Sunday, December 20, 2015

Ibsen's: Hedda Gabler

Hedda Gabler

First published in 1890 and produced in 1891 to negative reviews, Hedda Gabler has become one of Henrik Ibsen's most remembered plays apart from A Doll's House, An Enemy of the People, The Wild Duck, Ghosts, and the Master Builder. This is primarily due to the rigor of the acting role of Hedda Gabler. As a character, Hedda is at once a romantic feminist but also a manipulative, conniving villain. Hedda is neurotic, a child with a stormy ego. Her superego (represented by society and her married life) clashes with her id (her impulses and desires) in Freud's psychology. She is a tempest of a character, full of contradictions and subtext that makes playing her onstage a joy for any serious actress.

In the play Hedda is the wife of Jorgen Tesman, but has had an earlier love affair with her husband's rival, Lovborg. In a gentler, simpler age this sort of behavior was considered shocking and inappropriate. The ending of this play made people very uncomfortable at the time. Hedda's sociopathic traits caused an uproar when this play was first produced.

Other characters in the play include:
  • Jørgen Tesman, Hedda's new husband; an academic
  • Miss Juliane Tesman, Jørgen Tesman's aunt
  • Mrs. Thea Elvsted, Jørgen's friend and Hedda's school rival
  • Judge Brack, friend of the Tesmans; a judge (he represents law/order & moral society)
  • Ejlert Løvborg, Jørgen's academic rival whom Hedda previously loved; a recovering alcoholic
  • Berte, servant to the Tesmans and to Jørgen as a child
The setting takes place in the interior of a reception room (like a living room, it was meant to accommodate guests)

There are four acts: each act has only one scene. The set does not change, so it's just lights up and down to indicate time passing.

HOMEWORK: Please read The Master Builder & complete your play critique (due in Jan.) if you did not complete it this weekend; Please continue to write your play scripts.

Have a nice holiday break!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Quiz: Acts 1 & 2 of Ghosts; Act 3 of Ghosts; Play Project

After our quiz on acts I & II of Ghosts and Henrik Ibsen, let's read Act III together in class. Any time remaining will be devoted to the play project.

HOMEWORK: Please read The Master Builder on your own. Please write a 300-500 word play critique to be turned in either before or after break. If you turn it in by Tuesday end of day you will have no homework over break (apart from working on your play projects). Otherwise, please plan to complete and turn in by January 6 (Wednesday).

For help writing a play critique, please check out these links:
(NOTE: You should replace the analysis of ACTING paragraph with CHARACTERS since you are not watching the play. Talk about the effectiveness of the characters or their roles in the play.)

We will be watching Ibsen's play Hedda Gabler in class on Monday. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Play Scripts Project; Henrik Ibsen: Ghosts

During period 1, please use the time in the lab to work on your play script projects. At the break, we'll go down to pick up Four Major Plays by Henrik Ibsen. We are going to read Ghosts & The Master Builder. Hedda Gabler will be shown as a stage film. You'll likely read A Doll's House if you take Ms. Woodham's Women's Lit class next year.

Details About the Father of Modern Drama: Henrik Ibsen

A major 19th-century Norwegian playwright, theatre director, and poet, Henrik Ibsen is often referred to as "the godfather" of modern drama and is one of the founders of Modernism in theatre. His works are naturalistic (see Naturalism below).

To understand Naturalism, it is important to know that it was a reaction against the two literary periods that came before it. These are:

Romanticism (1798-1832/1850): Reaction against reason and the Neoclassical/Enlightenment periods, it celebrated nature, spontaneity, imagination, and subjectivity. The ode comes back into favor. As well as women writers. Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, various poets: Byron, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, etc.

Realism (1830-1900): The period of literature that attempts to portray life honestly, without sensationalism, exaggeration, or melodrama. Characters and plots are taken largely from middle class for middle class readers. Ordinary contemporary life. Dickens is probably the best example of this, although he did tend to be a bit Romantic (Christmas Carol, for example...)

Naturalism (1865-1900) attempts to go further from realism to suggest that social conditions, heredity, and environment affects human behavior. Plots often revolve around social problems, characters are often drawn from lower classes and the poor, perhaps in an attempt to explain their behavior.

Ghosts. Look here for some info on the play. Ghosts deals with the controversial theme of syphilis (in this case a hereditary disease Oswald inherits from his father). Some of the symptoms of latent syphilis include a neurological infection of the nervous system. This might include the symptoms of paralysis, dementia (madness), and the pupils of the eye not constricting when exposed to light (causing a type of blindness or sensitivity to light...)

Characters in the play:

Mrs. Helene Alving: She lives in a mansion in Norway's countryside (near a fjord...its Norway, after all) with her maid Regina. Her marriage to her late husband, Captain Alving, was bad. Seems Captain Alving cheated a bit--any port in a storm, as they say. Mrs. Alving ran away right after she was married, to Pastor Manders, to whom she was attracted, but he made her return to her husband. She endured her husband's debauchery and sexual promiscuity but sent away her son, Oswald so that he would never discover his dead father's immorality. To honor her husband, Mrs. Alving has established an orphan asylum (an orphanage) to memorialize his death. It has finally been completed and the dedication is scheduled for the following day. Mrs. Alvers is a free-thinking woman (like the main character Nora in A Doll's House) and feels compelled to tell her son the truth about his father.

Pastor Manders
: A local priest and old friend of the family. He often lectures others about morality and religion. Sometimes, his financial dealings regarding the orphanage seem suspect, and he is also quick to bend to public opinion. He believes that Mrs. Alving should not have abandoned her husband and should not have sent her son into the world at such an early age. He represents "moral" society (the conservative church and all that goes with it).

Oswald Alving: Oswald has come home to spend the winter and attend the opening of the Orphanage. He is a painter who has most recently been in Italy, living a bohemian lifestyle. Pastor Manders believes that he has strayed from what is moral and finds him similar to his father. Oswald is by nature idealistic, but recently, has felt a profound weariness. He also shows a romantic interest in Regina.

Regina Engstrand: Mrs. Alving's maid, she is believed to be the daughter of Jakob Engstrand, a carpenter, and the late Johanna, Mrs. Alving's former maid. At the end of the play she finds out that she is the Captain's illegitimate daughter. She is ashamed of her father's (Jakob) affection and likes working for Mrs. Alving, but really has her eye on Oswald, whom she loves. She reflects the early Mrs. Alving and parallel's Mrs. Alving's early relationship with Captain Alving. If Oswald were to marry her, he would be committing incest.

