The American Theatre (circa 18th c.)

For Theatre History and Literature.  Due by Sunday, February 27th at 6pm.

We are in the midst of a crash course of 18th and 19th century theatre history.  This is the period during which the roots of the American theatre were beginning to develop.  Check out this webpage from the University of Virginia for a quick primer on the beginnings of American theatre.

After reading the page’s contents, answer these questions:

1) Based upon your knowledge from Restoration English drama, what are the two possible ways that actors were paid for their services?
2) Describe how the political environment influenced theatre immediately before and during the Revolutionary War.
3)  What does it say about our Founding Fathers’ point of view towards theatre that the prohibition of plays was included in their statement prohibiting “horse-racing, and all kinds of gaming, [and] cock-fighting”?

An Unlikely Path to the New York Stage

For Acting 2 – Due Sunday, February 27th at 6:00pm

The New York Times published an article yesterday about a young actor, Adam Driver, who has made an unlikely path to steady work on New York stages.  I think this piece says a lot about how the unconventional path can lead to the same place as the conventional.  Click here for the article.

Then, answer these questions:

According to the information provided, why did Driver join the Marines?
How does Driver’s time in the Marines help him as an actor?
Why did Piepenburg write this article?

Fourteen Actors Acting

For Acting 2:

The New York Times recently published an interactive special, “Fourteen Actors Acting: A Video Gallery of Classic Screen Types.”

For the first part of your entry, read the article describing the project, and then briefly discuss your view on the intersection of acting, photography, and music.

For the second part of this entry, watch Michael Douglas’s clip.  After watching, write what you imagine is the subtext of this character.  Delve into the psychology of this complicated 43 seconds. Please keep it classroom appropriate.

Due to the fact that this is posting is being made so late, your response is not due until Monday, February 21st at 6:00pm.

Williams in the House of Molière

For Theatre History and Literature:

Read this article from the New York Times, then answer the below questions.

Why is it important in today’s world for a theatre company like the Comédie-Française to perform a work such as A Streetcar Named Desire (in an Orientalist style) or a Molière play in English?

According to the article, what are the differences between the French and American acting styles?

What is the author’s point of view towards the Comédie-Française?  Towards the critical reviews of this production?

NOTE: Since this entry is going up so dreadfully late in the weekend, your response is not due until Monday, February 21st at 6pm.

Script Analysis and Scoring

The in-class analysis and scoring of the ten minute play Ferris Wheel by Mary Miller is our main priority through Monday.  With that said, there is no blog posting for this weekend.  Below you will find a reminder of what you should be working to complete by the time your class period ends on Monday, February 14th.

  • A comprehensive list of the given circumstances of the play.  GIven circumstances are the who, what, where, when, why, and how of the text.  Both explicit (given in the text by the playwright) and implied (those things you interpret based upon explicit given circumstances).  [Please do not email me asking how many circumstances you should have on your list.  The best actors, directors, and designers understand the necessity of developing a thorough and complete understanding of a play through the attainment of a comprehensive list of given circumstances!  Read the play, write circumstances.  Read the play again, write circumstances you missed the first time.  Read the play again, write circumstances you missed the first two times.]
  • A detailed accounting of the physical environment of the play. 
  • Score the script into units of action, or beats. 
  • Develop an objective/goal for each character in each beat.  Remember that the format for an objective is: “Character A wants Character B to DO SOMETHING“.
  • Develop a listing of internal and external obstacles for each character for each beat.
  • Develop a listing of tactics that each character uses or could use in an attempt to attain their objective/goal.
  • Highlight, underline, or circle the operative words throughout the play.  Operative words are the storytelling words from the script.  You may choose to think of operative words as this: what are the words from the play that would tell us the story well even without the other words in the play.
  • Notate in the text: exposition, inciting incident, crisis points, climax, and denoument.
  • Determine each characters superobjective, or overarching goal for the entire play.


  1. How do the given circumstances of Ferris Wheel illuminate specific character choices (personality traits, psychological gesture, animal parallel, inanimate object parallel, objectives, obstacles, and tactics)?
  2. How does the environment established by the playwright influence these two characters’ objectives and tactics?
  3. How does the plot structure (exposition, inciting incident, crisis points, climax, and denoument) guide you through an understanding of rhythm and tempo?
  4. How does diction (word choice) and punctuation inform our understanding of these two characters?

This week off from the blog

For Acting 2 and Theatre History/Literature:

Since Acting 2 students have  a play report due on Monday, February 7th, and Theatre History students will be presented their Renaissance group projects on February 8th and 10th, the blog due on Sunday, February 6th is cancelled.

The blog due Sunday, February 13th will be posted by Monday, February 7th.

Shakespeare and the 2012 London Olympics?

For Theatre History and Literature

The artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater recently announced that over the course of six weeks in 2012 the company will host performances of Shakespeare’s 38 plays in 38 different world languages.  This unprecedented festival aligns with the 2012 London Olympics.  Read the New York Times ArtsBeat post here. After reading the blog post, read the Globe’s Artistic Announcement.

How does the Globe Theatre build excitement about this project in their press release?  Why is it important to link the arts (a cultural olympiad) with sports leading up to and during the Olympic games?

