Friday, December 20, 2013

Happy Holidays!

Have a nice break. If you completed your 10-minute play script draft, please turn it in today. Otherwise, it is due Tuesday, January 7. We will be workshopping these plays the week we return.

Please turn in your graphic organizer/handout for the play you are reading. If you did not complete the reading and analysis of the play, please turn it in January 7th.

Have a happy and safe holiday!

HOMEWORK: None. (Or see above).

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Tennessee Williams & Cat On a Hot Tin Roof

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof:

"Shortly after Menagerie closed, [Tennessee Williams] went to work on a new piece..., producing his Pulitzer Prize-winning A Streetcar Named Desire (1947). Another Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, followed in 1955. The crux of this latter work concerns the conflicts of a Mississippi family following the diagnosis of its patriarch, Big Daddy's, stomach cancer and the revelation of his darling alcoholic son's homosexuality. Cat premiered in New York under the direction of Elia Kazan, who revised the third act to give the play a more redemptive resolution. In 1958, director Richard Brooks adapted Cat" into a popular film starring Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Judith Anderson, and Burl Ives. "To Williams's dismay, Brooks excised all explicit references to Brick's homosexuality in deference to the studio censors."

The play involves the following characters:
Brick: a former football star and favorite son of Big Daddy, he has some issues.
Maggie "The Cat": Brick's lonely wife.
Big Daddy: Brick's father; recently diagnosed with a "spastic colon" as opposed to the truth.
Big Mama: Big Daddy's wife; the matriarch of the family.
Gooper: Brick's older brother.
Mae: Gooper's pregnant wife and busy body.
Reverend Tooker: A guest and friend of the family.
Doctor Baugh: Big Daddy's physician & friend of the family.
Children: Mae and Gooper's clan of brats.
Please learn the following basic film vocabulary.

Shot: How much subject matter is included within the frame of the screen.
In general, shots are determined on the basis of how much of the human figure is in view. Additionally, a shot is also an unedited strip of film, recording images from the time the camera starts to the time it stops.


1. extreme long shot - taken from a great distance, almost always an exterior shot; shows much of the setting or locale. They serve as spatial frames of reference. Used where locale plays an important role. (Historical, epics, westerns, etc.)

2. long shot (proscenium shot) - About the distance one would be from the theatre stage to the audience. Usually includes complete human form to a distance less extreme than the ELS.

3. Full shot - Fits the whole human form in the frame of the camera.

4. Medium shot - Usually contains a figure from the knees or waist up. It is useful for shooting exposition scenes, for minor movement and for dialogue.
A. Two shot (two people in the shot, usually from waist up)
B. Three shot (three people crowded in the shot)
C. Over the shoulder (focal point is the person the viewer can see, shot over another character's "shoulder" to show POV

5. Close up - Usually a person’s face (or neck and shoulders). Concentrates on a relatively small object. Elevates the importance of small details, often symbolic.

6. Extreme close up - Focuses on a very small item. The item usually fills the frame. Used to elevate importance of small details; again, often symbolic.

7. Deep Focus Shot (wide angle shot) - A long shot with many focal distances. Shot captures objects at close, medium and long ranges simultaneously.

Camera Movement Shots

8. Pan, panning shot: (short for panorama), a revolving horizontal movement of the camera from left to right or vice versa.

9. Tracking shot, trucking shot, dolly shot: A shot taken from a moving vehicle. Originally tracks were laid on the set to permit a smoother movement of the camera.

10. Crane shot: A shot taken from a crane (mechanical arm) which carries the cinematographer and the camera to move in any direction, vertical or horizontal.

For those of you interested, check out these other Williams' films:

Most of Williams' plays (as well as his films) revolve around a central secret: something terrible or haunting or degenerate that a protagonist desperately tries to cover up. Williams' women are often unhappy, the men brutish and insensitive. Oh, where will it lead but to modern American drama!

We can learn a lot about playwriting from Tennessee Williams. A character in pain or conflict lies at the  center of his plays. The use of a "secret" allows appropriate tension and rising conflict until a climactic scene reveals the truth. Learn from this.

HOMEWORK: Deadline #1: Friday: Please complete your draft of your 10-minute play script. Complete the reading handout for your chosen August Wilson or James Baldwin play.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

10-Minute Play Project: Draft Writing

Use the class today to work on (or complete) your 10-minute draft project. For details, please see the post below this one. You may also use the advice in eLearning modules 0, 1, and 3 for help and ideas.

You may also read your chosen play (either Blues for Mister Charlie, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, or Joe Turner's Come and Gone). Remember the graphic organizer is due for your chosen play by the end of the week, as is the draft of your 10-minute play.

We will be watching a Tennessee Williams play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, starting on Wednesday.

HOMEWORK: None (or work on your 10-minute play or read)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

George S. Kaufman & the 10 Minute Play

During the first five minutes of class, please complete the following:
1. Glance over the handouts: "The Dramatic Triangle" and "The Roots of Action." You will be reading and working with these two articles, during 2nd period.
2. Please read about George S. Kaufman. Please look at his biographical information and read about the Algonquin Round Table, the 1920's, The Marx Brothers, The Gershwins, and Moss Hart in particular. We will revisit the Marx Brothers in Film Studies next semester.
George S. Kaufman is best known for his Marx Brothers comedies, but also the famous You Can't Take it With You and The Man Who Came to Dinner. Here's one of his 10-minute plays: "If Men Played Cards As Women Do." It can be found on page 423. Please read it alone or with a group of up to 4 (please do not take any more time than 1st period). Then get ready to write today during 2nd period.

Writing the 10-Minute Play Project

The 10 minute play has gained quite a bit of respect over the last few decades. Starting as a theater gimmick and festival curtain risers, the 10 minute play can usually be produced with little or no budget, a theater can produce several new playwrights in an evening, and the plays are short (lacking the attention span one needs when seeing Shakespeare)--which appeals to a contemporary audience.

You will need a premise: the organizing theme or idea that defines everything in the play. A good premise will indicate an interesting inciting incident to help you start off your drama with some effective action or conflict, and will carry you through to the end of your play. The things to remember about 10-minute plays is that they are similar to short stories:
  • They have a premise
  • They have a dramatic situation (setting, characters in action, & a complication)
  • They have a beginning, middle, and end
  • They have a tight structure (most never change scene or setting)
  • They are at most 10 pages long.
  • There are usually fewer than five characters. Often two or three at most.
  • The beginning of the play starts at a very early POINT OF ATTACK (inciting incident).
  • By the end of the first page or the top of the second the argument or conflict has been presented.
  • The play usually has only one conflict and one plot line.
  • There is not much exposition. By the middle of the first page, exposition has been stated.
  • The end of the play falls very close to the climax. Only a few lines are devoted to resolution.
  • Most plays deal with the exceptionally brief, but powerful moment in a character's life.
Take ideas from your journal, reading, or handouts, or your own memory & imagination; check the 38 dramatic situations for help (see link page to the side) if you can't think of anything. Use the graphic organizers, if you need them, and read the handouts "The Dramatic Triangle" & "The Roots of Action" given to you this morning on plot and use the "Exercises" to help you create a play. You may work alone or with a single partner for this project.