Jakob Engstrand: A deformed lower class carpenter, Jakob married Johanna when she was pregnant with Captain Alving's child (Regina). He wants to use the money he earned from helping to build the orphanage to open an "hostelry" (pub/gentlemen's club) for sailors. He is an alcoholic.

Captain Alving: Captain Alving died ten years prior to the start of the play. He was a man with a good social reputation, and before he died he was made a chamberlain. He never appears in the play. According to Mrs. Alving, he was a lazy, dissolute, and cheating man.

Johanna: Johanna was the Alvings' servant and gave birth to Regina after being forced by Captain Alving to sleep with him. She is long dead.

Heredity; fathers. The sins of the fathers inherited by the children. Moral duty. Appearances versus the truth.

Ghosts (the title) refers to our past (or past actions) that won't stop "haunting" us. The orphanage is significant, as is Regina's relationship with her "father" Jakob, because they suggest Oswald's estranged relationship with his father Captain Alving--as if he was an orphan.

One of the brilliant things about Ibsen is his plotting. While often slow to start, Ibsen generally keeps increasing the stakes for his characters. He often employs the use of a "secret": something important is revealed before the play concludes that changes our understanding of the plot and its characters. There is a lot of wonderful subtext in this play. As we read, pay close attention to what is NOT said or what is meant "between the lines". More on SUBTEXT when we read Chekhov.

HOMEWORK: Complete Acts I & II of Ghosts. We'll finish the play next class. Please bring your books with you to class. NOTE: there may be a quiz on Acts I & II and these notes. Keep writing your play projects!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Titus Andronicus: Day 3 Conclusion

Please complete the viewing of Titus Andronicus. Turn in your graphic organizers by end of class today.

HOMEWORK: None. Continue writing your play scripts.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Titus Andronicus: Day 2

Please continue watching the film adaptation of the Shakespeare play Titus Andronicus. Information about the film was provided to you on the handout.

While we're not exactly ready to discuss the finer elements of film, Julie Taymor's film is an effective visual work.

Notice what the camera is doing while watching the film. The camera provides POV in a film and conveys meaning, both literally and symbolically. As you watch look out for examples of:


Listen to how TONE is created by the use of diegetic and non-diegetic sound elements. As you watch, also keep in mind the key themes and development of plot and characters Shakespeare uses in this play.

HOMEWORK: None. Keep writing your play projects! (See post below for help on developing character, plot, or theme)

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Play Project Writing Time; Titus Andronicus

This morning either finish reading Titus Andronicus or work on your play projects.

Play around with any of these prompts/exercises to flesh out your ideas or characters when you get stuck or have no idea where to go next. You may find these exercises are just as good for writing poetry and fiction!

To develop CHARACTER, try one of these:
  • Choose a character in your play. What does your character feel or believe about the following topics: 
    • Money
    • Sin
    • Religion
    • Beauty
    • Children
    • Family
    • Success
    • Justice
    • Sex
    • Politics
  • Choose a character in your play. Describe in as much detail as possible (consider imagery & the five senses) where your character lives now. You might consider how this is different from where your character grew up or lived before this location. If you can, find photographs or images from the internet of a place similar to where your character lives.
  • Choose a character in your play. Describe in as much detail as possible where your character works. What do they spend their day doing? Why did the character choose this kind of job? What else has your character done (what other jobs) or what would your character RATHER be doing?
  • Write a short freewritten monologue from the POV of one of your characters (it does not have to be included in the play, but could...) answering any of these questions:
    • What makes me so angry?
    • What scares me the most?
    • What do I love most in this world?
  • Choose a character in your play. In ONE word describe this character from the CHARACTER'S POV--what do they think of themselves?
    • Once you have the word, try one or more of these:
      • Describe the character as a metaphor
      • If this character were an animal, what animal would the character most likely be?
      • If this character were an object, what object would this character most likely be?
      • Describe in 10 words or fewer what will happen to this character in 10 years
      • Describe in 10 words or fewer what this character needs to change about him/herself

To develop PLOT/SCENES, try one of these:

  • Summarize the scene you are writing in one sentence. What is the scene about? What is the single most important action that drives this scene? 
  • Consider the timing of your scene. What exciting event happens...
    • Just before a certain character arrives in the scene?
    • Just after a certain character exits the scene?
    • During the scene that affects the future of the characters or has an impact on a particular character's life?
  • Choose a character in your scene. 
    • In one word, describe how the character is feeling when he/she enters the scene.
    • In one word, describe how the character will feel at the end of the scene. 
  • What physical elements (props or set pieces) on stage are important in this scene? Come up with a list of ways in which a character might interact with this object or set piece?
  • Draw a flow chart of the consequences of a character's actions. If a character does X, what are the possible consequences of this action? Sketch your flow chart for this scene so you can be ready for what decisions your character(s) make in it.

To develop IDEAS/THEMES, try one of these:

  • Try this AFTER you've written some dialogue to bring your story to an universal level:
    • Read the scene you wrote over, and identify each topic the character's talk about. 
    • Chart these topics so that you know consciously what you are creating as your theme.
  • Add an opinion about what the characters are talking about in the scene. 
    • Give each character in the scene a chance to throw in their opinion about what another character should do given the situation.
  • Find an appropriate quote or refer to a classical or well-known literary text to defend why a character has said or done something that other characters question.

During period 2, please go next door to take a quiz on Titus Andronicus & to watch Julie Taymor's adaptation of the play starring Jessica Lange, Anthony Hopkins, Harry Lennix, and Alan Cumming. 

HOMEWORK: None. Continue writing your play script(s).

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Elizabethan Research Due! Brainstorming Ideas for the Play Project!

This morning complete the graphic organizer (to be turned in at the end of period 1 as participation credit & for your notes for our final exam) please use your time in the lab to take notes on the following topics:
  1. Elizabethan actors & acting troupes
  2. Elizabethan writers/playwrights
  3. Elizabethan stage craft & theaters
  4. Elizabethan audiences
  5. Elizabethan sports & leisure activities (apart from the theater)
  6. Elizabethan clothing & costumes
  7. One other area that you found interesting about the time period/setting (see last link below for some ideas...)
Some information has been given to you already in the text or the film links above.
and here...
and here...
and here...

Use your time wisely as you research. Review the instructions for the play project. You may use the rest of period 1 to brainstorm, outline, freewrite an idea for a play.

