Monday, January 25, 2016

Good-bye Playwriting! Welcome: Film Studies

Welcome to Film Studies!

This course is designed to provide you with a wide foundation of Film History and Film Studies, while also giving you experience writing film scripts and film reviews/critiques (as such found in the field of Journalism). You can find the course syllabus on my teacher website.

By its end, you will understand the art of film hopefully more than you do now, and will gain a better appreciation for the art of filmmaking and the films you watch for enjoyment. Some of you may like this course of study so much you will take film courses in college, major in film studies, or become professional filmmakers. Others will at least benefit from knowing (and appreciating) the art of film.

Please note that you will need a notebook/journal and bring it to class every class period. You will use your journal/notebook when watching films, for brainstorming, and for various responses and exercises. I will be collecting your journal at the end of each quarter of this course and you may sometimes use it for tests/quizzes.

How to Take Cornell Notes (also see handout)
How to Take Notes When Watching Films (also see handout)

HOMEWORK: None. Thank you for completing the Playwriting course!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Playwriting Project Rubric

Playwriting Rubric
First off, congratulations. If you were able to write a play from beginning to end (no matter the length) you are on your way to being a writer. I don't always say it, but you should be proud of the writing that you accomplish. Creative writing is not an easy art form. It takes a lot of discipline, reading, research, and just butts-in-seats determination. A bit of art and craft helps along the way.

This project has a specific page minimum requirement. From here on out, when you write a play script, you will be able to choose the size of your "canvas". 10-minute plays are just as important as full length ones. Be proud of what you were able to accomplish, particularly if you wrote more for this assignment than you usually do. Good job.


4 = Exemplary (A/A+): Play is written in correct (standard) playwriting format for actors/directors. Title is intriguing, symbolic, and/or original. Plot structure adheres to and enhances Aristotelian elements; Cause and effect is well done, logical and creative; conflict is intriguing and creative; the playwrights' message is universal and comments thoughtfully on the human condition; play has intriguing, original characters; setting is original and interesting, but also practical for theatrical space; stage directions are specific, producible, enhance the action of the play and do not get in the actor/reader's way; dialogue is original, compelling, appropriate for characters and sounds natural, but heightened with artistic craft; characters have clear and appropriate motivation; there is a clear progression of conflict/events, leading to a dark moment (crisis), enlightenment, and climax for the protagonist; dialogue sounds natural; play follows the three unities of time, place, action (when appropriate); scenes are well developed, each ending with a climactic moment, constantly moving the plot forward; staging is creative, appropriate and play is clever and producible. Few or very minor grammar errors. Page length is beyond requirement--clearly effort and time has been put into this project.

3 = Accomplished (B/B+): Play is written in standard publishing playwriting format, or format for actors/directors has a few mistakes. Title is appropriate, but may not be as clever or creative as 4 above. Plot is appropriate and uses several Aristotelian elements, but not to the same level as 4. Cause and effect is more or less appropriate for the situation; playwright has a message, but may not be as original or creative as 4. Setting is appropriate and practical, but not as clever or interesting as 4. Stage directions are used appropriately; dialogue is appropriate for verisimilitude of characters and setting; dialogue mostly sounds natural; play mostly follows unities, but may rely on one more than another; main characters have appropriate motivation, with some errors or lack of development; scenes are developed, but may not always progress the plot; staging is appropriate and producible, but not as clever as 4. Some grammar errors, but nothing that gets in the way of comprehension. As "A" grade above, but work was turned in after the deadline (January 21). Page length meets requirement as necessary for the development of the script's story.

2 = Promising (C/C+): Play attempts standard playwriting format, but may have several errors. Title is present, but does not necessarily support theme, tone, or symbol. Plot borders on cliche or sentimentality; plot may lack some Aristotelian elements. Cause occurs without effect or there are errors in plotting; playwrights' message may be trite or melodramatic or over done; characters may be unoriginal, lacking motivation or development; setting is standard and largely uninteresting; dialogue sounds stilted or melodramatic, unreal; play does not always follow the unities; characters may lack motivation or play includes too many minor characters; scenes are sketchy or undeveloped, conflict is too easily resolved; scenes may not advance the plot; staging is awkward or expensive or cinematic; grammar errors distract the reader/actor. As "B" grade above, but work was turned in after the deadline (January 21). Page length meets the minimum requirement for this project.

