You may wish to comment on the characters, the theme, the plot, the use of the third actor, the staging, or the writing. What major dramatic question is being asked? Is the play satirical or political? What human lesson are we to learn from reading (or seeing) this play? What surprised you, what interested you, what did you learn about playwriting from reading this play? Comments should be thoughtful and well written. Please post by Wednesday, Oct. 5.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Driving Miss Daisy & 'Night Mother

Please check out and read Driving Miss Daisy by Alfred Uhry. Complete your reading of this play in class. As you read with your small group, please complete the worksheet (one per group). Turn this worksheet in by the end of class.

HOMEWORK: Please complete Driving Miss Daisy & 'Night Mother if you have not done so. Please post a required forum response to the play 'Night Mother on our forum before Monday, Oct. 3. Your forum post counts as a quiz grade.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Colored Museum & 'Night Mother

Plays, plays, plays. Plays can take the shape of many different types and styles. Sometimes the play is political, other times it is "a slice of life," with little more meaning than allowing people to look at their lives. Still others are highly tense dramas that stuff you into a blender then turn it on full speed. Aristotle explained the process by which plays purge viewers of their emotions. These plays make us laugh or cry--but they don't just pass by unnoticed.

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


Here's two plays. Both controversial and powerful in their own style. Each "shocking" in their exploration of "truth." Both very different.

Please read and complete The Colored Museum in class. Please read Night Mother as homework. Be prepared to write about these plays on our forum.

As always, look for the major dramatic question: the question that the audience wants answered by the end of the play. In shorthand this is the MDQ. As you read Night Mother, pay close attention to the use of the two characters (and thier goals), the theme, the use of the unities (consolidation of time, place, and action), and the social message.

Friday, September 23, 2011

For Colored Girls...Forum Post

Today, please finish your draft of your monologue play. Respond to the play For Colored Girls on our forum with this question:

How does Shange structure her play. What is the significance of the order of the play and its plot points? How does she create an inciting incident; how does she raise the action; how does she build a theme? how does she reach a climax or turning point?; how does she create a resolution? You may also discuss the six elements of a play: character, plot, theme (mind), spectacle, music, and language or diction.

HOMEWORK: None, unless you do not complete your play or post in class today. Play drafts are due at the end of class. Please proofread, print and turn in.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Play Structure & the Monologue Play

Done with your monologue plays? Please do the following to prepare to turn in the first draft script:

1. Review your writing and the overarching development of your scenes and speeches.

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 or rearrange the most climactic moment to be near the end of the play, if not the end.

3. The 10-minute monologue script is due Friday by the end of class.

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. Musicals, film, and opera incorporate all of the elements rather effectively. Most contemporary plays include non diegetic sound between scenes or before an act to set a tone. 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.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

For Colored Girls

During period one, please continue to work on your monologue play draft. During the break in periods, please move to room 238 to complete our reading of For Colored Girls...Enuf. If we do not complete the play by the end of class, please complete for homework.

The monologue play draft is due Friday.

HOMEWORK: Please complete For Colored Girls...Enuf and the chapter reading on plot and structure.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Monologue Play & For Colored Girls

Period 1: Please continue writing your monologue play scripts (see previous post for details). Make sure you give yourself enough time at the end of the period to read about Ntozake Shange and Greek Theater. Take notes of important details. Generally, you should know WHO and WHAT and WHY is it important.

Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf

Recent film trailer by Tyler Perry

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.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Forum & Monologue 10 Minute Play

Today, if you didn't read "1,000 Airplanes on the Roof", please do so and check out the additional materials about Hwang in the post below. Post a response to the play: what did you notice about the effective writing and/or the theme, subject, and plot of the play? How does Hwang keep us interested in the character and premise of the play?

Your forum post is due by Sunday, Sept. 18 at 11:59 p.m. If you cannot get online at home, please make sure you complete your commentary/response today or tomorrow in lab.

You are going to write a 10-minute character centered monologue play. Parameters are:
  • 4-8 pages, proper script formatting
  • 1 to 3 characters (each character must have a long soliloquy and/or monologue; i.e. no long section of dialogue, or short exchange of lines). It is traditional that ONE actor plays more than one part in the case you want more than ONE character.
  • A short character description
  • Stage directions where appropriate and a description of set
  • Theme, genre, & subject matter is up to you
Use the time in lab to complete this assignment.