Then write. 42 minutes of just you brainstorming, drafting, writing. Try to avoid unnecessary fooling around or talking (that's what 1st period was about).

HOMEWORK: Use the character exercises we completed last class and the articles "The Roots of Action" and "The Dramatic Triangle" to continue working on your plays. Bring your ideas/work and script with you next class. Begin reading either Ma Rainey's Black Bottom or Blues for Mr. Charlie.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Major Barbara Quiz; Sketch project Due!

After our quiz on Major Barbara, please move to the lab to complete your sketch writing assignment. This project draft is due today by the end of class.

A clip from the 1941 movie: Major Barbara
And another clip from Act II.

If you finish early, please begin to brainstorm an idea for a 10-minute play. Your play should be contemporary in style.

To start, create two characters and complete the character development handout to flesh out these two characters. After you flesh out your characters, please turn in your character sketches as participation credit.


Friday, December 6, 2013

Importance of the Importance of Being Earnest

From: Fiona Gregory's article for Insight Publications:

"The period in which The Importance of Being Earnest appeared, the late nineteenth century, is sometimes referred to as the fin de siècle: a French term that literally means ‘end of the century’. The fin de siècle was characterized by a loss of confidence and a sense of impending doom, prompted by factors such as threats to British imperialism, economic competition from abroad, political turmoil at home and social upheaval as conventions of class and gender were challenged.

We can see these preoccupations reflected in The Importance of Being Earnest. In the ‘tea scene’ in Act Two, Cecily taunts Gwendolyn with the spectre of ‘agricultural depression’, noting: ‘I believe the aristocracy are suffering very much from it just at present’.

When Gwendolen learns of Jack and Algernon’s plans to be re-christened she praises their bravery
by exclaiming, ‘How absurd to talk of the equality of the sexes!'"

This is not to be taken seriously--it is Oscar Wilde's satirical stab at conservative thinking. He is being ironic.

"Individuals in nineteenth-century England were organized into social classes. Class was defined by occupation, family connections and access to wealth. Individuals generally remained within the class they were born into. At the top of the scale were the upper class, consisting of the aristocracy, the landed gentry and a select number of wealthy professionals and manufacturers. At the pinnacle of the upper class were the members of ‘Society’, a social enclave (district) centered around the royal court.
The middle class was represented by professionals (including doctors, lawyers and bankers), manufacturers, artists and retailers. The working classes consisted of domestic servants, tradespeople, retail workers and labourers. The poor and destitute existed outside this framework but remained visible and a significant source of anxiety.

Several classes are represented in The Importance of Being Earnest. Lane, Merriman and the footman
belong to the working class; Miss Prism and Dr Chasuble are part of the genteel middle class; and Jack, Algernon, Gwendolen, Lady Bracknell and Cecily are members of the upper class.

Wilde’s play can be read as a satire of the class system, particularly of the upper-class elite who formed ‘Society’. Society was structured around social rituals, and governed by the strict rules of etiquette. The most significant rituals were those surrounding birth, coming-of-age, marriage and death: all of which are depicted or mentioned in the play."

What are YOUR opinions about class in our own 21st century culture? Is economic class still an issue? What might be a solution to this "problem"? As a playwright, how might you represent this issue on stage?

HOMEWORK: Please hand in your short sketch based on one of Oscar Wilde's quotes (see previous post for details) today. Please complete your reading of Major Barbara). Expect a reading comprehension quiz on the play. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

How to Write a Sketch; George Bernard Shaw; & Oscar Wilde

A sketch is a short play or slight dramatic performance. It differs from a play in that there is not necessarily a major theme or point in the sketch. Usually sketches are simply meant to be enjoyed. Deep discussion dealing with the human condition is left to PLAYS.

Sketch Writing: (by Brian Luff)

1) Choose a setting. Avoid common set-ups like doctor's surgeries or "Man Goes Into a Shop". Think original. Only set the sketch in one location.
2) Don't make the sketch too long. Two minutes is a good length to start with. [In scripts, a page is usually equal to one minute].
3) If you're trying to sell your material to TV, don't put in anything too expensive like a helicopter. Most TV shows are on a tight budget. [This goes double for theaters]
4) Three characters is more than enough for a 2 minute sketch. Don't write for a cast of thousands. [Limit your sketch to 2-5 characters]
5) Work out loud. Say the lines as you write them. You need to hear what the material sounds like.
6) Think about what is happening visually as well as the words. Describe the physical action in detail. What are the characters wearing? What do they look like. What are their names? (Don't just call your characters FIRST MAN, SECOND MAN. It will help to bring them to life in your mind [if you give them names]).

Types of Sketches

To help you get going, here's a few tried and tested comedy formats for sketches.

1) Escalation: Funny idea starts small and gets bigger and bigger, ending in chaos of ridiculous proportions.
2) Lists: Sketches in which the bulk of the dialogue is a long list of funny items. The best example of this is "Cheese Shop" in Monty Python. (You can find all the Python sketches at
3) Mad Man, Sane Man: This format speaks for itself, but don't go for obvious settings.
4) Dangerous Situations: For example, sketch set on flight deck of aircraft.
5) Funny Words: Sketches which use the sound of language itself to be funny. For example, use of the words "blobby" or "wobble" (See, Mr. Bean).
6) Old and New: Getting a laugh from putting something modern in an historical setting (Or, vice versa) Example: Sir Walter Raleigh using a cigarette lighter.
7) Big and Small. Getting humour from large differences in scale. For example, a mouse trying to make love to an elephant.

HOMEWORK: Please begin writing your sketch based on one of Oscar Wilde's quotes (see previous post for details)--due next class (we will have some time in the lab). Please complete your reading of Shaw's bio; Please keep reading Major Barbara)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Oscar Wilde

After our quiz on Miss Julie, please check out Major Barbara from the library. Then, please join us in room 238 to view the production of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Ernest.

Oscar Wilde was one of Victorian England's most scandalous artists. He was born in 1854 in Ireland,  and died in 1900, Paris, France. He was a poet, dramatist, novelist, and wit whose reputation rests on his novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), and his comic masterpieces Lady Windermere's Fan (1892) and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895).

He was a spokesman for the late 19th-century Aesthetic movement in England, which advocated art for art's sake, and he was the object of a scandalous civil and criminal suit involving homosexuality, ending in his imprisonment (1895–97).

Peruse the brief bio of Oscar for more details at the Official Oscar Wilde page.

You may also find this short biographical film helpful. Please watch.