1 = Beginning (D): As "C" grades above, but work was turned in after the deadline (January 21). Minimum requirement for length was not met.

The only way to fail this project is to turn nothing in. If you can't write a play, you shall not pass Playwriting.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Play Projects Due!

Please complete your play projects. For details about what you owe, look at the previous posts and check you are turning in your complete project.

See tips about dialogue to put the finishing touches on your script:

--Good dialogue is precise and purposeful; a distillation of normal speech (not really normal speech). Too often inexperienced writers will have long, rambling stream of consciousness sentences in their script. Avoid this by clear, concise declarative sentences--or fragments. People talk. People often talk. In. Fragments.
--Characters NEED to speak in scenes--they shouldn't just hold their tongue or hope that a bad situation will go away
--Dialogue should reveal characters (characterization), provide point of view, move the story forward (plot), and allow the author to approach theme
--Dialogue is not everyday speech; it is crafted and carefully chosen. Throw in some imagery (metaphor, simile, allusion, personification, figurative language, alliteration, anaphora, etc.)
--Dialogue begins with your character's need to speak
--Dialogue is the result of well-defined character building (see entry on character below)
--Color your dialogue with details about your character's history, emotions, desires, and subconscious and conscious thoughts
--Dialogue is action taken to satisfy a need, want, or desire
--If a character doesn't say something--the audience cannot hear it
--Do not substitute stage directions for what a character should SAY
--Make your characters react to what they are HEARING (everyone listens differently and hears what someone is saying differently)
--How a character hears is just as important as what a character hears (or what a character says)
--Write exposition (backstory) to affect the present conflict (not just to provide a well-rounded character)
--Exposition should be revealed on a needs-to-know basis
--Characters should "play" off each other
--Monologues should not simply be plunked into a script; in some cases, break up your monologues to allow other characters in a scene to respond to what they are hearing. If you are noticing that you have a lot of paragraph speeches and few pages, cut up your monologue lines and allow other characters in the scene to comment on what is being said. One technique is to have characters repeat the key phrases or ideas the other character is trying to make. You mean all you have to do is repeat a line? Yes, all you have to do is repeat a key or important line!

Proofread. Make sure your work is as perfect as you can make it. Points will be taken off for incorrect spelling, mechanics, and grammar mistakes. Read over your own work before you turn it in!

Once you print out your work, please use the time in the lab to study for your final exam(s).

HOMEWORK: None. You should study the Exam Review post below this one. Know your terms, plays, techniques, and stuff...

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Formatting your Play Projects!

Formatting scripts is a pain, but it is a requirement for those who write scripts. I am teaching you the industry standard US format. Scripts from other countries are similar but have slight differences. A theater may also have preferences, but the standard form is universal. The important thing to note is that your work is well written, attractive (lacking grammar/spelling/mechanic errors) and the format is consistent. Plays/scripts that are published have a different format.

The most common errors students make with scripts is formatting. Please take a look at these and make sure your play scripts are formatted correctly before handing them in. Points will be deducted for incorrect or inconsistent formatting.

