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UWEC / Theatre / THEA 125 / What is well-made play?

What is well-made play?

What is well-made play?


School: University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire
Department: Theatre
Course: Intro Theatre-History
Professor: Jennifer chapman
Term: Fall 2018
Tags: intrototheatre, thea125, and Studyguide
Cost: 50
Name: Intro to Theatre History Final Exam Study Guide
Description: study guide material, all plays sypnosis/ lecture analysis
Uploaded: 12/15/2018
28 Pages 21 Views 8 Unlocks

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What is well-made play?

the modern era and realism

realism: stage is like life, rather than a platform (theatre of experimentation)

- darwin origin of species

- scientific method is a way of human problem solving

- realism was conceived as a laboratory: objectify society to study it scientifically (adhere to scientific method)

- well-made play: plot contains secrets known to the audience, but withheld from certain characters, the secret is revealed and this is the climax, the antagonist is revealed (a doll's house, nora and the envelope)

- exposition: back story, the past affects the future

- protagonist has a series of failures and successes with the antagonist




linear, events are linked

non-linear, incomplete


intact, specific

fragmented, generic


logical, appropriate

illogical, random

verbal expression

beautiful, whole

words are insufficient

visual adornment



song/ music

instrumentation, chorus

sound and silence

What is exposition?

Don't forget about the age old question of kypnosis

techniques: give the audience evidence, allow them to arrive at their own conclusions

naturalism vs realism: naturalism is an extreme form of realism, all characters are a product of their environment

- decisions are made based on what nature has caused

- "slice of life"

modern era 1875

- revolutions in us and france in the 18th century

- political revolutions paralleled with philosophical, scientific, and religious revolutions

early american realism

- includes naturalism movement

- 19th, 20th centuries, US experienced industrial, economic, social, and cultural change, brought arts to the US

- america had not yet developed its own identity, heavily influenced by europe

What is symbolism?

- (ex: a doll's house)

- desire to imitate european models leads to a desire to make completely american arts into view

- modern era has brought about it the search for american drama We also discuss several other topics like acct 2000

- theme, setting and characterization explore american experiences

- translated american political freedom into metaphorical terms

- growth of american drama and theater was decisively shaped by the commercial climate of the stage and by the united states' isolation from traditions of european theater

- most successful american plays were performances of european novels and plays

the modern era and anti-realism

- truth is knowable and singular

- reaction to realism

- catharsis is a problem

- suggests truth is beyond what can be seen, beyond words

symbolism: rejects the idea of relationships between perception and representation - depth

- represent the truth through imaginability, spirituality, and the subconscious - truth exists beyond what is seen

expressionism: modern movement

- dramatize spiritual awakening and suffering of protagonists


- emerged from dada movement

- prominent in visual arts

- contains symbolism and non-realism

- inspired by freud's work on dreams and the subconscious mind If you want to learn more check out hist 331 class notes
Don't forget about the age old question of the sporophyte of what plant group consists of evenly forking photosynthetic stems that lack roots and leaves?

- fragmented characters, dissociation between actor and character, grotesque characters, nightmarish atmosphere, intense satire

- symbolism is evident in scenery


- scenes are only a few sentences long, nonsensical humor, analyze and subvert traditions of theatre through parody


- randomness is the basis for performances

- "bloop bloop"

changes in visual art in the modern era that impact theatre

Technology (1875-1915)

- REVOLVING STAGE: revolves and has preset scenes, is manipulated by If you want to learn more check out What police can’t do after an arrest?

hand (pictured right)

- ROLLING PLATFORM STAGE: stage on wheeled platform

- ELEVATOR STAGE: 3 levels, must have a lot of space to change

between scenes, scenes must be simple (pictured right)

- PLASTER DOME: curved, domelike, may create an illusion of a

horizon and emerged with the invention of lighting, prior to lighting,

stages had gas lamps which resulted in a lot of fires

- SPOTLIGHTS: 3D depth, with regular lighting, things on stage may Don't forget about the age old question of chem 2770

appear to be flat. this aided with directing attention to particular/

important things happening on stage

with realism there is a 4th wall. the audience is looking into the lives of the actors - a play is not realism if the 4th wall is broken

want to examine the truth, so it does not make sense to use painted backdrops


albert camus: the myth of sisyphus

- human life is essentially absurd, devoid of purpose

- focuses largely on the idea of existentialism, expressed what happens when all communication breaks down

- silence

- samuel beckett endgame is a pessimist vision of humans struggling to find a purpose - can't control fate

- humans are hopeless

- does not have logical structures of traditional theatre, little action happens, nothing happens to change character existence

- (ex: endgame, plot is eliminated, hamm and clive essentially sit and wait for death) - language is dislocated, cliche, punny, repetitive (talk until what they are saying sounds like nonsense)

bertolt brecht's epic theatre and distancing effect

epic theatre: loosely connected scenes, avoid illusion

- address audience directly with analysis, argument, or documentation

- episodic structure, didactic nature or pre-expressionist drama

- brecht had a marxian perspective

- appeal to audience intellect

- present moral problems and reflect contemporary social realities on stage - opposite of stanislavski's theatre where the actors used naturalistic methods to believe that onstage action was real