Oscar Wilde is often quoted and noted for his epigrams (short pithy sayings). WRITING ASSIGNMENT (HOMEWORK): select one of these epigrams and use the quote to inspire a 1-3 page sketch. Usually sketches are comic, but you are more than welcome to write a serious sketch. Your sketch should have a definite beginning, middle, and end, but may be use parody, hyperbole, or other literary techniques. This assignment is due Friday (Dec. 6).
"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
Kids in the Hall Sketch
Alias Smith and Jones Sketch

HOMEWORK: Write a sketch of 1-3 pages in length using one of Oscar Wilde's epigrams. Please begin reading George Bernard Shaw's Major Barbara. Aim to complete this play by next week (Dec. 10). More information about the play will be given to you next class.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Naturalism: Miss Julie

In order to avoid a class revolt by watching another Ibsen play (I felt your attention to Hedda Gabler was excellent...but attempting The Wild Duck would be tempting fate...) that we would forego watching anything on a screen as this week you are probably going to be bombarded by videos in various classes as we move into Thanksgiving Day recess.

So, let's learn a little about August Strindberg and his best known play: "Miss Julie"

More about August Strindberg, playwright, can be found here and on eLearning in lesson 02.09.
Clips of Miss Julie:
  • Opening Scene from Miss Julie (1987 television production clip, with Janet McTeer as Miss Julie--you may watch the entire television production from the sidebar on Youtube, if you'd prefer)
  • Miss Julie (Helen Mirren as Miss Julie, clip from 1972 production)
The play has only 3 main characters:
Miss Julie: a 25 year-old upper class lady. True to naturalism's style of focusing on heredity and environment and how our environment affects our true nature, Julie, being upper class, raised by a "feminist" mother, Julie has just broken off an engagement to an appropriate suitor from her own economic class level because she attempted to "master" her fiance. Her behavior is shocking because she is also has tendencies of a sado-masochist. 
Jean: a 30-year old valet, favored by Miss Julie on this Midsummer Night's Eve (a night meant traditionally for lovin'). He is working class (not of the same station as Miss Julie) and must "obey" Miss Julie's orders, thus making him a likely target in the battle between men and women. He both dislikes and desires Julie because of her social status. 
Christine: A 35-year old cook. She is Jean's fiance and a gossip. From her we learn a lot about Miss Julie before she arrives on the scene. Christine believes in social structure: the working class should only involve themselves with the working class, the rich only should hob-nob with the rich, etc.
Naturalism (1865-1900) attempts to go further from realism to suggest that social conditions, heredity, and environment affects human behavior. Plots often revolve around social problems, characters are often drawn from lower classes and the poor, perhaps in an attempt to explain their behavior.

Get into groups of 1-4. Read Miss Julie today during class. When you have finished reading the play, please take the quiz on Miss Julie. This may be today or during next class if you do not finish reading the play today.

HOMEWORK: None--although many of you are very far behind and can get caught up. The end of the marking period is Dec. 6. Please complete eLearning lessons 02.08, 02.09, and 02.10. Apart from the quiz for 02.08, there are no writing assignments that go with these lessons--just pure learning stuff for the sake of being smart.

If you did not finish Miss Julie, please do so and be prepared to take the quiz on the play.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Ibsen's Hedda Gabler

First published in 1890 and produced in 1891 to negative reviews, Hedda Gabler has become one of Henrik Ibsen's most remembered plays apart from A Doll's House, An Enemy of the People, The Wild Duck, Ghosts, and the Master Builder. This is primarily due to the rigor of the acting role of Hedda Gabler. As a character, Hedda is at once a romantic feminist but also a manipulative, conniving villain. Hedda is neurotic, a child with a stormy ego. Her superego (represented by society and her married life) clashes with her id (her impulses and desires) in Freud's psychology. She is a tempest of a character, full of contradictions and subtext that makes playing her onstage a joy for any serious actress. In the play Hedda is the wife of Jorgen Tesman, but has had an earlier love affair with her husband's rival, Lovborg. In a gentler, simpler age this sort of behavior was considered shocking and inappropriate.

Other characters in the play include:
  • Jørgen Tesman, the husband of Hedda; an academic
  • Miss Juliane Tesman, Jørgen's aunt
  • Mrs. Thea Elvsted, Jørgen's friend and Hedda's school rival
  • Judge Brack, friend of the Tesmans; a judge
  • Ejlert Løvborg, Jørgen's academic rival whom Hedda previously loved
  • Berte, servant to the Tesmans and to Jørgen as a child
The setting takes place in the interior of a reception room (like a living room, it was meant to accommodate guests)

There are four acts: each act has only one scene. The set does not change, so it's just lights up and down to indicate time passing.

The Seagull

We will complete this play today.


Monday, November 18, 2013

The Seagull; Deadlines: Script Draft & eLearning Module 2

This morning, we will start off in room 238 and continue reading Act 1 of The Seagull. Afterward, we will move to the lab to complete our script drafts (these are due today) and our last chance for eLearning module 2 (lessons 0-7).

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Short Play Script Project; Chekhov's The Seagull (class reading)

Period 1: Continue writing your short play scripts. These drafts are due next class. If you finish and have not yet completed lessons: 2.00, 2.01, 2.02, 2.03, 2.04, 2.05, or 2.06, please complete these assignments in eLearning. These are also way past due and I'm closing the gradebook on them today. You may always resubmit your work before the end of the marking period, but I've got to move on.

During period 2, please check out the play: The Seagull from the library and return to room 238 to read the play together.

Russian Playwright and short story writer, Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull is the first of what are generally considered to be his four major plays (The Three Sisters, Uncle Vanya, The Cherry Orchard are the others). The Seagull was written in 1895 and produced in 1896. It dramatizes the romantic and artistic conflicts between four characters: the fading leading lady Irina Arkadina, her son the experimental playwright Constantin Treplyov, the ingénue Nina, and the author Trigorin.

Similar to Chekhov's other full-length plays, The Seagull relies upon an
ensemble cast of fully-developed (and quirky) characters. An ENSEMBLE cast refers to a cast where there is no distinct or specific protagonist. Many actors tend to prefer ensemble roles. In contrast to the melodrama of the mainstream theatre of the 19th century, actions (for example: Constantin's suicide attempts) are not always shown onstage. Remember Sarcey's principle of offstage action!  

Melodrama is defined as a style of play or novel writing that is often sensational, sentimental, and/or centering on exciting life changing events intended to appeal to an audience's emotions.

Characters in this play (and in most Chekhov plays) tend to speak in ways that skirt around issues rather than addressing them directly, a dramatic practice known as subtext. In fact, it is this failure to communicate that creates much of the conflict in Chekhov’s work. For actors, subtext is an important element in any realistic drama. An actor spends a lot of time deciphering the subtext for any character you write and allow to speak on stage.

The play alludes to
Shakespeare's Hamlet. Arkadina and Treplyov quote lines from it before the play-within-a-play (and even the play-within-a-play is a device used in Hamlet!) Treplyov seeks to win his mother’s favor back from Trigorin, much as Hamlet tries to win Gertrude back from his uncle Claudius.

