Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Shakespeare's Theater; Intro to Titus Andronicus; One Act Play Project (Continued)

Shakespeare's Theater

Please take notes on what you learn on the graphic organizer. Turn this in as participation credit at the end of our class today.

Crash Course Theatre: The English Renaissance and Not Shakespeare
Crash Course Theater: Straight Outta Stratford-Upon-Avon: Early Shakespeare
Crash Course Theatre: The Tragedies

Theater, as we know it in Shakespeare's day 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 anyone 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!

The structure of a Shakespearean play (most 5 act plays) is:

ACT ONE: Exposition, Inciting incident, Major Dramatic Question is introduced, sometimes the protagonist has made a Major Decision. Often a complication occurs to disrupt the status quo.
ACT TWO: Rising Action, Complication(s), Establishment/development of the Major Conflict, sometimes the protagonist has made a Major Decision. Introduction to subplot (minor plot).
ACT THREE: Crisis or Turning Point, Dark Moment, Major Decision.
ACT FOUR: Enlightenment, development or Resolution of minor plots.
ACT FIVE: Final climax, Resolution of minor and major plots, falling action. Major Dramatic Question is answered.

Titus Andronicus is believed to be Shakespeare's first tragedy. He may have co-authored it with George Peele (although we can't be certain) between 1588 and 1593. Popular in his day, the play is thought to be needlessly violent and the most bloody of all his plays. It has common Shakespearean themes of revenge and madness. Common motifs can be found below...

The play is set at the end of the Roman Empire and tells the fictional story of a Roman general, Titus, who runs afoul of Tamora, Queen of the Goths.

Major Characters:
  • Titus Andronicus – A renowned Roman general
  • Tamora – Queen of the Goths; afterward Empress of Rome
  • Aaron– a Moor; involved in a sexual relationship with Tamora
  • Lucius – Titus's eldest son
  • Lavinia – Titus's daughter
  • Marcus Andronicus – Titus's brother
  • Demetrius – Tamora's son
  • Chiron – Tamora's other son; allusion to the centaur Chiron
  • Saturninus – Son of the late Roman Emperor; afterward declared Emperor
  • Bassianus – Saturninus's brother; in love with Lavinia
Minor Characters:
  • Quintus – Titus's son
  • Martius – Titus's son
  • Mutius – Titus's son
  • Young Lucius – Lucius's son 
  • Publius – Marcus's son 
  • Nurse
  • A Clown
  • Sempronius – Titus's kinsman
  • Caius – Titus's kinsman
  • Valentine – Titus's kinsman 
  • Alarbus – Tamora's son (non-speaking role)
  • Revenge
  • Human Kindness & Pity (and its limitations) (Cruelty, as its opposite as well)
  • Limbs (usually being hacked off--"parts" of the body, just as children are "part" of the parent's "body", and citizens are part of the body politic...)
  • Animals (particularly fierce bestial animals...like a wilderness of tigers, but also birds of prey, and their victims)
  • Astrology (a reference to Fate and the stars)

Ovid's Metamorphoses (the story of Philomela, in particular)
Seneca's play Thyestes (the myth of the House of Atreus--, and, of course, Aeschylus' The Orestia)

Turn in your graphic organizer by the end of class today on Elizabethan theater.

HOMEWORK: Complete your reading of Titus Andronicus. Keep writing your play projects! Your drafts will be due the week you return from Winter Break. Have a great winter break!

Friday, December 14, 2018

Agamemnon: Day 2 (Conclusion); Play Project Writing

We will complete our viewing of Peter Hall's production of Agamemnon. You should refer to your script with any questions about the play or its episodes. Analysis viewing sheets are due by the end of class! Please make sure you turn them in if you want credit for this open-book/film test. No late work accepted (unless you are absent).

With time remaining in class, please continue working on your one-act play script projects. As you write, review advice, articles, and assignments from the beginning of this course. Your work should reflect what you have learned about playwriting and writing for the theater!

