Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Theater Vocabulary & Collaborative Play Workshops

This morning, let's take a look at some important theater vocabulary. It's important that we share these words as we attempt to craft our scriptwriting skills so that everyone knows what we're referring to. Please take notes on the terms you DON'T know.

After our sharing of our collaborative plays, we'll begin to examine "The Mountaintop" by Katori Hall. You can read more about Katori Hall at her website. If you haven't done so yet, please complete "The Mountaintop" and your play analysis for homework. 

Here are some highlights from the Broadway production starring Angela Basset and Samuel L. Jackson.

Please turn in and submit your collaborative play project draft by next class.

Also, read this article about the play: "Katori Hall Expresses Rage Over Revisionist Casting of the The Mountaintop" so we can discuss it Monday.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The Colored Museum Collaborative Play Project; Introduction to The Mountaintop

This morning, please take the first 40 minutes to gather in your collaborative writing groups to do the following:

1. Share your monologue, song, or scene draft with your group members. 2. Get feedback from your peers about what's working or what needs or could be fixed to strengthen your piece.

To strengthen your writing try looking for the following:
--Is it clear (without stage directions telling us) where the scene takes place? Consider how props, sound effects, or lighting effects can be used to hint at where a character is, but the major way to indicate this is by having the character refer to his/her environment or setting!

--Is it clear (without stage directions) what is going on in the scene?

--Do we get a sense of the character's personality through the word choice or diction of the character?

--Is there conflict? Is something at stake for the character? Does the character have a clear goal or motivation to speak?

--Avoid using vague language. Try to change nouns into specific nouns and verbs into action verbs.

--Consider what the actor's physicality is contributing to the scene or monologue.

--Is the point of the scene clear? Is the character vivid and interesting?
3. Edit and revise your writing. 4. Title your scene or monologue (see The Colored Museum as an example--each scene has its own name...); record your first and last name AFTER the title. 5. Then, together, decide on a working title for your collaborative script project. 6. Copy and paste your revised and workshopped work into one of the two documents below. Edit and rearrange your group's document text in the order you would want the play to be seen. We will share these scripts with the whole class next week! We will begin reading The Mountaintop together after our workshop. Your collaborative play project will be due next week--but make sure it's still in the right order and that you spend your time workshopping during class.

Drama means conflict. Without conflict, a play or story gets pretty boring. One thing that sets plays apart from other genres is this key difference. Again, drama means conflict! In the structure of the play, the conflict can come from any of the typical sources: person versus person, person versus self, person versus society, person versus nature...and sometimes person versus fate or god. In order to create and sustain conflict in our plays, we usually have two important character types: The protagonist and the antagonist. In plays or dramas, the protagonist often acts as the antagonist to the other character. The antagonist is, therefore, also a protagonist. This dramatic duo is necessary for plays to retain their dramatic conflict. Many plays are written with just two main characters. We're going to look at some of them and examine how the writers use this 2-actor play structure to write really excellent plays. Let's see it in practice! Plays are written to examine or debate an issue or problem in our societies, communities, nations, etc. They allow us to experience the human struggle of our characters in conflict. After our workshop, we will begin reading The Mountaintop by contemporary playwright Katori Hall.

Please finish reading this play (see the PDF copy of the play in the attachments on Google Classrooms) and complete the play analysis form for Thursday, October 1.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Contemporary Themes Padlet Activity & The Colored Museum

9/16 Agenda:

  • Feedback from last class (9/14).
  • Brainstorm some contemporary issues/themes and subjects you might wish to use for ideas about what to write this year. Please do the following:

    • On Padlet list some contemporary issues/themes that you can think of. [This is a tool for us to use as writers...this isn't about fooling around and joking...take the question seriously, please so that it is a helpful tool, rather than a waste of time.]
    • Consider stories/novels you've read that are contemporary, other plays, films, or TV programs you've seen (what were their themes/issues?) 
    • Ex. coming of age, betrayal, redemption, falling in love, being true to oneself, honesty, dealing with family problems, death or loss, brutality, etc.
    • You should also include photos (try to add at least 1) and video (again, try to add at least 1)
    • Make sure you place your name on your padlet entry so I can give you credit for participating!
  • Get started reading The Colored Museum in small groups. You should download the pdf file of the play script to your own computers. Go to Google Classroom, select the assignment "The Colored Museum", open the attached PDF script file, hit the 3 dots ... to select open file to "download", save to your computer. Open your file when reading in class.
Related image

HOMEWORK: #1 - Complete The Colored Museum by George C. Wolfe. As you read the monologues and scenes, pay close attention to how language and conflict within the monologues or scenes help to develop character and comment on important themes (such as identity, self-worth, race, freedom, etc.) Bring the play script with you to our next class (Friday) for a discussion of the play. 

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Welcome back!

 Welcome back, class of 2022! I hope you all had a restful and healthy summer!