For fun, check out this clip from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.  This Broadway production, starring Al Pacino as Shylock, is on hiatus until February 1st. (There will be a short sponsor message before the video clip plays.)

Controversy in Connecticut Arts High School

For Acting 2

Controversy recently erupted in Waterbury, CT over an arts magnet high school’s production of August Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone.  The superintendent of the school district put the brakes on the production due to its use of the N-word and the belief that a school should not support or encourage the use of the word by high school students.  Supporters of the production believe that the show should be allowed to proceed because Wilson does not glorify the word, rather he uses it as an accurate portrayal of race in our nation during the time in which the play is set (the 1910s).

Ultimately, the superintendent and school board decided to allow the show to go on with the stipulation that local theatre companies Hartford Stage and Yale Rep work with the production and facilitate pre- and post-performance discussions.

What are the risks of high schools producing work that may be viewed as controversial due to language and subject matter?  What are the potential artistic and educational rewards?  How would you minimize the risks and maximize the rewards?


Healy, Patrick. “Connecticut School Will Perform Wilson Play Despite

Official’s Objection.” New York Times ArtsBeat. The New

York Times Company, 20 Jan. 2011. Web. 22 Jan. 2011.



The National Theatre Idea

King Louis XIV founded the Comédie-Française during the height of what we now call the French Neoclassical period.  Beyond being the home of playwrights Molière and Racine, this theatre is also incredibly note-worthy as being a state-supported theatre.  Every year, it receives financial support from the French government and, upon retirement, the performers who perform for a certain period of time receive a pension.  As a result of its receipt of government financial support, the Comédie-Française is known as a ‘national theatre’.  (Side bar: in our classroom, there is an 18th century print of one of the theaters that over the years has housed the Comédie-Française. Check it out before our next class.)

There are other countries throughout the world that have government-supported theatre companies or theater facilities.  The United Kingdom supports the Royal National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company, Mali the Palais de la culture Amadou Hampaté Ba, the Catalan government in Spain operates the Teatre Nacional de Catalunya, and the late 19th century president of Costa Rica built the Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica by taxing his country’s biggest export, coffee.  To date, the United States of America has been unsuccessful at founding a national theatre, though attempts have been made.

In the early twentieth century, there was a movement toward the establishment of a national theatre company in the United States, though this movement later collapsed.  The New York Times published on February 19, 1903 a letter to the editor written by one Irving Doob:

The National theatre that will depict the best sentiment of morality, religion, art, science and of politics will indeed be the finest of educators.  It will be the brilliant focus to which public attention must inevitably be swayed, and a universal exemplification of what is necessary to the National welfare.  But this will not be achieved at a single attempt, yet it is a magnificent idea, which should not be permitted to remain unchampioned.

At the turn of our current century, there again began a movement towards the establishment of a national theatre in the United States.

In your response this week, assume that you have the ear of the President of the United States, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the Senate majority leader. Answer one of the below prompts.

1) Conceptualize a national theatre company for the United States.  Why does the United States need a national theatre company?  Where would it be located?  What type of work would the company produce?  Are there any issues a theatre company fully funded by the government could face?


2) Deliver an argument against a national theatre company for the United States.  Why does our nation NOT need a national theatre company?  What are some of the problems a national theatre company company could cause for our government and society?  Does the current theatre industry already meet the needs of our nation?  Why?

Note: Please limit your responses to the realm of live theatre performance.

“Walking through Words”: Anna Deavere Smith

I was first exposed to the work of playwright and actress Anna Deavere Smith on my first day of college.  Excited to begin my collegiate theatre education in stage management, I sought out the opportunity to be assigned a production.  A lowly freshman, I felt the need to prove my worth and thus was assigned as assistant stage manager to a small-scale production of Smith’s Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, directed by a professor by the name of Anita Gonzalez (now at SUNY-New Paltz) and featuring approximately fifteen university and community actors.

Smith’s work is based entirely upon her interviews with people from all walks of life and tremendously different experiences.  She has been conducting these interviews for the last thirty years.  Smith is a theatre artist who observes the finest nuances of her interview subjects’ speech and physicality to illustrate character.  Every syllable of every word and every breath of the vocal mechanism contribute to the conveyance of a clear, compelling story.

This short video clip from will give you an insight to her philosophy behind how language and identity relate to one another.

Read this Baltimore Sun review from her most recent production, Let Me Down Easy, at Baltimore’s Second Stage Theatre (presented by Arena Stage).

Now, check out this fantastic report from MSNBC about Let Me Down Easy.  You will see great illustrations of how Smith morphs from one person to another.  (You’ll probably have to sit through a 30 second ad before the video loads; sorry!)

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

After watching the two video clips and reading the review, address the following in your post:

Tim Smith’s Baltimore Sun review refers to Anna Deavere Smith as a “mimic”; however, she clearly states in the video clip that she is not a mimic or impressionist.  How do you reconcile this discrepancy after viewing the MSNBC clip?

PS: I apologize if the video clips are not embedded into this post; I’m having Flash issues that I cannot quite figure out… If the video clips don’t load within the blog posting, click the link which will take you to the website for viewing.