Thursday, January 31, 2013

Edwin S. Porter & George Melies: The Pre-Arranged Scene

Melies and Porter both found a way to edit and arrange film to create a narrative story. With these two film directors we begin to expand the novelty and artistic quality of the medium.

If we were to reduce all films to a continuum, we would have realism on one end of the continuum and formalism on the other. The Lumiere Brothers, and many of Edison's films, are considered actualities and are little more than moving snapshots of real life in real settings shot on location in real places. Viewers were fascinated by these films partly because they had never seen a picture move, but also because the events the films captured were spontaneous and true. It don't get more real than this! The most real films are often considered to be documentaries--documents of real people, places, or events.

On the other side of the continuum is formalism. Formalist films are often avant-garde or metaphorical. Melies' films are perfect examples of this kind of film. Melies used trick photography, whimsical and fantastic subject matter that went beyond reality, and arranged his scenes deliberately for effect. While the camera stays at a safe viewing distance (long shot), the entire film is manipulated to create an effect on the viewer. When a director does these things (tricks like dissolves or stop motion or careful editing) he is beginning to lose the spontaneity of capturing real life, as all is "staged" and "un-real".

Today most films are considered the mid-range between realism and formalism. This mid-range is called classicism and most fiction films fall into this category.

As we watch these films, please record the title, name of director, and a 1-3 sentence description.

THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY (1903), Directed by Edwin S. Porter
DREAM OF A RAREBIT FIEND (1906), Directed by Edwin S. Porter
A TRIP TO THE MOON (1902), Directed by George Melies

After screening the films, please complete the following:
George Melies outlined a narrative story by numbering scenes he would need for a film. See the chapter on Melies (handout) for examples. This arrangement served as a creative outline for most early filmmakers. Much of the plot, acting, and filming was completely improv, but directors had a general idea of the film they wanted to make.

1. Work alone or with one partner.
2. Create your own pre-arranged scene break-down for a film of your own. You may wish, like Melies, to choose a favorite story or fairy tale, or create your own sci-fi or fantasy story or like Porter base your story on an event taken from News headlines, or from your own imagination.
3. Create a short film with up to 10 distinct scenes. You should give a very short description of each scene that includes the following information:
A. Where does the action/filming take place?
B. What is the central action or event in the scene?
C. What characters are involved in the action?
D. How does one action lead to a reaction (cause and effect, or i.e., PLOT) and/or resolution? And E. What type of shot would you use for the scene: Close-up, Medium shot, Long Shot, Tracking Shot, Pan, (extreme close up or long shot?)
HOMEWORK: This prearranged scene outline is due next class. If you do not complete the treatment in class, please complete as homework for participation credit.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

First Film Project: Actualities; Early Film Invention

Please turn in your index cards for the "Beginning of Film." Today, join 3-5 other students and upload your actualities into iMovie, if you can. Create a title for each individual film with your name on it as the director. Work together to edit and prepare the film. If you'd like, add a music track. Help each other and ask questions about the basics of iMovie. Create an MP4 of your film files and I will come around by the end of period one to collect these files.

Today, during period one, please read about early film technology here. In your notes, please identify, describe (and/or draw a picture) and note the significance of the following technology. The side bar on the website's left hand side has the links for each device.
  • Zoetrope
  • Praxinoscope
  • Kinetoscope
  • Cinematographe
  • Mutoscope
  • Vitascope
Period 2: Join us next door to learn about early film inventions. The following are important events, inventions, and their inventors that helped create the film industry. You should be familiar with them. Please take notes. You will be tested on this material as the course continues.
Magic Lantern: Invented in the 17th century by Athanasius Kircher. The magic lantern projected pictures on a screen. It functioned like an overhead projector. Originally it used a candle as the light source.

Thaumatrope: Invented by Dr. John Ayrton Paris in 1824; utilized the theory of “persistence of vision”

Fantascope, Phenakistiscope (“spindle viewer”), Fanatoscope: invented by Belgian inventor Joseph Plateau. Daedalum (Horner 1834)/Zoetrope (Lincoln 1867)
Daguerreotype: Invented in 1839 by Louis-Jacques-Monde Daguerre. The process of capturing images on silvered, copper metal plates - the beginning of photography.

Celluloid: Invented in 1869 by John Wesley Hyatt. Strips of thin film which could be developed with pictures.