The opening night of the first production was a failure. “
Vera Komissarzhevskaya, playing Nina, was so intimidated by the hostility of the audience that she lost her voice. Chekhov left the audience and spent the last two acts behind the scenes. When supporters wrote to him that the production later became a success, he assumed they were just trying to be kind.” When Constantin Stanislavski (a famous director and acting teacher) directed the Seagull in 1898 for the Moscow Art Theatre, the play was successful and well regarded. "Stanislavski's production of The Seagull became one of the greatest events in the history of Russian theatre and one of the greatest new developments in the history of world drama."

HOMEWORK: Please complete your short script drafts. These are due next class. You will have 1 period to work on putting the finishing touches on your script, but some of you may need more time due to wasting time in the lab. If this is your case, please work on your script between now and next class. For details about the project, see previous posts. 

Please bring your Seagull scripts with you to class Friday.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Short Script Draft Project

Work with a partner or alone. Write a short play (up to 10 pages in length, but at least 1 full page in length):

Consider using Google Docs if you are working with a partner so that you both can work and revise your play script.

Work together to:
1. Brainstorm a theme and a message. If you could leave the world with some bit of advice about living, what would it be? What is important for the world to hear from your pen? Remember that plays occur on a stage with live actors and a live audience. There's a lot of flexibility here, but you should consider the limitations of this kind of art form.
2. Write a short premise. A 1-sentence statement about what your play is about. Complete this line: "My (our) play is about ... "
3. Create a title page with a cast of characters. Have no more than 5 characters in your short play. You should have more than 1. For each character, write a short 1-2 sentence description, or choose the WHO from the exercises you wrote in module 0 & 1 or in your journal. You may add to this instead of planning it all out in advance. You should at least know your protagonist and antagonist.
4. Create a setting. Indicate TIME and PLACE.
5. Writing in play script format, please write a short 1-10 minute play with your partner. Help each other get unstuck. Help each other come up with ideas. Help each other with grammar and format. Help each other to keep writing and staying on task.
6. You should consider the concepts we have been discussing in class about play structure. For example, consider your own play's: Major dramatic question, complication, crisis or turning point, your protagonist(s) dark moment and enlightenment, the climax and resolution of your play/scene.
7. When you have completed your work, please title and proofread your work. Then turn it in. Your play script is due FRIDAY, NOV. 15. (Next week!)
You can write anything you want. Just write. Tell a story. If you complete this assignment you will receive a passing score of at least 70% for it. If you are lacking motivation or inspiration, take a look back at the materials in MODULE 0 on eLearning.

HOMEWORK: MODULE 2: Lessons 2.01-2.07.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Come to the Water...; Short Play Project

Let's chat a moment about our progress during the first few minutes of class.

After our chat and jigsaw of an article on Realism, please use 1st period to complete your assignments in eLearning. Try to FINISH these lessons by Wednesday, Nov. 13. Anything not completed in class today, should be done as homework and completed on your own time for this class. Working at our own pace has only slowed us down so much that I have to step in and change tactics.

During period 2, please work with a partner or alone. Write a short play (up to 10 pages in length, but at least 1 full page in length):

Consider using Google Docs if you are working with a partner so that you both can work and revise your play script.

Work together to:
1. Brainstorm a theme and a message. If you could leave the world with some bit of advice about living, what would it be? What is important for the world to hear from your pen? Remember that plays occur on a stage with live actors and a live audience. There's a lot of flexibility here, but you should consider the limitations of this kind of art form.
2. Write a short premise. A 1-sentence statement about what your play is about. Complete this line: "My (our) play is about ... "
3. Create a title page with a cast of characters. Have no more than 5 characters in your short play. You should have more than 1. For each character, write a short 1-2 sentence description, or choose the WHO from the exercises you wrote in module 0 & 1 or in your journal. You may add to this instead of planning it all out in advance. You should at least know your protagonist and antagonist.
4. Create a setting. Indicate TIME and PLACE.
5. Writing in play script format, please write a short 1-10 minute play with your partner. Help each other get unstuck. Help each other come up with ideas. Help each other with grammar and format. Help each other to keep writing and staying on task.
6. You should consider the concepts we have been discussing in class about play structure. For example, consider your own play's: Major dramatic question, complication, crisis or turning point, your protagonist(s) dark moment and enlightenment, the climax and resolution of your play/scene.
7. When you have completed your work, please title and proofread your work. Then turn it in. Your play script is due FRIDAY, NOV. 15.
You can write anything you want. Just write. Tell a story. If you complete this assignment you will receive a passing score of at least 70% for it.

HOMEWORK: Reminder that we are meeting in the Commons at 9:30 sharp tomorrow for our field trip. Those of you who have turned in your permission slip at this point (deadline today) are cleared to attend. If you did not complete your paperwork for the field trip, I'm sorry, I cannot take you.

If you are going to the play, please read the handout on the play. Bring a bagged lunch tomorrow and weather appropriate clothing for walking to the theater.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Titus Andronicus; eLearning & Strucutral Types for Plays

Today we will complete our viewing of Titus Andronicus. Please turn in your handout questions at the end of the film for credit.

In the lab, please continue to work on the eLearning lessons in Module 2: Theater History.

Contemporary plays come in the following structural types:
  • Two-Act (full length) plays
  • Full length One-Act play (usually shorter than two act plays, they clock in around an hour and a half or less).
  • Short one-act plays (these are usually about 45 minutes or less in length)
  • 10-minute plays (these are--shocker!--about 10 minutes or less)
These forms are so last century. They have typically fallen out of favor in the theater (although are alive and well in other places...)
  • The three-act play was popular in the late Victorian to the end of the modern period, but you will occasionally see it around. MOVIES and television are generally written in the 3-act format.
  • The four-act play was popular in Russia in the 19 to early 20th century--particularly in the works of Chekhov. 
  • The five-act play was popular in the Elizabethan (Shakespeare) period. 
HOMEWORK: Complete lessons 02.03, 02.04, and 02.05 if you have not already done so. Please turn in your permission slips to see Geva's The 39 Steps on Thursday. If you do not have your permission slip by next class, you cannot attend the field trip. Period. No exceptions.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Falling Behind

Sorry to call you out on this, but for: Taina, Nikki, Thiery, Khamphasong, Grace, Imani, Diamond, Jahni, and Vanessa:
Module 1, lesson 01.08 (the monologue assessment) is so past due. If you haven't done this assignment yet, please finish it today and submit whatever you have (even if it's nothing!) You cannot proceed in the course (allowing you to fail the next unit) until you have completed it. Don't wait. Use the lab this morning to finish this assignment!
For Everybody:

Prometheus Bound should be completed and the analysis sheet handed in.
The Bacchae should be completed.
2.03: The Event (a short essay on the Greek plays we've read) is past due for all students at this time.
2.04: you own play scene should be started and/or completed this week.
2.05: should be completed by the end of class today.

Please complete your work. I'm giving you the rest of today's class to complete this work. If you don't finish--try doing some homework to get caught up in this course.

