Drama Follow-Up

Thank you for all of your thoughtful and detailed feedback on the untitled monologue and The Story of Shabath. Before we turn from drama to poetry, I offer these follow-up notes:

Untitled Monologue

  • Mia noted the problematic detail of Deen’s parole. I didn’t mention that issue in my introductory remarks because it’s one with an easy fix. The officer needs a motive for his encounter with Deen, but that motive needn’t be a parole violation. A confrontation prompted by an unrelated minor offense—such as a speeding ticket or a shoplifting arrest—would add to the monologue’s irony. That said, who other than an officer might prompt Deen’s rant?
  • Brendan, Zane, and Brandy recommended delaying Deen’s revelations about her role in her family’s tragedies. I addressed the subject of sequence in my previous post for the same reasons that Brendan, Zane, and Brandy mentioned. If the audience is introduced to Deen as an unlikable young woman but one who is nevertheless a devoted friend to Carol, the revelation that Deen is responsible for her parents’ death and her brother’s paralysis will transform her from mildly annoying to morally reprehensible. The structure of that transformation might be similar to that of Donald Barthelme’s “The School,” as Brendan suggested.
  • Trevor recommended “Six Feet Under” and “An Inconvenient Inheritance” as possible titles. Is there a line of Deen’s—such as “So here’s the thing”—that might serve as the title?

The Story of Shabath

  • Trevor suggested that the monorail could appear as a projected image in the background, and that sound effects and props could differentiate Shabath Aizwald’s memories. Those recommendations remind us that playwrights’ scripts—unlike creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry—are starting points for collaboration (among the director, the actor/s, and the technical crew); it’s important to imagine how the story might move from page to stage. Trevor’s mention of props and sound effects leads me to Mia‘s observation about the number of acts and scenes
  • If stage hands costumed as citizens of Laghaz entered and exited with the props that signal shifts from one memory to the next, those visual cues could enable the monologue to unfold as one seamless scene.
  • Brennan, Zane, Mia, and Brandy observed that the audience learns more about the kingdom of Laghaz than they do about Shabath himself. What motivated him to found Faya? What in particular was painful about his regenerative process? What were the physical and emotional costs, and how might Shabath convey those through his words and actions?
  • Mia noted Shabath’s potential drug problem. Whether the elixir he injects is medicinal or detrimental to his health, its effects could develop his character and serve as a source of tension.
  • Brennan‘s words “the rain . . . mixed with a man pondering his life on a high-speed monorail” brings to mind  Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, a novel that the writer might find instructive to read, or reread, with an eye toward the rendering of the speech of the bounty hunter Rick Deckard.

To the writers of both scripts, I recommend Jane Wagner‘s play The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. It’s a one-woman show featuring a series of monologues linked by the narrator, Trudy, a deranged bag lady who befriends alien visitors who are studying Earth as “a planet still in its puberty” (136). I recommend it to the writer of the untitled monologue for the characters’ diction and speech patterns. To the writer of The Story of Shabbath, I recommend examining how Wagner’s monologues develop the individual characters while also addressing social problems.

Work Cited

Wagner, Jane. The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. 1985. Harper & Row, 1986.


Introduction to Poetry

As we turn from drama to poetry, consider again Janet Burroway’s, Carolyn Kizer’s, and Theodore Roethke’s observations about the similarities between the two genres:

Her [Carolyn Kizer’s] mentor Theodore Roethke . . . advised thinking of a poem ‘as a three-act play, where you move from one impulse to the next, and then there is the final breath, which is the summation of the whole.’ Kizer points out that Roethke’s poem ‘I knew a Woman’ (p. 127) contains the line ‘She taught me turn, and Counter-turn, and Stand,’ which is ‘the essence of the dramatic structure. It’s what a long poem has to do. It doesn’t require physical action, but there has to be some mental or emotional movement that carries through the poem.’ (313-14)

If a poem mimics dramatic structure and involves movement, it will need, like a story or drama, to achieve conclusion. In Roethke’s description, this achievement is the ‘final breath,’ or, in his line above the ‘and Stand’ of the poem. (314)

In Chapter 10 of Imaginative Writing, Janet Burroway includes three self-reflexive poems about language and writing (319-21). If you haven’t chosen a subject for your workshop poem/s, consider writing a poem that focuses on language or one of your own pieces of writing, another poem or a work of prose.