Praxinoscope: Invented in 1877 by Charles Emile Reynaud. A film projector. This clip shows examples of Reynaud's animations. Recently, a filmmaker collected Reynaud's praxinoscope animations and created a digital film of what Reynaud might have been envisioning. Here is one of his animated films: Emile Reynaud: pauvre pierre animation (1892)
Light Bulb: Invented by Thomas Edison in 1879. Actually the light bulb predates this date. Edison patented the incandescent light bulb filament.
One of the first pioneers of “film” was the artist/inventor Eadweard Muybridge: 1830 - 1904. He used several cameras to take a sequence of shots. Film was cut into strips and used in a praxinoscope. Muybridge invented his Zoopraxiscope, photos printed on a glass disc that rotated, to create the illusion of moving images. Here's what the first Zoopraxiscope clip looked like.

Edison Manufacturing Company (directed by Edwin S. Porter):
HOMEWORK: Please read: Melies & Edwin S. Porter in the handout given to you today. Take notes in your journal/notebook about relevant or interesting points in the article. Also, any questions you may have, please record and ask in class.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Birth of Film

We will be covering a broad time line throughout this course, starting with the origin of film and moving on then to the present. For an idea of where we're starting today and where we're going by the end of the course, please take a few minutes this morning to watch this film: The History of Film.

The Birth of Film

Early film was little more than the thrill of capturing "real life." Finally, through technology, photographers were able to depict reality in a way never before possible. This had many uses. For one, it allowed people to witness strange or exotic locations, cultures, or people. Now someone who lived in New York City didn't have to spend a month on a steamer boat to visit far-away-lands. Presidents could be seen without having to campaign in your home town. Life could be seen as it "really was." These slices of life are documentaries in the strictest sense. They are  "actualities"-- little more than moving snapshots. Note there is no plot or character development--just real life.

Watch these early films from the late 1890's and early 1900's. As you watch, take notes about the director(s) and the titles and content of the film. Summarize in a few words or a sentence or two what each film is about. At the end of the collection, answer the following:
  • What do you notice about the films? 
  • What subject matter do they deal with? 
  • What do you notice about the shots and camera work in these films?
This observation should be written and turned in as participation credit today.

The Films

Edweard Muybridge (1830-1904): Our first pioneer of the art of film is the photographer Edweard Muybridge. Muybridge was a photographer who became famous when former California Governor Leland Stanford contacted him to help settle a bet over whether all four hooves of a running horse left the ground. Muybridge began experimenting with an array of 12 cameras photographing a galloping horse in a sequence of shots. Between 1878 and 1884, Muybridge perfected his method, proving that horses do have all four hooves off the ground at some point during their running stride. Muybridge worked at the University of Pennsylvania between 1883 and 1886, producing thousands of photographs of humans and animals in motion. He published several books featuring his motion photographs and toured Europe and North America, presenting his photographic methods using a projection device he'd developed, the Zoopraxiscope.

Some other interesting bits about Muybridge: During a break from his photographic research, his wife, Flora, had an affair with Major Harry Larkyns, a drama critic. Believing that Larkyns had fathered the couple's recently born son, Muybridge tracked him down, shot, and killed him. At his trial for murder in 1875, several witnesses testified that Muybridge's personality had changed after he received a head injury in which he lost his ability to taste and smell. The jury didn't buy the insanity defense, but acquitted Muybridge on the grounds of "justifiable homicide." Muybridge died in 1904. His contributions to art and photography spurred the works of other film inventors, many of which we will study today.

Please watch the following two films, the first a documentary: Photographs of Motion
and the second, a series of Muybridge's photographs, sped up to show motion.

The oldest surviving film in existence at this point is Louis Le Prince's Roundhay Garden Scene (1888). This sequence was recorded on an 1885 Eastman Kodak paper base photographic film through Le Prince's single-lens combi-camera-projector. It moved at 12 frames per second.

Le Prince's life was also interesting and there's a mystery (and some say conspiracy) attached to his death. Le Prince was never able to perform a planned public demonstration in the United States of his films because he mysteriously vanished from a train on 16 September, 1890 --His body and luggage (including his film camera) were never found. Le Prince's disappearance allowed Thomas Edison to take credit for the invention of motion pictures in America, but now Le Prince has been heralded as 'The Father of Cinematography.'

