Posted in Reading, Teaching, Theatre, Writing

ENG 126: Drama Workshop, Session 2

Welcome to our second drama workshop session, and thank you for your thoughtful feedback on the first script, Twins of an Ill Fate. Before we turn to the next two scripts, The Slow Decline and the monologue from Bound, I offer these follow-up notes:

  • Brandy, Brennan, and Zane mentioned the difficulty of distinguishing Harry from Henry. That’s a point that I’ll return to later in my notes.
  • Mia and Brennan both envisioned the story as one better suited for another medium, and Brennan added that there were moments that would be difficult if not impossible to stage. Since the realm of Twins of an Ill Fate lies somewhere between fourth wall realism and extreme theatricality, it might be staged with scene changes–as Mia suggested–and the Angel-to-Grim Reaper transformation could take place in a black-out or otherwise out of view.
  • Trevor recommended condensing the stage directions, and Brennan noted that some of them could be omitted. Often the characters’ words alone suffice. As I mentioned in our first session, in Imaginative Writing, Janet Burroway notes that “good dialogue will convey most of its tone as an integral part of the lines, and when this is the case, there is no need to announce the tone of voice in a stage direction” (327).
  • Although Henry and Harry are easily confused on the page, seeing them on stage played by two actors, wearing clothes that aren’t identical, would enable the audience to distinguish Harry from Henry more easily. And in all likelihood they’d be played by actors who aren’t identical twins. That said, I’ll return to the what-if I asked in our first session and add another.
  • What if Henry and Harry were never on stage at the same time? What if everyone except the surviving twin–Sally, Margret, the Grim Reaper, and the audience–was left without an answer to the question, did one brother lie to save his own life?
  • Mia questioned the need for the twins to be identified as adopted, and Trevor mentioned Romulus and Remus, the adopted twins of Rome’s founding myth, and the opportunities that twin characters present, both as archetypes and subjects for exploration of nature and nurture. One reason for the revelation of the twins’ adoption–which Margret’s phone conversation provide–may be the existential crisis that crests with the realization that we are not who we thought we were, whether children of God or the children of the people we believed were our biological parents. I don’t know whether that’s what the writer intended, but the symbolic framework of the play leaves it open to that possibility.
  • One play I recommend to the writer is Deborah Zoe Laufer’s End Days, a dark comedy about a family preparing for Armageddon. The mother has visions of Jesus, and the daughter has visions of Stephen Hawking. One actor plays both Jesus and Hawking.

The points I have included below are not ones that you’re required to address in your comments about The Slow Decline and the monologue from Bound. I offer them as suggestions only. I will address some of them in the follow-up remarks that I’ll post at the beginning of our third session.

The Slow Decline

  • Mr. Castillo begins with his earliest memories and offers his story chronologically. Where else might he begin, and what might that alternate starting point contribute to his monologue?
  • What costume notes could place Mr. Castillo at odds with his words? Is there a stage lie? Is he wearing pajamas or or a pin-striped suit? How does that affect our reading of the line, “[t]he doctors say I don’t have much time left”?
  • The tape recorder’s breakdown thwarts Mr. Castillo’s plan. What other obstacles, internal or external, might complicate the delivery of his story?
  • What plays, if any–ones in Imaginative Writing or others that you’ve read–would you recommend to the writer as models or possible sources of inspiration?

Monologue from Bound

  • What is the risk of beginning, as this monologue does, with a solution rather than a problem?
  • Where might the writer use italics for emphasis? David Ives’ play The Philadelphia (see Imaginative Writing, 158-64) uses italics effectively in the conversation between the characters Al and Mark. Imagine the narrator emphasizing “finally” when he repeats it, then imagine him emphasizing “god.” How does the change in emphasis affect your perception of the narrator’s stance?
  • Consider the stage lie again. Is the narrator reliable? What actions or gestures might reveal his reliability or lack thereof?
  • What plays, if any–ones in Imaginative Writing or others that you’ve read–would you recommend to the writer as models or possible sources of inspiration?
  • Post your two responses, twenty-five words or more each, as replies. If you address a point that one of your classmates has written in a previous reply, mention that classmate by name in your own reply. Post by 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 9.