Formatting notes:
  • Plays are single spaced. From Microsoft's HOME menu, select the spacing icon and make sure it is 1.0. You should also REMOVE SPACE AFTER PARAGRAPH to keep the spacing correct.
  • Plays are NEVER centered or double-spaced.
  • Skip a single LINE by hitting the ENTER key after each speaker's line.
  • Lines of dialogue should be LEFT justified and appear under the character's name. If a line is interrupted by stage directions (see below) and there is not a NEW speaker, the dialogue should continue after the stage direction. Characters that do not speak do not need a line of dialogue.
  • Stage directions that are longer than a single line should be blocked and set off at 2.5" or 3". If your stage direction is short (one line or less), it should appear in parenthesis. There is no need to italicize your stage directions, but if you like that, go ahead. Keep this consistent within the script--so if you do it, continue to do it.
  • Character names are 5 or 6 indents or tab key strokes (so that the character name appears at 2.5" or 3"). [You can find the ruler from the VIEW menu]. Keep this consistent. The idea is that a character's name appears in the middle of the paper if you were to fold it. Centering is not preferred, but if you centered the name the world will not end. Again, keep formatting consistent.
  • If your character is cut off due to a page break, it is custom to include a break by including the character tag (the character's name) and the abbreviation: CON'T after it. This tells an actor/director that the character is continuing to speak. You can avoid this by making sure your lines don't move to the next page. Never leave a CHARACTER TAG alone at the bottom of your page with the speech/dialogue on the NEXT page!
  • Your play scripts should have a title page. Usually this has your address on it along with your name. We don't need that yet, but if you are planning on sending your 10-minute plays to Geva or the Fringe Festival, you may wish to add this information on the bottom LEFT hand side of your title page.
  • On a separate page you should include a cast list. Your cast list page can also include TIME and SETTING.
  • Plays that transition from scene to scene by lighting should indicate that by using the words: lights fade or lights come up. Alternatively, BLACK OUT works as well. Curtains are a little antiquated, but if you say CURTAIN or CURTAIN RISES, we'll know what that means--just be consistent.
  • The end of the play should be clearly indicated by END or END OF PLAY or CURTAIN or LIGHTS FADE. The French fashion is FIN.
  • Please include a header with PAGE NUMBERS (required) and (if you'd like) the title of the work. Page one should not appear on your TITLE page.
  • Before you print your play out, check your formatting and proofread for errors.
 All plays are due next class!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Final Exam Review 2016; Play Project: Lab; Playwrights' Festival

Tonight we start the playwrights' festival from 3:00-7:00 in the Black Box and labs. Please arrive at the black box on time and prepared. Our showcase will happen on Friday in the Black Box at 7:00. Please plan to attend to support the creative writing department. You get in free, but companion tickets are $5. The show will likely last about an hour.

Instead of a test on Waiting for Godot today, the test question for that play will be on the final exam. Please study for your final exam. Exams will occur on Monday, January 25--no late exams will be given. If you are absent Monday, you will lose 25% of your marking period grade.

Today in the lab, please use the time to further and/or complete your play projects. Make sure your scripts are properly formatted and proofread. All play drafts are due Thursday, January 21.

The Final Exam for Playwriting may cover any or all of the following items, please review the following:

The plays & playwrights: [we read 19 plays during this course]
Jane Martin: Talking With
Marcia Norman: 'Night Mother
John Leguzamo: Spic-o-Rama
Mark St. Germain: Freud's Last Session
Eve Ensler: The Vagina Monologues
Alfred Uhry: Driving Miss Daisy
Paula Vogel: The Baltimore Waltz
Charles Busch: Vampire Lesbians of Sodom; Psycho Beach Party; Lady in Question; Red Scare on Sunset
Greek Playwrights: Aeschylus: Agamemnon; Sophocles: Antigone; Euripides: The Bacchae; Medea
Tennessee Williams: The Glass Menagerie
William Shakespeare: Titus Andronicus
Steve Martin: Picasso At the Lapine Agile 
Henrik Ibsen: Hedda Gabler, The Master Builder, Ghosts
Anton Chekhov: The Seagull
Samuel Beckett: Waiting For Godot 

Proper script format
How to create characters/characterization
Techniques to motivate and gather ideas

