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bobbeym

Must read plays?

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I'm starting lesson planning for 10th grade Lit. DS14 wants to do poetry and plays. I'm already planning on using The Art of Poetry the 1st term, but need to pull together the plays for 2nd term.

 

Does any one know of a good curriculum already existing for plays? If not, what are the some of the ones that we should be sure to include? Is 2 weeks per play adequate time? That would give us time to cover 9-10 works.

 

I'm already planning on The Miracle Worker, Glass Menagerie, and at least one or two Shakespeare works, probably either Hamlet, Much Ado, or Midsummer. (We're reading Shrew in January, and will also cover Macbeth in British Lit in 11th or 12th grade.) Would Death of a Salesman be a good one to include?

 

I'm not much into plays and the chance of us being able to see live performances are slim. Any play with a movie version would be a plus.

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The Crucible is a fabulous one for high school. Death of a Salesman is also good for discussion. I would probably also do an ancient play with a Greek chorus, like The Birds by Aristophanes or Antigone by Sophocles, and talk about the evolution and purpose of drama over the centuries.

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The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams

Antigone by Sophocles--depressing like many Greek tragedies but sooooo much better than Oedipus Rex

The Importance of Being Earnest--truly a gem

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Even if there are no professional theatre companies nearby, we've always gotten a lot out of going to local high school and other amateur productions. And they are inexpensive!

 

For Shakespeare, if you can find the BBC miniseries "Playing Shakespeare" at your library, you won't regret watching it, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

 

As far as repertoire, I wouldn't overlook drama in translation, from such authors as Moliere, Ibsen and Chekhov.

 

Finally, I'd mix in few modern plays, too, just to show the genre isn't dead. Maybe Neil Simon, David Mamet or Tom Stoppard, or some recent Tony winner? "Rosencratz and Guilderstern are dead" would be fun to throw in if you are also reading Hamlet.

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Even if there are no professional theatre companies nearby, we've always gotten a lot out of going to local high school and other amateur productions. And they are inexpensive!

 

Agree with GGardner here! And sometimes you get the extra fun bonus of a high school friend being IN the play when you go to a high school drama production. :)

 

 

IMO, plays were written to be performed/viewed, rather than read. While, yes, of course there is value in reading a play (slows down the experience to allow you more time to appreciate/absorb the language and more time for analysis), you also lose the emotion, physical connections/staging, and intensity of the live performance. So it is a trade-off to read a play, IMO.

 

I'd suggest you choose one play to read -- a Shakespeare play would be esp. good -- to focus on the richness and poetry of the language and to look for the powerful themes and "big questions" the characters wrestle with, and then watch a movie version of any other plays you are interested in. Our 2 DSs and myself had a lot of fun reading a Shakespeare play aloud, with each of us taking on several roles and even getting into doing a difference voice for each, and covering 1-2 acts a day.

 

Macbeth is a great intro into Shakespeare. We really enjoyed using the Parallel Shakespeare materials to go with it: the play in parallel format (original language side-by-side with modern translation), the teacher guide, and student workbookwere all very informative and helpful guides, and geared for middle school and first-exposure high school students. Other good choices for reading, most frequently done by high school students:

 

- a Shakespeare tragedy (Macbeth, Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet)

- a Shakespeare comedy (Midsummer Night's Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, Taming of the Shrew)

 

One other play that is quite short and well-worth reading is Oedipus Rex (Sophocles) -- classic ancient Greek tragedy. Below is a list of suggested plays for a high school student. Enjoy! Warmest regards, Lori D.

 

 

TIP: Before going to a play, or watching a filmed version, do a quick read-up on it from Sparknotes or Cliff's Notes or the Wikipedia article on it, just so you know who the major characters are and to get an idea of what big ideas you're looking for as you watch. Esp. with going to a Shakespeare production, we found it to be VERY helpful to read a one-page synopsis of the play and draw out the relationships between the characters on the white board so we didn't get lost with who all the characters were while watching the play.