HOMEWORK: Keep writing and/or posting to the forum if you have not completed these tasks in the lab today.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Henry David Hwang

Henry David Hwang is a Pulitzer Prize Winning playwright. Please read about him at the link. Click here for an interview with the playwright, and here's a tv spot with Hwang.

Hwang is best known for his play M. Butterfly. It was this play that gave him a Pulitzer in 1989.

M. Butterfly Trailer (film by David Cronenberg, starring Jeremy Irons)
A clip from the play, performed at the Tony Awards by John Lithgow.

1000 Airplanes on the Roof: Music by Philip Glass

HOMEWORK: Please read the monologue play by Hwang: 1000 Airplanes on the Roof.

Monologue Plays

If you think of monologues as finely crafted and intense short stories, you are well on your way. The purpose of a monologue is to provide an audience with a better understanding of the mind and thought process of a character. It can also provide exposition (what happened in the past) and/or explain an action or dramatic event.

In any case, a monologue should be well written. Avoid overusing filler words like "well, and oh, and um, and stuff like that."

Today, get into groups of 3-4 and share your homework (a written monologue) with each other. Advanced groups can ask the other members of the group to read the original author's work while that person listens to how his/her words sound.

After sharing monologues, please read "Getting Into Character" together. Take notes on important and helpful advice about designing characters for plays.

Create a character or use one from your journals.  In your journal create a character sketch by answering the questions on page 113-114 in the article "Getting into Character." You will use this character to create a short 10-minute play/monologue. Today, just design the character and begin thinking about a situation the character can be found in.

HOMEWORK: please read David Henry Hwang's "1,000 Airplanes on the Roof" for Thursday. You will be expected to post a response on our forum for this assignment.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Monologue Exercise

Please read the article "What on Earth Gave You That Idea" and write a monologue. Use your character building exercises that you have been doing to select a character. Place them in a situation. Write.

You may find it helpful to read Talking With as a model for your monologue exercise.

This monologue draft is due Tuesday. Just a reminder, as well, that your forum post for Talking With is due Tuesday as well. See below for the rubric and instructions.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Creative Writing Forum Rubric

Throughout the year we will be using the forum as a way of practicing critical thinking and writing. Arguments and issues posted on the forum may be further examined by the class in discussion. The appropriate theatre and film vocabulary will be discussed in class. The forum is the "playground" in which to try out your new "words" and ideas found in the plays/films we read for class.
Student writing should develop and organize ideas in clear, coherent, and persuasive language. Attention to precision and correctness is necessary. Try to avoid over-generalizations or repeating the arguments of others when commenting or critiquing texts.
Literary and Reader Responses on our forum will be graded using the rubric as follows:
5 (A): Wide ranging and effective vocabulary is used with denotative and connotative resourcefulness. Response shows an in-depth and accurate understanding of the text. Use of critical thinking and imaginative insight propels this response to an exemplar of fine literary criticism. Sentence structure is used artfully and effectively. Response uses specific and accurate rhetorical strategies and poetic techniques that balance illustrative detail taken from the text or passage. It is clear insight and effort went into the response.
4 (B): Effective and appropriate vocabulary is used to some success, although there may be some gaps or areas in need of improvement. Author uses some critical strategies, but these are not as thorough or insightful as above. Sentence structure is varied, but writing may contain grammar, syntax, logical fallacies, or rhetorical errors in part. Some attempt at illustrative detail, but writing is not as precise, accurate, or effective as scores indicated above. Some insight and effort went into response.
3 (C-C+): Appropriate literary vocabulary is used, although not as insightfully as responses above. Response shows a surface-level understanding of the text. Overall, these responses parrot other students or illustrate only a basic understanding of the work in question. Sentence structure needs improvement. Errors in grammar, syntax, logical fallacy, or rhetorical strategies weaken the logos, ethos, or pathos of this response. Textual detail is over generalized. Little insight or effort went into response.
2 (D): Literary vocabulary is lacking or used incorrectly. Response is muddled, unclear, or shows misunderstanding or misreading of a text or passage. Little or no new insight in the response. Writing is carelessly done or indicates below-grade-level prose style. No textual details used to support thesis. Very little effort went into response.
1 (F): Written Assignment on forum is missing. No work turned in by deadline

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Talking With

Please complete your reading of Talking With. After viewing the following clips and reading the script, please post a response to the play on our Creative Writing Forum. Posts to our forum should be completed no later than Tuesday of next week.

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.