- brecht instructed his actors to keep a distance between themselves and the characters they portrayed

distancing effect: used to prevent audience from losing itself in narrative

- makes audience aware that they are just observing something

- actors directly address the audience, stop them from empathizing with characters, interrupting the narrative, or drawing attention to the staging process

theatre of cruelty

antonin artaud

- shock audiences through gesture, image, sound, and lighting

- assault senses of audiences

- feel unexpressed emotions of the subconscious

- believed that language wasn't adequate to express trauma

postmodernism/ postmodern drama

- the truth is relative, changing

- multiple truths

- post world war II works

- nonlinear

- challenges how we accept the world

- simultaneous use of multiple art forms

- acts and scenes give way to dramatic moments

- characters are fragmented

- play creates its own self-conscious atmosphere

- question and represent human experience

american musical theatre

- americans invented musical theater, everything else was imported from europe - uniquely american

evolved out of lower class entertainment and ethnic performances

ethnic performances: vaudevillian immigrants performing for their communities - george m cohan: style of dance we see today

minstrel show: white people dress as an imitation of another racial group to make fun of them - black face, stereotyped, offensive performances

- minstrel chorus in ziegfeld follies, blacks gain entrance to the stage

burt williams: first professional black actor, did minstrel shows to gain entrance to the stage - cakewalk dance

- during the 1900's, jim crow era, people have a very different perception of race in america


- burt williams turned his clown character into a wise man

- made people think

- signature presentation made people laugh and feel for williams

white actors threaten to quit, but ziegfeld says he can easily replace them, can't replace burt - burt's contract said he wouldn't tour to the south (extremely racist), or perform on stage with white women


- ticket sales

- selling tickets leads to big changes

- change is often politically driven


what makes white audiences comfortable enough so that we can sell more tickets?

williams makes social and political changes through performances:

- black face doesn't minimize performances

- minstrelsy: black, brown, yellow face

- white people play other races to make fun of them, find this funny and convenient

ARE YOU MAKING FUN OF A GROUP OR TRYING TO REPRESENT THE GROUP? - authenticity (is it appropriate to cast someone of a different identity?)

- racially specific (like fences)

- intent of story

crossdressing emerges out of minstrel shows

- during this time, realism is happening in europe and russia

americans travel to russia to study at the moscow art theatre

1920/30s: broadway music is dissociated with stage

- lighthearted comedy on stage (narrative)

- not yet music theater, audiences go to hear music and have a lighthearted musical experience

- leads to emergence of jazz/ music standards

the book musical (LEADS TO BIG CHANGES):

1927: showboat (based on a published novel, author goes to a composer)

- first musical drama, introduced politics to stage

- first time african americans are on stage, not in black face

- "step one" to change, social and political politics can be on stage

musical theatre is not always a commercial artform, it is also federally funded 1929: great depression president puts americans back to work with federal funds wpa: has theater unit, people in the most dire situations are artists

- puts artists back to work

federal theater movement/ project (wpa theater unit):

- non-commercial, federally funded

- children's theater unit toured nationally

revolt of the beavers: time in history when people are fighting for workers' rights pinocchio: the day this show was in production, congress dropped funding for the theater unit - instead of a birthday party at the end, there is a gunshot

- "who killed pinocchio?" actors read a list of the names of people who voted away funding

- people are not comfortable with the idea that sometimes we must fund things we don't like

the cradle will rock: "musical" about the organization of labor unions


- story was leaked to congress members, and disputed in congress

- union forbid the musical from being on stage

- the night it was set to premiere, there was a lock on the entrance to the theatre - found a new theater

- composer played piano on stage, most actors stood and sang their parts in the audience

- actors were forbidden to perform on stage, performing at all meant risking their livelihood



federally funded theater ends, leads to profit bearing realistic theater

- endgame emerges after world war II)

oklahoma!: introduces choreography, changes how we tell narrative

- sing dialogue of narrative, advertised as a "musical"

- choreographers collaborate with directors (agnes de mille)



exposition: everyone shows up to the wrights' home

- find out that mrs. wright is in jail because she is accused of strangling her husband with a rope - men are there to find clues, women are there to collect things for mrs. wright while she is in jail

rising action: men look for clues to convict mrs. wright, while saying sexist thing to mrs. hale and mrs. peters

- women begin to understand mrs. wright's situation with her husband

- women find a dead canary, which is most likely the motive for murdering mr. wright

climax: mrs. peters and mrs. hale decide to hide the dead bird from the men

- ladies taking a stand against the men

resolution: mrs. hale sneaks the canary away in her coat pocket

- case is closed for the women and the audience


mrs. hale: protagonist, is not afraid to go against men with authority, gets annoyed with the men, has comebacks to men

mrs. peters: mrs. hale's "partner in crime," sheriff's wife, "slight wiry woman, with a thin, nervous face"

county attorney (george henderson): antagonist, makes sexist comments, only sees women as housekeepers, any woman not good at housekeeping is a failure

lewis hale (neighbor of the wrights): gives most of the exposition, gives story of how mrs. wright was when he found mr. wright's body

henry peters (sheriff): misogynistic, points out misogyny of laws that women can't help to create


- whole play takes place in a "gloomy" kitchen full of "unfinished work" - unwashed dishes, bread outside of bread container, kind of place you'd live in your first year of college


- trifle: silly, little thing, unimportant

- ex: quilt, jam jars (men disregard these things, but women defend them throughout the play - objects associated with domestic work

- ironic because all of these are clues to solving the murder

main character (mrs. wright) never appears on stage, but the play is about her life - experience her life through trifles

central action of play is investigating the crime

- with each trifle, we solve the murder, final moments in the play are a discovery


- susan glaspell

- producers studied realism at the moscow art theater in russia

- new art about humanity, and pursuing the truth in art

- frustrated with art in america

- how can what you're doing on stage be real if it is fake?