 

 

For viewing:

- Merchant of Venice (Shakespeare) -- VERY good; alert: streetwalkers in the background of one scene have dresses with necklines below the breast level

- Much Ado About Nothing (Shakespeare) -- VERY good; alert: opening sequence (which can be skipped with no loss of lines at all), has a quick shot of bare bums as people are racing around getting ready

- Taming of the Shrew (Shakespeare) -- Time-Life TV production; televised version of live play; John Cleese of Monty Python is wonderful as Petruchio

 

 

Other plays for viewing:

- Our Town (either Paul Newman or Hal Holbrook version) -- turn of century town, minimalist props/setting, to focus on meaning of life

- A Raisin in the Sun (either Sydney Poitier or Felisha Rashad version) -- 1960s racism, poverty, and family discord struggling for a better life

- Twelve Angry Men-- uncovering truth, and self-discovery, as 12 jurors deliberate a case

- The Crucible -- written during the 1950s Communist witch hunts, using the Colonial Salem witch trials as backdrop (I've not seen any version, but I think the older film version may be closer to the original play...)

- Importance of Being Earnest (Wilde) -- comedy

- Pygmalion (Shaw) -- play from which the musical film My Fair Lady was drawn

- Cyrano de Bergerac (Rostand) -- tragic story of the witty musketeer with a big nose, who woos the lady he loves for the handsome man she thinks she loves (sword fighting included with the witty one-liners; DSs really liked this one)

- Sunday in the Park with George -- Broadway musical play on impressionist painter George Seurret; really cool staging and set design

 

 

Also consider a "spin-off" or related movie once you read/view the original:

- West Side Story (Romeo & Juliet) -- New York 1950s gangs Broadway musical

- 10 Things I Hate About You (Taming of the Shrew) -- modern high school comedy

- Throne of Blood (Macbeth) -- Samurai version

- My Fair Lady (Pygmalion) -- musical

- Roxanne (Cyrano de Bergerac) -- Steve Martin light comedy; a bit crude in a few spots, but overall, not bad

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We've done Antigone, Hamlet, Henry V, Midsummer's Night's Dream, Murder in the Cathedral, The Importance of Being Ernest, The Crucible, Raisin in the Sun, Rosencranz and Guildenstern are Dead (this references Hamlet so best to do Hamlet first). I'm just repeating what others said above I just realized, but all these plays went over very well with our teens.

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Ooh! Another one! Major Barbara by G. B. Shaw and the movie version with Rex Harrison and Wendy Hiller is excellent.

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I'm starting lesson planning for 10th grade Lit. DS14 wants to do poetry and plays. I'm already planning on using The Art of Poetry the 1st term, but need to pull together the plays for 2nd term.

 

Does any one know of a good curriculum already existing for plays? If not, what are the some of the ones that we should be sure to include? Is 2 weeks per play adequate time? That would give us time to cover 9-10 works.

 

I'm already planning on The Miracle Worker, Glass Menagerie, and at least one or two Shakespeare works, probably either Hamlet, Much Ado, or Midsummer. (We're reading Shrew in January, and will also cover Macbeth in British Lit in 11th or 12th grade.) Would Death of a Salesman be a good one to include?

 

I'm not much into plays and the chance of us being able to see live performances are slim. Any play with a movie version would be a plus.

 

 

The Crucible usually generates a fair amount of discussion with a high school crowd and I really think Hamlet is a must.

 

Walch Publishing puts out a volume, Drama: A Comprehensive Guide to Dramatic Elements and Style, which I like using as a basic introduction to the genre. The name of my handbook that discusses writing about drama escapes me right now, but I will post it when I find it if you need more resources.

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I don't think that anyone has mentioned Samuel Becket. I recommend Waiting for Godot - it's not like anything your students will have read before and it should generate lots of conversation.

 

Laura

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I don't think that anyone has mentioned Samuel Becket. I recommend Waiting for Godot - it's not like anything your students will have read before and it should generate lots of conversation.

 

Laura

 

Yes, I still remember the details of reading this in high school. It really made me think, and it is on the schedule for my own even though I pretty much outsource for lit.

 

I also like Harvey and Arsenic and Old Lace.

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Antigone, by Jean Anuilh (spelling) was beloved in my English cñass It was written by a Frenchman post-WWII, so it had a defeatist, existential take on the ancient heroine. In school, we all felt it was more realistic and relatable than the ancient Greek version, but that's a must-read too. After reading both versions, we had to create our on modern take on a play - I made Creon a Wall Street "king" and the princesses were Manhattan socialites. Costuming, casting, and such all had to be explained in a powerpoint presentation.

