Wednesday, October 14, 2020

The Second Character

The second character (an innovation created by Greek playwright Aeschylus) increases the dramatic possibilities of a story. Sometimes this second character compliments or highlights characteristics of the first character (a foil), othertimes, the second character creates a problem or conflict for the other character(s) in a play. In any case, most plays include at least two characters. [A play that only has one character is called a monodrama.]

Read the play Topdog-Underdog by contemporary playwright Suzan-Lori Parks. As you read, examine the relationships between the 2 characters and explain how CONFLICT between the 2 characters presents itself within the script. Answer all parts of the following in your response: 1. Person v. Person: Note that major characters in plays often are protagonists, but may also be the antagonists to the other character(s). Explain how this works in this play. How is Booth and Lincoln both protagonist and antagonist? 2. Person v. Self: Choose either Booth or Lincoln. Explain how this character struggles with a personal choice or action (present or past). Identify where this inner struggle occurs in the script and how the character resolves (or tries to resolve) this conflict. 3. Person v. Nature or Society: Choose either Booth or Lincoln and explain how this character struggles against nature or society. Nature can be human nature, as well as natural phenomenon. Society can be rules, laws, or the larger community in which the characters live. 4. How does the resolution of conflict relate to the play's theme? What are we to learn about ourselves, other people, society, or human nature from reading this play?
Then, let's look at two more plays that use only 2 characters. The Loveliest Afternoon of the Year by John Guare is a short one-act absurd comedy. Oleanna by David Mamet is a suspenseful drama about sexual harassment and power. In both plays, there are only 2 characters. Since humans have been telling stories, a thing and its opposite--a dichotomy--has been used to create conflict between opposing forces. In writing plays, one character often acts as a protagonist, while another character supports the role of antagonist. The best drama occurs when these two forces are equal strength--since the outcome of such differences or battles of ideology is always uncertain. Even when the antagonist or opposing force is not on stage, this battle is a necessary element in good playwriting. 2-character plays allow for a more intense development of character (you're not wasting your writing energy on characters that are incidental or unnecessary), they're often cheaper to produce (only 2 actors are generally needed), and they allow for a more intimate experience for the audience (a small cast does not need a lot of space to move around in...removing the need for a complicated or costly set, costumes, or other technical aspects.) They often allow us to focus on the drama of a situation. As you read each play, complete 2 (TWO!) comparison/contrast sheets. You will complete 1 comparison/contrast graphic organizer for The Loveliest Afternoon of the Year, and you will also complete 1 comparison/contrast graphic organizer for Oleanna. Compare/contrast He & She from The Loveliest Afternoon of the Year and compare/contrast John & Carol from Oleanna. When comparing these two characters look for similarities (how the characters are foils to each other) and how they are different (how the characters differ or act as antagonist to the other character). You will need to either print the attached compare/contrast form and fill it out, or simply answer the compare/contrast information in a Google Doc that you can submit for your assignment. If printing, you can take a screenshot or picture of your notes after you write them and send that, or scan and attach the graphic organizer with your answer. You may also create a form or slide presentation if you prefer.

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