You might also try writing an ekphrastic poem: one about or inspired by another work of art. “Overblown,” the sample poem that I posted for you on Blackboard, is an ekphrastic poem that I wrote based on Momoyo Torimitsu’s Somehow I Don’t Feel Comfortable (the giant inflated pink rabbit in the photo) for an Art of Poetry Catawba Valley event at the Hickory Museum of Art.

For additional models and sources of inspiration, I encourage you to reread these poems in Imaginative Writing:

  • “I Knew a Woman” by Theodore Roethke (127)
  • “Nude Interrogation” by Yusef Komunyakaa (156)
  • “A Story about the Body” by Robert Hass (187)
  • “Columbine High School/Littleton, CO” by Albert Goldbarth (188)
  • “Woodchucks” by Maxine Kumin (188-89)
  • “The Hammock” by Li-Young Lee (189-90)
  • “The One Girl at the Boys Party” by Sharon Olds (312-13)

Also consider reading Louise Glück‘s “Gretel in the Darkness” as well as her poems posted on the Poetry Foundation website.

Since you are working on your poetry workshop assignment this week, you are not required to post a comment in response to this post, but I strongly encourage you to post one of the following as a brief response:

  • Any other poems in Imaginative Writing that you recommend to your classmates as models or sources of inspiration
  • A link to a poem that you admire and would encourage your classmates to read
  • Any of Janet Burroway‘s “Try This” exercise that have been helpful to you as you’ve drafted your poem/s

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

Work Cited

Burroway, Janet. Imaginative Writing. 4th ed. Pearson, 2014.

The title of this post, “Curiouser and Curiouser!,” is the first line of Chapter 2 of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Though the phrase is grammatically incorrect—as Alice acknowledges later in the sentence (the standard comparative is “more curious”)—it’s a fitting response for someone who finds herself, as Alice does, “opening out like the largest telescope that ever was” (Carroll ch. 2). “Curioser and curiouser!”: apt words for Alice, as well as for us as we slog our way through these nonstandard days in Coronaland.

Before the curiousness of Chapter 2 begins, in Chapter 1, Alice asks, “What is the use of a book . . . without pictures or conversation?” With those words of Alice’s in mind, consider the illustrations in the first edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, ones drawn by Carroll’s collaborator, John Tenniel. (Since they aren’t included in the Project Gutenberg edition that you’re reading, I have included a link to them above).

Alice Liddell photographed by Dodgson (Carroll) / W.W. Norton

If you had received your copies of Volume E of the Norton Anthology, you would see in its pages the picture of Alice Liddell here. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Caroll)—who photographed Liddell and was a friend of hers—was an early advocate of photography, which was a new art form in the Victorian era. Liddell was the inspiration for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass, but she wasn’t the model for Tenniel’s illustrations.

Costumed in rags for this picture, Alice Liddell was far from a beggar child; she was the daughter of Dean Liddell, principal of Christ Church College of Oxford University, where Dodgson (Carroll) taught mathematics.

Dodgson’s profession as a mathematician leads me to the first of four options that I have developed for your assignment on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Be sure to read the directions (below the options) before you begin, and note the extra-credit opportunity that follows the directions.

OPTION ONE: Although the Alice books are his legacy, Dodgson was a mathematician by profession. Address one or more passages in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland that are demonstrably the product of a mathematical mind.

OPTION TWO: In The Norton Anthology’s introduction to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderlandthe editor notes that both Alice books “provide a wealth of information about the forms and contents of a well-to-do little girl’s education at the mid-point of the Victorian era” (724). Address one or more passages that reveal details of the “forms and contents” of Alice’s schooling.

