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 ingĂ©nue 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.

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