Remember to check your CVCC email and Blackboard regularly for updates and assignments.

10 thoughts on “ENG 126: Drama Workshop, Session 2

  1. I enjoyed reading The Slow Decline and very much liked the story told through the play. I thought it was interesting take on the crime genre. Within the crime genre the descendant and or inheritor of a once prolific crime family is usually able to revitalize or stabilize a struggling criminal organization, but in this case The Slow Decline allowed the audience to experience just that from an entertaining play. I thought an interesting alternative starting point could have been the jail break and give context to the characters relations to the world around them through context provided during some brief moments of action and suspense but that is of course just a possibility. I thought a rival gang attack or police raid could have heightened the feeling of finality at the end and added an obstacle to the delivery of the story providing ominous background noises at key points prompting flashbacks or something along those lines. Great piece a lot of potential for expansion into the combination of the crime genre and the theme of decline often found in westerns to portray the decline of family run crime syndicates in the US.

    Thank you for your time and consideration,
    Trevor White

  2. Monologue from Bound is an interesting play and a joy to read. To begin with a solution rather than a problem poses numerous problems within itself if not handled properly but I believe the story can and will certainly do so via an expansion of the narrative the audience has been shown a glimpse of and the lore of the world the narrative occurs within. Tension can be derived from the process of the audience attempting to figure out a presented problems solution but can also be extrapolated from the process of the realization of the solution since the circumstances of said solution are not spelled out to the audience. It is admirable to begin at the end and focus upon the mechanics of the journey for substance. I also enjoyed the stories explorations of man kinds relationship with the Gods. Gods are often depicted in mythology to take advantage of as a means of solving issues in a manner they are unable to even if this harms the humans in question. It would especially be interesting to see if perhaps the Demons of the world were actually fallen Gods that had decided that humans had the right to exist as more than tools for the Gods. Just a thought I wanted to share to maybe help you continue developing this fascinating mythos.

    Thank you for your time and consideration,
    Trevor White

  3. I like The Slow Decline and how it deals with the idea of legacy. I think it would be better if the piece opened with a taste of the ending, maybe something about how he’s lost everything and sits alone with these old portraits. The current opening dialogue feels jarring to me.

    There are somethings that I would prefer if they got fleshed out. What happened at Meryl Street? How exactly is a jailbreak a “profitable venture?” The author might have left these intentionally vague, but I would prefer if they were more fleshed out. Lastly, I think the biggest offender is that Mr. Castillo’s relationship to his father is never established or explored separate from the grandfather. Taking a paragraph or two to look at that, I think, would benefit the piece as a whole.

  4. Monologue from Bound is definitely interesting and there are parts of it I really like. I like the conclusion to just kill the gods and how that leaves the reader wondering how’s that possible is fantastic. I totally agree with Trevor that the gods and lore in this monologue is all very interesting.

    The reason this piece doesn’t really work for me is that it feels like the speech the main characters receive about halfway through a fantasy novel that helps them better understand their quest. It does that well, but it doesn’t stand on it’s own particularly well in my opinion.

    I think it could be expanded to work better as a drama. A number of questions come up in the piece that aren’t answered. If Cinmaya is such a famous author how come no one else read this book and reached the same conclusions? If it’s a rare book, how did the narrator get a copy? Or maybe someone else has already read the book and tried to kill the gods only to fail. Who is the narrator? Is he a king who feels threatened by the gods?

  5. The Slow Decline is an interesting take on a common struggle between a character and their families expectation. Typically in scenarios like these the character manages to convince their family to let them go or they manage to escape. We learn a lot about the character through his decision accept his fate and where that leads both him and the business.

