Body of the Casebook: A Work Session


Students will build a dramaturgical casebook by collecting articles, book chapters, online information, past performances of the production, visual images, historical and other pertinent information about the world of the play.


Materials Needed

Schedule library
Computers with internet access
Youtube clip


Lesson Directions


Anticipatory Set/Hook

Review/assessment: Students will briefly present their playwright biographical sketches in class. They will turn in one copy and retain one copy for their casebooks.



1. Prioritizing items for research and collection
Show a clip from the Tuacahn performance of “Muddy Water” from Big River:]
Write the following list of items on the board [or print them on sheets of paper and tape/magnet them to the board]:
1. Traveling shows in the 1850s
2. How to fry chicken
3. Fishing poles in 1850s
4. Slavery in the South in 1850s
5. Runaway slave laws
6. Styles of Bibles in 1850s
7. The Ohio and Mississippi Rivers
8. Mark Twain
9. Types of gold coins


Give a brief synopsis of the musical Big River (which is based on the novel Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain).
· Huck is under pressure to become a civilized Christian by Tom Sawyer, Miss Watson, and the town
· Huck runs away from the town and his abusive alcoholic father
· He hides on small island on Mississippi
· Meets Jim, a runaway slave who was owned by Miss Watson
· Helps Jim escape on a raft, attempting to go up the Ohio River to the free states
· Huck and Jim meet a pair of swindlers who perform “plays” for towns and who plan to sell Jim back into slavery
· Jim is caught; Huck is mistaken by Tom Sawyer’s relatives as Tom, and they happen to be the people who now have Jim
· Tom Sawyer arrives to visit relatives, and encourages Huck to help Jim escape
· After a convoluted escape attempt, Tom is shot in the leg and reveals that Jim has already been freed by his former owner in her will
· Jim heads for the North; Huck heads West; Tom goes back home


Ask the students to imagine they are the dramaturg for this musical and are preparing to research significant things in the script. The list of 9 items represents possible things that could be researched that are in the play. Ask the students to copy and arrange the list of 9 items in order from most important information to least important. Ask for two or more volunteers to share their lists. Now ask the students to work together to make a list of the 5 most important things that should be researched from the list of 9 items. Ask a volunteer to write/arrange the list on the board.
Review/assessment: Ask students to rank the items from their 15-20 item lists, Identifying the World of the Play, from most pertinent to the play to least pertinent. They may ask for assistance in ranking the pertinent information. Allow about 8-10 minutes for this activity. After this activity is completed, ask the students to select the 8-12 items on the list that are most pertinent to the play; ask them to write these items on a separate sheet of paper. They will base their research on this prioritized list. Allow about 4-5 minutes for this activity.


2. Selection of items to be included in the casebook
o Prior to going to the library, inform the students that they will do the following in the library:
· Using the lists of prioritized items they have just created, they will find materials via available sources as discussed in the previous class.
· They will make a printed copy of each item found that they plan to place in their casebooks.
· They will bibliograph each item collected and printed for their casebooks on their bibliography lists.
· Later in the project they will include each item in a table of contents.


o Assignment (Due next class): Prior to going to the library explain today’s assignment to the students: Students will locate 3-4 items to collect and print for their casebooks. They will bibliograph the 3-4 items. They will place the items in 3-ring binders. They will be prepared to briefly present these items in the next class. Remind students that their completed casebooks must contain 8-12 articles/other pertinent research, including the playwright biographies they have already completed. By the end of this class period, they should have at least 2 items selected, bibliographed and printed. The remaining 1-2 items must be completed as homework. Students will show their items to the instructor during the last 5-10 minutes of class.
By prearrangement, students will go to the library to research and record items from their lists Identifying the World of the Play.



1. At the end of the work session (5-10 minutes before dismissal), students will show the instructor at least 2 printed and bibliographed items they will include in their casebooks.