Monday, January 31, 2011

Catching Up

Before you move to the post below (A Welcome to Film Studies), please print out your play script projects (if you haven't given me your script yet). I will not accept any play after 1st period today. Period. Plays submitted today will count as late, and are no longer eligible for the automatic "A" - since you did not turn them in by Friday, Jan. 28.

Playwrights' Festival:

Those of you who would like to go further with your education concerning plays, have an opportunity to submit one of your plays (10-minute or one-act) to be performed in the Playwrights' Festival. Please fill out the form and submit your play today during 1st period if interested.

Geva's 10-minute play contest is looking for submissions. Print a 10-minute play you wrote this year and submit. Contest rules are in the front of the classroom.

After 1st period, please stop what you're doing and let's prepare for our next course. (See below)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Welcome to Film Studies!

This course is designed to provide you with a wide foundation of Film History and Film Studies, while also giving you experience writing film scripts and film reviews/critiques (as such found in the field of Journalism). By its end, you will understand the art of film hopefully more than you do now, and will gain a better appreciation for the art of filmmaking. Some of you may like this course of study so much you will take film courses in college, major in film studies, or become professional filmmakers. Others will at least benefit from knowing (and appreciating) the art of film.

This course (as Playwriting) will mostly be found online. Deadlines and assignments (with instructions) will be posted on the blog as needed. Please check the blog daily (even when absent) so you do not fall behind.

To start, please complete the following task(s):

Film Studies Commentary by David Bordwell

#1. Essential question: What's the difference between the way a film reviewer (journalist), a film historian, a film scholar, and a film fan evaluate a film?
#2. List your top 10 favorite films of all time.
#3. Name your favorite genres of film. (i,e. what do you prefer to watch?) Why?

Please read the article above, and answer the questions just above in complete sentences by the end of class (required - due today).

#1. Please get your course criteria sheets signed.
#2. Please read the handout "Watching Films"
#3. Please enter the following film terms in your notebook/journal before next class.

Using the glossary below, look up the following key film terms and enter them into your required JOURNAL/NOTEBOOK. Call this Vocabulary Entry #1 (Story):
Narrative form
Viewing Time

Film Glossary

Past Deadline

Thank you to those of you who turned in your play script projects.

For those who have not, please note that the deadline was extended until Friday, Jan. 28. Any plays turned in after Friday (most likely on Monday) will be counted as late with the appropriate reduction in grade. This means the automatic "A" cannot be honored if you did not turn in your play by Friday. Please have plays printed and turned in to me before second period, Jan. 31 (9:05). Plays printed after this point will not be accepted and the grade will be a failing one for the marking period. Unfortunately, this also applies to students absent or tardy on Monday.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Important Notice

Due to our unscheduled seasonal weather and day off, please turn in your play projects by the end of the week (Friday, Jan. 28)

Our lab will be open all day Tuesday through Friday for students interested in completing projects or needing writing assistance.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Preparing your projects

Monday your play scripts are due.

Before you turn in your scripts, please make sure to do and check the following:

1. Correct your punctuation and grammar. Not only spell checking, but make sure your lines make sense grammatically. Use end punctuation (periods, question marks, em-dashes, exclamation points, etc.) where appropriate. It is a good thing to read your script out loud to catch many of these errors.

2. Shorten long lines for the ease of performing. Actors find shorter lines easier to memorize and say than longer, complex sentences. Short lines also speed the action of the play along (whereas long lines slow down the action).

3. Check your playwriting format. By now, you should know how to correctly format your scripts.

4. The best plays have an interesting and compelling theme: they say something important about life and what it means to be a human being. Consider your message by the end of the play. What is the audience supposed to take from this experience?

HOMEWORK: Check out the review for your "final exam" on Monday. You should study those important terms and recall the plays we've read and be able to match a playwright with the play they wrote.

If you are behind in your writing, please catch up and be ready to complete your projects so that you can turn them in on Monday. Remember that you will also have to take a test on Monday.

Use your time in lab effectively to manage your work.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Review for Final Exam

The Final Exam for Playwriting may cover the following items, please review:

The plays:

Nzotake Shange: For Colored Girls...Rainbow is Enuf
Dael Orlandersmith: Monster
Jane Martin: Talking With
Peter Shaffer: Amadeus
Anthony Shaffer & Harold Pinter: Sleuth
Charles Ludlam: Mystery of Irma Vep
Harold Pinter: The Dumbwaiter
Mitch Albom: Tuesdays with Morrie
Charles Busch: Psycho Beach Party; Vampire Lesbians of Sodom; Lady in Question; Red Scare on Sunset
Christopher Durang: (particularly: Desire, Desire, Desire; For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls, Death Comes to Us All Mary Agnes, Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All for You, The Actor's Nightmare, Titanic, 'dentity Crisis, The Life and Purpose of the Universe)
August Wilson: Fences; The Piano Lesson

Proper script format

Play Vocabulary:
Premise: a deeply held belief by the playwright which shapes a script.

