Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Aristotle's Poetics; Hamilton: Day 3

Welcome to the second half of Playwriting!

This marking period, we will be spending some time working on a major playwriting project (more on that later), examining some historically important theatre works from long ago and continuing examining how contemporary writers tackle the problem of taking something old and breathing new life into it. Let's start this morning by taking a look at this short article:

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? 
No one would have thought that a musical about a United States Secretary of the Treasury would make a good subject for a play, let alone a Broadway musical. Boy, were we wrong!

As mentioned before in class, much of the play uses old ideas in new ways. Another key style choice Miranda is making here is using Aristotle's advice to playwrights in his short book: The Poetics. Let's learn a little about that this morning.

Aristotle’s Poetics (circa 330 B.C.E.)

Aristotle Introduction

You should know that we still use Aristotle's poetics as a guide to writing plays (yes, after all that time!)
Plays still consist of:
  1. Plot. Specifically a beginning, middle, and end.
  2. Characters
  3. Idea (theme)
  4. Language (dialogue & rhetorical devices to make our language interesting, artistic, and creative--refer to AP English Language for some of these devices...)
  5. Music (the earliest plays included songs, dances, and music!)
  6. Spectacle (cool stuff! Masks, costumes, special effects, lighting, props, set pieces, etc.)

Again, as we continue to read/listen to Hamilton, notice theatrical conventions used in the script. Also, look for some of these Greek Tragedy elements in the libretto:
  • A story based on history or historical legends
  • Hubris (a tragic flaw or Hamartia of a character who feels he/she is too great, powerful, or perfect to make a mistake...this is usually taking the gods or fate for granted, or ignoring the natural reality of life, etc.)
  • A good (or powerful) character comes to a bad end (usually as a result of the character's hubris or hamartia)
  • peripety (turning point or change of fortune)
  • An anagnorisis (a discovery) (enlightenment)
  • A chorus representing the Populus (the people)
  • Aristotle's 6 elements of a play: Character, Plot, Idea, Language, Music, Spectacle
  • Stasimon (choral singing together)
  • Stichomythia (alternating short lines of dialogue between 2 or more characters)
  • Parados/exodus (the entrance of the chorus (parados) and the exit of the chorus (exodus))
  • Deus Ex Machina (a contrived ending)
CLASSROOM TASK: As we read find examples of theatrical conventions used in the musical. Also, find at least 1 example of each of the Greek Tragedy elements (see handout) as we read/listen to Acts 1 & 2 of the play. You will turn in your notes at the end of the reading.

Historical Periods Brainstorm:

  • What historical figures or time periods do you think are interesting? Make a short list of times, places, events, and people from history that you find compelling, interesting, or fascinating.
  • Pick one of these time periods and begin researching. Keep notes of what you find that's interesting--you might use these later in a play or musical you write!
HOMEWORK: None. Please continue your research. Take notes. Bring your books back with you to our next class.

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