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Forgiven

Looking for ideas/information for a Plays as Literature course

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I'm trying to put together a "Plays as Literature" course for my rising 11th grade daughter. I hoped there would be someone on here that has already went down this road, but my searches have yielded nothing. Maybe I'm using the wrong search criteria?

Anyway, if this has been talked about before, if you could lead me to the thread(s), I'd appreciate it.

Otherwise, if anyone has any ideas, I'd appreciate that as well.

So far, I've looked at MIT's open course ware for a drama as literature class. I've purchased the book used in the course, which has some of the plays I was already thinking of using plus more. Here is a list of the plays I'm looking at. Note that I won't have her do all the plays listed (I don't think--I may have her read them all, but only analyze/do projects for a selected amount -- like 10 or so).

Hamlet

Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf

Oedipus Rex

Look Back in Anger

A Raisin in the Sun

Hedda Gabler

The Homecoming

Machinal

Tartuffe

This is Our Youth

Top Dog/Underdog

Candida

The School for Scandal

Life with Father

Our Town

She Stoops to Conquer

The Women

The Humans

Everyman

Dutchman and the Slave

Death of a Salesman

A Streetcar Named Desire

Faust (or Doctor Faust -- Can't decide which one)

The Importance of Being Earnest

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

The Glass Menagerie

Twelth Night

Far Away

Antigone

An Oak Tree

Medea

Waiting for Godot

The Birthday Party

Othello

The Tempest

Macbeth

 

There are a few more Shakespeare that I want her to read, but this list is becoming NEVER ENDING!  I'm looking for any insight into this list. What do you think I could do without, what do you think is missing?

As for the projects I expect her to do, she will be analyzing but also creating sketches of scenes and costumes as well as in some cases, rewriting to show how she would do the play in a modern setting or for a modern play, in a historical setting. Dioramas will also happen as well as notes as to things she would do if she were directing the play (ie: what theme(s) would she want to shed focus to, etc).

Anyway, any and all help, even if it's just a link to a thread already in existence would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!

Angie

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Just my 2-/12 cents, for what it's worth (LOL!):

12 hours ago, Forgiven said:

As for the projects I expect her to do, she will be analyzing but also creating sketches of scenes and costumes as well as in some cases, rewriting to show how she would do the play in a modern setting or for a modern play, in a historical setting. Dioramas will also happen as well as notes as to things she would do if she were directing the play (ie: what theme(s) would she want to shed focus to, etc)...


A lot of these project ideas (in red) for a "drama as literature" class are ones that one would great in support a specific Theater credit, or a Fine Arts: Theater Appreciation credit -- rather than an English credit (which is what it sounds like you are shooting for, with a course title of "Plays as Literature"). In contrast, the Literature portion of an English credit focuses on reading, discussing, analyzing, writing about works of Literature (plays included, of course), researching the author's background/times in which the author was writing, comparing with other authors/works, learning about topics in Literature (such as genres and genre conventions, major literary themes, literary elements, etc.).

So I would first suggest deciding what kind of credit this will be (Theater-based or English-based), which will then help you more carefully narrow the scope to fit your focus.

One thought: if your student loves Theater and all things theatrical, you might consider doing 2 complete credits: 1 credit of English: "Plays as Literature, and 1 credit of Fine Arts: Theater Appreciation. The 2 credits could work in tandem, covering many of the same plays, but in different ways.
 

12 hours ago, Forgiven said:

... There are a few more Shakespeare that I want her to read, but this list is becoming NEVER ENDING!  I'm looking for any insight into this list. What do you think I could do without, what do you think is missing?...


Wow -- overload! Way too many plays, if reading them all! 😵 I would probably suggest limiting it to just 8-9 plays total for reading/analyzing/working with (that's one play per month, or 4 per semester), and possibly WATCH a good film version of another 1-2 plays to go along with/compare/contrast the main play for the month -- and NOT do that EVERY month, maybe just every other month. So *just* watch (not read/analyze/dig into) another 4-8 plays at most, in addition to your 8-9 main plays. 

If it were me and if I were shooting for a wide exposure of drama through time and location, I'd probably pick 2 Shakespeare plays (1 tragedy, 1 comedy), and then 6-7 other plays with some light/comedy and others heavy/drama. In narrowing down the other "main" plays, I would probably pick an Ancient Greek play (probably Oedipus the King, since it is SO famous and SO alluded to) -- as well 1 British and 1 American classic. I might also look for works that would be easy to do extension study -- plays that are frequently referenced/parodied in our culture, or have film versions, or the basic idea of the play was adapted into a new modern story... Cyrano de Bergerac, for example. And while every classic work of Literature is classic because it deals with timeless themes and characters, you might take a look at the English morality play of Everyman for the very basics of human morality struggles as one of your "extra" plays, since it's so short. (And here's a link to a free study guide.)

