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.

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Aristotle wrote that stories should have a beginning, middle, and end. Middles can be difficult. You might have a smashing opening to a stor...