- wrote plays in provincetown, massachusetts and put on performances in a community theater

provincetown playhouses: not sophisticated productions

- playwrights and actors emerge

provincetown players: professional regional theater

- final rehearsals of broadway productions take place here

glaspell covered a story on a woman who had murdered her husband

- all male jury

- felt woman didn't get a fair trial

trifles comes from real life

- first example of american realism

- cherry orchard= russian identity

what looks like telling the truth of american life on stage?

- trifles starts american realism


realism: based on a true case

- characterization, settings, and social situation are realistic

- portrays realistic scenarios and characters

- characters are all average people

six characters in search of an author


- opens with audience facing an empty stage

- rehearsal of pirandello's mixing it up

- six characters enter, father explains they are in search of an author

- father explains their author did not give them stage-life

- the manager is confused by the characters and asks for their story

- step daughter explains the mother's lover died, so she is dressed in mourning - the family fell into poverty and returned to town

- the step daughter became a prostitute for madame pace to make money for the family - father visited step daughter in prostitution ring

- the son doesn't make the other children feel welcomed into the household - the girl and boy die, the step daughter runs away

- the manager takes interest and gives the characters the opportunity to act out their story, the prompter will record the story

- father is confused about why the characters will be played by actors instead of just showing themselves

- characters argue that how the actors play them is incorrect, but the manager shrugs it off because it is a play

- in the last scene, the boy shoots himself, the girl drowns, and the step daughter runs away - the manager says he has wasted a day


father: mid-fifties, insists on staging the character's drama

step daughter: wants characters story to be staged to get revenge on her father, subductive, self-obsessed

mother: dressed in mourning, widow, wax-like face, figure of grief

son: estranged from his family, witness to younger children's death, unrealized character boy: dressed in mourning, mute

child: young girl, dressed in white, fallen innocent

madame pace: step daughter's pimp, speaks in comically broken english

leading lady: stereotypical diva, plays role of step daughter

leading man: plays role of father, flirts with step daughter

second lady: plays role of mother

juvenile lead: plays role of son

prompter: holds book in first rehearsal and tries to record character's drama in shorthand


- throughout the play, we are in a theater where a rehearsal is taking place analysis

- shut down 3x before it was produced

- setting is an empty stage

- argument of characters is a metaphor in setting

irony: people go to theater to examine the truth, but everything is fake

- characters argue about what truth is told

madame pace= step daughter’s employer (pimp)

mother wears black, mourning her dead lover

father eventually comes back to care for children

how are characters experiencing time? - past event? real time?

- little girl drowns in fountain, little boy shoots himself with revolver

- did they die in real time?

final image - step daughter jumps off stage, runs into audience, closes door, laughs in lobby

- does the step daughter cease life after passing through dimensions? what truth exists in this space that is fake?

expressionism: argues truth comes from an artist’s feelings

lines and brush strokes (in art) force you to feel something, convey emotional state of artist - strategies eventually adopted by film

-response to the anxiety that people feel b/c of their relationship with a discordant world and accompanying feelings of authenticity and spirituality

-art should come from within the artist, instead of being a depiction of the world (doesn’t work well with theater)

-expression is not peaceful, pastorale

surrealism: access subconscious

- experiences we cannot talk about

- deepest, darkest thoughts, and feelings (dreams and nightmares)

plays draw a relationship between ancient and modern values

- episodes, not scene to scene

- series of ideas put together

six characters in search of an author: characters are aristotelian

- rehearsal = nonlinear (nothing happened)

how can theater be in pursuit of the truth when everything is fake?

- question everything, doesn’t work to show subconscious of character on stage

futurism and pada: visual and performance art

- difficult to categorize

- truth only exists in chaos, embrace randomness/incoherence of everyday life - authorial voice of artist

futurist plays: snippet, weird

distill interaction in a tiny thing -doesn’t work well in theater

dada: revived in 60’s/70’s in NYC

- begins with marcel duchamp

idea voice of artist is nonexistent - who is the author to answer the question?

your interaction with the art is what matters

- improv (w/ structure)

(no scenes) (chaos = truth)

theatre of cruelty: (book) antonin artaud

- plays not very popular/successful

- argues theater should force audiences to feel

- images literally assault you

- borrowed in six characters

bertolt brecht: epic theater

what are we doing as artists if we are not all thinking about the story?