HOMEWORK: Complete lessons: 02.00, 02.01, 02.02, 02.03, and 02.04.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Module 2; Shakespeare Intro

Please continue to work on module 2 this morning.

During 2nd period, we will stop what we're doing and begin to watch Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare. To prepare us, please take a look at these helpful links and material:

Daily Life in Elizabethan England
Titus Andronicus: Plot Summary
Where did Shakespeare get his ideas for this play?: Sources for Titus Andronicus
Shakespeare's Influence

The text of the play: Titus Andronicus can be found and read here.

HOMEWORK: Complete Prometheus Bound & read The Bacchae.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Format & Script Advice

This morning, please watch these videos for advice on playwriting. They have some good advice that will help you succeed.
Video #1: Top Tips
Video #2: Status Quo
Video #3: Building a Plot
Video #4: Formatting a play script (optional viewing, for those who don't understand the form)
The article/handout on proper play script format will be used (and expected) in the scripts you create in the next two marking periods. Please read, understand, and hold on to these instructions. If you have questions about the format, please ask. 

You can get more information on script format here.

When you have read and understood this information, please continue either completing lesson 01.08 (monologue assessment) or moving on into module 2 and the lessons posted there regarding theater history.

You may also spend your time reading Prometheus Bound or The Bacchae.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Scenario Exercise & eLearning Module 2: The History of Theatre

This morning, take the first half of the period to gather with a partner and create a scenario for a scene that you may find yourself writing later in this marking period. Bounce ideas off your partner and help each other come up with an interesting plot. You may wish to review George Polti's 36 Dramatic Situations first to give you some ideas for a central conflict to use.

When you have completed the following scenario questions, please turn in your scenario with your name and working title. Your scene should include all the important plot events discussed in your reading:
  • Identify your premise (in one sentence, answer: what is this play going to be about?)
  • Identify your protagonist (who is the central character(s) of your play?)
  • Identify your antagonist (who or what opposes your protagonist?)
  • Identify the inciting incident (what happens that introduces your protagonist into the plot?)
  • Identify the major decision (why does your protagonist decide to get involved in your plot? What is at stake for your protagonist? how does this decision or choice to act create a conflict, complication, or crisis to the plot?)
  • Create 3 events that complicate, cause a further conflict, or introduce a crisis to the plot. (For each event, consider how you might use "The TIME LOCK" or "The TRAP" or "SARCEY'S PRINCIPLE OF OFF-STAGE ACTION")
  • Identify the dark moment for your protagonist. (What happens that seems to defeat your protagonist utterly?)
  • Identify the moment of enlightenment for your protagonist. (How will the protagonist solve his/her problem?)
  • Identify the climax to your play.
  • Identify the fate of your protagonist. (What is the result of your play's climax?)
Again, once you have completed this scenario, please print out and/or hand in your work.

About eLearning: 
You must complete the assessment for module 1 before you are ready (or allowed) to move on to MODULE 2: The History of Theatre.

Use the second half of today's class to either move ahead and begin module 2 on eLearning, or complete your assessment for lesson 01.08.

HOMEWORK: Complete your reading and analysis of Prometheus Bound.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

MODULES DUE: End of Marking Period

The end of the marking period is tomorrow.

Modules 0 & 1 are due by end of day tomorrow (11:59). Please use the time given to you in the lab to complete these assignments. NOTE: you will not be able to move on to Module 2 (the history of theatre) until you complete the monologue assessment (lesson 01.08).

Again, below this post please read about and learn the specific plotting vocabulary. I don't want to give you a unit test today because I want you to be able to complete your modules. Some of you may find that as you are falling behind schedule, that homework is, particularly for you, a requirement.

Please read and note the vocabulary in the post below. You may also use this time to read Prometheus Bound, as you will need to complete this play script for the beginning of our next module.

HOMEWORK: Please read the chapter "Structure, Part One: Story and Plot" and be able to identify and explain the terms listed. Read Prometheus Bound and complete the analysis sheet for the play.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Plotting Techniques & eLearning: Modules 0 & 1 due

Modules 0 & 1 are due by the end of this week. Please use the time in the lab today to work on either module, resubmit any work, and/or begin reading Prometheus Bound.

Notes for Prometheus Bound can be found below this post.

Remember that playwrights are master builders. The following plotting techniques can be useful in creating your own plays and fictional stories (yes, you can even use them in narrative poems!):
ConflictYou know this one: person v. person; person v. self; person v. society/God; person v. nature. Drama literally means conflict. You've got to have this in each scene or you haven't written a play, but a tableau. Always check your scripts or stories and see if you have an interesting conflict going on in each scene! 
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. This usually involves the protagonist making a decision to act. 
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 or protagonist.  
The three C's: conflict, crisis, complication: obstacles characters must face for an interesting and dramatic plot.  
Rising action: your 3 c's create this. Increase tension in a play or scene by increasing the stakes. 
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 for your protagonist or character(s).  
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" -- Avoid using this at all costs! Greek theater did NOT avoid this technique and some of its plots suffer because of it. We often see the deus ex machina ending in television programs to make sure that next week everything is back to normal. 
Enlightenment: When the protagonist understands how to defeat the antagonist. A revelation that begins the movement toward a play or scene's climax. 
Climax: the point of highest tension in a play. After the climax, the fates of our characters are determined. 
Catharsis (go ahead--look it know you want to!) 
The Event: a uniquely significant moment in a character's life. 
The Trap: keeping the characters in the setting. Weather works well for this, as does situation. Prometheus Bound does the trap very well, since the protagonist is chained to a mountain and can't escape. But a dramatic trap doesn't have to be physical. It can be psychological: for example: guilt traps us a lot, as does addiction, alcoholism, the love of another character, etc.
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...) 
Sarcey's Principle of Offstage Action: We are less likely to consider the plausibility of an event if it occurs offstage or before the play begins (part of our exposition or backstory). Stage what is believable, talk about everything else.
HOMEWORK: Complete modules 0 & 1. Read Prometheus Bound and complete the handout on the play.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Prometheus Bound Background

Please use the time in the lab this morning to work on Module 1 on eLearning. Any homework or late materials should be turned in. Our marking period ends in two weeks. By this time you should be completely finished with modules 0 & 1.

You may use your time in the lab this morning to begin reading Prometheus Bound. I encourage you to read the background material posted and linked here before you begin. The Prometheus Bound analysis questions are NOT due yet, but will be by the time we finish the play. You may work on them at your own pace. 

