WRITING ASSIGNMENT ON DRAMATIC ADAPTATION
Any performance relies for its effect on an interaction between the elements of performance (speaking, acting, music, scenery, lighting, stage space, etc.) and the audience. The performance elements may be functional (the plot requires set and props), sociological (costumes reflect something about the characters), atmospheric (the stage and lighting emphasizes dialogue), symbolic (various elements represent something about the plot). Often, the audience chooses a performance, rather than some other one, because it has some expectations and preferences about the actors, directors, producers, theatre company, etc. The performance either fulfills or somehow surprises these expectations. For this piece of writing, I want you to explore the ways in which viewing a performance surprised the expectations attached to reading the text.
You are NOT writing a review (what you liked and didn’t like) but rather an analysis of how the physical presentation of the play affected (enhanced, altered, confused) the interpretation of the dramatic text. Your likes and dislikes will affect your interpretations of course, but they are not the primary focus of this assignment.
Use the instructions I gave you for The Tempest.
1. Before the performance starts, read any director’s notes or author’s notes available.
2. Attentively watch the performance, paying particular attention to any aspects of the total theatrical event (casting, set, costumes, lights, props, music, and especially alterations to the text) that change the impressions you gained about the work by reading it.
THESE CHANGES WILL BECOME THE FOCUS OF YOUR ANALYSIS.
3. USING PLENTY OF CONCRETE DETAIL, explain how 3 different elements of the theatrical production interpreted, not just illustrated, the dramatic text. I’d like one of your 3 focal points to be the casting of female actors in roles originally written for men.
Good use of detail: The funeral procession passing in the background as the Chorus pleads with Oedipus to find the source of the plague emphasized that the secret of Oedipus’ identity isn’t just his private crisis but a crisis for the whole community that made him its king.
Weak use of detail: The lighting was incredibly effective. Even if true, the second observation is insufficient. It doesn’t tell me what the effect was, and why it worked or failed to work. If an actor seems too old or too young for the part, tell me what difference it makes to portray the character in this way (sometimes confounding our expectations can have a creative effect). Let me see what you saw, hear what you heard: even though I have seen the play, too, I may have reacted differently.
4.After you have identified 3 specific elements of the performance on which to focus, formulate a thesis statement (a judgment you can defend by reference to your details) about the production’s interpretation of the dramatic text. DON’T just write a list of the elements on which you will focus.
5.Be sure to proofread. Slipshod presentation has a negative effect on the reader. Give your essay a title that would enable a cold reader to know what it was about.