Playwrights use real people as models for their characters all the time.
This morning, let's start off with a little character writing exercise. From the internet find two separate pictures or portraits or photos of a person (or see some of the samples in the front of the classroom to use for this exercise). Choose two pictures.
Write a paragraph description of the two people in the photographs you chose. Try to answer details like:
A. Who is this character? [change the name/fictionalize this person if you know the subject's name or the subject is a famous actor/politician/celebrity, etc.--i.e., do not write about the real person in this photo!]
B. What is the most obvious personality trait of this character?
C. What is the most distinguishing physical feature of this character?
D. What motivates this character?
E. What life-changing event happened to this character either recently before or recently after this photograph was taken?
F. What does this character really think about what's happening in this picture? [If that is unclear, consider where this person was when the picture was taken, or who took the picture and for what purpose...]
G. Name two goals for this character? What might they want to accomplish?
H. Identify (make up) one secret that this character has never told anyone.
I. Add any other details you would like until you feel you know this character specifically.
When you have a good description of each of your characters (about a paragraph in length please), print a copy and turn in for participation credit. Then move on to part 2.
Select one of the two characters you described in part 1. Place this character in a specific setting: a place, time, season, time period, location, etc. Include weather
in your setting.
When you have settled on a setting and a character description, write a monologue from the perspective of your created character. Your monologue must be more than 200 words for full participation credit. If you finish your monologue by the end of period 1, please print and turn in your draft--otherwise, it will be due Tuesday, next week.
While you are waiting for the end of period 1, please read about (and take notes concerning) Jane Martin. Prepare for our discussion on Talking With
by reviewing (or completing) your reading and/or viewing the monologues.
Before the end of 1st period, spend a moment to read about Jane Martin here
Throughout this course, I will be using specific language related to the field of playwriting and/or writing in general. These terms are important for you to know/learn. They look nice on quizzes and tests. Always take notes on key information in this class. Practicing note-taking is also important for any student or writer.
Theatre vocabulary to know:
TALKING WITH by Jane Martin:
- Playwright: a person who crafts/builds/writes a play meant to be performed live on stage in front of an audience. Note the similarity to wheelwright or shipwright...)
- Play: refers to the script a playwright writes, as well as a theatrical performance. Play is also "joyous activity" often engaged in by children...like "make believe..." and "fun & games"
- Act: not only the verb referring to the activities of a performer (specifically an act-or) but also a significant dramatic chapter, division, or unit in a play.
- Scene: not only the place where an incident occurred but also a sequence of action in a play.
- Beat: a short exchange of dialogue between two or more characters, usually focusing on a single topic. Many beats make up a scene in a play.
- Monologue: an extended speech delivered by one person/character.
- Dramatic Monologue: a long or extended speech delivered by one character addressing another character or group of characters.
- Interior Monologue: In fiction or prose, the description or speech (in 1st person POV, for example) where a character exhibits (shows/tells) the thoughts, feelings, and associations passing through a character's mind.
- Soliloquy: an extended speech by one person/character addressed directly to the audience. Usually the character is alone on stage.
- Monologue Play (one-person show; monodrama): A solo performance, featuring an actor, comedian, or entertainer.
- Premise: the basic concept or idea of the play. Usually, the premise can be stated clearly in 1 sentence. This is a play about...
TASK: Please read the handout about Jane Martin this morning. Follow up your reading with a 5 minute period of reading and analysis. Select one of the monologues in the collection and read it closely. Analyze how:
Write out your answers to be handed in as participation credit. Leave your answers by the end of class in the inbox. Make sure you have indicated what monologue you chose to analyze--and remember to put your name on your work!
- the character hooks her audience,
- how the character communicates meaning (what's the purpose/point of speaking?)
- how details and background description and details are presented to the audience,
- how story and plot are interwoven into the monologue,
- how language or diction is used to create visual imagery (metaphor, allusion, personification, symbol, simile, etc.), sound imagery (onomatopoeia, rhyme, rhythm, alliteration, assonance, consonance, etc.), and
- how props or costumes are used (if any) help establish setting or character.
TASK: After our analysis, let's conduct a class discussion on the play. Your response can include answers to any or all of these questions:
- What did you think about the play as a whole? Did it surprise you or please you or frustrate you? Explain why you reacted to the play in this way.
- What is the premise of "Talking With"? In a sentence or two, explain what you think is the premise or main idea/theme of the play. Is this premise interesting? Do you think people would pay to see this play?
- The "audience" for each character changes as the play continues. How does the author help a viewer or reader understand who the character in question is "talking with..."? Overall, by the end of the play, who do you think the playwright Jane Martin is "Talking with...?" Support your opinion.
- What challenges and stage requirements are necessary to produce this play? How has Jane Martin anticipated a low-budget, black box theater being able to produce her play? What did you learn about staging from the monologues you read and watched?
- Why are the monologues in the order that Martin puts them? What is the reason to start and end the play with the monologues she does?
- After reading about Jane Martin, what amuses or interests you in her as a writer? How might the idea of "Theatricality" (artificial life involving conflict) infuse the script and the whole experience of seeing this play on stage?
- Other observations? As a writer, what did you notice? What do you want to talk about in regards to this play?
After our discussion, let's begin reading the play Spic-O-Rama
by John Leguizamo. This is another type of monologue play. As you read, compare/contrast this script with Talking With
. How is it similar/different?
If you did not complete your reading of Talking With
, please do so over the weekend. Watch the following pairs
of performances. Compare/contrast the quality or effectiveness of the performer and write your analysis or critique of the monologue in a paragraph response (to be turned in as homework participation Tuesday, September 13). There are 3 pairings.
To assist your answers:
As you watch these scenes from Talking With
, pay attention to how the playwright engages the audience and tells an interesting story that develops the single speaking character. Notice how the actor portrays this character. Are the author's words more effective or is the performance more compelling to you as an audience? What does this suggest about the nature of performance? Which performance was stronger than the other? Why? What might be some things you want to remember about writing plays for performers?
Clear Glass Marbles (monologue, page 19-22)
Clear Glass Marbles (monologue, page 19-22)
Audition. (monologue, page 25-27)
French Fries (monologue, page 61-63)
#2: Complete Spic-O-Rama by John Leguizamo. Bring this script back with you next class for our discussion and analysis of the play. You may feel free to complete your monologue writing assignment (although this will not be due officially until next class at the end of our lab time.)