From handout: chp. 3 'Structure, Part One: story and plot':
Aristotle's six elements of plays: plot, character, diction (dialogue), thought (theme), spectacle, song/music
Structural Unity: all parts of the plot (exposition, rising action, turning point, climax, resolution, etc.) should work and fit together.
Inciting Incident: the point of attack, the inciting incident forces the protagonist into the action of the play's plot.
Major Dramatic Question (MDQ): the hook that keeps an audience interested in a play; a dramatic question that a reader/viewer wants answered.
Major decision: A decision a character makes in the plot that creates the turning point for their character.
The three C's: Conflict, crisis, complication: obstacles characters must face for an interesting and dramatic plot.
Rising Action
The dark moment/crisis: the lowest moment of a character's struggle--when all the world seems lost, the fight unbeatable, the "darkest hour before dawn" -- a stunning reversal of fortune and sense of failure.
Deus ex machina: a contrived ending. Often one in which the characters did not have a hand in solving. (It is more interesting to see a character deal with their own problems rather than an outside force solving it for them.) literally, a "god from a machine"
Enlightenment: When the protagonist understands how to defeat the antagonist. A revelation that begins the movement toward a climax.
Ten minute play format
One act plays
Full length plays (2, 3, 4, or 5 act)
Cross-dressing and theatrical tradition (blog)
Generating ideas for plays (from handout & blog)
Absurdism (blog)
Commedia dell'Arte (blog)
From Handout: 'Structure, Part two: creativity, scenario, & writing'
The Event: a uniquely significant moment in the character's lives
Time lock: setting up a time limit or specific deadline characters have to meet in order to spur them into action (for example having a script project due...)
French scenes
Place & setting
Scenario: an outline for a writer to identify major/minor characters, plot, and setting used BEFORE writing a script
Catalyst: the event in the play that causes a character to take action
Positive Motivation
Character flaw
need vs. desire
Creating credible characters
Subtext: what is not said in a character's line. The subtext are the subtle details or clues used by the actor to develop their character.
Beat: a short exchange of dialogue
A Confidant: a character the protagonist or antagonist can talk with to reveal necessary backstory
Verisimilitude: the semblance of truth in characters and setting. "a king should act like a king, not a foul-mouthed beggar."

Plays, Contests, & the Playwrights' Festival

Your play drafts are due Monday, Jan. 24. No late scripts will be accepted, so please plan accordingly. Use your time in lab this week to get your plays written, proofread, and formatted correctly.

Also, please consider submitting fiction or poetry to Sokol, Lelia Tupper, & Gannon writing contests.

AND: want to see your own play produced by your peers? Consider submitting one or more of your scripts to me for the Playwrights' Festival (opens in March). I need to select the scripts being produced by the end of the month.

Playwrights' Festival scripts should be formatted correctly, relatively free of errors, and able to be produced in the black box theater.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Weather got you down? Feeling as if there's no point to life? Check out this style of writing...

by the way, you are more than welcome to add elements of absurdism (if you haven't already done so) to your play scripts (for example, if you wanted inspiration for another 10-minute play)

Characteristics of Absurdism:

1. Characters are often threatened by an unknown outside force.
2. The world or diegesis of the play/film is unpredictable or lacks meaning which the characters must contend with.
3. There is often an element of horror or tragedy; characters are often in hopeless situations or trapped.
4. Dialogue is often playful, full of nonsense, repetition, or engages in silly wordplay or banter.
5. Plays are often funny, although theme is usually serious and symbolic. Absurdist theatre is often called "tragicomedy", having elements of broad humor and tragedy.
6. There is often a good deal of farce (mistaken identity, physical comedy, slapstick, sudden entrances and interruptions, etc.)
7. Theatre of the absurd often presents characters failing at something without suggesting a solution to the problem. Characters are often "losers" who cannot dig themselves out of the problems they find themselves in.
8. Characters are often unable to communicate with others (particularly about their feelings, desires, or needs).
9. Plot is often cyclical or repetitive.
10. Plots have a dreamlike or surreal quality to them, akin to nightmare. Plot events are often taken at face value; characters are unwilling or uninterested in examining "why?" something happens and instead react to "what" happens. Therefore plot is often lacking the cause. The effect is often stressed as being more important.

Projects due 1/24

Today, please continue to work on completing your major writing projects. Getting your play scripts written and completed before the deadline will allow you to workshop and look over your work before you turn it in.