- brechtian techniques

distancing effect (alienation/ a effect): strategies do not allow audiences to be fully engaged in the story

- contract music and action by using lyrics/ sandwich boards during plays

pose a question, no catharsis (audience should apply lessons to real life)

theater of the absurd (1960's) collection of plays whose influence begins between the two world wars - cannot be passive observers, must force you to think

- grounded in existentialism

- find meaning in each moment that we live in

absurdist plays come from existentialism

six characters begins movement

tl of six characters in search of an author

- mother and father marry and have son

- mother and secretary fall in love, father leaves

- mother and secretary have children (step daughter, boy, and girl)

- father sees step daughter

- lover dies

- financial problems

- step daughter works for madame pace as a prostitute

- father visits madame pace

- (author end)

characters are not aristotelian (they are vague characters)

are ideas in the play rational?

how can we know the truth? whose truth is the truth?

- actors debating with characters

pirandello questions identity and conflicts with identity

- in six characters, actors shift identities, but the characters never change

- art lives on

cognitive dissonance

- your self may differ depending on setting

- who is your true self?

the truth itself is fragmented

- how do we perform the truth if the truth itself is fake?



- influenced by his wife, (paranoid, schizophrenia)

-who is to say what she sees/hears isn’t real?

style: antirealism



- opens with clov staggering

- draws curtains, removes sheets from ash bins and hamm

- hamm appears to be asleep

- clov says a monologue "it's finished" and goes to kitchen and waits for hamm to whistle for him - hamm questions if anyone suffers as much as he does

- "it is time it ended, but [hamm] hesitates to end"

- he whistles for clov, and insults clov

- when clov doesn't do what hamm says, hamm threatens to stop giving him food

- asks why hamm keeps him and reveals that clov hopes to leave

- nagg emerges in a nightcap

- hamm asks what clov does in his kitchen, says he stares at wall and sees his light dying - nagg knocks on nell's ash bin and asks for a kiss, cannot reach each other

- nell dies

- hamm wants his pain killer

- clov reports that there is "zero" outside

- hamm asks if his dog is ready

- clov reports that he sees a small boy outside

- hamm says the boy will die outside or come inside

- clov leaves

- clov enters and frozen

- hamm puts his handkerchief over his face, unfolds it, and says "you remain" - motionless


hamm: protagonist, unlikable makes him the antagonist to clov, blind, immobile, believes there is no cure for being on earth, rules over nagg, nell, and clov

clov: protagonist, servant, taken in by hamm as a child, wants to leave hamm, despite his obligation to stay, performs tasks such as rolling hamm around and telling hamm what he sees outside

nagg: nell's husband, hamm's father, contained in a trashcan next to nell, comes out to cry for "pap" or try to kiss nell, childlike

nell: nagg's wife, hamm's mother, resigned to their lives of routine


- bare interior, gray lighting, two small windows with drawn curtains, a door, two ash bins covered by an old sheet, post apocalyptic world


plotless plot (not realism)

- nothing happens

- endgame of life is death

play is a circular experience

character's worlds do not have structure


endgame: when you know the outcome of a game, but you keep playing anyways - chess, life, etc

- continued engagement, despite knowing the outcome

endgame of life is death

- why do we keep striving to exist when we know we will all die in the end?

existentialism: everything happening now matters

- there will be no later


samuel beckett lived in paris during world war ii when the nazis invade (dire situation) - difficult man, depressed alcoholic

- beckett's work reflects his experience during this time

- audience experiences what the characters are, feel something before they even think about what is happening

- characters wait for death, so does the audience


- absurdist play



- opens with clay alone on the train, reading a magazine

- lula is standing outside of the train

- she accuses clay of looking at her butt, but he denies it

- lula says racial stereotypes and correctly guesses where clay lives and where he is going, even knows about his friend warren

- lula toys with clay by putting her hand on his leg, provocatively slices apple before feeding clay pieces , guesses that he is going to a party and pressures him to invite her along by hinting that after the party she will have sex with him

- manipulations capture clay's attention, hopeful at the prospect of sleeping with lula (lula begins to insult him when he doesn't make advances of his own

- lula mocks clay's dialect, says he has no right to wear the suit he is wearing "your grandfather was a slave, he didn't go to harvard"

- clay changes from calm and confident to defensive, lula attacks him for being black and passive - lula dances provocatively, trying to entice clay to do the "nasty" and "rub bellies" - clay resists her advances, reaches out, grabs her, and throws her down

- insults her privileged background, slaps her twice, and demands to be left alone - clay's monologue (more in analysis) white people let black people perform blac dances and make black music, but never let black people into the white world, if blacks gave up on civic engagement, black people would be in danger of becoming as cold and unfeeling as whites, the only way to stop racism is to kill all white people

- clay doesn't want to act on the problem of racism this way, would rather stay in the dark and not fight, remain ignorant of the problem

- clay prepares to leave the train, lula stabs him in the heart twice

- orders other passengers to toss the body at the next stop

- play ending, lula locks eyes with another young black male

- black train conductor tips his hat to lula


- lula: white woman (seductress, eve- like)

- clay: black man


- subway in new york city

- whole time we are in a subway cart


- one act play

- lula's archetype is eve (lula names clay)

- archetype: recurring character in western literature

main theme: race

- even when blacks do not fight against racist powers, they will still be killed practitioners

no dutchman present, title alludes to the flying dutchman

- implies the subway process repeats over and over

clay is disposable, as is the next black man who boards the train

even when fighting knowledge, cannot escape death (monologue is a statement of determined ignorance)

what are the consequences of revolt?