HOMEWORK:  Continue your one-act play project. Use your sketched outline (see the assignment in the posts below) and, using at least one of Polti's 36 Dramatic Situations, write a one-act play. Your play draft will be due the week we get back from Winter Break (Jan. 2).

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Agamemnon: Day 1

Please complete and turn in your analysis of Antigone to our Google Classroom!

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.
CLASSROOMAgamemnon, Part 1. We will view Peter Hall's production of Agamemnon. You should refer to your script with any questions about the play or its episodes.

Please complete the questions regarding Agamemnon as you watch the play. Your answers are due when you finish viewing. The viewing sheet will count as a quiz grade for the marking period.

HOMEWORK:  Begin your one-act play project. Use your sketched outline (see the assignment in the post below) and, using at least one of Polti's 36 Dramatic Situations, write a one-act play. Your play draft will be due the week we get back from Winter Break (Jan. 2).

Extra credit: You may attend and review Elf, Jr. for extra credit. (1 paragraph summary of the play; 1-2 paragraph summary of your review--with specific examples to support your opinions!)

Monday, December 10, 2018

Antigone: Conclusion; Polti's 36 Dramatic Situations

Play Reading: We will read the rest of Antigone. As we read, please take notes/analyze the play using Aristotle's 20 points. Note key words/concepts. After reading the play, I will give you some time in class to write your analysis. Your analysis should be in paragraph (prose) form. Use Aristotle's 20 points on how to make an effective play and explain why Sophocles' play meets these criteria or not. Use textual evidence to support and back up your opinion/analysis. [Essay analysis should be at least 300 words to around 500.]

Period 2 (part)

Polti's 36 Dramatic Situations

"Drama requires characters who want things they don't have yet, who need things they don't recognize yet, who are in conflict with people and forces arrayed against them."

Please read the handout on plots by Georges Polti (or Johann Goethe or Carlo Gozzi):

  • What is at the core of a good dramatic idea?

The article makes a point about the 36 dramatic situations by Georges Polti. Please link to this page on our link page to your right. Read a few of the 36 dramatic situations. Which ones interest you? Which ones can you relate to? Which ones have you seen in literature or film? Discuss these 36 dramatic situations with a neighbor today.

  • Which one would you create a one-act play around?
  • Choose 1 or 2 of the dramatic situations and begin outlining a one-act play based on the idea. 
  • List style (drama, realism, situational comedy, absurdist, satire, romantic comedy, farce, dark comedy, historical drama, tragedy, agitation propaganda or political drama, musical, etc.) 
  • List possible characters, setting(s), conflicts;  use the dramatic situation to create a theme, premise, and major dramatic question. 
  • Create a breakdown of the structure of the possible play, consider what theatrical conventions you might use (see previous posts concerning theatrical conventions). 
  • Sketch out your plan.
    • Ex. Supplication:
      • A young journalist has uncovered a big scandal in local politics and is threatened by the mayor and district attorney to keep the story under wraps. The journalist needs the help of a lawyer and her chief editor to run the story and expose the corruption. She is questioning her calling and needs support or encouragement.
      • Possible characters: journalist, mayor, district attorney, lawyer, chief editor, a local laborer affected by the scandal in some way, perhaps a fellow journalist to act as a confidante.
      • Setting: A small newspaper office.
      • Conflict: person v. person (journalist v. mayor); person v. society (mayor v. public; media v. government); person v. self (should I expose the truth at the cost of my own job?); person v. nature (children are getting sick from lead poisoning)
      • Premise: I will write a play about a journalist who has to risk her job to expose a scandal.
      • MDQ: how can the journalist do the right thing and expose the scandal without getting fired? Will the newspaper print the truth? What is a journalist's civic and ethical responsibility?
      • Theme/message: truth; the public has the right to know; corruption in power (often through money) spreads like a disease. 
      • My play will include 3 scenes (each about 6-10 pages); scene 1: the discovery of the threat complicated by threats by the Mayor's office to silence the story; scene 2: complications are revealed as the DA has bribed the chief editor not to run the story while the journalist seeks legal help after being physically threatened to kill the story; scene 3: after seeing the public damage at stake, the journalist persuades the chief editor to run the story anyway, exposing the scandal. 

