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.

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...