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.

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...