Edison Kinetoscope films: (1894-1896)
Titles in this clip include: The Kiss, Serpentine Dances, Sandow the Strong Man, Comic Boxing, Cock Fighting, The Barber Shop, Feeding the Chickens, Seminary Girls & Boxing Cats

Many of Edison's early films were shot by W.K.L. Dickson. Thomas Edison invented the idea of the Kinetoscope but it was Dickson who designed it between 1889-1892. The first kinetoscope exhibition occurred in New York, NY in 1894.

Other Kinetoscope films:
At the same time, in France, the Lumiere Bros. were also working on the invention of film, particularly a camera that could also project a film for the benefit of an audience. Learn about The Lumiere Bros. (Documentary) here.
Please take a look at this film as a model for your own project (details to follow next class): The History of Early Film.

Homework: Please read the article "The Beginning of Film." Take notes of what you found interesting/important or confusing. Put ?, comment, etc. on index card to hand in Jan. 30.

In addition to reading, please record a 20-30 second "actuality" with your cell phone or digital recording device. Your actuality should simply record someone real doing something typical. Use the material from today's class to give you ideas of the kinds of subject matter and situations you can use. Bring your digital file to next class for editing.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Welcome to Film Studies!

Welcome to Film Studies!

This course is designed to provide you with a wide foundation of Film History and Film Studies, while also giving you experience writing film scripts and film reviews/critiques (as such found in the field of Journalism). You can find the course syllabus on my teacher website. By its end, you will understand the art of film hopefully more than you do now, and will gain a better appreciation for the art of filmmaking. Some of you may like this course of study so much you will take film courses in college, major in film studies, or become professional filmmakers. Others will at least benefit from knowing (and appreciating) the art of film.

This course (as Playwriting) will mostly be found online. Deadlines and assignments (with instructions) will be posted on the blog as needed. Please check the blog daily (even when absent) so you do not fall behind.

To start, after you have completed your final exam, please read this article and complete the following task(s) on an index card to turn in for participation credit:

Film Studies Commentary by David Bordwell
#1. Essential question: What's the difference between the way a film reviewer (journalist), a film historian, a film scholar, and a film fan evaluate a film?
#2. List your top 10 favorite films of all time.
#3. Name your favorite genres of film. (i,e. what do you prefer to watch?) Why?
Please read the article above, and answer the questions just above in complete sentences by the end of class (required - due today). We will then have a discussion about film.

After our discussion in your JOURNAL/NOTEBOOK for film studies:

The TOP Films of All Time - A Personal Response by YOU!

For our class, this website by film historian Tim Dirks, will provide you with a lot of excellent information. We will be using the link throughout our course as a reliable source of information.
Please go to the link (on the right side of this post): Film History.

Other Resources:
  • (this is the international movie data base, and can be very helpful to you in this course).
  • Metacritic (a website where you can find all sorts of film reviews for models regarding how to write a film review--and for your own enjoyment)
  • The Internet Script database. This site publishes many contemporary film scripts. It will be important to check your film script formatting and go here to read scripts. There is a link to this page to your right of this post.
  • Many of the clips we will be watching in this class come from sites like You are probably already familiar with this website.

Today, I'd like you to spend some time reviewing the top films of all time. Please read Dirk's information, take a look through the list and note the following (perhaps in 3 columns):
A. Which films on this list have you personally seen? (jot down a few titles in your journal)
B. Which films on this list have you heard about, but never had the chance to see? (jot down a few titles)
C. If a movie looks interesting to you, please jot down its title in your journal.
At the last 5 minutes of class today, please get into groups of 3-4. No one in your group should be someone you sit directly next to. You will likely have to move and meet new people. Discuss your list with your group members. You may also spend any time remaining in class discussing films you love or hate. Why do you love or hate the film? Discuss.


Final Exam

Please complete your final exam and the post assessment test for this course. We are now completed with playwriting for this year. Please turn in your realist scripts, if you have not already done so.

Also: I will spend some time with musicals (I promised I'd do so, but we'll pick this up in the film studies section of the course--particularly during the 1930's and again next year during Writing X Cultures).

I wanted to end with some light comedy, but given both tests, anything I start now would be impossible to finish for a week.

So, I'd like to jump into film studies immediately. See post above for details!