Play Reading: Agamemnon, Episode/Scene 1 (Prologue) & screening if there is time.

HOMEWORK: Complete your play analysis (see Google Classroom for details); due Thursday, Dec. 13. Read Agamemnon by Aeschylus. Create the play design task above to plan your last one-act play. This draft will ultimately be due after Winter Break. 

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Antigone: Day 1

Play Reading: Begin reading Antigone by Sophocles. Sign up for a role on the role sheet. Let's read the introduction and then begin the play itself. As we read, please take notes/analyze the play using Aristotle's 20 points. Note key words/concepts. Complete your play analysis (see Google Classroom for details) the class after we finish reading the play (most likely Thursday, Dec. 13).

HOMEWORK: None. Please bring your scripts back with you to next class.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Ideas; Aristotle's Poetics & The Origin of Greek Theater

Course Work & Resources:

How to Cultivate a Practice of Generating Play Ideas (article)

  • What are some topics or questions that you worry about (for yourself, your family, your best friend, etc.?)
  • What are some worries/questions you have for the world or society?
  • What are some problems we are wrestling with as a society currently?
  • What are the stories (or plays) that have stuck with me? Why did they work to move/interest me? How do these stories work (plot, character, style, theme, conflict, diction/language, setting, etc.)
  • What stories haven't I seen on stage? How might I tell that story? 
Coming Up with Story Ideas
356 Controversial Speech and Writing Ideas (article/premises)
200+Story Ideas...and how to3 come up with your own (article/prompts)

Please read the following article: Why Writers Don't Write (article); and, after reading, in the COMMENT section of this blog identify 1 reason why you write and 1 reason why you don't write.

Greek Theater
Crash Course Theater: Thespis, Athens, & the Origin of Theater #2

Related image

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 (appearance 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
Play Reading: Begin reading Antigone by Sophocles. Sign up for a role on the role sheet. Let's read the introduction and then begin the play itself. As we read, please take notes/analyze the play using Aristotle's 20 points. Note key words/concepts.

HOMEWORK: None. Please bring your scripts back with you to next class.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf: Act 3; Play Project Drafts Due

Period 1:

Please turn in your play draft. These are due today. Before you turn in your draft:
  • Check your spelling (make sure your comma usage is correct!)
  • Check your formatting (make sure your format is correct!)
  • Include a title page & a cast list and setting page
  • Check the rubric. Add, cut, specify:
    • Do you have a title? Does your title help focus your dramatic question or hook an audience?
    • Do you have a cast list? Are characters revealed by their actions and dialogue rather than stage directions?
    • Do you have a premise? Do you know what your play is about? 
    • Do you have a theme or message? Will an audience understand/become enlightened just as your characters are enlightened through the action, conflict, and dialogue of the play? 
    • Are unnecessary scenes removed, moved offstage, or relegated to a monologue?
    • Is the dialogue appropriate to contain the conflict of the play, to reveal character, and to create verisimilitude?
    • Do you constrict the unities of time, place, and action (if appropriate)? Did you write a play or a film script?
    • Does your play follow the advice of well-written plays and contemporary play examples in that it hooks an audience, asks a dramatic question, develops character through setting, plot, theme, and diction or dialogue? Does it have an inciting incident, rising action, complications, conflict, a crisis or dark moment (peripety) for your characters; does your play allow characters to undergo an epiphany or enlightenment (anagnorisis), and lead to a climax and resolution of the conflict?
    • Did you follow the advice given to you in class regarding script development through the readings and handouts provided for you, or from the examples covered in the plays we read in class or analyzed? 
  • If these things are true, please submit your play draft today to our Google classroom.
At 7:55 we will read Act 3 together of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Then we will continue screening act 3 from the film.

HOMEWORK: Complete your play drafts if you did not turn in your draft today. Read the rest of Act 2 of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. 

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...