- play about naming, clay names himself when overtaking lula in his monologue - clay's name is a literal metaphor for how he is shaped by naming

social and political contexts:

- civil rights, black power movement (elevates african american culture as resistance) - us is a climate of violence, 4 major civil rights leaders have been gunned down, televising war and death on tv

dutchman is a violent place

- there is no redeemed violence

dramatic contexts:

- black arts, black artists did not seek validation from white audiences

- nothing was adjusted for white audiences

langston hughes: harlem

- dream deferred: dream put aside for later (ex: equality, respect)

- dream boogie: something important, always interrupted

"you think it's a happy beat?"

- clay's monologue, white people can't understand the messages/ coded language black artists are using

charlie parker: music adored by white people, but verbally abused

- wasn't treated fairly

- cognitive dissonance

circular structure: conductor comes through train, tips hat at lula

- elements of realism, but absurdist play


- leroi jones/ amiri baraka

- changed his name from leroi jones to amiri baraka in order to be more in touch with his african american heritage


absurdist play:

- archetypes: lula, eve, clay's name= metaphor

- circular structure: no catharsis

- scenic metaphor: subway is representative of the darkness in america

- distrust of language: coded language

cloud nine


- act one begins with clive introducing characters, clive is married to betty, they have a servant named joshua, a son named edward, and a daughter victoria

- african tribes have been threatening the family

- tribes do not like other people coming in and colonizing them

- harry bagley is clive's best friend

- clive admires harry for being an explorer

- mrs. sanders shows up because she is alone and worries africans will attack her - joshua is not loyal to his family

- joshua and harry have sex

- betty wants to be with harry, harry has sex with joshua and is sexually abusing edward, ellen, the governess likes betty, clive has sex with mrs. saunders

- act 1 ends with joshua pointing a gun at clive and the lights go out

- act two begins in a modern setting, london 1979

- follow victoria and edward's grown up lives

- edward has grown up to be gay

- victoria into idea of having sex with her friend lin

- victoria and lin have kids they are trying to raise without their fathers around - betty shows up and says she has left clive

- betty has trouble adjusting to being on her own

- edward and victoria are too grown up to be super focused on her

- betty talks to edward's boyfriend, gerry

- talk about how life and love are complicated

- betty hugs betty from act 1 in act 2, showing she literally finds herself


betty: played by a grown man in act 1, played by a grown woman in act 2, submissive wife to clive, in love with harry bagley (clive's best friend), admits to clive later on about her feelings for harry, breaks out of traditional gender roles in act 2, journey towards independence

edward: played by a young girl in act 1, played by a grown man in act 2, clive wants edward to be manly, but edward likes to play with dolls, is being sexually abused by harry bagley, gay

victoria: played by a doll in act 1, by a grown woman in act 2, not dainty in act 2, gets into a relationship with her friend lin in act 2

clive: played by a man, patriarchal, feels women should do what men tell them to

lin: doesn't show up until act 2, in love with victoria, hates men, doesn't solve problem of gender roles, forces daughter not to conform to gender roles

joshua: played by a white actor, although he is an african servant

harry: clive's best friend, sexually abuses edward, has affair with betty, and later tries to kiss clive, marries ellen to closet himself

cathy: lin's daughter, says dirty nursery rhymes, doesn't conform to gender roles


act 1: africa, victorian era

act 2: london, 1900's

spatial and temporal disjunctions:

- acts contrast patriarchal and colonial stereotypes (act 2 affected by not having any structures)


- not realism

act 1: characters suffocate under structures

act 2: world isn't any better, but characters are free of structures

setting act 1: africa, 1800's, victorian family, colonization

- break fourth wall (clive sings to introduce the characters)

- character gender and age do not match the character

edward: played by a grown woman

joshua: played by a white actor

betty: played by a man

victoria: played by a doll

what happens to our world when we do not tend to our children?

- children are powerless and sexually exploited

harry is sexually abusing edward

- only place that edward receives affection from someone

- way edward doesn't understand abuse shows how dire love is in the family

- he only receives love and affection through a transaction

- consequence is that later in life, he doesn't know who he is or what he wants to do

setting act 2: london, 1970s, 1st and 2nd wave feminism

- incredibly violent, playing with toy guns, cathy draws and covers her entire picture in black - violence and darkness within children is unsettling

catharsis: betty becomes a whole person when betty from act 1 and act 2 embrace importance of children: children are the key to change

monarchy is dependent on heterosexual relationships to colonize

intermission: joshua catched edward with doll

- joshua snatches doll, rips it, and dumps content

- edward sees joshua come out with a rifle and covers ears, doesn't warn his father - why doesn't edward warn his father that he is going to get shot?

act 2: clive didn't die, clive is still the same as act 1

political and dramatic context:

- critical distance: scene where clive is under mrs. sander's skirt, family comes, singing christmas songs, song distances you from what is going on (pornographic scene accompanied by christmas songs)

- ironic image: actors from act 1 are in act 2

- use of song, opening, sing directly to audience, break fourth wall, waving, peppy tune accompanied by disturbing images

- temporal/ spatial disjunctions: structure itself, why am i looking at this place right now? why africa and now london?