OPTION THREE: In 1989, two American high school students who were researching Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland made a new discovery about Chapter 3, one that led to the publication of their findings in Jabberwocky, (now named The Carrollinian), the British journal of the Lewis Carroll society. Read the New York Times article about the students’ discovery, and address both the discovery and the “Long Tale” of Chapter 3.

OPTION FOUR: Read “9 Ways Artists Have Imagined Alice in Wonderland,” and address one of the nine artists’ illustrations. Include the artist’s name and cite at least one short passage that the illustration captures effectively.

DIRECTIONS: Compose a comment of at least fifty words. Include a minimum of one quotation from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland introduced with a signal phrase and followed by a parenthetical citation. If you name Carroll in the signal phrase, include only the abbreviation for the chapter followed by the chapter number. For example: (ch. 1). If you do not name Carroll in the signal phrase, include the author’s last name, the abbreviation for the chapter, and the chapter number. For example: (Carroll ch. 1). Note that the c is lower case. For more information on citations, see OWL. Post your comment no later than 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 23.

EXTRA CREDIT: Emily Brown was the first student to identify the ghost of Hamlet’s father as the literary ghost that the narrator mentions in the first stave of A Christmas Carol. That earned Emily an extra-credit assignment in the participation and preparedness category. Shakespeare himself is mentioned in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The first student who posts a comment identifying the sentence that mentions him will receive an extra-credit assignment.

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

Work Cited

Carroll, Lewis. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. 1865. Project Gutenberg, http://www.gutenberg.org/files/11/11-h/11-h.htm. Accessed 20 Apr. 2020.

Your third and final essay for English 111 will be a reflection on your work over the course of the semester. Think about what you’ve accomplished, and ask yourself what element or elements of our class have contributed the most to your development as a writer, a reader, and a thinker. You are welcome to focus on one component of the course—such as studying Tara Westover’s memoir, Educated, or planning, drafting, and revising one of your previous essays—or you may reflect on a variety of features, including the ones I just mentioned as well writing for an online audience, studying model essays in The Norton Field Guide to Writing, writing in your journal, drafting longhand, writing snail mail, or playing Scrabble.

In your essay, you will cite at least one text that’s relevant to your reflection. For example: If your reflection addresses how the study of Educated benefited you as a writer, you might quote a short passage of Westover’s memoir that you found particularly instructive. If you reflect on developing your word power and creative problem solving skills through Scrabble, you might quote The New York Times article “New Scrabble Words Get the ‘OK’ (Now Worth 6 Points).”

As an opportunity for you to think about the aspects of the course that you may address in your reflection and for additional practice in introducing quotations with signal phrases, I developed the following exercises for this week:

Option One:

  1. Read the article “Blogs vs. Term Papers” by Matt Richtel.
  2. Compose a short passage of twenty-five words or more that addresses your experience maintaining a blog this semester and includes a relevant quotation from the article.
  3. If you name Richtel in the signal phrase, do not include a parenthetical citation. If you do not name him in the signal phrase, include a parenthetical citation with his name alone: (Richtel).

Sample: Here’s what I would write if I were reflecting as an instructor on your blog requirement.

In “Blogs vs. Term Papers,” Matt Richtel reports that Andrea Lundsford’s students who maintain blogs for their composition classes at Stanford, “feel as if they’re actually producing something personally rewarding and valuable, whereas when they write a term paper, they feel as if they do so only to produce a grade.” That value some students find in writing for a broader online audience is one of the reasons that I require my students to maintain blogs. It gives their writing a life beyond the classroom.

Option Two:

  1. Read the article “Skim Reading is the New Normal” by Maryanne Wolf.
  2. Compose a short passage of twenty-five words or more that addresses your experience reading away from the screen this semester (primarily before remote instruction began) and includes a relevant quotation from the article.
  3. If you name Wolf in the signal phrase, do not include a parenthetical citation. If you do not name her in the signal phrase, include a parenthetical citation with her name alone: (Wolf).

Sample: Here’s what I would write if I were reflecting as an instructor on our time spent reading away from the screen.

Psychologists’ studies that indicate “students who read on print [are] superior in their comprehension to screen-reading peers” (Wolf) have led me to devote more class time to reading on the page rather than the screen.