I'd suggest shooting for a chronological selection, or for a variety of locations of playwrights, or a wide variety of themes/subjects. Or, the opposite: focus on a theme or similar idea that threads through all of the major plays you choose. Or, do all Shakespeare. Or all Shakespeare one semester, and then a potpourri of plays that were influenced by the Bard in the second semester. Or... you get the idea. 😉 

In case it helps you narrow your list, these are the plays I most frequently see showing up in high school Literature programs -- meant as a list to CHOOSE from, NOT as a "do ALL of these" list, LOL!

Shakespeare
tragedies: Hamlet, Macbeth -- and less often: Romeo and Juliet
comedies: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, Twelfth Night, The Tempest -- less often: Taming of the Shrew
histories: Henry V, Julius Caesar

Ancient Greek playwrights/plays:
Sophocles: Oedipus the King -- and sometimes all 3 of the Oedipus cycle: Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, Antigone
Aeschylus: Oresteia (trilogy of tragedies: Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, The Eumenides)
Aristophanes: The Birds, The Frogs, The Clouds, The Wasps, Lysistrata
Euripides: Medea, The Trojan Women -- Euripides is done less often by high schoolers

UK playwrights/plays:
Beckett: Waiting for Godot
Shaw: Pygmalion -- and can couple with Lerner & Loewe's musical play version: My Fair Lady
Wilde: The Importance of Being Earnest

American playwrights/plays:
Hansberry: A Raisin in the Sun
Miller: The Crucible, Death of a Salesman
Wilder: Our Town

musical plays to consider:
Laurentz/Bernstein/Sondheim (Americans): West Side Story -- a retelling of Romeo and Juliet
Sondheim (American): Sunday in the Park With George -- based on expressionist artist George Seurat and his famous painting "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Grand Jatte"

other plays I see less frequently done with high schoolers, but that are solid options:
anonymous: Everyman -- Medieval English morality play
Christie (British): The Mousetrap -- murder mystery
Eliot (American): Murder in the Cathedral -- drama; murder of Thomas Becket
Gibson (American): The Miracle Worker -- autobiographical drama of Helen Keller & Annie Sullivan
Hecht & McArthur: The Front Page -- screwball comedy
Kesselring (American): Arsenic and Old Lace -- screwball comedy
Rose (American): Twelve Angry Men -- drama
Rostrand (French): Cyrano de Bergerac -- romance/tragedy
Stoppard (British): Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead -- absurdist/existential -- often done with Hamlet
Williams: The Glass Menagerie, Streetcar Named Desire

classic plays probably more for college than for high school:
Albee (American): Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf?
Chekov (Russian): Three Sisters, The Cherry Orchard
Hellman (American): The Children's Hour; The Little Foxes
Ibsen (Norweigan): A Doll's House, Hedda Gabler
Marlowe (British): Doctor Faustus
Moliere (French): The Miser, Tartuffe
O'Neill (American): Long Day's Journey into Night
Sarte (French): No Exit
Simon (American): The Old Couple
Wilson (American): Fences
 

12 hours ago, Forgiven said:

...any and all help, even if it's just a link to a thread already in existence would be greatly appreciated...


ideas for more resources:
Drama: A Comprehensive Guide to Dramatic Elements and Style -- Walch Publishers
How to Read and Write About Drama (Vena)
"Must read plays?" -- past thread with ideas for plays, but also resources

Shakespeare resources:
Folger Shakespeare Library -- teacher resources, lesson plans, etc.
Brightest Heaven of Invention: Christian Guide to 6 Shakespeare Plays (Leithart) -- Henry V, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Macbeth, Taming of the Shrew, Much Ado About Nothing
Parallel Shakespeare materials -- esp. the teacher guides and student workbooks; the parallel guides are also nice, with side by side original/modern text and explanations
Wikipedia: List of William Shakespeare Film Adaptations

Edited by Lori D.

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Thank you, LoriD! You've made me feel better about what I'm doing. I was going for both the Literature take and the theatrical take on these, but didn't think to split it into two separate courses while using the same resources. I know what I have is too much. It's so hard to reduce. LOL She read 21 books last year for Literature, but only wrote papers and fully analyzed 10 of them, and she's cast in Hamlet this summer, so she's getting exposure to that one right now, and I was thinking of doing Rosencrantz and Goldenstern are Dead in conjunction with it. LOL

She is a theatre person, and her goal is to become a theater manager.

I appreciate all your feedback. It has moved my mind in a different direction!

Thanks!

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I also think your list is a bit too long and that you need to narrow it down. However, I do think you can read more than 8 plays. Plays are an absurdly quick read. A good reader can down one in an afternoon. So then it just depends on how you want to focus - on breadth or depth or a bit of both.