HOMEWORK: None. If you are submitting a Black History poem, please get the draft to me by tomorrow, Jan. 18. This is an EXTRA CREDIT assignment for this marking period.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Twelfth Night & Final Exam Review

Please turn in your play scripts. Those turning in your scripts this morning will get extra credit. You will have until Thursday to turn your script in on time. After that, it is a late assignment. Because our printer is out of ink, please send me an attachment (I'll print it out) at:

Today we will conclude our reading of Twelfth Night.
End of Act V

On Thursday, we will have a final exam on material covered in this course. The following is a list of key terms and concepts we covered that you can study for our final. All items can be found in the reading or chapter handouts, the blog, and your own notes (if you took any).

The Final Exam for Playwriting may cover any or all of the following items, please review:

The plays & playwrights:
Jane Martin: Talking With
Arthur Miller: Death of a Salesman
Larry Shue: The Nerd
David & Amy Sedaris: The Book of Liz
Charles Busch: Psycho Beach Party; Vampire Lesbians of Sodom; Lady in Question; Red Scare on Sunset
Anton Chekhov: The Seagull; The Three Sisters; Uncle Vanya; The Cherry Orchard
Samuel Becket: Waiting for Godot; Happy Days; Play; Come & Go; Endgame
Henrik Ibsen: Hedda Gabler; The Master Builder; A Doll's House; Ghosts
William Shakespeare: Twelfth Night
Proper script format

Play Vocabulary:
Premise: a deeply held belief by the playwright which shapes a script.

From handout: chp. 3 'Structure: Part One, story and plot':
  • Aristotle's six elements of plays: plot, character, diction (dialogue), thought (theme), spectacle, song/music
  • Conflict
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The three C's: Conflict, crisis, complication: obstacles characters must face for an interesting and dramatic plot.
  • Rising Action
  • 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.
  • 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"
  • Enlightenment: When the protagonist understands how to defeat the antagonist. A revelation that begins the movement toward a climax.
  • Climax
  • Catharsis
Ten minute play format
One act plays
Full length plays (2, 3, 4, or 5 act)
Cross-dressing and theatrical tradition (blog)
Generating ideas for plays (from handout & blog)
Absurdism (blog)
Commedia dell'Arte (blog)
Constantin Stanislavski
Moscow Art Theatre
From Handout: 'Structure, Part two: creativity, scenario, & writing'
  • The Event: a uniquely significant moment in the character's lives
  • 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...)
  • French scenes
  • Place & setting
  • Theme
  • Scenario: an outline for a writer to identify major/minor characters, plot, and setting used BEFORE writing a script
  • Catalyst: the event in the play that causes a character to take action
  • Positive Motivation
  • Character flaw
  • need vs. desire
  • Creating credible characters
  • Protagonist
  • Antagonist
  • Subtext: what is not said in a character's line. The subtext are the subtle details or clues used by the actor to develop their character.
  • Beat: a short exchange of dialogue
  • Backstory
  • A Confidant: a character the protagonist or antagonist can talk with to reveal necessary backstory
  • Verisimilitude: the semblance of truth in characters and setting. "a king should act like a king, not a foul-mouthed beggar."
The Building Blocks of Dialogue
Dialogue (tips and advice)
Theatrical genres: realism, absurdism, symbolism, sentimental comedy, naturalism, romanticism, expressionism, tragedy, comedy, etc.
Working with actors
Play development & workshopping a play
Writing and rewriting a script (advice)

HOMEWORK: Study for your final exam. Your realist play scripts are due next class, if you did not turn them in today.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Twelfth Night: Part 3

We start 12th Night with an EVENT. As you remember, an event is a uniquely significant moment in a character's life. Viola has been shipwrecked in a strange, new land. Orsino, who loves Olivia, is turned away from her house and so he is obsessed with her. Olivia is in mourning and will not accept Orsino's attempts to woo her. The overly proud Malvolio is so disliked by his fellow servants that they decide to play a trick on him to bring him down a peg or two. These events are what drive the plot of the play. EVENTS, then, are essential to a play. The longer the play, the more events needed. The shorter the play, the fewer needed.

You will also note that Shakespeare attempts to follow the typical advice from Aristotle. All plays need interesting characters. There are many of these in this play. Each major character has an importance to the plot. They are involved in the action. They have desires and wants and needs that they attempt to achieve. Along with plot (with its episodic nature: each scene advances or complicates the plot), Shakespeare includes spectacle and music to his play. The songs enhance the audience's enjoyment. This play centers around a celebration (12th Night) and, as such, the characters enjoy the very real and human aspects of celebration: drink, dance, song. As for language, Shakespeare excels at his poetic turns of phrase. Some of the language is absolutely beautiful and poetic. Some of the language is silly banter or witty repartee. Finally, there is plot. As we read and watch today, consider what Shakespeare is attempting to say about the basic themes of love and life.