Choose any of the following to answer on your forum post:
  • 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. Is this premise interesting? Do you think people would pay to see this play?
  • 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.
  • What challenges and stage requirements are necessary to produce this play? How has Jane Martin anticipated a low-budget, black box theater being able to produce her play? What did you learn about staging from the monologues you read and watched?
  • Discuss the writing style of these monologues. Which one do you think was best written? What did the author do to make it well written? Analyze the writing of the monologue.
  • Why are the monologues in the order that Martin puts them? What is the reason to start and end the play with the monologues she does?
  • After reading about Jane Martin, what amuses or interests you in her as a writer? How might the idea of "Theatricality" (artificial life involving conflict) infuse the script and the whole experience of seeing this play on stage?
Read about Jane Martin here.

As you read Talking With, pay attention to how the playwright engages the audience and tells an interesting story that develops the single speaking character.

Clear Glass Marbles (monologue, page 19-22)

Audition. (monologue, page 25-27)
Notice how this one uses nice camera work, although cuts part of the monologue text.

Rodeo (monologue, page 31-34)

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.

HOMEWORK: Please complete your viewing, reading, and posting for Talking With by Tuesday, September 13.

A Rose By Any Other Name...

The names of characters often help an actor or viewer understand something about that character. Some names are suited to royalty, while others are clearly of the lower or working classes. A name gives a character a personality long before one is developed in a script. As a writer, it is important to gather as many interesting and useful names as you can. You will use these names later in this course.

In your journal/notebook, alone or in pairs, list a series of names that would be appropriate for each category. Try to get at least 5 names for each topic (you may come up with more than five, if you'd like):

1. Male protagonist or hero names
2. Female protagonist or heroine names
3. Villain or antagonist names
4. Names of old people
5. Names of young people
6. Names from the 1920's (you may do as many decades as you'd like)
7. Names of Roman soldiers or their wives
8. Names of Europeans (you may pick a country or two, but please label or identify the country)
9. Names of ambiguous gender (names that can either be male or female)
10. Names that make you laugh

NOTE: If you are working in pairs, please make sure both of you are listing names. Your friend may not be around when you need to come up with a name. Having your own list is important!

Character Exercise #2

Plays are written for actors to perform. A playwright must always remember this important distinction. Try to make all your characters different and interesting in some way.

Look at the following actors. Create a character for each actor to play. Include a name, occupation, age-range, and short background for each character. Think about your actor. How will the actor enjoy playing this role? Is the character interesting or challenging enough? Will it be a juicy enough part to entice a well-known actor to play the role? Will the role be worth the time (and money) for the actor?

Please complete your five characters in your journal or notebook during class.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Character Exercise

Looking at pictures and watching people can be a goldmine for character building. As a playwright, one of the most important tasks you will have to accomplish is creating interesting characters. Boring characters make for boring plays, so it's helpful to have a few ideas about character design before jumping into the pool of monologues, scenes, and plays.

Task #1: Brainstorming Characters:

IN YOUR JOURNAL, NOTEBOOK, or on PAPER, please complete the following exercise. DO NOT TURN THIS IN. Instead, you will use it for our first writing assignment.

Please take a look at the photos of people below. For each photo, give the person a name, age or age range, and 1-sentence physical description. Follow this up with a 1-sentence goal or urgent desire.

For example:

GEORGETTE MINSKY, female, age 25-30. Georgette always wears a baseball glove (even to church) and too much lipstick. She wants to witness a miracle first hand or at least win her minor-league softball team's championship trophy in memory of her dead grandma.

Create a character for any 10 of these pictures (you may do all of them, if you'd like):

Once you have completed this exercise, please begin reading Talking With by Jane Martin. See post below for homework details.

Welcome Back!

Welcome back, class of 2013. I hope you all had a restful and enjoyable summer. But here we are again. This year is partly devoted to writing scripts (both theatrical and for the screen). What you learn here can help you improve your fiction "dialogue" skills, as well as make you a better psychologist (dealing with people in crisis), while honing your writer's craft.

Today, after reviewing the course criteria and updating your computer passwords, we will get started on a couple assignments to begin this course.


Check this blog each class period for agendas, deadlines, educational information, advice, and a whole lot of links to enhance your education. All you have to do is read and click. You are responsible for reading and interacting with the material I post on the blog.

If you're absent or missed something in class, please check the blog to get caught up. As stated above, each new class period includes a new post. If you have a question about an assignment and are too embarrassed to speak to me in public (or you have a question that you think you will forget to ask), feel free to use the comment section.

