Thursday, December 13, 2012

Happy Days & Writing an Absurdist Draft

Today you are going to write a short absurdist play. At the beginning of class, gather your ideas, look back over your metaphor and pre-writing we did in class. Write your theme on an index card and place it where you can see it during the class. Come up with 2-5 characters that represent something relating to your theme. Choose a setting.

After 5 minutes of such preparation, please begin writing. I would like you to try writing without too much stopping or pausing. Don't worry too much about plot, just muddle through it. If you get stuck add a new event. Have the hand of God fall from the sky. Have an unexplained event (if it's too crazy it can happen off-stage and a character who has witnessed it can come on stage and report to the others what has happened), etc. The point is: keep writing. Allow panic and fear of not getting this project done spur you to make absurd choices, if need be.

As you write, keep referring to your theme or metaphor. When stuck with something to discuss in dialogue, go back to your metaphor/theme, then digress if you need to.

Again, here are the elements of absurdist style. Use them.
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. Remember the time lock and "the Trap"
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.
At the end of the period (about 10 minutes to go, I'll call your attention to this and you should start wrapping up your play). End by focusing on your metaphor one more time. Plays should be a minimum of 3 pages in script format or you have failed this assignment.

HOMEWORK: Please complete your reading of Happy Days. The theme is domestic life. The metaphor is likely to be obvious. Sometimes a person in a relationship feels like they have lost control. Sometimes they might feel trapped or stuck. Sometimes they are powerless to affect change. Sometimes they focus so much on insignificant details and objects, that the bigger picture is lost. How do these statements refer to the play do you think?
Please complete your reading of Happy Days (I suggest watching instead. It's more pleasurable, I think.) By next week, you should have posted a forum response on Beckett (due Dec. 21). See forum for question. 

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