Sunday, September 28, 2014

Night Mother Analysis

EQ: Analyze 'Night Mother. What are some effective ways in which an author presents subject matter that connects with an audience?

After our quiz on 'Night Mother, please get into groups of 4-5 and discuss the following:
  • How is this play a plot driven by its characters? 
  • Do you feel Marsha Norman is successful in creating an interesting or socially relevant play? 
  • Take special note about how with only two characters and a single set, the story unfolds. Examine specific ways in which the playwright keeps us on the edge of our seat.
  • Pay attention to character development and conflict. Who wins this play? Which character is the protagonist? Which the antagonist?

A note about the seriousness of this play's theme:
  • Suicide is a potentially preventable public health problem. It accounts for more than 1% of all deaths in the U.S. each year. In 2001, suicide was the 11th leading cause of death in the U.S.
  • Among young people aged 15 to 24, suicide is the third most common cause of death. Four times as many men die by suicide as women. And 73% of all suicide deaths are white males.
  • Risk factors for thoughts of suicide can vary with age, gender, sexual orientation, and ethnic group. And risk factors often occur in combinations.
  • Over 90% of people who die by suicide have clinical depression or another diagnosable mental disorder. Many times, people who die by suicide have a substance abuse problem. Often they have that problem in combination with other mental disorders.
  • Adverse or traumatic life events in combination with other risk factors, such as clinical depression, may lead to suicide. But suicide and suicidal behavior are never normal responses to stress.

Other risk factors for suicide include:
  • One or more prior suicide attempts
  • Family history of mental disorder or substance abuse
  • Family history of suicide
  • Family violence
  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Keeping firearms in the home
  • Incarceration
  • Exposure to the suicidal behavior of others
Are there warning signs of suicide?
Warning signs that someone may be thinking about or planning to commit suicide include:
  • Always talking or thinking about death
  • Clinical depression -- deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating -- that gets worse
  • Having a "death wish," tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death such as driving fast or running red lights
  • Losing interest in things one used to care about
  • Making comments about being hopeless, helpless, or worthless
  • Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, changing a will
  • Saying things like "it would be better if I wasn't here" or "I want out"
  • Sudden, unexpected switch from being very sad to being very calm or appearing to be happy
  • Talking about suicide or killing one's self
  • Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
Be especially concerned if a person is exhibiting any of these warning signs and has attempted suicide in the past. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, between 20% and 50% of people who commit suicide have had a previous attempt.

Having read and thought about these facts/details, how does the playwright use some of this statistical information in her play? Can you find specific examples or lines where she has her characters discuss this information in a more informal way? Is the playwright successful in presenting her audience with a powerful message?

In your small groups, brainstorm some themes or topics for a play your group thinks would be important subject matter for a play. Outline your group's idea. Be prepared to share your idea with the class.
  • Where would the action of the play take place?
  • Would you have a single act, or several? A single scene, or several? Why?
  • What would be the basic PREMISE of your play?
  • What characters would be needed to tell your story? 
  • Would the play end happily or tragically? What are some reasons why this would be your best choice?
Together create an outline (a break down & scene/act summary) of your idea.

HOMEWORK: None. If you're curious about what the ending of 'Night Mother might look like on stage, take a look here. And the film with Sissy Spacek & Anne Bancroft

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