 

No Exit by Jean Paul Satre is awesome. It's three characters, brought by the devil (a butler), as they wait for their hell to arrive (they've recently died). What they don't realize is that the room is their hell. The three characters have flaws that annoy the others, and they can't get their fixes from the room - it's subtle, but you start to realize that the vain woman has no mirrors to look at, the coward has no ability to close his eyes and hide away in sleep, and the furniture is mismatched just to drive them wild. It's an imaginative concept of hell being your flaws and your impatience with the flaws of others, reminscent of doctor's waiting rooms or lengthy family gatherings.The characters wait for fire and brimstone and torture, yet end up tortured anyway.

 

Twelve Angry Men is a better movie than a written play, and it's fun to watch because you see play elements not typically found in movies - a total of two sets, a limited cast of characters, small time frame, storytelling techniques to recreate action without explicitly showing it, and hyper-obvious use of small personality traits to express larger ideas about the characters. Rozencrantz and Gildenstern are Dead is another good movie.

 

And Death of a Salesman was another favorite play. Misguided dreams led to the destruction of a character and unhappiness of a family. How could they have better shaped their dreams to find success and fulfillment in life? How do we in real life make the same mistakes?

 

Runners-up: Hamlet, 1776 - the movie, Inherit the Wind (I'd recommend only if you fall on the evolution side of Science v. New Earth), and if your son were a daughter : A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen & My Fair Lady (to fill in for Pygmalian)

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With only 9-10 slots, I would definitely cut Miracle Worker.

 

Antigone by Sophocles (you could then watch Anouillh's Antigone - film links below)

Shakespeare - so many good choices!

a Moliere - I'd suggest Tartuffe or the Miser

Doll House by Ibsen

Cherry Orchard by Chekhov

Importance of Being Earnest by Wilde

a Shaw - Major Barbara is one of my favorites, but Pygmalion is a popular choice as well

a Miller - Death of a Salesman and Crucible are the standard choices, but I strongly recommend All my Sons or Incident at Vichy for a high school student.

 

This is where it gets hard - I think the 8 above are essential parts of an overview of drama, but there are so many fine contenders for the last two slots...

 

perhaps one or two of : Bald Soprano (Ionesco), Six Characters in Search of an Author (Pirandello), Waiting for Godot (Beckett), R & G are Dead (Stoppard), or No Exit (Sartre)

 

if you do just one perhaps you'd want another American: Glass Menagerie (Williams), Moon for the Misbegotten (O' Neill), Raisin in the Sun(Hansberry), or Fences (Wilson)

 

...but that still skips Brecht, which is a major omission, Fugard, Mamet, and Lorca.... *sigh*

 

Character and Conflict and Life of the Drama are two spine texts I've used. Mamet's Three Uses of the Knife is a good supplement.

 

http://www.amazon.co...57519628&sr=8-1

 

http://www.amazon.co...7519675&sr=1-10

 

http://www.amazon.co...57519901&sr=1-1

 

 

Films:

 

Antigone (S):

http://www.amazon.co...57496991&sr=1-3

(A):

http://www.amazon.co...57495114&sr=1-4

 

Tartuffe:

http://www.amazon.co...57495294&sr=1-6

 

Doll's House:

http://www.amazon.co...57496820&sr=1-1

 

Cherry Orchard:

http://www.amazon.co...57496804&sr=1-1

 

Importance of Being Earnest:

http://www.amazon.co...57496852&sr=1-3

 

Major B:

http://www.amazon.co...57495653&sr=1-1

 

Pygmalion:

http://www.amazon.co...57496690&sr=1-2

 

DoaS:

http://www.amazon.co...57496235&sr=1-1

 

I@Vichy:

http://www.amazon.co...57496135&sr=1-1

 

All My Sons:

http://www.amazon.co...57496155&sr=1-2

 

R&G are dead:

http://www.amazon.co...57497064&sr=1-1

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Eliana,

 

Thanks for yet another wonderful list. I picked up the Character and Conflict book on you recommendation a while back and find it to be a valuable resource for myself and older students. I also like How to Read and Write About Drama.

 

bobbeym,

 

The Teaching Company has two very good lecture series: Shakespeare: Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies and Modern British Drama, that you may find to be both helpful and enjoyable.

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