Period 1: Lab.
Please continue writing your play projects. Use what you have learned in this class to make sure your play is exceptional: i.e., your play is exemplary, thoughtful, creative, has a definite beginning, middle, end, uses Aristotle's advice, your play is producible for the stage, it is well written & original, it uses theatrical conventions, it includes monologues to develop character or plot events difficult to stage otherwise; it uses imagery & specific diction; the dialogue sounds natural and/or poetic. Your play has a clear theme and interesting dramatic conflict. Characters change. Scenes and transitions flow. Grammar is perfect. Commas are placed correctly, play is proofread, language is exact & correct. [See grammarly
At 8:00, we will stop writing and learn about Theater of the Absurd. Crash Course #45.
After taking notes (use them to study for your exam), please go to the library to pick up Waiting for Godot
. See homework!
Period 2: Waiting for Godot
by Samuel Beckett
The 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.
A Quick Writing Prompt: in your journals/notebooks, please write a metaphor or two. 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 up to 3 metaphors.
Once you have some metaphors, select one to build an absurdist play around. Use the characteristics of Absurdism above to help give you ideas. See EXTRA CREDIT below.
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 storytelling, 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 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.
. Here's the full play
with actor Michael Gambon (better known as Dumbledore).
by Samuel Beckett. The characters are Winnie and her husband Willie. The play is essentially a monologue. The theme is domestic life. Same thing as Endgame
And another very strange play is the play Play
. This one with late actor Alan Rickman. Similarities to the two previous plays are obvious, I think.
And finally Beckett's masterpiece: Waiting For Godot
part 1, and Waiting for Godot
, part 2. Another version of the play with actors Zero Mostel & Burgess Meredith
. And Waiting for Godot & Elmo
. Please read this play (it will show up on the final exam). Enjoy!
HOMEWORK: Complete your play projects; Study (please study!) for your final exam. And complete your reading of Waiting for Godot
after wherever we stop at the end of today's class.
Extra Credit Opportunity:
Our lab will be open next week. Feel free to stop by and use it if you need it.
Write a 10-minute absurdist play. Use the characteristics of the Absurdist theater style (see above) in your play. One easy way to start is to take your metaphor and make it real for your characters. Love is a battlefield...set a romance in a DMZ during a raid, or make a date during a military coup, or work the metaphor into your plot creatively.
You are welcome to use any of the major plays we've read in this course on your Regents exams--also, study for your final exam in this course:
The plays & playwrights: [we read over 20 plays during this course!]
- The Colored Museum by George C. Wolfe
- The Mountaintop by Katori Hall
- Driving Miss Daisy by Alfred Uhry
- Spic-o-Rama by John Leguizamo
- 'Night Mother by Marsha Norman
- Oleanna by David Mamet
- "The Loveliest Afternoon of the Year" by John Guare
- "Words, Words, Words"; "Arabian Nights"; "Variations on the Death of Trotsky"; "Sure Thing" by David Ives
- The God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza
- The Mystery of Irma Vep by Charles Ludlam
- "The Play That Goes Wrong" by Henry Lewis, Henry Shields, & Jonathan Sayer
- The Vampire Lesbians of Sodom by Charles Busch
- Red Scare on Sunset, Tale of the Allergist's Wife, Psycho Beach Party, The Woman in Question by Charles Bush
- Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee (coming soon)
- Picasso at the Lapin Agile by Steve Martin
- The Lion in Winter by James Goldman
- Hamilton: The Musical by Lin Manuel Miranda
- Agamemnon by Aeschylus
- Antigone by Sophocles
- The Darker Face of the Earth by Rita Dove
- Othello by William Shakespeare
- Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare
- Hedda Gabler by Henrick Ibsen
- Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
Proper script format
How to create characters/characterization; tips about writing effective characters, plots, themes, and writing effective dialogue; etc. See handouts in particular!
Techniques to motivate and gather ideas (from the blog, articles, and class advice)
- Premise: a deeply held belief by the playwright which shapes a script.
- Conflict & the basic types of 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.
- Major Dramatic Question (MDQ): the hook that keeps an audience interested in a play; a dramatic question that a reader/viewer wants answered by the end of the play.
- Major decision: A decision a character makes in the plot that creates the turning point for their character.
- The main event: the main plot or action of a play.
- 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.
- Roots of Action; Dramatic Triangle(s)
- Developing character, plot, and theme in a script (tips & advice)
- Ten-minute play format
- One act plays
- Full-length plays (2 or 3 act)
- Monologues/Soliloquies; internal/dramatic monologues
- Theatrical conventions
- Commedia d'ell Arte
- Cross-dressing; pantomime
- Generating ideas for plays
- 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...)
- irreconcilable needs
- Obstacles, motivation, and desires: the roots of action
- Universal truths/lies
- The vise
- Place & setting
- Realistic vs. suggested set designs (realistic sets and suggested sets & the use for each type)
- 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 or tragic flaw
- Creating credible and well-developed characters
- Subtext: what is not said in a character's line. The subtext is 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
- Signpost/Pointer: foreshadowing or hints that something will happen in a play
- Character types: major/minor, flat/round, dynamic, ally, foil, mentor, protagonist/antagonist, sympathetic/unsympathetic, etc.
- Confidante: a character the protagonist or antagonist can talk with to reveal necessary backstory
- Dialogue (tips and advice)
- Play development (advice & instruction on how to create a dramatic scene/play)
- At Rise: indicates the beginning of the play or act or scene
- Exit/Enters: directions to indicate a character/actor entering or exiting the scene in a playscript.
- Cross: indicates how a character moves from one place to another on stage.
- Curtain: indicates the end of an act or scene break
- Lights: indicates lights coming on or off stage.
- End of Play: indicates the play is over
- Motifs: repeated objects, symbols, or actions that hold significance or meaning in a story
- Theater of the Ridiculous
- Contributions of various playwrights: (see list above)
- Titles, characters, and plots of various plays we read (see list above)
- Aristotle & the 6 parts of a play from the Poetics: plot, character, idea, musical, language, spectacle.
- Greek Theater & the origins of theater; Thespis, the contributions of Sophocles and Aeschylus to Greek theater, etc.
- Dithyramb, anagnorisis, hamartia, peripety, verisimilitude, catharsis, comedy, tragedy, etc.
- The Orestia & the structure of a Greek play (episodes, parados, exodus, strophe, antistrophe, etc.)
- Alliteration & kenning
- The House of Atreus
- The Trojan War
- The English Renaissance playwrights
- Shakespeare & the Globe Theater
- Elizabethan Theater and plot structure of a 5-act play
- Polti & the 36 Dramatic Situations to build a plot
- Julie Taymor & the film Titus (1999)
- Plot forms: linear, Shakespearian or epic, circle, pattern, generic synthetic form, etc.
- How to cultivate ideas for playwriting; how to motivate yourself
- Symbolism, Naturalism, Ibsen & Strindberg's contributions to the theater
- Theater of the Absurd and Samuel Beckett's contribution to theater
HOMEWORK: Complete Waiting for Godot
. Our lab will be open Monday through Thursday in the morning if you would like help with Gannon or Sokol entries.
Your final exam will be given Tuesday, Jan. 28. Play projects are due Jan. 30. Extra credit is due Jan. 31.