I would start grouping things into genres and periods. So, for example, Medea, Antigone, and Oedipus Rex. I'd just pick one. I would also not do more than one comedy and one tragedy from Shakespeare. Or, I wouldn't do any Shakespeare at all if she's already had a good bit of exposure. I also wouldn't do Streetcar, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Glass Menagerie. Pick one. You also definitely don't need a Goldsmith and a Sheridan - pick one or the other.

I also disagree with Lori's list of things that are more for college. I mean, you can save things for later and that's fine - whatever you want to leave off is okay. But I read many of those in high school. And my theater nut has already read a couple on that list and I plan to assign others. I mean, why skip Ibsen or Chekov in high school! Or Moliere, who can be very funny. Really, the French old comedies are great. Has she ever seen one of the David Ives updates of one of the old French comedies - not Moliere, but I think it's Cornielle? I know they're commonly done in high schools now - especially The Liar, which I love.

Also, I would undoubtedly do Fences or another August Wilson. I'd also do Wole Soyinka (probably Death  and the King's Horsemen), because African drama is great.

O'Neill is a tough one for me. And Arthur Miller... if she hasn't read Crucible, I'd do that over Death of a Salesman, just because the themes are easier for a younger reader/watcher. O'Neill was one of the more tough to really get as a younger reader plays that I read. I'd definitely go see an O'Neill play rather than read one if you leave him on your list.

Since she has two years left, I think you could absolutely break it up - you could do two years. One American year and one non-American year. Or you could do a survey this coming year and have her pick a more in depth area of study next year.

I think if your goal is theater as literature, you choices are probably going to be different than if you want to focus on theater that's actually typically performed today. But that it's okay - it would still be literature.

Edited by Farrar
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46 minutes ago, Farrar said:

 I also disagree with Lori's list of things that are more for college. I mean, you can save things for later and that's fine - whatever you want to leave off is okay. But I read many of those in high school. And my theater nut has already read a couple on that list and I plan to assign others. I mean, why skip Ibsen or Chekov in high school! Or Moliere, who can be very funny.  

 O'Neill is a tough one for me. And Arthur Miller... if she hasn't read Crucible, I'd do that over Death of a Salesman, just because the themes are easier for a younger reader/watcher.  

I read quite a few of those in high school, too. The Misanthrope was my spirit animal, lol. 

Because there are so many great choices, I'd go more by interest and likeliness to resonate. fwiw, I have yet to meet the teenager who enjoyed Everyman, Waiting on Godot, or Death of a Salesman. 

23 hours ago, Forgiven said:

  Dioramas will also happen  

I'm rewatching Community and that's my excuse for laughing so hard at this comment. 

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Farrar and Katilac, thank you for your responses. Excellent information and ideas. I think I will split it up into two courses (one for this year, and one for next). I was going to do World Literature next year, but I can do it through plays as well as books. She has already read Anna Karenina (sp?)--she's an avid reader and chose it on her own.

I think I'm going to let her pick out the plays (with guidance) she analyzes. We already have plans to go see A Raisin in the Sun at a local college this Fall, so maybe we can just keep that as one we watch instead of read or analyze. The list will be pruned. I guess it's a matter of sitting with her and deciding which plays to focus on for each year.

Thank you all. You have helped more than you could possibly know!

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Performance is such a big component of theater! I would look through what you can see in person as you pick plays. Since you have a local group performing Raisin in the Sun, I might be inclined to spend more time on it rather than less, and see if the actors or director are doing any kind of extra community outreach, or might be willing to meet with a group of students for Q and A. 

It's also worth considering even what film versions are available. Much Ado isn't probably the best or most famous of Shakespeare's comedies, but there are three movie versions (Joss Whedon's, Kenneth Branagh's, and the stage version where David Tennant wears a Miss Piggy costume) that are so terrific and so different from each other that it's really rewarding to see all three. Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet also have a number of interesting options (sometimes also a scene or two from a not-so-good performance is also quite instructive!!!). 

Yes, very much recommend reading R and G alongside Hamlet (some adult material, but a kiddo who read Anna Karenina is likely fine!). 

I know you said she wants to do managing rather than acting, but it might be a good idea to make sure you have a few plays on your list that she could pull monologues from (characters of an age she can play, not too racy, etc.). Even if she doesn't use the monologue for an audition, the practice of prepping, memorizing, finding her beats, fine-tuning delivery, offers such good insight into understanding how the play is put together. 

John Barton's Playing Shakespeare (the book and even more the video series) is absolutely fantastic. So many terrific insights for the actor. Beautiful advice for instance on delivering monologues. 

Gosh, so many good options!

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