    I think that the story is a little too vague when describing specific events that lead to the decline of the business. I believe it needs to be vague. both because they aren’t the focus of the story and because it further shows the main character’s inability to run the business. I think that there should be a detail or two about these events to help the reader understand what is going wrong. Too many details however would take away from the main character because he is shown to be incompetent and therefore shouldn’t know everything that truly went wrong.

    I also agree with Brennan’s comment on the character’s relationship with his father. It never is fleshed out but developing the father’s character can help show why the main character feels so disconnected from the family.

  6. Monologue from bound presents an interesting dilemma within an interesting world. I agree with Brennan in the fact that the main issue with the piece is a lack of information. Who are the gods? How can they be killed? What is the relationship with the gods? There are just too many variables thrown in and almost none of them can be solved.

    Another issue is the narrator. It is unclear what his mental state is meant to be. At the beginning the narrator laughs in a way that makes the reader question his sanity but then throughout the middle he appears to have a clear mind. There needs to either be clues that cement his mental state or, if he is constantly switching, there needs to be radical changes in his demeanor.

  7. Monologue from Bound was very interesting in that it was able to flesh out a character in a way that the short story relating to the same plotline did not. The language of the monologue presented someone who was manic and was completely absorbed in their research. The final climax where they claimed they had to kill the gods solidifies this as up until this point, these gods were described to be all-powerful beings. Killing them seems to be impossible, which draws the reader in. I’m wondering if this would work better as a play; I’m interested to see who this person is talking to, why they are important enough to be given this information, and what their response is.

    One issue I have with this story that it does not give enough away. This obviously is supposed to be part of a bigger story with more things to flesh out, which makes sense because we know there is more to the story based on past assignments. However, if the reader did not know this, they would want to know why this was important. Why should we care about the plotline?

  8. The Slow Decline set up a very intriguing story with a mafia/crime boss/true crime kinda feel to it. The story itself leaves us wanting more, but it does not give us a lot to work with. The monologue feels like it’s setting up the beginning of a story, but the ending falls flat (although I loved the splash of bitter comedy when the recording stopped working). The “slow decline” doesn’t actually feel that slow. Gun laws are loosened and that is what leads to the downfall of the Castillo Organization. Why was it that other organizations were able to get around this while this one was not? What made the main character unsuitable for the job while his father and grandfather ran things so seamlessly? The main character also claims he briefly thought about running away so he did not have to run the organization, but this is never brought up again. In fact, throughout the story, he expresses the opposite in that he wanted to make his family proud and carry on the organization. What caused this shift in perspective? Was it guilt, fear, or something else entirely?

  9. The Slow Decline
    I also enjoyed reading The Slow Decline, as crime is one of my favorite genres. I would like to say that more description could have been added to how Mr. Castillo portrayed himself in the piece. With the whole time seeming that what Mr. Castillo was saying was something important to him and with the context of knowing that he most likely felt conflicted about what he couldn’t achieve. Other than when it is shown that he sighs and at the end when he lets out his frustration because of the tape recorder, nothing else about Mr. Castillo’s frustration of what he couldn’t accomplish is shown. Though that may help to explain about him as a character to the reader and add to his personality.

    I do agree with Brennan about Mr. Castillo’s relationship with his father and how it should have been further touched upon. As the relationship with the grandfather was more touched upon then the father, but it can also be seen that the father, like the grandfather, had a deep relation with Mr. Castillo with creating a legacy.

  10. Monologue from Bound
    Overall, Monologue from Bound was an interesting piece. The narrator is a character that I take interest in due to the character’s mindset. What brought the character to his insanity? Was it what he discovered? If so, with the knowledge of how the piece ends, will he be able to defeat the gods? If he can’t, what becomes of him? Will he become a god himself? That’s a possibility if the writer takes such a route. As the Monologue from Bound feels more like an informative part of a bigger piece.

    I agree with Brennan and Zane that there is a lack of information, but at the same time, the lack of information might be what makes the piece so engrossing. As the desire to know more about the information plays in keeping the readers’ attention. It also allows the questioning of how, not only the character, but how the world is too, as a whole.

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