Today in your journals/notebooks, please write 5 metaphors. While one half of the metaphor may be a grand human idea: freedom, love, justice, revenge, marriage, hope, wealth, etc. the metaphor you create should be fairly concrete: "hope is a thing with feathers", "love is a battlefield", "revenge is a dish best served cold". Come up with 5 metaphors.
Although various classical and important plays have toyed with absurd
situations, it was the futility of WWII combined with the surreal and
existential that birthed such a movement. When any moment we are
threatened with total destruction, what else is there to
do but sit stunned and blankly in misunderstanding, or weave a web of words that lack meaning?
Traditional theater often attempts to show a realistic portrayal of life. Situations and characters are firmly rooted in reality and the common human actions that result in drama. Most plays trust the word. Words we use carry meaning. But what occurs when, with the threat of nuclear annihilation, we are not able to use our human reason and the symbol of such reason (our words) to alter our own fate? If we remove the trust in language, reason, logic, and traditional conventions of story telling, we are left with something that has no inherent meaning, but in that shape is given meaning by its opposite. Modern life is futile, lacking a sensible God figure, in which the answer to the question "what is the meaning of life?" is a resounding blackness or emptiness. All is meaningless, particularly that which is supposed to bring the comfort of meaning (i.e., words).
Other playwrights (some of whom we will visit again next year) in this style or mode are: Eugène Ionesco, Jean Genet, and Harold Pinter,
although these writers were not always comfortable with the label
"absurdist" and preferred to use terms such as "Anti-Theater" or "New
Theater", these writers attempted to create metaphors for human life out
of the chaos that is called absurd. Other contemporary playwrights associated with this type of theatre include
Tom Stoppard, Arthur Kopit, Edward Albee, Peter Weiss, Vaclav Havel, and Jean Tardieu
. Neil Simon they are not.
In the hands of playwrights like Samuel Beckett, the portrayal of a such meaningless absurdity becomes a metaphor for our own modern lives--filled as they are with anxiety, fear, hesitation, incompetence, misunderstanding, and the lack of fulfillment.
Today we will watch two short plays by Beckett: Come and Go
. "Play" with actor Alan Rickman.
After viewing the two plays, you will have two options. One is to read Samuel Beckett's play Happy Days
by yourself in the lab. The other is to complete the following:
1. Choose one of your metaphors and twist it into a premise
for a short 10-minute or actually 5-minute play. You will need to know what you want to say about the human condition. If you chose hope, for example, what is your opinion of hope for us humans in this crazy world? Philosophize. Make a point. Have an opinion. Once you have a premise (a one or two sentence concept for a play), move on to the next part of this exercise:
2. Brainstorm possible settings (remember that you want to rely on metaphor/symbol rather than common sense and logic), characters (characters are often allegorical, representing ideas), and infuse your props and costumes (also part of a setting) with meaning as we did last class with our brainstorming exercise.
3. After you have a setting, and a character or two, begin writing. Now. This is the trick...write. Don't worry about plot. Don't worry about meaning. Focus on your premise, yes, but don't worry about the lines. Let them flow from you quickly, without your brain getting in the way. Words in the absurdist sense are meaningless, so why worry about words? Yes, they should be real words (those which for humans have a meaning), but when spouted out one after the other like a water hose, they, too, cannot be relied on to convey any kind of truth.
Write for the rest of the period without stopping. Force your way through writer's block. At the end of class write a line that repeats or states your metaphor.
4. Take the script home with you and add details, dialogue, stage directions, and anything else that you can think of within the time limit of having the play draft done by next class. Don't judge your work. Just work with it.
HOMEWORK: For next class, please read ACT ONE of Happy Days
. If you spent your time reading today in the lab, go home and complete the writing portion of this assignment. Follow the same steps as above. Stop judging yourself and write. You should have both the draft and ACT ONE of the play ready for next class.