- cross gender casting: characters are two things at once

- careful intentions: it wouldn't make sense to cast clive as black, some characters have to be who they are, color blind casting is problematic

collaborative writing and rehearsal process:

- undermines artist's authoritative voice

- single artist cannot claim authorship

- written in a way that churchill's single voice disappears, a group contributed their own truths - with a single author, it is difficult to write multiple truths

influence by brecht's concept of epic theatre: concept is borrowed in the postmodern era - critique on social and economic change, leads to effects of the patriarchy (span 100 years) are changes improving characters lives? there is an emphasis on change

dramatic form: informed by ideologies and popular means of oppression of a historical period postmodernism as a dramatic form:

1. stylistic quotation: borrowed from brecht, big part in hip hop and music culture, reframe to make your own

2. fragmented surface: feeling when we look at cisgender man, and look at betty, how we experience the story

3. disintegrated plot and characters: specific postmodern play, as we move through the play, we understand characters less and less (like an onion, layered, there is not one single truth to the onion), move through history, accumulate more variables, fall apart by the end

4. use of failed language: playwright's meaning is not in their language, "language is the limit of our knowing," we can never understand the boundaries of our knowing

5. interwoven use of real and unreal characters

6. representation of identity as multiple, changing

7. technologies of self connected to tech of state

8. lack of closure, authorial voice


caryl churchill:

- non-naturalistic techniques

- explores sex politics and feminist themes

- radical in politics

- work always political *gender

- how are politics in society staged?


postmodern play:

- multiple, competing truths that are equally true

- competing truths

- betty is a man, but betty is a woman, male actor doesn't convince us that betty is a man, but a cisgender woman

- coexist as equally true

- joshua is black, joshua is white

- actor is not convincing us of a black identity not a menstrual role

- victoria is a doll, victoria is a person

- play thing for other people to use

- doesn't demand her husband to treat her well

- edward is floundering, edward is full of emotion

- play is about one family in multiple settings, allows for contrasting truths some elements of modernist structure:

- causal relationships between scenes and actors

- single truths

- objective, obstacle, tactics

brechtian techniques:

- actors talk directly to audience, break fourth wall

- idea of fourth wall

- use of epic theatre: look at an expanse of time (100 years) to understand gender - identity politics (feminist play)

form in act 1: cross gender casting and betty

- trying to find who she is in a patriarchal society she doesn't fit into

- betty doesn't fit in because of what is expected of her

form produces content




- divided into two acts

- play begins on troy and bono's payday

- troy asked his boss why blacks have to collect garbage and don't get to drive the garbage trucks - bono thinks troy is cheating on rose

- cory has been recruited by a college football team

- rose reminds troy about the fence she has asked him to build

- cory and troy work on the fence, cory tells troy he has given his job at the a&p to someone during football season

- troy is mad and says cory needs to get his job back

- troy wins his case and is the first black garbage truck driver

- cory comes home and is really mad because troy told his coach not to let him play football "strike one"

- troy bails gabe out of jail

- bono and troy work on the fence

- rose wants the fence because she loves her family and wants to keep close to them - troy admits he is having an affair with alberta

- rose accuses troy of taking and not giving, troy grabs her arm

- cory grabs troy from behind "strike two"

- troy goes to see alberta in the hospital because she went into labor

- troy signed gabe away into an asylum

- alberta had a baby girl, but died during childbirth

- rose takes in raynell as her own child, but refuses to be troy's woman

- troy insists cory leave the house, but cory brings up how he cheated on rose and used gabe's money to buy the house

- troy physically attacks cory and kicks cory out of the house

- eight years later, troy dies from a heart attack

- cory returns home from the marines to attend troy's funeral. but refuses to attend - rose tells cory that not going doesn't make him a man

- raynell and cory sing troy's song old blue

- gabe is released from the mental hospital, and blows his trumpet but no sound comes out - the trumpet will not play

- he does a ritual dance and cries and the heavens open

- "that's the way it goes"


troy: protagonist, works as a garbage collector, former baseball player, hardworking, breadwinner for family, married to rose, father to cory and raynell, doesn't give love and support to his loved ones

cory: son of tory and rose, college recruiters see him playing football, leaves home after confronting clay, comes home from the marines in the final scene of the play, tries to defy troy by not going to his funeral, but changes his mind after talking about troy with rose and raynell

rose: troy's wife, mother of cory, housewife, wants cory to be able to play football, accepts raynell as her own daughter

gabriel: injured in world war, has a metal plate in head, receives government assistance, thinks he is the angel gabriel and carries a trumpet to call for saint peter to open the gates of heaven

jim bono: troy's best friend, met troy in jail, concerned about troy being faithful to rose lyons: troy's son, musician, comes to troy to borrow money

raynell: troy's illegitimate child, mothered by alberta, taken in by rose as her own alberta: troy's lover, raynell's mother, dies while giving birth

miss pearl: gabe's landlady at his apartment


- troy's front yard


- easier to read because aristotelian structure

- one action leads to another

- scenes are connected by an idea (cause and effect)

- play about 1950's

- what is the story in this decade?

- we in america, story of the american dream and it's whiteness

- to whom is the american dream available?

