Sunday, November 27, 2016

Play Project (ongoing); Agamemnon Prep; Agamemnon: Day 1

LAB: Please turn in your homework (see previous post for details).

Review the following information until 8:00. We will be moving to the classroom at that time to begin viewing Agamemnon. Begin planning your play ideas/premises, complete homework you should have done already, and/or review the background information regarding Agamemnon.


By the end of the marking period/course (Jan. 20, inauguration day, as a matter of fact) 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 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 54 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 generally 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 (not including title or cast list pages). 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--or a musical. Monologue plays and historical plays are also options we have already explored, but feel free to use the form if you'd like. Consider your tone. Is your play's premise likely to be comedic or serious? Tragic or satirical? Choices, choices.

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.

Some 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 (after Agamemnon) 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 by Aeschylus:
The Oresteia by Aeschylus is the only complete Greek trilogy. These three plays: AgamemnonThe Libation Bearersthe Eumenides tell the story of the House of Atreus in Argos. Today and this week we will be watching the production of Peter Hall's Agamemnon, translated by Tony Harrison. In Harrison's script, you will note the use of alliteration and kenning. These literary devices and techniques are Anglo Saxon in origin, not Greek. The Greeks had their own cadence and rhythm to their plays. Other elements, such as the use of masks, flutes, drums, and an all-male cast are standard Greek tragedy style.

Key mortal characters in the myth are: Thyestes, Atreus, Aegisthus, Agamemnon, Menelaus, Odysseus, Helen, Paris, Priam, Cassandra, Iphigenia, Orestes, and Electra.

Key immortal characters include: Zeus, Apollo, Artemis, The Furies (Eumenides...also called the Erinyes, the Kindly Ones, The Daughters of the Night were spirits of vengeance, murder, and jealousy. Their names are Tisiphone, Megaera, and Alecto).

• Atreus and Thyestes (brothers, sons of Pelops) fought because Thyestes challenged the throne of Argos and seduced Atreus’ wife.
• Thyestes was defeated by his brother and driven out of Argos, but returned as a suppliant with his children. A suppliant is like a homeless beggar.
• Atreus invited the family to a feast (where he slaughtered Thyestes children and served them to their father as dinner).
• Thyestes ate his children, unknowingly.
• When he found out what had happened, he cursed the house of Atreus and fled with his remaining son, Aegisthus.
• Agamemnon and Menelaus are the sons of Atreus, inheriting Argos.
• Agamemnon married Clytemnestra
• Menelaus married Helen.
• Helen ran off with Paris (or Paris, like Thyestes, seduced Helen) and this started the Trojan War.
• Agamemnon and Clytemnestra had three children: Iphigeneia, Electra, and Orestes.
• Menelaus convinced his brother Agamemnon to help him get his wife back from Troy.
• The gods (Artemis) were protecting the Trojans and didn’t bring them the wind needed to sail to Troy
• Calchas, the prophet, divined that the gods were angry and wanted a sacrifice.
• Calchas and Menelaus encouraged Agamemnon to sacrifice his daughter Iphigeneia.
• Agamemnon did so and gained favor and wind from Zeus; the Athenians sailed to Troy, won the war and sacked Troy. The battle lasted 10 years. This is, of course, the Trojan War.
• At beginning, Aegisthus has returned to Argos, now the lover of Clytemnestra (think Penelope and Odysseus), and exiled Orestes (he’s the rightful ruler, you see).
• Greek torchbearers or Messengers will light the beacon fire when Troy has fallen.
• Agamemnon, with his “prize” Cassandra (the daughter of Priam, king of Troy), returns after the war to a “warm” welcome.
CLASSROOM: Agamemnon, Part 1.

Please complete the questions regarding Agamemnon as you watch the play. Your answers are due when you finish viewing.

HOMEWORK: See HOMEWORK section above.

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