What's due:

For an automatic "A": 4 10-minute plays, or 2 One-act plays, or 1 one-act play and 2 10-minute plays, or 1 full length (at least 40 pages of script in script format) play.

Otherwise: 2 10-minute plays, 1 one-act play is due as a correctly formatted, proofread play.

The majority of the class, left to their own devices, is not effectively using the lab. Please use the lab to get your CREATIVE WRITING work done. This is not a study hall.

All play reviews should be turned in by this time.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


For those of you not taking the NYS Regents Exam in English today, please continue to work on your play scripts.

Your play projects are due on the 24 of January. You need a minimum of 2 ten minute plays (roughly 20 pages collectively), or a one-act play (about 20 pages or more). Students working on a full length play should keep writing. A full length play is the equivalent for our purposes of two one-act plays (about 40 pages or more). Traditionally, a full length script for stage is anywhere between 60 and 120 pages.

HOMEWORK: None, but your play projects are due on the 24.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Ideas & Discussion

After our discussion of August Wilson's plays, please continue to work on your play projects.

If you are opting for the 2-4 10-minute plays (or a second one-act), consider the following:

1. Plays are centrally about ideas.
2. These ideas are represented by characters and setting.
3. Props can also symbolize or represent larger ideas.

--Write a 10-minute play about a chosen theme: love, death, God, loss, weakness, addiction, family unity, communication, life, or any other philosophical idea (obviously, you can pick your own theme).
--Represent your theme by creating a character or characters that REPRESENT your theme. Your "Antagonist" usually is the opposite (for example: if you are writing about the theme of loss, then the antagonist probably HAS LOTS, or has won something that the other character wanted) Ta da! Instant conflict!

Your setting should also be metaphorically representative of your theme. Consider how place and time suggest meaning to support your main theme.

Also, consider using a PROP symbolically and representative of an idea. For example, a crown on a fluffy white pillow might suggest God.

If you are working on a one-act or full length play project, the same idea can apply to you script. Now that the words are flowing and the play progressing: what does it mean?

HOMEWORK: Please finish the play reviews. We are done with August Wilson's Piano Lesson and Fences. You may return these books to the library.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Fences/Piano Lesson/August Wilson Quiz & Projects

To prepare for the quiz, please watch the following video clips. Please take notes as you see fit. You will be able to use your notes on the quiz. You have 15 minutes to prepare:
Denzel Washington's interview regarding his performance as Troy in Fences and a second interview with Denzel Washington.
Denzel Washington in a scene from Fences
August Wilson biographical information.

After our quiz, please continue working on your play projects. If you still have your critique for The Piano Lesson, please finish it and turn it in. It is due Friday.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy New Year! Projects, Projects, Projects!

Okay. So we're all another year older. I hope you all had a relaxing and restful break.

Today, please complete any of the following:
A. Please continue to write your 10-minute play script, or your one-act play script, or your full length play script. When you are done with these first drafts, please proofread, print, and turn in. These projects are due Jan. 24.

B. Your Charles Busch's play critique should be complete. If it is not, get going on that and finish today. We started this at the end of November. Please print and turn in if you have not yet done so.

C. Please work on completing The Piano Lesson critique. You may watch any of the video clips of August Wilson's plays from the post below. There are samples of Wilson's staged plays and a film clip, along with interviews.

D. Please read Fences by August Wilson. Try to complete this play by Wednesday. There will be a quiz on it Wednesday, so please complete it, if you haven't done so already. You should know the basic plot points, characters, the protagonist's dark moment, the premise, and consider what fences symbolize in the play. There are clips from Wilson's stage play and interviews with Denzel Washington on the post below. Please take some time today and watch.
Lastly: Contests!

Gannon, Geva, Lelia Tupper, Rochester AIDS Coalition, Scholastic Writing Awards, and Sokol contests are in. 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. Feel free to get Ms. Gamzon or my opinion or help with submitted work. We'd be happy to help you. All you need to do is ask.

When you have submitted, please follow the contest guidelines specifically and carefully. You may leave your submissions in the folders on the front bookcase.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Piano Lesson & Fences

August Wilson's work as a playwright is well respected throughout the nation and the world. Please take some time to watch a few clips (some interviews, some stage plays or films) of his work. When watching, notice staging. How do different productions tackle Wilson's description and request concerning stage directions and characters?

Interview Documentary of Fences

Denzel Washington's opinion about Fences and more Denzel.

Denzel in Fences
And another scene.

Fences (another production)

Clips from Cygnet theater's The Piano Lesson

Final scene from The Piano Lesson movie (1995)

Some other August Wilson Plays:
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
Joe Turner's Come and Gone
Gem of the Ocean: montage

August Wilson interview (for those of you who missed it the first time)

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...