- not troy

troy believes in the american dream, but it is unavailable to him, him not being able to play baseball shows this

- cory wants to play football, but troy tells him to learn a trade, he is afraid that cory won't get to play because he is black

- could change his family's life with a college education

- troy is trying to protect cory from racism

- what cory wants seems unreasonable

- gabriel lives at miss pearl's house

- gabe was injured in the war, cognitively unsound because of the metal plate in his head - homeownership is apart of the american dream, you become a homeowner through hard work and owning it

- americans are critical when you don't earn what you have

- troy took gabe's money to buy his house, cheated his way to homeownership - troy feels guilty, didn't earn the american dream

- raynell is troy's daughter

- raynell and cory transform relationship to troy because they forgive him

- the key to change is forgiveness

- opening poem is only for the reader, it is not staged

- "when the sins of our fathers come to visit us, we do not have to play host, we can banish them through forgiveness"

- sins of our father's past is slavery, degradation of a group of people

- in dutchman, lula says let's pretend we are free of our history (we cannot do this)

- we can only forgive our forefather and ourselves of racism

- cory and raynell forgive troy and he is able to pass into heaven

- gabriel opens gates of heaven so that troy can pass through

cannot move forward unless we forgive

thematically about how we engage in identity politics?

what does it mean to be american?

to whom is the american dream available?

american dream:

- quest of land, homeownership and property, prosperity, and wealth, doesn't matter what you are born into

- conquering the last frontier

- rugged individualism: doing things on your own, individual rights, blame individual for failures too - dignity of common people: uniquely great as americans, ordinary people have dignity from working hard

ex: gabe walks around with a trumpet with no mouthpiece and sels rotten fruit - gabe is the most important character because he opens the gates to heaven, when he blows his trumpet, no sound comes out, but he keeps trying anyways

- does a dance, horror no sane man could take

- tells st peters to open the gates of heaven for troy to pass through (i have dignity! i am a person!)

- wilson is not necessarily critical of the american dream

- wants to contextualize myth, people strive and fail to achieve, they are not at fault

play is aristotelian, catharsis and conclusion at the end

realistic play dealing with contemporary issues

- feel playwright posing questions

marker of realistic plays is that the characters have a past that affects the present (exposition came with the invention of sociology)

- always have the past before the present

also have common forms of speech, move away from metered and literary language - extends the notion of dramatic speech to include music and rhythm (sound responds and changes form, the dialogue people don't speak leads to another idea)


jazz is music corollary for the way dialogue is written

plot is linear, causally linked incidents

fences gives exposition and a poem

prologue statement (poem): wilson suggests the influence of the past on the present is escaped through forgiveness

chekhovian structure: plotless plot, characterless characters, early point of attack, climatic events take place off stage (like in the cherry orchard)

- chekhov skews realism with modernist purpose

- theater is a laboratory for examining the truth

- plotless plot, what you think should happen doesn't

- plotless plot because troy dies

- catharsis is not a good feeling

- characterless characters: not stereotyped characters

- early point of attack: civil rights movement

- 1950's is the calm before the storm, set up for dutchman

- american civil rights starts with fences

things in the play function metaphorically and realistically

fence: keep out racism, keep family in

fences (title): many fences in our lives and what we build in between one another - cory and troy usually are working on a fence when there is conflict happening

ball made of rags: poverty, cannot afford a baseball, rose keeps everything tidy, so we do not realize the depth of their poverty

- troy strives and strives, but ends up right back in the yard, wanted out for a second (affair) - troy is trapped in this world

old blue: forgiveness/ anger

- troy hangs on to how difficult forgiveness is

- choice and action that raynell and cory give

- not because troy deserves forgiveness, but because they can forgive him

gabes dance and howl: idea of dignity of common people

- play about american experience, american story, universal play about american dignity - gave has nothing but his own body, calls upon st. peter to open the gates of heaven for troy - gabriel's name itself is a complex metaphor

climatic event: troy dies

- changes landscape of family

- gives another central question: can we forgive someone, even if they make mistakes? yes, raynell and cory forgive their father

- is it possible to forgive our fathers even if they make mistakes?

the central question is the guide of the storyteller

- concept by wagner, everything on stage must have unification, all director's idea - all designers tell a story under the director

gabe is the one who answers the central questions

- raynell and cory sing old blue, showing their forgiveness for troy

- troy has been angry at his father and this has been toxic to his life

- feel troy's anger towards his father

- raynell and cory sing in a sentimental way

contemporary american realism: hero not good

- ordinary person who aren't totally good

- majorly flawed

- troy isn't a good person, but he is the hero of the play

- forgiveness is given, not because they deserve it, but because we are able to


august wilson: political project as a playwright

- only playwright with a theater named after him

- wrote a play documenting every decade in the 20th century of african american life, was commercially successful

- there is not enough history of african americans in america

- rectifies african american blackness

- spoke his mind, considered all apart of the community

- different arts for specific audiences

- racially specific theatre

- first african american to achieve success on broadway stage since lorraine hansberry

lorraine hansberry: youngest/ first woman, african american to have a play on broadway - raisin in the sun


black arts elevate black identity

"how do you get characters to talk?" "you listen"

3 contexts of wilson:

1. history of african american theatre

2. american tragedy

3. american dream

80s/90s: colorblind casting (wilson denounces this)

- must cast best person for the role, regardless of their skin color - problematic

- theater does a better job at casting more colored people

wilson was a keynote speaker:

- looked out at a sea of white people, called colorblind casting "bullshit" - not improving conditions for black people

- we need to write more racially specific plays

this leads to:

- creating new plays with actors of color

- not interested in casting blacks for white roles

- racially specific intersection of race and history



- universal window into the 1950's

- connected to a clean, wrapped up feeling

why realism?

