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.

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