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

Works Cited

Richtel, Matt. “Blogs vs. Term Papers.” The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/22/education/edlife/muscling-in-on-the-term-paper-tradition.html, 20 Jan. 2012, Accessed 20 Apr. 2020.

Wolf, Maryann. “Skim Reading is the New Normal.” The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/aug/25/skim-reading-new-normal-maryanne-wolf, 25 Aug. 2018, Accessed 20 Apr. 2020.

 

 

 

 

ENG 242: Well Played Again!

Posted: April 17, 2020 in Teaching
Tags: ,

Congratulations to the winner of our Virtual Victorian Parlor Games! Jacob Palmer selected option three (the first seven letters of a character’s name) and chose H-A-S-T-I-E-L for Dr. Hastie Lanyon in the The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Entering H-A-S-T-I-E-L in the Scrabble Word Builder yields two-hundred and twelve playable words!

ENG 242: Well Played!

Posted: April 10, 2020 in Teaching
Tags: ,

Congratulations to the first ten participants in our Virtual Victorian Parlor Games!

  • Grey Sacona
  • Madison St. Clair
  • Lauren Setzer
  • Bryan Alba
  • Ashton Canipe
  • Courtney Gant
  • Landon Childres
  • Ruben Castillo
  • Crowson Roosa
  • Joe Van Story

Well played!

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

Our Wordplay days in class gave us opportunities to build our word power, collaborate, and engage in creative problem solving. Now they offer us a way to forget our sense of isolation. I hope that games, whether table-top or digital, continue to lift your spirits.

With that hope in mind, I designed this assignment devoted to word games.

Directions:

Choose one of the options below, and post your response as a comment by 5 p.m. on Friday, April 17.

Option One:

  1. Imagine that the first seven letters of your name (all first, or first plus part of last) are seven tiles on a Scrabble rack.
  2. Go to the Scrabble Dictionary, click the Scrabble Word Builder tab (to the right of Scrabble Dictionary), enter your seven letters, and click “Go.”
  3. Post a blog comment of twenty-five words or more that includes (1) the seven letters that you entered, (2) the number of playable words that you can spell with those letters, (3) at least one of the words in the list that was unfamiliar to you, and (4) the definition of the word.

Sample: Entering the first seven letters of my name, J-A-N-E-L-U-C, into the Scrabble Word Builder yields fifty-one playable words. Two that I wasn’t familiar with are fish: “alec,” a herring, and “luce,” a pike.

Option Two:

  1. Reread the The New York Times article “New Scrabble Words Get the ‘OK’” that you read and summarized for February 7.
  2. Post a blog comment of twenty-five words or more that includes (1) one of the newly playable words, (2) its definition, and 3) whether the word was familiar to you.

Sample: The New York Times article “New Scrabble Words Get the ‘OK’” includes the newly playable word [insert word here], which was unfamiliar to me. [Insert word here] means [insert definition here].

Do not use the word “OK.” In other words, “OK” is not okay. It’s in the title of the article, and you already know its definition.

Let the play begin!

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

Wordplay days gave us opportunities to build our word power, collaborate, and engage in creative problem solving. Now they’re pastimes that can help us forget our isolation. I hope that games, whether table-top or digital, continue to lift your spirits.

With that hope in mind, I designed this assignment inspired by Fred’s Victorian parlor games In A Christmas Carol (stave 3) and our Wordplay Days. Below the directions, I’ve included a list of Victorian authors for your reference.

Directions:

Choose one of the options below, and post your response as a comment by 5 p.m. on Friday, April 17. The first ten students who post comments and the student whose letters yield the largest number of playable words will receive bonus points.

Option One:

  1. Imagine that seven letters of a Victorian author’s last name (all last, or last plus first letter/s of the first) are the seven tiles on your Scrabble rack. See my sample below.
  2. Go to the Scrabble Dictionary, click the Scrabble Word Builder tab (to the right of Scrabble Dictionary), enter the seven letters, and click “Go.”
  3. Post a blog comment of twenty-five words or more that includes (1) the seven letters that you entered, (2) the number of playable words that you can spell with those letters, (3) at least one of the words in the list that was unfamiliar to you, and (4) the definition of the word.