- fences is wilson's only realistic play

- era of where story takes place

- era with mystique, the american dream, what it means to be an american

1950's: simple, naive time, catharsis (on surface)

ordinary person facing extraordinary circumstances, and overcoming them

fires in the mirror


series of monologues of interviews conducted by anna deavere smith after the crown heights neighborhood riots


101 dalmatians monologue: wolfe can't go to see 101 dalmatians because it is at a segregated theatre - thought of as an extraordinary child, director

- as a child, the first time out of his neighborhood, discovered couldn't see 101 dalmatians - no voice and place outside of the community

- exist in and of myself

- how do we exist as a singular person, not in relation to another?

ropes monologue:

- angela davis is a political activist

- complicated to have multiple identities at once

- race is thought of as belonging to a singular political and cultural group - rope to anchor herself and travel to other communities

- postmodern era: do not have to choose between multiple identities

- new language

- new communities to learn and listen

fires in the mirror is a play about language:

- we have lousy language when it comes to race

- postmodern concept: what we know is limited by our language to describe it - race and racists: resistance to engage in those words

- big and tiny moments for racism, but there is only one word for racism

postmodernism: truth is relative and changing

- knowledge is linked to the words we have

- words exist and construct truth

- can't name something as truthful (speaking other languages, we can say something in one language that may not translate as well)

characters are developed in every shape and sound, especially in what they don't say

yankel rosenbaum:

- visiting scholar from melbourne, australia

- couldn't have been stabbed by a 16 year old boy because the boy was an athlete

monologue has strong dialect, shows culture of neighborhood

- you're either a bad boy, athlete, or DJ

- kid was an athlete, not a bad boy

what does it mean to be an american?

what is an american character?

- (bigger project in mind aside from the crown heights riots)

what does theatre look like? what should it be about?

- content (plot of story)

- structure

- performers

- images (set, costume)

what should theatre look like?

- anna deavere smith becomes every character,

- walking in to see play, it feels like concert

- only she tells story, there are no other actors

- deavere reveals all her bias in the story

- what she does has been called documentary/ journalist work

- this her version of all peoples' stories

- reveal bias, multiple truths

- story always has bias of storyteller


- episodic (invented by ancient greece)

- connecting scenes aren't causal, they are thematic

- self contained, connected by themes


- goal of realism is to represent truth

postmodern play

- question can we really tell the truth?

- no, multiple truths we only know outcome/what we are being told

- doesn't matter what happened, each individual truth matters

- perspective from multiple people about 1 event


- challenges set needed to tell story and uses is voice

- find truth in story in people's voices

what should theatre be about?

- theatre must be respond to moment using in all the time

- maintain relevance

- play responds to communities we live in right now

- structure allows for multiple truths

- anna deavere smith says she is biased

- reviews celebrato unbiased b/c ability to impersonate

title: fires in the mirror

- monologue mirrors

- telescope and how it works, giant mirror

- mirror reflects light, slightly askew, distortion (no objective truth)

- fires refers to event, mirrors about the experience

- giant, circle of distortion, see one point of light

- smith starts broad and eventually focuses on one main thing

- move through and get closer to deep grief of a father

- sorrow of son's death

smith creates a telescope through which we experience the events of the play - begins with large circle of confusion

- ends w/ deep grief of father who has lost his son

- title hints at the structure of the play, telescope is structure

play structure: episodic

identity: broadly about defining oneself

mirrors: how do i know that i "am"?

- how stand desert alone and know i exist?

- do i exist on my own? how know as jewish? how know as black?

hair: big part of identity, identifying self w/ community

- what are my duties to my community?

- what is my body's duty to my community?

rhythm: representation, comparisons, divisions in community comparing/competing sufferings, see people turn around idea that we are constructed by division

modernism: we exist before words

postmodernism: language creates who we are

what is the language that we use to make a person?

smith's identity

- does anyone say she doesn't have the right to do time? (was right choice for the story?) - what is smith's "own group?" (present scene type images jewish woman?)

- does she maintain a distance from what she is doing? (distancing effect? or completely absorbed?)


anna deavere smith: interviewed people, toured, and published play

- runner up puritzer, obi award

- video directed by george c wolfe


postmodern structure: multiple truths, equally true

- actors and character's identity coexist (onstage use props to become character) - make character through voice, how we shape words, how we stutter, what we don't say

- monologue about radio during religious time: stutters and pauses help us to learn about the woman and tensions in the neighborhood

- express how she feels about people in the neighborhood

- not the woman's truth, but anna deavere truth

episodic structure: from ancient greece

- series of episodes (collection of scenes)

- self contained, little plays put together

- monologue has a beginning, middle, and end

genre: documentary theatre- comerging by something theatre

- connection to laramie project in this way

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