Background on Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus. From: "The Cummings Study Guide":

Prometheus Bound is a tragedy centering primarily on the reaction of a proud god to a terrible punishment imposed on him by Zeus. The date of its writing and staging is uncertain, but the play probably debuted about 450 B.C., six years before the death of Aeschylus. It was the first part of a trilogy. The other two plays–Prometheus Unbound and Prometheus the Fire-Bringer–do not survive except for fragments of the latter play. 
[this means you are starting a story in the middle...most of our dislike of the play comes from this fact, as it's sometimes hard to understand why certain actions are happening.]
Setting: The action takes place on a single day at a time just after human beings begin to use fire as a tool of advancement. The place is a gorge in the Caucasus on the shore of the Black Sea, a mountain range running southeast from the Black Sea (called the Euxine Sea in ancient times) to the Caspian Sea. To the north of the Caucasus is present-day Russia; to the south is present-day Georgia. The highest peak in the system, Mount Elbrus, rises to a height of more than 18,000 feet. The lands adjacent to the mountain range are known as Caucasia. 
Onstage Characters
Prometheus: Titan whose name means forethought. After he defied the will of Zeus by becoming the benefactor of mankind, Zeus turned against him, ordering him bound to a rock in a desolate gorge of the Causasus Mountains. There, Prometheus remains proudly defiant, exhibiting no remorse or regret for his actions. Instead, he taunts Zeus, predicting his downfall at the hands of a child he shall beget. 
Hephaestus: The master blacksmith of Mount Olympus and one of the major Olympian gods. Although he sympathizes with Prometheus, he carries out the will of Zeus by making the unbreakable chains that bind Prometheus to the rock in the Caucasus gorge. In Roman mythology, Hephaestus is known as Vulcan. 
Kratos and Bia: Henchmen of Zeus who convey Prometheus to the Caucasus. Kratos symbolizes strength and Bia symbolizes force
Oceanids: Daughters of the Titan Oceanus. They act as the chorus in the play. Although they sympathize with Prometheus, they do not sanction his taunting of Zeus. 
Oceanus: Father of the Oceanids. He is a Titan who remained in Zeus's favor after other Titans had been cast out of heaven. 
Io: Young woman with whom Zeus fell in love but turned into a heifer to disguise her from his jealous wife, Hera. Her presence in the play helps to illuminate ancient attitudes toward fate and the humanlike pettiness and jealousies of the Olympian gods. In addition, her dialogue with Prometheus helps to reveal his intellectual gifts, his defiance, and his other character traits. 
Hermes: Messenger of Zeus and one of the major Olympian gods. His dialogue with Prometheus helps to reveal the latter's fierce defiance of Zeus, defiance so passionate that it becomes a kind of madness. In Roman mythology, Hermes is known as Mercury.
Main Offstage Characters   
Zeus: King of the universe, who rules from Mount Olympus. He exhibits human traits such as pride, lust, deceit, and vengefulness. Although he has no speaking part in the play, his presence as an antagonist of Prometheus is felt throughout the drama. In Roman mythology, Zeus is known as Jupiter
Hera: Queen of the universe and wife of Zeus. Her jealousy of Io causes Zeus to turn the young woman into a heifer. But Hera apparently sees through the scheme to hide Io and sends a gadfly to bedevil her. In Roman mythology, Hera is known as Juno. 
Argus Panoptes: A one-hundred-eyed giant assigned by Hera to observe Io.
Inachus: Father of Io.
Author's Approach: Looking back from the mid-Fifth Century B.C., the author retells a mythological tale transmitted over the centuries to him and other ancient Greeks. He presents the story from the perspective of an enlightened Greek attempting to underscore the importance of intelligence, creativity, and resistance to tyranny. Depicting Zeus as a strongarm bully was daring and controversial. 
Introduction: Mythological Background
.......Aeschylus based the plot of Prometheus Bound on parts of mythological tales well known to Greeks of his time. Modern readers and theatergoers need to become familiar with these tales to understand the play. 
Following is a summation of the tales:
.......After the birth of the universe and the first gods, Uranus rules the heavens and fathers children with Earth, a planet as well as a goddess, called Gaea. These children include three one-eyed giants, three fifty-headed monsters, and twelve gods known as Titans. Fearing that his offspring might try to overthrow him, Uranus thrusts them back into Gaea, causing her severe pain. After fashioning a sickle, Gaea asks her sons to castrate Uranus. Only the youngest one, Cronus, is willing to take up the challenge. After he castrates and overthrows Uranus, he becomes king of the universe, with most of his brothers and sisters assuming positions of power. 
.......The Titans then beget another generation of children, one of whom is Prometheus, the son of Cronus’s brother, Iapetus. Cronus himself fathers children after taking his sister, Rhea, as his mate and queen. Told that one of his children will overthrow him, he attempts to thwart fate by swallowing the children after they are born. His first five children all meet this fate. After Rhea bears a sixth child, Zeus, she acts to protect him. Instead of giving the child to Cronus, she hides him in Crete and gives Cronus a stone wrapped in swaddling. Believing it is Zeus, he swallows it. 
.......After Zeus comes of age, he gives Cronus an emetic that causes him to spew out his brothers and sisters. Zeus and his siblings then wage war against Cronus and his Titan allies. However, two of the Titans, Prometheus and Oceanus, decide to fight on the side of Zeus. With their assistance, Zeus and his siblings overthrow Cronus and his forces and cast them into the underworld, known as Tartarus. Zeus then enthrones himself as king of the gods, apportioning various powers to his brothers and sisters. After Zeus takes up residence with them on Mount Olympus, they become known collectively as the Olympians (as opposed to the defeated Titans). Zeus marries his sister, Hera, who becomes queen of the gods. 
.......Meanwhile, men come into existence on earth. (One ancient writer says Prometheus created them from clay; another source says they were born out of the earth). Although Zeus despises these lowly creatures, Prometheus pities them and acts to sustain them, saving ox meat from sacrifices for men and serving the bones to Zeus after wrapping it with savory fat. Upon discovering the deception, Zeus retaliates by withholding fire from man. Prometheus then steals fire from the heavens and gives it to his earthling friends as a valuable tool for their advancement. 
.......The ancient Greek writer Hesiod presented two versions of what Zeus did next. In one version, Zeus concocts a scheme to plague man. First, he orders his brother, Hephaestus, the forger god, to create a woman. Named Pandora, she is the first of her kind. Zeus sends her to earth with various gifts from the gods, including great beauty and winsomeness, as well as curiosity. She carries with her a jar that she is never to open. In time, her curiosity gets the better of her and she opens the lid, releasing disease, sorrow, evil, and hard labor upon the world. In the other version, Zeus vents his anger on Prometheus, ordering him chained to a rock in a gorge of the Caucasus Mountains. Each day, an eagle comes to feed on his liver. But because Prometheus is immortal, his liver restores itself by the following morning. Then the eagle returns to feed again. Such is the torture that Prometheus endures. Aeschylus recounts this version of the story in Prometheus Bound, beginning on the day when Zeus’s henchmen bind Prometheus to the rock. 
For information about the history and significance of this play, please read the following article: Prometheus Bound.

After reading the play, check your understanding by answering this flash card quiz: Prometheus Bound (characters).

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Plotting a Play

Turn in any homework you have not yet turned in. Check out Prometheus Bound in the library. 