New on our link page is a link to our Creative Writing Forum. You will be expected to use the forum to discuss the major reading and thematic topics in this course. Electronic forums save paper. You are keeping the world green by posting responses and reflections there.

Today, let's begin playwriting with a character building exercise. You will need a notebook or paper to jot down some character notes. See post above this one for specific details.

When you have completed your writing, please get together with a friend (or two) and begin reading our first play: Talking With by Jane Martin. More about this play will be detailed next class. Please complete your reading of the play script by Wednesday, September 7.

HOMEWORK: Read Talking With by Jane Martin. Complete character brainstorm exercise.

Monday, June 13, 2011

End of Course

Please hand in your film project if you have not completed this yet. Today is the last day to do so.

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

Have a good finals week and a productive and safe summer!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Film Project (late) & Dogme '95

Please turn in all work today as we close our course. Film projects should be exported to your network file, then copied as a mv4 to my jump drive so that I can prepare these for screening next class (and for our party).

Today, please turn in your homework on Dogme '95. Here's an interesting film site: Green Cine

A few dogme '95 influenced films:

The Celebration (1998)
The Idiots and part 1 of the Idiots
The King is Alive
The Blair Witch Project (trailer)
Cloverfield (trailer)

A few films that limit or use rules that restrict:
Rope (Alfred Hitchcock) This film is made of long continuous shots.
Lifeboat (there is only one setting for the entire film--can you guess which one it is?)
Russian Ark One continuous shot is used for the ENTIRE film.

If you are planning to enter your films (and you should) to the Teen Film Festival, please fill out the appropriate form in the front of the class and hand this to me by the end of the class period.

Go here. Watch some films.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Film Project (Due Today)

Your film projects are due today. Remember that you have to EXPORT the file first (and this takes quite a bit of time, so please be aware so that you don't work to the last minute today and then expect to turn the film in). Late projects will count as a lower grade, but as long as you turn in your work you cannot get lower than a "C" grade.

The Rochester Teen Film Festival deadline is here. Any film you are submitting should be copied as a MV4 file and given to me on a flash drive (you'll get these back...I just need the file) so that I can burn a DVD for Mr. Bailey. There is a form you need to fill out in the front of the class if you are submitting your film project. I'll give extra credit to anyone who does this.

HOMEWORK: Please read the article Dogme '95 and write a short 3-5 reflective paragraph (to turn in next class) in which you compare the style of filmmaking described here with your own project. What freedoms does Dogme '95 allow a filmmaker? How does this affect the film industry/culture as a whole? What does this mean to you as a young filmmaker?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Film Project (deadline looming)

Your film projects are due at the end of next class. Please use this time to complete them.

Also, if you are planning on submitting a film to the Rochester Teen Film Festival, please send me the movie file and fill out one of the forms (found at the front of the room).

HOMEWORK: Prepare and complete your film.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Film Project & News

Just a reminder that your film projects are due Tuesday, June 7.

Coffeehouse is scheduled for June 6 at 7:00 (extra credit if you go and read)

West Side Story is June 2. Please gather in the Commons at 6:45. We will then walk over to the Auditorium Theater.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Film Exam: Review

Test: Wednesday, June 1
Film treatments, film pitches, film script format
Blaxploitation films & culture
Cleopatra Jones
Spike Lee
Home Video Invasion handout (key concepts)
Blockbusters: Jaws, Star Wars, etc. (handout, key concepts)
New Wave Directors: Stanley Kubrick
Mike Nichols
George Lucas
Steven Spielberg
Sidney Poitier
Alfred Hitchcock
Samuel Z. Arkoff
Gordon Parks
Ed Wood
William Castle
Roger Corman
Jayne Mansfield
Marilyn Monroe
Jimmy Stewart
The Multiplex
3d Films
Invention of Television & its impact on film
Drive-in Movies
History of 1950's film (see notes from your ? sheet/homework)
History of 1960's film
History of 1970's film

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Legacy of Blaxploitation

Directors like Spike Lee are encouraged to make films for a black audience. Many other actors, directors, and writers begin expanding the ground opened by blaxploitation. Here's a list of various contemporary black directors.

Here's a few clips. Spike Lee interview about Black Films.

She's Gotta Have It (1985) interview with Spike Lee
School Daze (1988)
Malcolm X (1992)

Other critically acclaimed films:
The Wiz
The Color Purple

Romantic films
100 Gangster, Pimp, Hood, Crime films (clip)

The 100 Best Black Movies

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...