Play Vocabulary:
  • Premise: a deeply held belief by the playwright which shapes a script.
  • Conflict
  • Structural Unity: all parts of the plot (exposition, rising action, turning point, climax, resolution, etc.) should work and fit together.
  • The classical unities: the unity of time, place, and action. A well-written play should encompass only a short amount of time, use one main setting, and have only one main plot (subplots can occur, but only one plot should be the main plot). 
  • Inciting Incident: the point of attack, the inciting incident forces the protagonist into the action of the play's plot.
  • Events
  • 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
  • Ten minute play format
  • One act plays
  • Full length plays (2, 3, 4, or 5 act)
  • Monologues/Soliloquies
  • Commedia d'ell Arte 
  • Cross-dressing; pantomime
  • Generating ideas for plays 
  • Absurdist Theater 
  • Constantin Stanislavski
  • Moscow Art Theatre
  • Farce
  • The Event: a uniquely significant moment in the character's lives
  • Time lock: setting up a time limit or specific deadline characters have to meet in order to spur them into action (for example having a script project due...)
  • French scenes
  • Place & setting
  • Theme
  • Scenario: an outline for a writer to identify major/minor characters, plot, and setting used BEFORE writing a script
  • Catalyst: the event in the play that causes a character to take action
  • Character flaw
  • Creating credible characters
  • Protagonist
  • Antagonist
  • Subtext: what is not said in a character's line. The subtext are the subtle details or clues used by the actor to develop their character.
  • Beat: a short exchange of dialogue
  • Different types of beats: physical, behavioral, inner-life
  • Time lock: a deadline for a character to achieve his/her goal in a scene or play
  • Sign post/Pointer: foreshadowing or hints that something will happen in a play
  • Backstory
  • A Confidant: a character the protagonist or antagonist can talk with to reveal necessary backstory
  • Verisimilitude: the semblance of truth in characters and setting. "a king should act like a king, not a foul-mouthed beggar."
  • Dialogue (tips and advice) 
  • Theatrical/literary periods: realism, modernism, absurdism, symbolism, comedy, naturalism, romanticism, Elizabethan, tragedy, comedy, etc. 
  • Contributions of various playwrights: Ibsen, Shakespeare, Chekhov, Williams, etc.
  • Play development & workshopping a play 
  • Writing and rewriting a script (advice)

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Absurdism, Samuel Beckett; Play Project & Workshop

Today let's watch two short plays by Beckett: Come and Go and Play. "Play" with actor Alan Rickman.

Weather got you down? Feeling as if there's no point to life? Check out this style of writing...

Characteristics of Absurdism:
1. Characters are often threatened by an unknown outside force.
2. The world or diegesis of the play/film is unpredictable or lacks meaning which the characters must contend with.
3. There is often an element of horror or tragedy; characters are often in hopeless situations or trapped.
4. Dialogue is often playful, full of nonsense, repetition, or engages in silly wordplay or banter.
5. Plays are often funny, although theme is usually serious and symbolic. Absurdist theatre is often called "tragicomedy", having elements of broad humor and tragedy.
6. There is often a good deal of farce (mistaken identity, physical comedy, slapstick, sudden entrances and interruptions, etc.)
7. Theatre of the absurd often presents characters failing at something without suggesting a solution to the problem. Characters are often "losers" who cannot dig themselves out of the problems they find themselves in.
8. Characters are often unable to communicate with others (particularly about their feelings, desires, or needs).
9. Plot is often cyclical or repetitive.
10. Plots have a dreamlike or surreal quality to them, akin to nightmare. Plot events are often taken at face value; characters are unwilling or uninterested in examining "why?" something happens and instead react to "what" happens. Therefore plot is often lacking the cause. The effect is often stressed as being more important.
For no point in particular, let's go check out Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot. Please read this play for Tuesday. Expect a quiz since you are reading this one alone.

Writing Prompt: in your journals/notebooks, please write 3 metaphors. While one half of the metaphor may be a grand human idea: freedom, love, justice, revenge, marriage, hope, wealth, etc. the metaphor you create should be fairly concrete: "hope is a thing with feathers", "love is a battlefield", "revenge is a dish best served cold". Come up with 3 metaphors.

Once you have 3 metaphors, select one to build an absurdist play around. Use the characteristics of Absurdism above to help give you ideas.

Now let's chat about absurdism.

Although various classical and important plays have toyed with absurd situations, it was the futility of WWII combined with the surreal and existential that birthed such a movement. When any moment we are threatened with total destruction, what else is there to do but sit stunned and blankly in misunderstanding, or weave a web of words that lack meaning?

Traditional theater often attempts to show a realistic portrayal of life. Situations and characters are firmly rooted in reality and the common human actions that result in drama. Most plays trust the word. Words we use carry meaning. But what occurs when, with the threat of nuclear annihilation, we are not able to use our human reason and the symbol of such reason (our words) to alter our own fate? If we remove the trust in language, reason, logic, and traditional conventions of story telling, we are left with something that has no inherent meaning, but in that shape is given meaning by its opposite. Modern life is futile, lacking a sensible God figure, in which the answer to the question "what is the meaning of life?" is a resounding blackness or emptiness. All is meaningless, particularly that which is supposed to bring the comfort of meaning (i.e., words).