All plays start with a character in a place (setting: remember that setting is not only location but time period, time of day, season, and weather!) wanting to accomplish something, a goal. This goal could be internal and abstract like finding 'love' or exacting 'revenge' but it could also be a physical object or award/recognition: a sack of money, a wedding ring, winning a beauty contest, getting a promotion at work, straightening up your house for your mother before you kill yourself, making your boyfriend/girlfriend tell you that they love you and really mean it...etc. Then you add a few "buts", or "whoops", or "uh ohs" that complicate the situation so that the goal is delayed and difficult to achieve. 

You may find it helpful to look back at your list of premises or characters and previous scene work to see if there's anything in those exercises that spark your imagination now. If not, start fresh.
  • Who will your play be about? Who is the protagonist?
  • What does this character want to achieve or what is this character's goal?
  • What stops this character right now from getting what he/she wants?
  • Where will the action of the story take place? If you can, connect your setting to your theme or your character's goals. 'Night Mother, for example, takes place the evening Jessie is planning to kill herself. She wants to use her father's gun to do it, tell her mother, and keep the house tidy so mama doesn't have to worry after she's gone. The living room and kitchen is a good location for the setting because its ironic: living rooms are for living...not for committing suicide, for example. In Agamemnon, Clytemnestra needs to wait until her husband comes home before she can kill him. The action takes place just outside their palace (exterior) so that the chorus of old men makes sense in this case--representing the public, the chorus wouldn't be invited INSIDE--that's interior, as opposed to a social crime--like a war or taking law into your own hands. Outside or exterior settings are good when you want to talk about societal issues. Inside or interior settings are good when you want to talk about personal or character-specific issues. What kind of play would you want to write?
Create a few premises and sketch out or outline your ideas a bit before you start writing. You'll have to figure this stuff out anyway, better to do it now than start writing with a half-cracked idea that you will have to change when you realize it isn't an interesting story. But then, rest assured anything can be interesting if you have an interesting, well-created character.

If you have these basic ideas in mind, (again before writing) take some time to get to know your character. Do a "character interview" today by writing down the answers to these 15 questions from the POV of your new created character:
  1. What is your character's full name?
  2. What is your character's nick-name or childhood name? Why was this character given this name?
  3. What matters most to your character?
  4. What is the most important physical event that happened in your character's life so far?
  5. What is the most important internal or private event that happened in your character's life so far?
  6. Who is your character's best friend or friends?
  7. Why does your character like these people or this person?
  8. Who or what does your character not like or find difficult to spend time around? (this can also be an activity or a place/setting)
  9. Why does your character not like this person or place?
  10. What does your character say to the world that he or she wants?
  11. What does your character REALLY want?
  12. What is at stake for you character if he/she does not get what he/she wants?
  13. Who is your character's family or what is this family like?
  14. What personality trait does your character possess that others criticize?
  15. Describe the physical space or setting your character spends the most time in.


For other ideas connected to what we're studying, consider: if I were to write a play in the Elizabethan period (or using an Elizabethan setting) what kind of story would I tell from what I learned last class and today!

Shakespearean Diversions (see homework):
Watch any of the following scenes from some of Shakespeare's work. Notice how theme and character is developed in the language:
HOMEWORK: Please read Titus Andronicus (see handout). Help reading can be gained by checking here or here or online. Begin writing plays.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Play Project Instructions

By the end of the marking period (January 22) the following assignment must be completed to complete and pass this course. You will have a variety of options.

Option 1: Write a full length play. Full length plays are typically two full acts (each act being about 25-30 pages of script, so you're looking at completing about 50-60+ pages of a single play script story line--most contemporary full length plays are between 60-80 pages in length so you're not expected to that much--but this is a challenge, not for the faint-hearted). Think about this: if you wrote only 1-script page per day until the end of the marking period, you'd have about 56 pages written. Genre and style is completely up to you. If you have a big story with important human themes in mind, this may be a good option. The plus side is that you get to develop a cast of characters and really flesh them out. Writing a good full length play will likely get you into any theater program you are applying for--and most likely with a scholarship. We will be able to workshop your play along the way (usually scene by scene) and can discuss production or readings if you'd like to pursue this option.

Option 2: Write 2 full one-act plays. This option allows you to explore two different ideas, themes or styles. One act plays sustain a longer story line and plot, usually with fewer characters than full-length plays, but complete their climax sooner and take less time to write than full length plays. One full one-act play should focus on one important action (although side plots can be included) and usually develop characters to a greater extent than 10-minute or short one-act plays. Each full one-act play would typically be around 20-30 pages in length, so you're looking about a total page count of 40-60 pages. Workshopping individual plays once you have a draft written would be doable. Having written 2 substantial play scripts will likely get the attention of college programs in writing or theater. Longer plays may be given a public reading or production during the playwrights' festival in January.

Option 3: Write 1 one-act play, and two (2) 10-minute plays. This option allows you to dabble with a variety of casts, styles, and ideas. One act plays should be around 20-30 pages in length, with 10-minute plays about 7-12 pages each. Workshopping one or two of your drafts is expected. The shorter plays can be entered into Geva's young playwrighting contest. 10-minute plays are about the length we are looking for during the playwrights festival in late January and will count toward your page length requirement if you join us. The one act might be given a public reading or production.

Option 4: Write 4 (four) 10-minute plays. This option allows you to dabble with many different short plays and scenarios for students who have trouble sustaining a storyline or plot. You've done these before so there's no mystery here. Each 10-minute play should be somewhere around 7-12 pages in length. Workshopping one or more of your plays is expected. 10-minute plays are about the length we are looking for during the playwrights festival in late January and will count toward your page length requirement if you join us.

Start your process by taking some time to write some premises. Outline and sketch out ideas (mind-maps or other graphic organizers can help!) to see if they might work and what length might be the best option for the story you want to tell. If you already have a full-length play written and would like to develop it further, you can do that. You can also take a short story you have written (or read) and turn that into a play for the stage. If you're a poet, consider writing a poetic or verse play. Monologue plays and historical plays are also options we have already explored, but feel free to use the form if you'd like.

Some professional advice:

Grading and rubric information will be forthcoming, but what I'm looking for here is growth. Prove to me that you have learned how to write a play. That's all you need to do to pass this course. Quality counts, but it's not as important as your growth as a writer. For those of you who would like a challenge, challenge yourself by doing something out of the ordinary, something creative or unusual. For those of you who are having trouble writing or shouldn't have been a creative writing major, try to find the love of writing you once had by writing about subjects and characters you care about. What do you want to say to the world? Not all plays come out as perfect works of art. We will be workshopping and helping you succeed along the way during class. Most of the writing time, though, is on your own clock. Start today!

