Students will demonstrate their ability to create an artistic vision for their play by developing a director’s concept.
Directing Plays Textbook, copies of pages 33-36 of Ball’s book: Metaphor, examples of a dramatic metaphor (viz) for plays
Have a few examples of dramatic metaphors for plays displayed around the room. Allow the students time to examine each of the dramatic metaphors. While it would be nice to have some specific references listed here, the reality of dramatic metaphors is that the interpretation of the individual director determines what the metaphor is. So it is up to you, the teacher, to create the dramatic metaphor for a few specific plays and then display them accordingly. Some ideas that I have used in the past include: a worn piece of patchwork fabric for the musical Quilters, a color-copied picture of a stained glass window for the Greek tragedy Medea, a thorny long-stemmed rose for The Seduction from Neil Simon’s The Good Doctor, a rope tied into a noose for The Crucible, and a flashlight for Inherit the Wind.
Transition – Have the students share their impressions of the displayed items. What were they drawn to? What interested them? What emotions did the items make them feel? Talk with them about how these inanimate objects can stir emotions and feelings and signify a certain concept or experience. Explain to them how these items connect to their respective plays.
Instruction – Review with the students what a metaphor is: a striking comparison that does not use the words “like” and “as.” Teach them that in theatre, a dramatic metaphor (also called a viz: visual metaphor) is an object, picture, statement, photograph, sketch, or fabric that is not only “like” the production, but will be the production itself. Hand out the copies of pages 33-36 in Ball’s book and go over the ideas of the dramatic metaphor written there.
Transition – Ask students how they could go about creating a dramatic metaphor: what information do they need to know in order to develop a visual image for a production? Some answers might include storyline, character relationships, conflict. Have them consider the idea of theme as part of that information.
Group Practice – Divide the class into partnerships. Have each partner describe to their partner what their play is “really about.” In other words, the student should not be sharing the plot structure/storyline, but rather what the play is about through the story and characters. After listening to the description, the partner should write on a half piece of paper one sentence that states the message of the play. Then have partners switch positions so that the other partner is describing his/her play and his/her partner will add to the piece of paper his/her one-sentence statement as well.
Checking for Understanding – Have the partnerships share each other’s one-sentence statements with the rest of the class. Encourage the class to respond to the statements.
Transition – Introduce to the class the idea that these statements are similar to a theme statement or a spineline for a play. You can have students read aloud the section under The Spine on pages 68-69 of the textbook for further explanation. Make sure that students understand that you can describe the theme of a play with a lot of language and length, but the spineline should be a brief statement.
Modeling – Have students create a spineline for a production that they are all familiar with (perhaps a script previously studied in class or viewed together). To contrast the two concepts taught so far: spineline is a brief written statement of the theme and a dramatic metaphor or viz is a visual image of the production.
Instruction – Now that the students understand how to determine the play’s message and how to convey that message visually, introduce the idea of a director’s concept to the students. A concept is: the central creative idea that unifies the artistic vision of a production. In other words, it is the unique way a director is going to tell the story.
Using the two previous concepts to connect the concept: The spineline is a statement of what the play is about and the concept is the director’s personal interpretation of how to share that message. The dramatic metaphor can provide a visual image to support the director’s concept.
Draw the visual image of the following graph on the board or on an overhead:
This long line represents the entire message of the play and all of the possible interpretations of the play. (draw a long line across the board)
This box represents the chunk designated by the director as the laws and boundaries of his/her interpretation and concept. (draw a rectangle box somewhere along the line)
Checking for Understanding – Using the play and spineline created in step five, call on a few separate students to create a concept for that play. After the concepts have been shared, have different students supply ideas of dramatic metaphors for those concepts.
ASSIGNMENT: Assign students to come to class next period with a dramatic metaphor or viz for their production. They will be sharing their concepts with the entire class and displaying their viz’s in front of the class.
Students can be assessed through their participation in the discussions and through their partner spineline statements.