Sample: Entering the seven letters A-R-N-O-L-D-M (for Matthew Arnold) in the Scrabble Word Builder yields 103 playable words. Two that I wasn’t familiar with are “dolma,” a stuffed grape leaf, and “lardon,” a thin slice of bacon or pork.

Option Two:

  1. Imagine that the first seven letters in the title of one of our Victorian readings (A Christmas Carol, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, or the “The Adventure of the Speckled Band“) are the seven tiles on your Scrabble rack.
  2. Follow steps two and three listed in option one.

Option Three:

  1. Imagine that the first seven letters in the name of a character in A Christmas Carol, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, or the “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” are the seven tiles on your Scrabble rack.
  2. Follow steps two and three listed in option one.

Let the play begin!

Victorian Authors

  • Barrett Browning, Elizabeth
  • Besant, Annie
  • Besant, Walter
  • Bradley, Katharine
  • Brontë, Emily
  • Browning, Robert
  • Caird, Mona
  • Carlyle, Thomas
  • Carroll, Lewis
  • Chamberlain, Joseph
  • Chew, Ana Nield
  • Cobbe, Frances Power
  • Coleridge, Mary Elizabeth
  • Cooper, Edith
  • Darwin, Charles
  • Dickens, Charles
  • Dowson, Earnest
  • Doyle, Sir Arthur
  • Eliot, George
  • Ellis, Sarah Stickney
  • Engels, Friederich
  • Field, Michael
  • Froude, James Anthony
  • Gaskell, Elizabeth
  • Gosse, Sir Edmund
  • Hardy, Thomas
  • Henley, William Ernest
  • Hobson, J.A.
  • Hopkins, Gerard Manley
  • Hughes, Thomas
  • Huxley, Leonard
  • Huxley, Thomas Henry
  • Kingsley, Charles
  • Kipling, Rudyard
  • Macaulay, Thomas Babington
  • Martineau, Harriet
  • Maurice, Frederick Denison
  • Mayhew, Henry
  • Mill, John Stuart
  • Morris, William
  • Mukharji, T.N.
  • Mulock, Dinah Maria
  • Newman, John Henry Cardinal
  • Nightingale, Florence
  • Pater, Walter
  • Patmore, Coventry
  • Rossetti, Christina
  • Rossetti, Dante Gabriel
  • Ruskin, John
  • Russell, William Howard
  • Shaw, George Bernard
  • Stevenson, Robert Lewis
  • Swinburne, Algernon Charles
  • Tennyson, Alfred Lord
  • Thomas, John Jacob
  • Thompson, Flora
  • Wilde, Oscar

I omitted Matthew Arnold from the list since I used his name in the sample.

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

Welcome to our third drama workshop session, and thank you for your thoughtful feedback on The Slow Decline and the monologue from Bound. Before we turn to the untitled monologue and The Story of Shabath, I offer these follow-up notes:

The Slow Decline 

  • Trevor mentioned the jail break in the sixth paragraph as a possible alternate starting point. How might Mr. Castillo’s story unfold between the narration of the jail break, which was “a rather profitable venture” and the change in gun restrictions when the Castillo organization’s “profits plummeted”? In other words, how might a riches-to-rags sequence framed by those events affect the play’s momentum?
  • Brendan, Zane, Brandy, and Mia all noted the lack of development of Mr. Castillo’s relationship with his father. The detail that he is “quiet” and the writer’s choice of having Mr. Castillo address his grandfather, but not his father, in the conclusion may serve to indicate a gulf between father and son. Was it a relationship that was too difficult for the son to put into words? If so, what in his speech or actions might convey that difficulty?
  • The question of details–what to leave in and what to leave out–leads me to a question that Mia raised: “What made the main character unsuitable for the job while his father and grandfather ran things so seamlessly?” The answer may lie in something else that Mia mentioned, the moment when Mr. Castillo reveals that as a young man he contemplated running away from the family business. That’s the moment I had in mind when I posed this question: What other obstacles, internal or external, might complicate the delivery of his story?