NOTE: you can always change your mind about the options. Say you are writing your 10-minute play and everything's clicking. You're on a roll. You write 12 pages, then 15, then 20. You can decide what option you want to fulfill after you write.

Extra credit is available by a). going to see live theater and writing a short review, b). being in a production of live theater and writing a short reflection about the process, and c). writing an additional play script (length would be completely up to you (which would include sketches or very short plays...!) So if you screw up and write something crappy, don't worry. Again, I'm looking for growth and effort, not perfection! Most plays suck until we workshop them, so...chill.

The next few classes as we explore Elizabethan theater we will be reading, writing, brainstorming, and gathering advice about writing plays. Feel free to use the exercises we have already completed as starting points for your own ideas. Impress me and you'll pass. Ignore this project or put it off until the last moment and you will likely fail.

HOMEWORK: None. But you can get started on this project today! Consider your options and begin a plan. Write. Nothing is stopping you from being successful but you.

Agamemnon conclusion; Elizabethan Theater Research

Please see the post above this one about the play project requirement for this course.

Let's finish watching Agamemnon. Then it's off to the lab to research Elizabethan theater. The research notes and the questionnaire are due by the end of class today.

Unsure of how my colleagues cover Shakespeare each year (and whether or not you come from a tradition that includes the study of Shakespeare) it's my duty to give you a little info. We'll start with a quick, if dry, overview of the time period.

Renaissance Theater video (4 min)

Theater as we know it in Shakespeare's day as being performed in a typical PLAYHOUSE didn't occur until 1576. It was James Burbage who built the first playhouse called, appropriately, "the Theater"--a permanent building dedicated to showing plays for commercial interest. Before then, plays were generally performed in courtyards, tennis courts, inns or guild houses. Private showings for the nobles or upper classes would be commissioned as well in indoor theaters where any one could afford a ticket.

Actors joined an acting company. Shakespeare, for example, first belonged to the Chamberlain's Men, then to the King's Men (after Elizabeth's death). Only men were allowed to act in the Elizabethan theater. Younger actors (boys) often played the female roles because they would have looked more like women (i.e., no beard). This helps to explain why so many of Shakespeare's plays include cross-dressing. Consider that Juliet, for example, would have been played by a boy to the older actor playing Romeo. New actors were often given smaller roles so as to train with the experienced actors--who often played the major roles. Shakespeare himself was recorded as playing various small roles in his plays. The most famous example was the ghost of Hamlet's father in Hamlet.

Plays were written (often in collaboration) by the actors in the company (who also doubled as the house manager, director, props master, producer, etc.) This helps to explain why some characters in Shakespeare's plays disappear mid play or return as new characters in the 4th or 5th acts. It's hard to be on stage while also taking money at the door.

Lines for a play were written on sides and distributed to the company members. It would be rare for an actor to have a complete script (the writer would, of course) but printing costs money, so copies were kept to a minimum. This helps explain why there are A sides and B sides to Shakespeare's works. Some lines or sides were changed by the actors or the writer during the performances. Famous actors might even change the author's lines by slipping in a bit of well-rehearsed and well-known comedic business for the audience's benefit.

Finally, having one's works collected in a folio book or quarto would have been rare. Scripts that got out of the hands of a company could be stolen by other theater companies, so copies were not passed around generally. The King's Men must have thought a lot about Shakespeare to have his works printed and bound! Luckily they did--or we could not frustrate future high school students by forcing them to read his plays!

On your graphic organizer (to be turned in at the end of class as participation credit & for your notes for our final exam) please use your time in the lab to take notes on the following topics:
  1. Elizabethan actors & acting troupes
  2. Elizabethan writers/playwrights
  3. Elizabethan stage craft & theaters
  4. Elizabethan audiences
  5. Elizabethan sports & leisure activities (apart from the theater)
  6. Elizabethan clothing & costumes
  7. One other area that you found interesting about the time period/setting (see last link below for some ideas...)
Some information has been given to you already in the text or the film links above.
More information about all of this can also be found here.
and here...
and here...
and here...

Use your time wisely as you research. Consider: if I were to write a play in the Elizabethan period (or using an Elizabethan setting) what kind of story would I tell from what I learned today!

HOMEWORK: None. Complete your research and notes if you did not do so already. Feel free to begin writing or gathering ideas for your play project (see post above this one!)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Agamemnon: Conclusion

Today, after our writing prompt, please watch the rest of the Greek play Agamemnon.

As you watch, please complete the form sheet for participation credit. I'll collect this at the end of the viewing.

When we return from Thanksgiving Break, we will be moving into Elizabethan theater and beginning our play project(s).

HOMEWORK: None. Have a nice holiday.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Greek Theater Project: Day 3; Agamemnon

During period one, please complete and turn in your projects.

During period two, please go next door to begin watching the Greek Tragedy: Agamemnon. This version is directed by Peter Hall (1983).

Remember that you have a master class during periods 3-4 today.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Greek Theater: Day 2; Readings/Writings

During first period, please spend your time with your group reading and discussing the Greek play you have chosen to read: The Bacchae, Medea, or Antigone.

For extra credit (if you want it) you can read any of the other plays on your own that you did NOT choose. You will be asked to identify Aristotle's 6 parts of a play in a short 400-500 word review to gain this extra credit. This is an on-going bonus for this marking period (but I wouldn't put it off if you want to do it...more plays on the horizon...)

During period 2, please return to the lab to work on your Greek Theater project.

HOMEWORK: Finish reading your chosen play, if you did not complete it in class. Continue writing your Greek Theater project (this is due next class, after 1st period).

For the curious: 
the grisly last episode of The Bacchae
the Creon & Medea (Judith Anderson) episode of Medea
an Pilot Theater's updated version of Antigone

Friday, November 13, 2015

Aristotle's Poetics & Greek Theater Project

Aristotle’s Poetics (circa 330 B.C.E.)