Act II, Scene III
Act II, Scene IV 
Act II, Scene V
Act III, Scene I

HOMEWORK: Please continue to write your realistic play scripts. This writing project is due Tuesday, Jan. 15. Please make sure you have the script draft completed to turn in Tuesday, as we will be finishing Twelfth Night in class. No lab time will be given for the writing of your play, so please complete this on your own time at home.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Shakespeare & Twelfth Night

Likely the most influential writer in all of English literature and certainly the most important playwright of the English Renaissance, William Shakespeare was born in 1564 in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire, England.

Around 1590 he left his family behind and traveled to London to work as an actor and playwright. Public and critical success quickly followed, and Shakespeare eventually became the most popular playwright in England and part owner of the Globe Theater.

His career bridged the reigns of Elizabeth I (ruled 1558-1603) and James I (ruled 1603-1625). Wealthy and renowned, Shakespeare retired to Stratford, and died in 1616 at the age of fifty-two.

Shakespeare's works were collected and printed in various editions in the century following his death, and by the early eighteenth century his reputation as the greatest poet ever to write in English was well established.

Twelfth Night, Animated, Act I, part one
Twelfth Night, Act I, Scene 5
Act II, Scene IV 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Twelfth Night

Written around 1601, Twelfth Night is based on the short story "Of Apolonius and Silla", which in turn was based on another story. It is named after the Twelfth Night holiday of the Christmas season.

Twelfth Night marks the end of a winter festival. The Lord of Misrule (sort of the mascot for this the Easter Bunny or Santa) symbolizes the world turning upside down. On this day the King and all those who were of high stature would become the peasants and vice versa. At the beginning of the twelfth night festival a cake containing a bean was eaten. The person who found the bean would run the feast--be "king for a day." Midnight signaled the end of his rule and the world would return to normal. The common theme was that the normal order of things was reversed. This Lord of Misrule tradition can be traced back to pagan festivals, such as the Celtic festival of Samhain and the Ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia.

The Winter Solstice (December 21st) historically marked the first day of many winter festivals. The 12 nights following and including the solstice represent the 12 zodiac signs of the year - and the 12th Night (New Years Day) is a culmination and celebration of the winter festivals. Thus, Shakespeare's title refers to New Years Day.

Food and drink are the center of this celebration. A special alcoholic punch called wassail is consumed especially on Twelfth Night, but throughout Christmas time, especially in the UK. Around the world, special pastries, such as the tortell and king cake are baked on Twelfth Night, and eaten the following day for the Feast of the Epiphany celebrations.

What's the connection? Look for reversals (of fortune, as well as gender), drunken revelry (particularly Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek), and a general misrule or mayhem that occurs.

Shakespeare's Twelfth Night is one of his most loved comedies. Many of his comedies rely on the mistaken identity shtick, as well as the cross-dressing shtick. These theatrical conventions are taken from the Roman comedies and commedia traditions (remember commedia dell'arte?) Other shtick's or stereotypical characters include the pining lover, the wise fool, and the foolish master. In any case, there's mishaps, misrule, and bawdy drunkenness in this playful play. Enjoy!

Black History Poetry/Performance

The Creative Writing department has been commissioned to participate in the SOTA Black History month performance on Feb. 5. The music department (Mr. Gabriel) is looking for an UPLIFTING, POSITIVE, and G-Rated original poem celebrating Black History. You might write about an important historical character/person, or overcoming obstacles successfully in a difficult world, or about the importance of hope and freedom and achieving your dreams.

Here are a few examples:

Homage to My Hips
I am a Cowboy in the Boat of Ra
Still I Rise

HOMEWORK: Extra Credit: write an inspiring poem for Black History. Use the samples as guidelines. NOTE: While you are welcome to read and perform your own poem, you do not have to to participate. You also do not need to be African American. You can celebrate the success of any culture! Anyone who submits (whether or not your poem is selected) will gain extra participation credit this marking period. Poems need to be collected by 1/18/13.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Realistic 10-Minute Play Project

Today, during period 1, please brainstorm and begin an idea for a realistic short 10-minute script. Your cast of characters should be small (2-5) and the play should be about some realistic social ISSUE. For a few suggestions, please check here. Before you leave today, you should have an idea for a short, realistic style play script. You may use your time in the lab this morning to research and make some choices concerning character, setting, plot events, and social issues/themes. Play scripts will be due by Tuesday of next week. Play scripts are first drafts and should be anywhere from 3-10 pages in play script format. Please note that very little lab time will be given to you to complete this assignment, as we will be using our time in class reading. You will have to complete this script on your own time at home. 

