Monday, December 15, 2014

The Lion in Winter

Last week you were asked to read the play The Lion in Winter. Let's end the week before break by watching the film adapted from the stage play (1968) starring Katherine Hepburn, Peter O'Toole, and a rather young Anthony Hopkins (among others).

We can learn a lot about conflict and effective drama from this play. Each scene and beat are crammed with conflict. The choices of the characters and the decisions they make are very much like a chess game--each a calculated move in order to gain position and power. As you watch this film, consider how equal strength antagonists face off and create the intense drama of this play.

You may also pay attention to film techniques. Notice what the camera is doing, how it creates POV, for example. Notice how lighting and music help to create tone and mood. Notice how the effective portrayal of an actor can make a character on the page come alive.

Information about James Goldman and the film adaptation of The Lion in Winter can be found at the links here.


Friday, December 12, 2014

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Lapin Agile: Last Day; Play Project

After completing this play, please go next door to the lab to continue working on your projects. If you took my advice, you have written a draft of your play. It may need a few polishes and we might need to chisel and smooth rough edges, but you should have a good model from which to start carving.

What to add to lengthen your script/story:

  • detail--always aim for specifics instead of general words and stuff. 
  • backstory--now that you've written that scene for that character, flesh out that character by giving him or her a backstory. 
  • Use monologues!
  • Use historical data. This may be the time to add a few details about setting and character details through backstory (see above).
  • Remember your last image. The last moment of the play is usually a striking image that lingers in the mind of the reader/audience member.
  • Add philosophy. Now that it's written, what is your play really about? What do you want to tell the future generations and contemporary people about life as YOU see it? Or as the characters see it...
  • Add lovely poetic language. Figurative language. Alliteration. Metaphors. Similes. Smiles. Remember these?
  • Consider what your characters were doing just before they entered the stage. Add a beat (a line or two) about what it was they were doing off-stage, when they come on stage.
  • When nothing's happening:
    • Describe a character's physical circumstances
    • Describe a character's psychological circumstances
    • Describe a character's social circumstances
    • Describe a character's economic circumstances
    • Describe a character's political circumstances
  • Add a new character, but set up the fact this character exists before you drop them in a play. No one likes unannounced guests.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Picasso At the Lapin Agile (day 2); Beats & Dialogue

After reading the play, we'll work in the lab on your upcoming projects.

Just as a full-length play is usually divided into acts, those acts can be divided into scenes, but what are scenes divided into? If you said beats, then you're right!

A beat is a short exchange of dialogue (a mini-scene) about usually one topic. Beats can be divided into three basic types:

  • Physical: the beat involves action and the physical need(s) of a character. This is very typical in film where a character on screen does something physical (without talking usually). 
  • Behavioral: This kind of beat is driven by a character's desire or motivation or goal--usually people talk to convince, persuade, explain, influence, impress, or any other action verb to get something they want. Actors and directors will pick up on this kind of beat as part of their training.
  • Inner-life: the beat centers around a character's thoughts, memories, psychology, and interior monologue. If a character explains his/her motivation or describes his/her backstory, you can bet it's done in this kind of beat.
Write your plays. Revise your plays. Drafts are due Friday.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Picasso At the Lapin Agile

Steve Martin

The contemporary writer, actor, producer, performer, comedian Steve Martin wrote the play Picasso At the Lapin Agile in 1993. His plays The Zig Zag Woman, Patter for the Floating Lady, Wasp were to follow. Recently his musical Bright Star just opened in September in San Diego. He co-wrote many of his comic films, written fiction and novels, wrote his own stand-up comedy routine, and is a regular contributor to The New Yorker magazine.  Check here for an interview with Steve Martin.

Picasso At the Lapin Agile takes two very well known modernists (the scientist/genius Einstein and the artist famous for creating cubism, Pablo Picasso) and drops them in a Parisian bar in Montmartre, the Bohemian-artsy-avant-garde neighborhood of Paris. His historical play reminds us that writing history can be playful, fun, and, to a large extent, completely made-up.

Charleston Stage Advertisement (Picasso At the Lapin Agile sample production)

Some of Steve Martin's films:

The Jerk
The Man With Two Brains
Top 10 Steve Martin performances

As we read the play, notice how the author introduces characters, situations, complications, and how he handles dramatic and comedic situations while presenting a theme and a reason for people to pay to see a play. His use of dialogue is snappy and effective and we can learn a lot about contemporary play writing by reading this play. So let's go to it!

HOMEWORK: Perhaps none if you have already done your work. Your historical plays are due soon. Again, I suggest writing your draft quickly (pretend that the play is due Monday, so write it Sunday night like you probably would do)--so that you have time to revise, edit, polish and craft your work before turning it in for a grade. If we don't finish the play today in class, we'll finish it on Monday. Keep writing!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Amadeus Discussion


Using the index card, please write an open-ended question to discuss about the play.

Today we'll have a discussion on the play Amadeus. As you participate in the assigned groups, please use textual evidence to support your ideas in the play.

Evaluate a peer on their participation in this discussion and turn in the evaluation sheet by the end of class today.

After our discussion, please return to the lab to work on your play script projects. Continue to conduct research and use the handout writing exercises to help you flesh out your idea or develop your theme, character, setting, etc.

HOMEWORK: Continue writing your historical play.

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...