Aristotle Introduction

Here's a 20 point summary of the first established literary critic's masterpiece "The Poetics" by Aristotle.
1. People like to imitate and learn.
2. Arts (Epic poetry, tragedy, comedy, dithyrambic poetry, flute-playing, lyre playing) are all modes of imitation. Just as color and form are used by artists, the voice, language, and harmony are used singularly or in combination. IE. Theatrical arts are REPRESENTATIVE of reality, not reality in and of themselves.
3. Objects of imitation should be above our common ilk; characters in a play/subject matter should be of high quality (and scope).
4. Poetry soon broke into two parts: tragedy/comedy. Serious poets would write about serious subjects; Humorous poets would write about frivolous and happy subjects.
5. Tragedy originated out of the dithyramb (choral ode); Comedy out of phallic songs.
6. Aeschylus limited his chorus, introduced the “second” actor, and made the dialogue take the leading part of the play.
7. Sophocles introduced the third actor.
8. As tragedy deals with noble subjects, comedy imitates men worse than average.
9. Tragedy is different from epic (although both are serious) in length, in one kind of verse (narrative form); epic includes tragedy, but tragedy does not necessarily include epic.
10. Aristotle’s six parts of a play:
a. Plot
b. Character
c. Theme (Idea)
d. Spectacle
e. Melody
f. Language (diction)
11. Plays should have a beginning, middle, end
12. Plays should not include so much as to bore, or too little
13. It is better in a tragedy for a good person to come to ruin, rather than a bad person
14. It is better to create catharsis from language and plot, rather than spectacle
15. Characters should have a discovery (anagnorisis) that leads to a turning point or crisis/climax (peripety) (plural peripeties)
16. The chorus should act together as a “character” and integral to the whole
17. Characters should act according to verisimilitude (semblance of reality).
18. Diction should be clear, correct, poetic, but not inessential.
19. Plot should be made up of probable events
20. The poet, being an imitator (like a painter) must represent things either as they are, or as they are said to be, or as they ought to be – which is accomplished by skillful use of language to create a catharsis (emotional purging) in the viewer of a play.
Key Words to Know:
  • Hamartia (fatal or tragic flaw)
  • Catharsis
  • Peripety
  • Deus Ex Machina
  • Comedy
  • Tragedy
  • Dithyramb
In the lab during period 1, use your organizer(s) to learn more about key ideas in Greek Tragedy. Use the links below to help you take appropriate notes:
For more details or information about Greek Theater, take a look at this short video (6 minutes): National Theater's Introduction to Greek Theater

During period 2, please select the play you want to read and get together with this group and read.

HOMEWORK: None. You may get started on your project.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Glass Menagerie Quiz, Scrapbook Project Due!

1st Period: After our quiz, please go next door to complete and put the finishing touches on your "scrapbook" project.

2nd Period: Please return to room 238 to conduct our "show & tell" and to discuss and share our projects on The Glass Menagerie with the class.

For those of you who missed it the first time:
Check out these other Williams' films:
Most of Williams' plays (as well as his films) revolve around a central secret: something terrible or haunting or degenerate that a protagonist desperately tries to cover up. Williams' women are often unhappy, the men brutish and insensitive. Oh, where will it lead but to modern American drama!

We can learn a lot about playwriting from Tennessee Williams. A character in pain or conflict lies at the  center of his plays. The use of a "secret" allows appropriate tension and rising conflict until a climactic scene reveals the truth. Learn from this.


Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Glass Menagerie Scrapbook Character Project

This morning, please continue to work with your group during period 1 to complete your character project. You should have chosen a character from scenes 1-5: Amanda, Laura, or Tom. Together, in your group, create a "scrapbook" entry for that character.

Find 5 lines of dialogue from scenes 1-5 to support your choices for your artistic design.

Then, working alone (by yourself), choose another or different character from scenes 6-7: Amanda, Laura, Tom, or The Gentleman Caller, and choose one of the following creative tasks to complete for your group's scrapbook:

  • a journal entry (about a page or two)
  • a diary entry (about a page or two)
  • a series of tweets (at least 10 tweets)
  • a series of emails (at least 5 email entries--about a page or two)
  • a facebook page* (this should be designed to look like one, it doesn't have to be a real page, although you can set one up if you'd like)
  • a blog (with at least 3 entries or short posts)
  • a music-cd (of at least 3 songs, and a short 1-3 sentence explanation about why the song is on the CD)
  • a short documentary film (:30 seconds-2 minutes in length)
  • a photo album (with at least 5 pictures with a short 1-3 sentence explanation about why these pictures are important or significant to that character)
  • a short home video (:30 seconds-2 minutes in length)
  • a sketch book (including at least 3 sketches)
  • a drawing or comic book page (for example a page from Comic Life)
  • a podcast (:30 seconds-2 minutes in length)
  • other ideas (talk to me about your ideas!)

IMPORTANT: Each individual art project should have at least 3 lines of dialogue from scenes 6-7 that help define the choices you are making artistically for your character. You will be adding this part of the project to your collaborative group project entry.

This means your completed group project will have the single collaborative entry and up to 5 other elements to it (one project per member of your group): a journal entry, a diary entry, a series of tweets, a series of emails, a facebook page, a blog, a music-cd, a short film/home movie, a photo album, a sketchbook or comic book page, a podcast, etc.

You may help each other in your groups to complete this assignment.

HOMEWORK: Complete your project and reading the play. There will be a test next class on it. Also, please bring in an OBJECT or prop or keepsake that one of the characters you chose from the play would find important to keep. We will hold a "show and tell" event next class.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Characterization; Glass Menagerie & The Scrapbook

After our morning prompt with Flikr, please follow Ms. Springer's lead as you examine characters in The Glass Menagerie.

After analyzing the characters: Amanda, Laura, and Tom, from our Mind-Map exercise we came up with these ideas:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter/texting
  • Journal
  • Scrapbook
  • Home videos
  • Photos
  • Screen shots
  • Music (mixed tape)
  • Memorials (graves, urns for ashes)

HOMEWORK: Complete The Glass Menagerie.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Glass Menagerie & Memory Plays

After our quiz and writing prompt this morning, please pick up The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams and read the production notes.

As you read, consider Tom's role in the play as "narrator" and the idea that what we are seeing is a reflection of his memory, not the actual events themselves. This technique is lovingly called a MEMORY PLAY.

Characteristics of Memory Plays:
1. Often use a "narrator" or "first person" character to tell the story.
2. Memory is tenuous and therefore set pieces or props, costumes, setting are representative or use synecdoche.
3. Scenes and characters are atmospheric and subjective. We are getting the narrator's (often the protagonist's) opinion and view of other characters, events. Thus, the style of a memory play is often EXPRESSIONISTIC.
4. Not exactly realism (which strives to present all facts realistically and objectively) the memory play allows for a vivid expression to suggest meaning (metaphor, for example).

