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.

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...