Monologue from Bound 

  • Trevor remarked that it was admirable that the writer chose to begin at the end of the narrator’s story and focus on the mechanics of the journey.
  • Brennan, Mia, Zane, and Brandy noted the number of unanswered questions in the monologue. Zane also noted the apparent inconsistency in the narrator’s mental state. How might the writer convey through the narrator’s speech and actions that his consistent inconsistencies make him dangerous to the gods, or to himself, or to both?
  • Brandy and Brennan both noted that the monologue felt like part of a larger piece–such as a character’s speech “halfway through a fantasy novel,” as Brennan mentioned. With that in mind, reading and comparing H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds and the radio play adapted from the novel might be a useful exercise for the writer.

Rather than making additional reading recommendations tailored for the writers of The Slow Decline and the monologue from Bound, I am offering one that’s relevant to all of us now: the recent New York Times article “Has Your Dystopian Play Come in Handy?,” which features snippets of conversations with playwrights who have authored plays about cataclysmic events and are now living through one themselves (as we all are).

Marisol, the first play addressed in the article, was written by José Rivera, author of Gas, the Persian Gulf War-era play that we read in Chapter 11 of Imaginative Writing. The eight other playwrights and plays featured in the article are these:

  • Anne Washburn, Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play (2013)
  • Jennifer Haley, Nether (2015)
  • Mac Rogers, The Honeycomb Trilogy (2015)
  • Penelope Skinner, The Ruins of Civilization (2016)
  • Zoe Kazan, After the Blast (2017)
  • Robert O’Hara, Mankind (2018)
  • Andrew R. Butler, Rags Parkland Sings the Songs of the Future (2018)
  • Duncan Macmillan, Lungs (2020)

The points I have included below are not ones that you’re required to address in your comments about the untitled monologue and The Story of Shabath. 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 next session.

Untitled Monologue

  • In the second paragraph of the monologue, Deen reveals the inciting incident, the event that creates the situation in which she finds herself: “and then they died.” In the fifth paragraph, she first mentions her current obstacle: the officer to whom she is pleading her case. Consider how altering the order of the details that Deen presents would affect the monologue’s tension and the audience’s perceptions of Deen.
  • In Imaginative Writing, Janet Burroway notes the importance of varying shorter lines with longer ones. In her words, “[a] change of pace, from a sharp series of shorter lines to a longer speech and back again, keeps the rhythm interesting” (338). The writer varies lines within paragraphs and also between paragraphs one and three, and again between paragraphs six and seven. What other paragraphs might be presented as shorter–perhaps even one-line–paragraphs?
  • What suggestions, if any, do you have for a title?
  • 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?

The Story of Shabath

  • Consider the sequence of Shabath Aizwald’s recollections. How would moving what he recounts in 1:2 or 2:1 to 1:1 affect the tension?
  • What stage directions would clarify how the monorail figures in 1:1? Is it an actual set piece, an image projected on a scrim (a gauze cloth used as a screen or backdrop on stage), or does it figure solely as a diagetic sound?
  • In Imaginative Writing, Janet Burroway observes that the inability and unwillingness at times to say what we mean “breaks the flow of the talk. This is especially true when emotions are heating up. People break off, interrupt themselves and each other. Use sentence fragments. Don’t always finish their . . . (338). Where might the writer break the flow of Shabath’s words to indicate an inner conflict? What memories might be difficult for him to recount?
  • 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 midnight on Friday, April 17.

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

Early-bird bonus points go to Madison St. Clair, Joshua West, Grey Sacona, Peyton Moore, Breanna Bowman, Joe Van Story, Ruben Castillo, Anna Young, Emily Brown, and Roberto Perez-Perez. Well done!

And Emily Brown earns extra credit for submitting the first correct response to the bonus questions! Very well done!

Everyone needs a little Shakespeare.

Apparently Dickens thought so.

And here’s an image of winter again to put you in more of A Christmas Carol reading mood.

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

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.

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