For those of you interested, check out these other Williams' films:
Most of Williams' plays (as well as his films) revolve around a central secret: something terrible or haunting or degenerate that a protagonist desperately tries to cover up. Williams' women are often unhappy, the men brutish and insensitive. Oh, where will it lead but to modern American drama!

We can learn a lot about playwriting from Tennessee Williams. A character in pain or conflict lies at the  center of his plays. The use of a "secret" allows appropriate tension and rising conflict until a climactic scene reveals the truth. Learn from this.

HOMEWORK: Please read scenes 1-5 for Thursday. Ms. Springer will be handling this one. Bring in old magazines, newspapers, photos if you have any--for a scrap booking exercise.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Historical Sketch; Charles Busch; Steve Martin: Picasso At the Lapin Agile

This morning during period one, please complete your historical sketch exercise. You will need this draft for upcoming play projects. Turn in your draft when you finish today. If you don't finish for some reason, please turn in your draft (counted as late) in the next few days.

If you finish earlier than 2nd period, please spend your time working on your essay test (due Wednesday) for Charles Busch and read and take notes about our next playwright. See homework below.

Steve Martin: Picasso At the Lapin Agile

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon by Pablo Picasso

Today, before 2nd period, please read a little about our next author/playwright.

The contemporary writer, actor, producer, performer, comedian Steve Martin wrote the play Picasso At the Lapin Agile in 1993. His plays The Zig Zag WomanPatter for the Floating Lady, Wasp were to follow. His musical Bright Star opened 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:

You should be familiar with two historical figures used in the play:
Picasso & Einstein (click on their links for info)

READING: 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: Please complete your Charles Busch take-home essay test. It is due next class. Bring your scripts and books back with you to our next class. We will finish reading Picasso At the Lapin Agile then.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Vampire Lesbians of Sodom; Charles Busch; Historical Sketch Exercise

This morning we will complete our reading of the play "Vampire Lesbians of Sodom" by Charles Busch. As we read please examine the topic you picked up today in class and be prepared to discuss this topic with the class after the play.

Much humor can be achieved by putting a well-known historical or literary figure on stage. As examples take a look at these samples:
A sketch is a short play or slight dramatic performance. It differs from a play in that there is not necessarily a major theme or point in the sketch. Usually sketches are simply meant to be enjoyed. Deep discussion dealing with the human condition is left to PLAYS.

Sketch Writing: (by Brian Luff)

1) Choose a setting. Avoid common set-ups like doctor's surgeries or "Man Goes Into a Shop". Think original. Only set the sketch in one location.
2) Don't make the sketch too long. Two minutes is a good length to start with. [In scripts, a page is usually equal to one minute].
3) If you're trying to sell your material to TV, don't put in anything too expensive like a helicopter. Most TV shows are on a tight budget. [This goes double for theaters]
4) Three characters is more than enough for a 2 minute sketch. Don't write for a cast of thousands. [Limit your sketch to 2-5 characters]
5) Work out loud. Say the lines as you write them. You need to hear what the material sounds like.
6) Think about what is happening visually as well as the words. Describe the physical action in detail. What are the characters wearing? What do they look like. What are their names? (Don't just call your characters FIRST MAN, SECOND MAN. It will help to bring them to life in your mind [if you give them names]).
7) Choose an historical figure and place that person in an unlikely situation or setting.

Types of Sketches

To help you get going, here's a few tried and tested comedy formats for sketches.

1) Escalation: Funny idea starts small and gets bigger and bigger, ending in chaos of ridiculous proportions.
2) Lists: Sketches in which the bulk of the dialogue is a long list of funny items. The best example of this is "Cheese Shop" in Monty Python. (You can find all the Python sketches at
3) Mad Man, Sane Man: This format speaks for itself, but don't go for obvious settings.
4) Dangerous Situations: For example, sketch set on flight deck of aircraft.
5) Funny Words: Sketches which use the sound of language itself to be funny. For example, use of the words "blobby" or "wobble" (See, Mr. Bean).
6) Old and New: Getting a laugh from putting something modern in an historical setting (Or, vice versa) Example: Sir Walter Raleigh using a cigarette lighter.
7) Big and Small. Getting humor from large differences in scale. For example, a mouse trying to make love to an elephant.

For today's writing exercise, please get together in pairs (or you may work alone) to write a 1-2 page sketch centered around an historical figure.

HOMEWORK: Please continue reading your chosen play from the collection.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Dialogue/Comedy/Charles Busch: Vampire Lesbians of Sodom

This morning please print out and turn in your revised drafts of the 2-person play. These were due Wednesday, but we, of course, did not have class. I hope you enjoyed your extension on the project. Please turn in your drafts this morning.

Lab Task(s): please use the next 20 minutes in class to take notes on "tips concerning dialogue", "types of theatrical comedy", "pantomime", "commedia dell'arte", "cross dressing & the theatrical tradition" and "Charles Busch". The subjects/key notes/explanations about each subject can be found below this sentence.


Dialogue isn't just talking. Dialogue HAPPENS. It happens when your characters' need to speak. It is also how they listen (or not listen), and the connotation, nuance, color and subtext of what they say, how they say it, and why they say it. Good dialogue is the result of well-defined characters in a well-structured plot. They may be compelled to speak (or not), but they should have a REASON for speaking.

Here are some tips to consider:
1. We usually talk because we want to communicate some need. If we want nothing, we say nothing, usually. We also speak when we want to: threaten, teach, explain, tease, joke, murmur, pontificate, defend ourselves, apologize, seduce, evade, pout, challenge, yell, scold, cry, motivate, convince, etc. 
2. Dialogue is action. It is an action taken to satisfy a want or desire. What a character wants or desires moves them to speak and act. This is part of characterization--and the best way to build or develop your character(s). 
3. When we don't get what we want (often immediately), humans tend to become shy, aggressive, or hide our agendas in our words. This is often our subtext (the meaning hidden in a line of dialogue; or saying one thing, but meaning another) and is very important to actors. It is often this subtext that a good actor will uncover in a performance. 
4. Characters have to hear each other. Characters often do not listen the same way. Characters interpret what is being said, ask questions, ignore speech, get confused, miss a meaning and even read special meaning into something that has no meaning. Listening, therefore, will often help build the conflict and drama in your scene. A response reveals something important about the listener. How a character hears, then, is an important point to consider.
Types of Theatrical Comedy:
There are various types of comedy found in theatre today.
Sentimental Comedy examines the tribulations and trials of common people worrying about common things, but it all works out in the end.