Up until now, we have focused on the development of a character: a backstory, a monologue, and characterization that reveals a character's goals and motivations. The monologue can be a tool to provide these techniques in a play, but, as we have seen, can also be a play. Using multiple narrative a single actor can portray a series of characters, or several actors can take turns performing a host of characters under a unifying theme.

Today, let's chat a bit about plot.

Most plays begin with an EVENT: a unique and significant moment in a character's life (or characters lives). In plays all scenes should be thought of as "events".

Events can be almost anything: an unusual incident, a special occasion, a sudden visit, or any kind of crisis.
An event that starts off the play is called the inciting incident: the point of attack, the turning point in the life of one or more of your characters. Some playwrights call this moment the "disturbance". Whatever term you choose, you want to start off your story with a strong reason for the events in the play to occur. As the play continues (particularly in plays with more than one scene) more events may occur in a story. The inciting incident is the first one.
A protagonist usually confronts the inciting incident from a position of weaker power or disadvantage. Starting with a protagonist who has all his stuff together, who can easily defeat or solve a problem, makes for a boring play.

The beginning of a play ends when the protagonist(s) make(s) a major decision. This major decision should set him or her or them on a collision course with forces that will oppose and perhaps destroy him/her (aka: antagonist). This should be a decision. A decision to act, a decision that causes the antagonist to confront the protagonist, etc. A major decision makes a protagonist active in the plot.

The inciting incident and the major decision help to create the MAJOR DRAMATIC QUESTION: MDQ. The MDQ is, as stated earlier, the question that keeps an audience interested in the plot of your play. The MDQ is also attached to your overall theme. For example: MDQ: will action (and therefore revenge) be possible for Hamlet? Will Brick disclose his true feelings for Skipper & will Maggie find a man to truly love her? Will Willy Loman go mad or succeed in committing suicide? Will Blanche DuBois depend on the kindness of strangers? Will Romeo & Juliet be able to be together despite their families' feuding?

The middle of a play is fraught with a series of obstacles (rising action). During the middle, you need to pay attention to the 3 C's: conflict, crisis, and complication. These 3 C's will lead to the dark moment of your play (more on that later).

Conflict can be person vs. person (often true in plays), person vs. self (also common), person vs. society (common as well if done correctly), and person vs. nature (God, etc.) (not as great, but some plays do this one perfectly.) The more interesting the conflict the more interesting the play. Crises and complications cause the conflict to be more interesting. The crisis is a critical moment--a place in time for the protagonist to act, make a decision--that usually has consequences. Complications are problems (usually unforeseen) that arise to thwart or challenge the protagonist.

TASK: Using the index cards, select a partner and create a rough plot for a play. On each index card indicate the following:

1. PREMISE: in a sentence what is this play about?
2. Identify your protagonist(s). Who is this play mainly about? Choose one of your WHO's from your Module One journal listings.
3. EVENT: create an inciting incident for your play.
4. EVENT: Major decision. In 1-2 sentences, describe the protagonist's major decision.
5. What is your play's MDQ?
6. EVENT: Conflict
7. EVENT: Complication
8. EVENT: Crisis
9. EVENT: Resolution. Create a possible ending for your plot.
10. Make any changes to cards 1-4 that you wish. Put a title for your play on card #1. Put your name on your cards and hand in for class credit.

After this exercise, please either read and complete your homework and/or work on your eLearning lessons.

HOMEWORK: Read the chapter "Structure: Part One: Story & Plot"; Please bring Prometheus Bound to our next class.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

eLearning Module 1; Hedwig & the Angry Inch

During period one, please continue to work on your eLearning modules. During 2nd period, you will be asked to take an essay test on Hedwig and the Angry Inch. If for some reason you did not complete the reading of this play, you might want to complete your reading of it during period 1.

After taking the test, please refresh this site.

For those of you interested, here is a video recording of the original Broadway production of Hedwig & the Angry Inch.

And some of the musical numbers from the play (these from the movie):

Hedwig & The Angry Inch (Musical Numbers)


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Module 1; China Doll; Hedwig

Please turn in your homework (see previous post for details).

In groups of 4-5 please discuss the play China Doll. Compare China Doll to Talking With, Spic-o-Rama, The Vagina Monologues, and Monster. How is it similar or different? Discuss what contemporary issues or ideas you have noticed in these plays. Brainstorm ideas for your own one-person monologue play. Who would be your main character? What themes would you tackle? How might you frame or structure the play? Each member of your group should offer ideas and get feedback from the group.

After your discussion, please do one of two tasks:

A. Continue working on your eLearning Module 1, or
B. Read Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

HOMEWORK: Please read Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Be prepared to take a quiz on the play, particularly on the topic of how this play compares/contrasts to the monologue plays you have already read, how it incorporates poetry and music, deals with contemporary themes, and creates a unique opportunity for a performer. You should be able to apply the literary sign-posts to this play as well, finding examples in the text.

Sunday, September 29, 2013


Please turn in your late homework for Monster. Also, if you have a script from Monster or the Vagina Monologues, please return it to me.

This morning take a few minutes to watch these videos from the play Spic-O-Rama by John Leguizamo. As you watch the video, consider the script and its characters and themes. In a paragraph or two to turn in by the end of period 1, please write an answer to this question:

"One person plays showcase an actor's range and ability while often addressing issues that are sometimes overlooked by mainstream audiences. In regard to Spic-o-Rama, explain how the play showcases John Leguizamo's talent as an actor and writer, why he might have chosen the characters he did to portray in the play, and how he structurally put the play together to create an effective theatrical experience." Please use specific examples to support your answers.

During period 2, please continue to work on Module 1. If you have not yet completed Module 0, you are falling fast behind the rest of the class. Please make up the work as homework.

Literary signposts: To deepen your reading/watching experience...
  • Contrasts & Contradictions: When a character does something that contrasts with what you'd expect or contradicts an earlier act or statement, ask: "Why is this character doing that?"
  • The Aha Moment: When a character realizes, understands, or finally figures something out, ask: "how might knowing this change things?"
  • Tough Questions: When a character asks a very difficult question, ask: "What does this question make me wonder about?"
  • Words of the Wiser: When a character takes the main character aside and offers advice, ask: "What's the life lesson, and how might it affect this character?"
  • Again & Again: When you notice a word or phrase or situation repeated over and over, ask yourself: "Why does this keep happening again and again?"
  • Memory Moment: When the character describes a memory; think: "why might this memory be important?"
HOMEWORK: Please read China Doll by Elizabeth Wong. In a paragraph or two, look for and identify any of the signposts: Contrasts/Contradictions, the aha moment, tough questions, words of the wiser, again and again, or memory moment and evaluate the play.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Monster Discussion; Module 1; & Spic-o-Rama

Please turn in your homework.

This morning, please get into the following discussion groups:
Group Blue: Francis, Taina, Gena, Ethan, Alexis
Group Yellow: Nicole, Imani G., Thiery, Khamphasong, Diamond
Group Green: Grace, Imani M, Nathan, Jahni, Carly
Group Turquoise: Branden, Shayzonique, Kayli, Ben, Vanessa
Two groups should use the room next door for their discussion. Use period 1 to complete your discussion. Turn in your answer sheet at the end of the discussion period.

