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.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Some Advice & eLearning

Writing can be hard work. But if we want to be a WRITE-r, we have to WRITE. This morning take a gander at a few clips and bits of advice about writing, then use your time to continue working on your assignments in eLearning.
Use the lab time to continue working on assignments in ELearning. You should aim to complete MODULE 0 by next week.

HOMEWORK: Complete your reading of Talking With. In Module 1 (lesson 01.04) you will be asked to analyze and respond to this play. We will begin a new play next class.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Talking With & Elearning: Module 0

ANNOUNCEMENTS: The Rochester Fringe Festival runs next week from September 19-September 28. There are literally hundreds of local shows (each about an hour long, some free, some the price of a movie ticket) that you should see. Gain extra participation credit by going to any show (more extra credit per show you attend!) Just bring your ticket stub or program in for validation.

By the way, my own original play Pink Ribbons is being performed during the Fringe Festival at MuCCC (142 Atlantic Avenue) at 7:00 on September 23. One night only! Tickets are available at the door or online for $10: proceeds benefit the Rochester Breast Cancer Coalition. More info can be found here.

Please continue reading "Talking With" during period 1. As you continue reading today, complete the character comparison chart and turn in at the end of today's class. This is class work.

During period 2, switch to work in the lab. Use the lab time to continue working on assignments in ELearning. You should aim to complete MODULE 0 by the end of next week.

HOMEWORK: Complete your reading of Talking With. In Module 1 (lesson 01.04) you will be asked to analyze and respond to this play.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Online learning & Talking With

This morning during period one, check out this website. Read the short article, then be prepared to share your findings with the class.

Then please log on to our Elearning site and work on the assignments there. Remember to move through the assignments in order, as lessons are meant to build skills. Submit any completed assignments. I prefer if you type up your assignments using a word processor, then submit your work in the area provided on the elearning site by cutting and pasting your work. That way you will have an electronic copy of your work in the event of something going wrong with the online site.

During 2nd period, we will get into reading groups and begin reading the play: "Talking With."

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Welcome: Class of 2015

Welcome back, class of 2015. I hope you all had a restful and enjoyable summer. But here we are again. This year is partly devoted to writing scripts (both theatrical and for the screen). What you learn here can help you improve your fiction "dialogue" skills, examine the use of conflict in your plots, play with language and poetry, as well as make you a better psychologist (dealing with people in crisis), all the while honing your writer's craft and developing your writer's voice.

Today, after reviewing the course criteria and updating your computer passwords, we will get started on this course.


Check this blog each class period for agendas, deadlines, educational information, advice, and a whole lot of links to enhance your education. All you have to do is read and click. You are responsible for reading and interacting with the material I post on the blog.

If you're absent or missed something in class, please check the blog to get caught up. As indicated above, each new class period usually includes a new post. If you have a question about an assignment and are too embarrassed to speak to me in public (or you have a question that you think you will forget to ask), feel free to use the comment section.

The links also include a variety of things, but for now, you do not need to worry about all of them. You will find a link to my teacher webpage and other materials. During the course I will direct your attention to these tools for your use in this class and for use in Contemporary Writers.


The newest thing this year is our use of the Rochester's E-Learning site. This is an online web-class site where you will be able to submit your work, take quizzes, work at your own pace, and otherwise, learn the skills of playwriting. If you have access to the internet at home, you will be able to move ahead in this course. If you don't have access, you WILL have access in school and in our creative writing lab. Use your time productively.

This morning we will start learning about e-learning, log onto the site, and get started with MODULE 0: an introduction to the course.

The Difference Between Writing for the Stage and Writing for Film: a Discussion

This morning, please brainstorm with a pair (1-2 people) to come up with a list of differences between playwriting (writing for the stage) and screenwriting (writing for film or television). When you have exhausted your list, check out this website. Read the short article, then be prepared to share your findings with the class.

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...