Romantic comedies are plays that revolve around relationships. Usually following the love archetype: boy (or girl) gets girl (or boy), boy (or girl) loses girl (or boy), boy (or girl) gets girl (or boy) in the end.

Farce includes fast-paced action, improbable situations, hyperbolic characters, and lots of entrances and exits to cause confusion and conflict.

Satirical plays (taken from the ancient Greek Satyr play form) poke fun at something in society or about human nature that needs to be examined or changed.

Black comedies poke fun at serious topics. These are often considered in 'bad taste' by sensitive, less cynical audience members. Black or 'dark' comedies usually don't end happily.

Absurdist comedies point out the futility of life, using nonsense and trivia to examine that the meaning of life is...well...meaningless. These plays are often metaphorical or symbolic.
Of course many plays are a combination of these diverse types. Comedy has a long tradition in theater. The spring theater festivals from Greece began the tradition. Later in the Middle Ages, the comedy dell'arte form appeared. Read about the pantomime and commedia dell'arte tradition here today (or see your handout). Complete the graphic organizer for your notes on these articles and turn in when completed.

Cross dressing has been a common occurrence on the stage (the Greek, Roman, and Elizabethan theaters only employed male actors!) Many of Shakespeare's funniest comedies use the trope of cross-dressing, for example: Twelfth NightAs You Like It, and even The Merchant of Venice. The play we're going to read today carries on this tradition.

Read about cross-dressing and theatre here.

Charles Busch & The Vampire Lesbians of Sodom

Please take a look at Charles Busch's blog. He has placed a variety of play video clips here. Take a look at a few of these. His official website is located here.

Please watch a few video clips, read an interview or two with the author, and learn a little about his background.

Around 9:30 we will go to the library to pick up our next play: The Vampire Lesbians of Sodom.

HOMEWORK: Please choose 1 play by Charles Busch from the collection. Read this play. Be prepared to write a response about this play next class regarding Busch's style of comedy, his influences from pantomime and commedia dell'arte traditions, characterization through dialogue, and cross-dressing.

You may choose any of the following: Psycho Beach Party, The Lady in Question, Red Scare on Sunset, or the Tale of the Allergist's Wife. Please bring your play script books back with you to next class.

Complete any of the above if you did not complete the work in class today.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Baltimore Waltz (Conclusion); Scene in a Sentence: Revising 2 Person Scenes

After completing Baltimore Waltz, please work on your 2 person scene drafts (these are due Wednesday of next week--there will be no lab time, so please print out and turn in before or after class on Wednesday).

The Exercise:
1. Create a "core description" of your scene/play. This should be your premise boiled down to only the fewest words. Describe the main EVENT of your scene in 10 words or less. This core description should cover "what really matters most" in your scene/draft.

2. After you have your "core description" choose any of the following tasks to flesh out your scene. Keep your "core description" nearby or in mind.

  • Prior Event: Focus your scene by writing about something that happened earlier in your story or the backstory of the characters. Add a clause to your core description with the conjunction "BECAUSE..."
  • Character trait: Focus your scene on a character trait. Add the clause to your core description with the conjunction "BECAUSE..."
  • Digging Deeper into Cause/Effect: focus your scene on developing your plot--uncover new reasons for characters' actions. Add a clause to your core description by adding the conjunction "AND..."
  • Something different: Write about a truth or different focus from what you first envisioned this scene to be. Add the conjunction "BUT..." to your core description.
  • Plotting/Future Impact: All stories build upon a chain of events that add drama/conflict. Consider what the future holds for your characters. Add the word "CONSEQUENTLY..." to your core description. You may do this option with one or both of your characters.
Revise your scenes/plays by recreating and revising your EVENT. Add, cut, explore, write.

HOMEWORK: Complete your play scene.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Baltimore Waltz; Theater Vocabulary: The Event

EQ: What is an event? How does a playwright create an event? How does a playwright use the event to help build a scene or play? How do we build our plays to be more dynamic?

LAB: last class you read Driving Miss Daisy and examined Uhry's use of plot elements in the play. Please turn in the analysis worksheet for participation credit. Then use the next 20-25 minutes revising your 2 person scene(s).

Complete and craft these scenes by next week by fixing formatting issues, fleshing out characters, adding appropriate characterization with monologues and dialogue, work on tightening your script, attend to your diction, and otherwise improve your draft (you will have to complete this assignment as homework since we won't be in the lab!)

Period 1 (at 9:30): Please join us next door to begin reading The Baltimore Waltz by Paula Vogel.

A note about suggested sets:

There are two types of sets a playwright can prepare a script for:
A. a realistic set
B. a suggested set

A realistic set (like the set used in 'Night Mother) is a standard, realistic set that looks and feels like the actual setting of the play. It is more detailed and infinitely more expensive. Characters interact with props, costumes, and set pieces. It is not practical to change the setting or location in a realistic set.

A suggested set (like the set used in Baltimore Waltz or Driving Miss Daisy) allows actors to create the setting through actions (like pretending to drive a car--which would be impractical in a theater) or through dialogue. Setting is described, not built. We use our imagination.

The Event

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.

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?

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 crises 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.

As you read the play the Baltimore Waltz please note the event, the inciting incident, the protagonist, major decision, the MDQ, the conflict, crisis, and complications in your notes.

HOMEWORK: Complete your 2 character scene. Complete any missing work thus far. Complete The Baltimore Waltz on your own.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Driving Miss Daisy

This morning, in the comments section, please review Spamalot! What did you think of the production? What did you learn about musicals or writing plays from watching the play?
Please read Alfred Uhry's play Driving Miss Daisy today in groups of 4.

Complete the handout analysis chart and turn in by end of class as participation credit.

If your group finishes early, please return to the lab to continue working on or revising your 2-person scene.

HOMEWORK: None. If you did not finish your 2 person scene or reading/analyzing Driving Miss Daisy, please complete that.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

2 Character Scene Exercise

This morning it's raining. You might as well write.

Using the basic scene starter (read handout) please create a scene with a beginning, middle, and end for two characters. Like 'Night Mother or Freud's Last Stand characters in two-person plays require a central conflict. See the conflict info from last post (see below) for details.

You may work alone or with one partner. If you are working with a partner, both writers should create their own character. Briefly discuss what you are planning and then write (Google Docs works well for this since you don't need to be sitting next to one another!)

Use the proper play format for your scripts. I would suggest left justifying your text at first--keep the spacing correct--and then move things into alignment by the end of class (around 9:20-9:25).