Certainly, things have changed, as you are aware. But here we are together again. This year is partly devoted to writing scripts (both theatrical and for the screen). What you learn here can help you improve your fiction "dialogue" skills, allow you to examine the use of conflict in your plots, allow you to experiment with language and poetry, engage in philosophical debates, make you a more effective arguer, listener, and actor. This course will also make you a better psychologist (dealing with people in crisis)!

All the while we will be honing your writer's craft and developing your writer's voice. The other half of your year will focus on contemporary writers--which should give you some good themes and ideas for your play or film scripts. It's a small world, after all. Think of both of these classes as a way to blend your understanding of writing creatively to communicate more deeply with your audience.

Today, after touching base with one another, we will get started with a required writing activity. 

For now, in small breakout groups together discuss each question. Select a "note-taker" who will report back to the group when we return from our breakout groups. 
  • Talk to each other about what was successful and NOT successful about our forced distance learning last year. If you had strategies that worked, let your peers know what you did that helped you be successful during these strange times. If you had trouble or problems, what were some of those problems? How might we together, as a class, help you succeed?
  • After your discussion, consider how you want this class to be run. What might make the course more helpful or useful to you with your education goals? Together with your peers, create a "manifesto" of writing goals for the year. 
    • Ex. All voices and opinions should be heard without interruption during class.
    • Ex. We should all participate in class-readings and activities.
    • Ex. I will try to honor the writing time I am given.
    • (Things like that...)

Check this blog and your Google Classroom site each class period for agendas, deadlines, educational information, advice, and a whole lot of links to enhance your education. You are responsible for reading and interacting with the material I post on the blog and Google Classroom. It is a useful resource for the course--so please use it.

Generally, we will use a Google Classroom to submit written assignments. There are also digital resources for you to use during class. 

Make sure that when you are in class using a Chromebook that you do the following EACH DAY:
  • Log in to Zoom. You'll be in a "waiting room" until I'm ready to let you in.  
  • Open a TAB and go to our classroom BLOG:
  • Open a SECOND TAB and go to GOOGLE CLASSROOM:, etc.
  • Keep both TABS open during class or as instructed. 
  • It's also a good idea to open a THIRD TAB in Google to take class notes (or write class notes by hand if you prefer...); i.e., open a Google Doc file.
    • Quick note: by hitting the CTRL-TAB key you can open and move from tab to tab. 
  • We'll be using a variety of different programs throughout the year. Some of these require you to accept invitations or to log on to a different site.
  • When given time to write in class, please use this time to write. It's easy to get distracted or to convince yourself that you will write later, (but you know you won't). Honor our writing time by putting forth the effort needed to progress. 
  • After attendance, you can turn your camera off if you'd like (it's nerve-wracking looking at yourself all the time!) but you should be paying attention to what's going on in class. I'll try to make my instructional points clear and quick, but some of this is extremely complicated. Let's all promise to be present & focused during class. 
  • Your attendance to this class is mandatory. Please attend. There will also be safety measures in place for you if you need to catch up because you missed a session.
  • If you have technical problems or domestic issues, we can discuss these to find alternative strategies during the social-emotional period of our class (8:30-8:50 every day (except Wednesdays). Please ask for help if you need it! It is your responsibility to talk to me about your needs. 
  • This is your education. Make it worthwhile.
Let's begin playwriting with a baseline writing exercise.

Log on to Google Classroom (you can use the PAGE link in the header above). The assignment is available there. Open it and begin writing. I'll give you about 30 minutes today to start. Complete the scene by our next class. This assignment will be due by the end of the day Wednesday! [Wednesday is an asynchronous day...use it to get your work done!]
  • The task is simple. You have 30 minutes to write a complete scene (with a definite beginning, middle, and end) in script format as you remember it. Note that "scenes" are not full plays. You don't need to wrap up every detail and plot hole. But your scene should begin, sustain conflict a bit, and ultimately end.
  • Limit your cast of characters to no more than four (4). Two or three (2-3) characters works best. You must have more than one. Setting, plot, writing style, and theme is completely up to you. Remember to give your "scene" a working title. Have at it. 
  • Be creative. Focus on the task of writing. Let your words flow from you without a lot of editing or over thinking this exercise. Trust your instincts as an artist and writer! Let's get back into practice.
  • You will have about 30 minutes to write. I will call us all back together at the end of class today to answer any questions and check in with you. If you get stuck when writing, unstick. Are you ready? Get set? Go!
Please complete your baseline scene and submit it on Wednesday by the end of the day (11:59 p.m.). We will use it in our next class. 

Have a nice day--I'll see you all tomorrow from 8:30-8:50 for Social/Emotional time (or Thursday)--and welcome back!

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

District News: The Opening of the School Year

 The District has adjusted the start of our school year to include four Superintendent’s Conference Days from Tuesday, September 8 through Friday, September 11. Students will begin their classes online on Monday, September 14. 

See you then!

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