IF YOU FINISH EARLIER THAN 1st PERIOD: please discuss the other plays we have read: "The Vagina Monologues" and "Talking With" AND/OR: Discuss ideas for a play. What would you write: a one-actor show or a show with several actors? Why? Begin brainstorming together about possible issues, themes, and ideas. Write these in your journal.

DURING PERIOD TWO: Please continue working on the assignments in eLearning Module 1.

HOMEWORK: please read the play "Spic-o-Rama" by John Leguizamo for Monday, Oct. 1 and prepare for a test. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Dael Orlandersmith's "Monster", Black Theater, and eLearning Module 1

Giving a voice to the underprivileged, minority, or unnoticed members of our society is one of the excellent things theater can accomplish. Probably more than any other art form, theater has a way of sparking a discussion and, sometimes, debate about important issues easily ignored by more mainstream mass media like film or television. African American actors, directors, and playwrights have held an important place in American Theatre history. Today, let's learn a little more about these talented and important artists.

This morning, please read about Dael Orlandersmith as a contemporary playwright & actor (and faculty member). Spend a few minutes (up to 28 minutes for the full program) to watch the interview with Dael Orlandersmith. As you watch, consider some of the themes and issues she deals with in her writing.

Then read "A Brief Overview of the History of African American Theatre" and identify at least 3 things you learned from this article. Be prepared to hand these notes in as a "ticket out the door."

You may attempt to read and watch the interview linked above in between, before, or after working on eLearning: Module 1: the Monologue.

HOMEWORK: Please read the play "Monster" by Dael Orlandersmith and complete the signposts organizer to turn in Thursday, September 26.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Vagina Monologues & Performance

MODULE 0 should be completed by Sunday, September 22 by 11:59.

This morning we will be screening Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues. As we watch the performance for HBO, pay attention to the effectiveness of how an actor can bring a script alive. Other key EQ to note are:

1. Interviews can be an excellent way to find authentic voice (particularly when dealing with contemporary topics)
2. If you are a writer AND a performer, you can make a living off your writing.
3. You never know where your writing will take you. Take risks. Write about what is NOT being said.

When examining an actor's performance, look for:
--a good memory
--a good voice (a well trained voice)
--good health (ability to move)
--expressive facial expressions, gestures, & voice
Look here for a more detailed summary of what it takes to be an actor.

HOMEWORK: Please read the play "Monster" by Dael Orlandersmith and complete the signposts to turn in Thursday, September 26.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Writing Advice; eLearning Module 0 Deadline!

EQ: Getting your writing done can be a difficult task. How do we find inspiration, what is a healthy writing process, and why should we learn to write more fluently and skillfully? What's in it for us?

This morning, please turn in your homework from last class. If you are uncertain as to what this is, or were absent, please check last class's agenda on the blog post below.

Some more handy advice about writing--Please read or watch the following today in class by the end of period 2 and take notes on key points in the articles/video (there may be a quiz):
1.  Getting Writing Done: How to Stop Thinking About It & Get It Done
2. 31 Ways to Find Inspiration for Your Writing
3. Writing May Be The Key to Getting a Job or Promotion

The Writing Process Animation
This morning please continue to work on your assignments on eLearning. Your module 0 assignments are due this week. 

If you happen to complete MODULE 0 (our introductory module for this course), you may move on to MODULE 1, concerning monologues and writing. After reading and completing lesson 01.04, Talking With, you may return your scripts to the library. The next few plays we will be reading or viewing in class are handout copies made available to you in class (not from the library). 

HOMEWORK: Please complete The Vagina Monologues for Friday, September 20.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Monologue Plays; eLearning Deadline this Week!

This morning, please continue to work on your eLearning module 0. This module is due by the end of this week. Please attempt to complete it by then. Use the time in the lab to complete classwork and the assignments in Module 0. There is also some reading to do for Friday's class.

For this unit we will continue to read a variety of monologue plays. This style of play is usually written for a single actor (although in some shows or productions there may be more than one actor) who either plays a single character or who plays several different characters. The style of this kind of play is similar to multiple narrative: where more than one character speaks in a unique voice to tell a story. 

CLASSWORK: In between working on your eLearning tasks, please read about "defining multiple narrative structures" (these concerning film narrative specifically, but the idea can be applied to stage plays and fiction as well), and be prepared to define classical unified narrative, story (fabula) and plot (syuzet) in multiple narrative structures, separated multiple narratives, integrated double narrative structures, and semi-multiple narratives. Use the graphic organizer to take notes and define each narrative structure, but also try to come up with film and/or novel examples using the different structures. Yes, this will take some thought. Use your brain or it will atrophy. 

Why is this important? You are a creative writing major. Own it. These are your tools for narrative stories. You need to know them and how they work.

Some help: If you are having trouble, multiple narrative can be defined by a story, film, or play's:
1. Structure & Sequence: the order of the events in the story can be linear, non-linear, or occur simultaneously. The First Part Last, for example, used sequence in alternating chapters by alternating time. This device was what made the novel have an interesting contemporary structure.
2. POV (Point of View): narrative can switch between characters to include a variety of character VOICES (voice). Sometimes POV changes between 1st person POV to 3rd person or between 1st person and another 1st person narrator, as in the novels MudboundFugitive Pieces, As I Lay DyingEthan Frome or Frankenstein.
3. Tense: changing verb tense between past and present tenses is another way to signal multiple narrative structures. First Part Last, for example, or The Book Thief use this gimmick.
Narrative structure
1. One event, multiple perspective: one storyline focusing on a single event, but many characters tell their side of the story, each involved in the event in some significant way.
2. One story, multiple perspective: one storyline or plot, but many characters tell their own version of the story. Similar to one event, one story allows greater freedom and scope as it does not focus on ONE EVENT, but a series of events that make up a plot.
3. Multiple stories, multiple perspective (intertwined): for example Rattlebone, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, American Born Chinese, etc. Various characters tell a story from various points of view, but usually these are thematically linked. Consider Talking With as a good example of this.
4. Parallel stories: two or more stories going on, usually taking place in two or more different time periods (then and now, for example, First Part Last) or The Hours (3 intertwining stories); usually the parallel stories cross at some point.
Whether you are taking playwriting or contemporary writers, knowing that you have an option when it comes to narrative structure can be rewarding. Learn it, know it: Own it.

1. Read about Eve Ensler. She is a contemporary playwright, actor, and writer. Find 3 things about Eve Ensler that you find interesting or important as regards contemporary writers, playwriting, or just about her life. Prepare to hand in you 3 things on Wednesday, September 18.

2. Please read The Vagina Monologues for Friday, September 20. Packets of this play will be provided to you in class. Please note that this a rather excellent, pop culture, contemporary work. It does require some maturity to read it. If you are unable to handle the subject material, please see me for an alternative assignment.

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...