Please turn in your work (wherever you are with the assignment) at the end of class. You will be graded on your progress and writing--so hop to it! This is, of course, just a draft. Relax. Write. Repeat.

HOMEWORK: None. Geva trip tomorrow at 9:30.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

'Night Mother: Quiz & Analysis; Geva Workshop: Spamalot

During period 1, please take the short quiz on 'Night Mother. When you have completed this quiz, please drop off your test and pick up the analysis worksheet. You may use your books for the analysis worksheet.

In pairs, identify the following moments/points in the play. Each answer should also indicate page # or use textual support to defend your answers. You may work with 1 other student on this and you may use your scripts.
  • Conflict: What traditional type of conflict is best represented here by this play? What other conflicts arise and how are these dealt with in the play? Choose at least 3 conflicts of various types and explain how Marsha Norman, the playwright, uses conflict to create a gripping, effective play script.
  • Structural Unity: all parts of the plot (exposition, rising action, turning point, climax, resolution, etc.) should work and fit together. Explain how the playwright has achieved structural unity in this play. How does exposition turn to rising action? How does the turning point (the play's crisis or a character's dark moment) lead to our climax? How does the playwright resolve the action of the play? How effectively do you feel this was done? 
  • Inciting Incident: the point of attack, the inciting incident forces the protagonist into the action of the play's plot. What inciting incident occurs in the early scenes of the play? Identify when and what page this occurs on.
  • Major Dramatic Question (MDQ): the hook that keeps an audience interested in a play; a dramatic question that a reader/viewer wants answered. What is the MDQ for this play?
  • Major decision: A decision a character makes in the plot that creates the turning point for their character. Choose either Jessie or Mama. What is the major decision for this character?
  • 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. Examining Mama's character, what moment would you say is her dark moment or crisis? Defend your answer with an explanation.
  • Enlightenment: When the protagonist understands how to defeat the antagonist. A revelation that begins the movement toward a climax. Does this play have an enlightenment? Which character(s) are involved in this enlightenment if it exists? If it does NOT exist, who might the author intend to have the "enlightenment"? Defend your answer.
  • Catharsis: Discuss the ending of this play with your partner. How did it effect you? If it did not effect you, why not? 
  • Discuss other aspects of this play with your partner while we have time in class. Hand in your answers to the first 7 questions as participation credit.
During period 2 Geva will be here to conduct a workshop for the musical Spamalot!--our field trip Thursday from periods 3-7. Please hand in your permission slips and medical forms today!

HOMEWORK: Please read Act One of Spamalot! Complete your reading of 'Night Mother, if you did not complete it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Monologue Play Draft Due; 'Night Mother

This morning, please take the first 30 minutes (until 8:30) to prepare and revise your monologue plays. These play drafts are due at 8:30.

If you finish early, please do any of the following tasks:

  • Create a list of characters; or sketch out a character from that list
  • Draw portraits of potential characters
  • Gather ideas for new premises: write these ideas down
  • Make a list of historical characters; check out their bios and research one of them for a potential play
  • Take a gander at these videos:

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)
Video #5: Tips from Dennis Kelly about Playwriting

At 8:30, we will move to the library to pick up our next play 'Night Mother. We will finish our discussion on Freud's Last Session and begin reading 'Night Mother in class.

Some notes:
  • Aristotle's six elements of plays: plot, character, diction (dialogue), thought (theme), spectacle, song/music
  • Conflict
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The three C's: Conflict, crisis, complication: obstacles characters must face for an interesting and dramatic plot.
  • Rising Action
  • 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.
  • 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"
  • Enlightenment: When the protagonist understands how to defeat the antagonist. A revelation that begins the movement toward a climax.
  • Climax
  • Catharsis
Play Structure & Length
Plays come in only a few flavors structurally:
1. The Five-Act Play (popular with Shakespeare and the Elizabethan stage)
2. The Four-Act Play (popular with Chekhov and Russian Modern theater)
3. The Three-Act Play (popular in the early part of the 20th century)
4. The Two-Act Play (popular now; and the preferred length of a full-length play)
5. Full length One Act Play (ex. Freud's Last Session; Night Mother, etc.) There is no intermission, the play is about the length of a film.
6. Short One Act. (Usually 15 minutes to an hour)
7. 10-minute Play (short, short plays anywhere from 3 minutes to 15). You should be familiar with these by now.

HOMEWORK: Please finish the play 'Night Mother for next class. Bring your books back with you to our next session to examine the play in more depth.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Monologue Play Project; Freud's Last Session

This morning, please use period 1 to work on your monologue projects. Drafts of this play are due Thursday, September 24.

During period 2 (9:00), we will venture next door to take our quiz and discuss the play Freud's Last Session.

Highlights from Freud's Last Session

HOMEWORK: None. If you did not yet finish your play script draft or you will not be able to finish in 20-30 minutes next class in the lab, please work towards that goal.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Monologue Play Project; Spic-o-Rama

This morning, please follow the directions to flesh out one of your characters in the play you are working on. Take 5 minutes to explore ideas/pre-write.

EQ: Why write a one-actor show? What do mono-dramas (1 person plays) or monologue plays offer an audience? How are they similar or different from other plays, other genres of writing (slam poetry, fiction, novels, audio-books, films, etc.)?

This morning let's 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. After viewing, please gather in groups of 2-3 and take 5-10 minutes to discuss 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 does the play showcase John Leguizamo's talent as an actor and writer? Be specific, using specific examples from the text. 
  • Why might Leguizamo have chosen the characters he did to portray in the play? What might be missing or what would you have liked to see more of or less of? 
  • How does Leguizamo structurally put the play together to create an effective theatrical experience? Examine how the play is thematically connected or how it "moves" from story line to story line. How effective is this in your opinion?
  • Discuss the importance of minority voices in theater. In your opinion do we need more minority voices--or is Leguizamo's portrayal of "spics" degrading or stereotypical? 
  • How is this play (or The Vagina Monologues) similar or different from performance poetry, films, short stories, novels, or non-fiction essays? What strengths or weaknesses can you detect in each genre?
  • Discuss your own project with your partner(s). What is going well for you? What advice/support can you give each other? What problems have you run into so far?
Please use specific examples to support your answers. What have we decided?

After your discussion, please return to the lab to continue working on your monologue projects. Aim to complete a draft of your play script by next week.

HOMEWORK: Please get field trip forms completed and turned in. Please read the two-person play: Freud's Last Session.

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