In the hands of playwrights like Samuel Beckett, the portrayal of a such meaningless absurdity becomes a metaphor for our own modern lives--filled as they are with anxiety, fear, hesitation, incompetence, misunderstanding, and the lack of fulfillment.

In the lab: Keep writing your play projects. These drafts are due Thursday, Jan. 21. Also, please review Rosalia's play draft and provide some advice or feedback to her. The essential question is: how can she improve her play? Please give her some written suggestions/comments.

The Playwrights' Festival is occurring next week. The schedule is as follows:
  • Monday: Day off for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day! Celebrate his accomplishments to history and our country! Use this time to write if you are behind in your project page requirements!
  • Tuesday: Writers meet the actors in the blackbox 3-4. Then they go to the lab to choose actors for their project and write a play from 4-7 or 8. Dinner will be provided!
  • Wednesday: Writers meet with directors/actors 3-4. Directors work with actors from 4-7.
  • Thursday: Directors work with actors. Block plays. Send tech requirements to producer. 3-7. Writer are not called this day, but may help out if directors want them to.
  • Friday: Directors and actors tech the show. 3-5. Then dinner provided for actors/directors from 5-6. Call at 6; show at 7.

HOMEWORK: Complete Waiting for Godot. Study for your final exam. The final exam will be given on Monday, January 25. If you are absent for this exam you will receive a zero for 25% of your grade this marking period. There are no classes for this subject Wednesday and Friday of exam week.

When we return from exam week, we will be starting our new course: Film Studies.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Seagull (Act IV); 10 Day Warning: Play Project

After completing Act IV today, please go to the lab and continue working on your play projects!

You have 10 more days to complete your work. If we break that down mathematically and you are starting today (having written nothing up to this point), you would need to average about 4-5 pages of script per day for the next 10 days. Note that this is not all time in the lab. There are 2 more plays we have to cover.

No late work will be taken--turn in what you have by January 21.

Remember there is also the Playwrights' Festival coming up (Jan. 19-22). If you are a writer for that production you will be expected and forced to write a 10-minute play during the process. Your play will be produced and you will gain production credit--which looks pretty cool on a college resume. Participating as a director or actor will gain you extra credit.

Also, there is the Black History project (see post below this one for details!)

Details (repeated for the play project!): 
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 write 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 playwriting 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.

HOMEWORK: You know what you have to do! By the way, your final exam will likely be Monday, Jan. 25.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Chekov: Day 2; The Seagull & The Play Project

Today we will complete The Seagull. After reading the play, please go next door to the lab to continue your play projects.


Students interested in the Playwrights' Festival should alert me ASAP.

Mr. Gabriel (director of the Black History Assembly) would like to commission the CW department to write 2-4 minute (2-5 page) sketches. The task:

Choose one of the following time periods:
  • Slavery (Slave Rebellion) or Reconstruction
  • Harlem Renaissance
  • Civil Rights Movement
  • The Obama Years...Yes, we can...
You may inspire yourself by looking at a newspaper article or headline from the time period. Use the article to inspire your scene. Scenes should be dramatic--skip all the exposition except for the climax of your scene. Remember this is for a celebration of Black culture. This is not the time to get negative (at least the ending of your scene should have a tone of hope). Scenes should be written for 3-4 characters. If selected, you gain extra credit, can use the scene for your portfolio, and it will be performed by actors during the Black History Assembly.

HOMEWORK: None. Work on your play projects!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Character & Scene Exercises; Anton Chekov: The Seagull

This morning please take the next 20 minutes to complete the following 5-minute exercises:
  • Choose one of your antagonists in your play.
    • Identify an honorable, noble, or positive trait about this character
    • Identify how this noble, honorable, or positive trait might cause an audience to "rethink" their reaction toward this otherwise negative or difficult person
    • Write for about 5 minutes how you might include this trait in your scene: might it be revealed right after the character says something hateful to your protagonist? Figure out a place for this beat in your play
  • Identify the moment in a scene you are writing or have written where there is a PERIPETY: a turning point or reversal of fortune for your protagonist. Once you identify that moment, consider how the change occurs? Who or what creates the change? Include a beat that helps create the peripety
  • Identify a moment in a scene in your play where a character leaves. Instead of having this character leave, give the character a TIME LOCK--a reason to obtain a goal within a time limit that keeps your character in the scene. Write that moment or beat where that character stays until he/she gains what he/she wants
  • Using the technique of SUBTEXT (not directly stating how a character feels) rewrite one of your beats where you accidentally TOLD how a character feels instead of HINTED. Try to provide details and clues to suggest a feeling as opposed to directly stating the feeling. If, for example, your character is angry--how might you write your dialogue that suggests that the character is upset, as opposed to the character stating: "I'm angry!"
ALL THESE EXERCISES can be used again and again in your scenes, plays, and stories. 