During period 2, we will begin our reading of Shakespeare. He is NOT realistic and is antithesis to the realistic style. We're reading him because you should know him very well, not only for your own literacy, but because his writing is an excellent example of stagecraft. Please take a moment this morning to respond to the Shakespeare survey. Then, before you begin the writing task, read about REALISM.

Realism is probably the most typical play script form. Not exactly tragedies, realism often relies on verisimilitude, the faithful representation of reality. As Ibsen used it, the form can be very helpful in raising societal issues (issues that are important to us as a society: such as divorce, economic problems, dating/marriage, equality, bullying, inappropriate social behavior, psychological issues, religious crises, parental issues, racial issues, social problems, etc.)  It often represents middle class issues, so characters and setting are often those familiar to the middle class, as opposed to "naturalism" which seeks to represent the lower classes (or the poor). At its heart, realism is a direct reaction against romanticism (and aburdism). This is not life as we WANT it to be, but life as it IS.

In American literature, "realism" starts around the Civil War (1860) through the 20th century, with the writings of William Dean Howells, Henry James, Mark Twain, Edith Wharton, Willa Cather, Hemingway, Steinbeck, and others. In playwriting, the works of George Bernard Shaw, Eugene O'Neill, George Kaufman, Tennessee Williams, William Inge, August Wilson, David Mamet, Neil Simon, Sam Shepherd, Marsha Norman, Alfred Uhry, Wendy Wasserstein, Harold Pinter, Alan Aykbourn, Robert Harling, Beth Henley, etc. all have elements of realism in one aspect or another, although playwrights use symbol, subjectivity, and various techniques and styles to create their own unique voice or theatrical "flavor".


  • follows reality closely, and in detail. Stories/plots include the selective presentation of reality with an emphasis on verisimilitude (the appearance of reality/truth), even at the expense of a well-made plot. That means plots do not always resolve, problems are not always "fixed" by the end of a story, etc.
  • Character is more important than action and plot; complex ethical choices are often the subject. Characters in realism must make a CHOICE, even if it's the wrong one. In realistic plays, this is often what the play is about.
  • Class is important; realism is the choice for "middle class" writers/audiences.
  • Events are plausible and "realistic". Realistic plays/novels avoid sensationalist and dramatic elements of naturalistic novels and romances (for example Shakespeare).
  • Diction is natural vernacular, not heightened or poetic; tone may be comic, satiric, or matter-of-fact, but overall should sound realistic, as if it could be heard or spoken by the character saying the line.
  • Objectivity becomes important. Think journalism. We want to see all sides of an issue. Characters often represent or portray one side or another of an issue.
  • Interior is used more often than exterior settings. This also includes getting into the minds of the characters, usually through monologue rather than soliloquy (which is not realistic).
  • The basic difference between realism and sentimentalism is that in realism, "the redemption of the individual character lay within the social world," but in sentimental fiction, "the redemption of the social world lay with the individual". A character needs society (friends, family, etc.), as opposed to the individual character being able to change society him/herself.  
  • Dialogue is written, as we have mentioned before, with fragments, interruptions, digressions, and realistic statements. Characters interrupt each other, trail off, talk "around" a subject they are not comfortable with, and express themselves through dialogue. HOWEVER, remember that an occasional metaphor or the use of imagery and poetic devices can still make your dialogue more interesting (particularly in a monologue!) Avoid the over use of "hmms, and wells, and Ums" (they do not move the dialogue forward and can be added by an actor) and long, complex sentences (difficult to act) in favor of short declarative sentences and fragments.
  • HOMEWORK: Please continue to work on your realistic 10-minute play script. This project is due next Tuesday, Jan. 15.
  • Wednesday, January 2, 2013

    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.

    HOMEWORK: Please read any one other Ibsen play in the collection and post your response on the forum (this is a graded assignment) by Monday, Jan. 7. Due to inactivity of a large portion of the class, no late posts will be accepted for a grade. Please complete your work on time.

    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...