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.

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...