After our short writing exercise, please take note of the following before we head to the library to pick up Anton Chekhov's The Seagull:

Russian Playwright and short story writer, Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull is the first of what are generally considered to be his four major plays (The Three SistersUncle VanyaThe Cherry Orchard are the others). The Seagull was written in 1895 and produced in 1896. It dramatizes the romantic and artistic conflicts between four characters: the fading leading actress Irina Arkadina, her son the experimental playwright Constantine Treplieff, the ingĂ©nue Nina, and the author Trigorin.

Similar to Chekhov's other full-length plays, The Seagull relies upon an ensemble cast of fully-developed (and quirky) characters. In contrast to the melodrama of the mainstream theatre of the 19th century, actions (example: Constantin's suicide attempts) are not always shown onstage. Characters tend to speak in ways that skirt around issues rather than addressing them directly, a dramatic practice  known as subtext. In fact, it is this failure to communicate that creates much of the conflict in Chekhov’s work. The practice of subtext, although found in Shakespeare's plays, gained so much popularity in play writing, that no successful script today is without it.

The Seagull alludes to Shakespeare's Hamlet. Arkadina and Treplieff quote lines from Shakespeare's tragedy before the play-within-a-play (and even the play-within-a-play is a device used in Hamlet!) Treplieff seeks to win his mother’s favor back from Trigorin, much as Hamlet tries to win Gertrude (his mother) back from his uncle Claudius.

The opening night of the first production was a failure. “Vera Komissarzhevskaya, playing Nina, was so intimidated by the hostility of the audience that she lost her voice. Chekhov left the audience and spent the last two acts behind the scenes. When supporters wrote to him that the production later became a success, he assumed they were just trying to be kind.” When Constantin Stanislavski (a famous director and acting teacher) directed the Seagull in 1898 for the Moscow Art Theatre, the play was successful and well regarded. Stanislavski's production of The Seagull became "one of the greatest events in the history of Russian theatre and one of the greatest new developments in the history of world drama."

  • Subtext: what is not said in a character's line. The subtext are the subtle details or clues used by the actor to develop his/her character.
HOMEWORK: Keep writing your play project(s). Please bring your Seagull scripts back with you to next class.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Play Project; Intro to Chekhov

Happy New Year!

This morning please complete the following tasks:

A. Turn in your homework (a critique--see previous posts--of Henrik Ibsen's The Master Builder).

B. Continue working on your play projects. As soon as you have a draft of your play, please alert me to this fact so that I can set up a workshop for you with the class.

C. Read about and watch the following information about Anton Chekhov--our next playwright. Take notes (this information will be used as we read The Seagull and will be found on your final exam!)
NOTE/ANNOUNCEMENT: The playwrights' festival will be held on January 19-22. We are in need of writers (x5), directors (x5), and actors (x10-20). Schedule will be as follows:

Jan. 19: All meet from 3:00-4:00. Meet potential directors and actors dressed in costume with a prop. Writers stay until 7:00 or 8:00 to write scripts. Dinner provided.
Jan. 20: Playwrights turn in play script; producer copies plays. Directors, writers, & actors rehearse from 3:00-7:00 (playwrights leave at 4:00).
Jan. 21: Actors & Directors rehearse after school (3:00-7:00); writers may attend 3:00-4:00.
Jan. 22: Actors/Directors meet after school for final rehearsal & tech. Dinner provided. Show opens at 7:00.

Please let friends and family know about this fund raising event for the Creative Writing Department. We are in need of actors, directors, and writers.

HOMEWORK: None. Please complete any of the tasks above if you did not complete them in the lab.

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...