Into The Woods: Drama Review


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These instructions are for the written extra credit opportunity: a review of a play other than those assigned for class.
Your review must answer the following question: What was the main idea or theme of the play and how did the technical and performative aspects you are focusing on work to represent and clarify that idea?

[Please notice that the main question of this review is NOT is the play worth seeing. After all, what good is your opinion on such a matter if you cannot clearly express what the play was about and if it was or was not successful in presenting that idea or ideas? This is how people studying theatre should (and those who are in the theatre do) think about theatre. You may briefly touch on what you think the worth of the play is in the conclusion. However, please be aware that you have to clearly answer the above question. You are not judging the production merely on how you value its aesthetics; you are judging it on how well the play’s ideas melded with the manner in which the production presented those ideas.]

Basic Instructions

1. Length: at least two, no more than three pages; text must be double-spaced in 12 point Times New Roman with one inch margins on all sides.
2. Put the following information in the upper right-hand corner of the first page:
Name
THE 1234562 [Your class number]
Date
Email Address
3. Give your review an interesting title. This is the place to be most creative in an attempt to draw the reader into your text.
4. Every time you use the title of a play, like The Weir, it should be italicized.
5. Submit your review on Sakai via the Assignments page at 5 pm on our last day of class or within a week of having seen the production, whichever comes first.

If you fail to follow the five basic (i.e. simple) instructions above, your extra credit will not be read.

How to Write a Review

Preparation:
Before you go to see the production, carefully read through the following questions. Your review does not have to answer all of these questions—not all of them are applicable to all productions—but thinking about them before you go to the performance will make you more observant and help with your recall when writing the review. Consider taking notes while at the play, as specifics will be the basis of your review.

1. What have we said in class about the show? What, if anything, have we mentioned or seemed excited about regarding the production? What have you heard from guests to the class about the show, if anything?
2. When you walk into the theatre, how do you feel? What is your first reaction? What is the stage space and audience space like?
3. What is immediately striking about the overall “look” of the production? What are the dominant colors, textures, and accents?
4. Is there a set? What is it like? If it is changed during performance, how is this done?
5. What kinds of sounds are you aware of (including silences, non-vocal noises, music, special effects)?
6. What do you notice about the lighting and how it is being used?
7. Do any costumes stand out as especially significant? Do the costumes help you to locate the production or the setting’s time period?
8. Consider the casting choices—including gender, race, age, body types, and agility—on the overall production. Does the performer’s bio (usually found in the program) match with their particular role?
9. Consider the cast’s ability to work together. Are the members “gelling” with one another? Either way, how can you tell?
10. How would you describe how the actors are using the space, including blocking and movement? What stands out about their physical interaction?
11. What is the relationship between the characters? What are their individual and/or collective goals? How does the journey of the play reveal, transform, or solidify those goals?
12. How would you describe the pace of the production? If there was an intermission, are there any differences between the parts (e.g. did the pace move more quickly after the intermission?)?
13. Are there moments that give you particular pleasure or unease?
14. Do you know if the text of the play has been altered or cut anywhere?
15. In what ways, if any, is the director’s interpretation different from what you had expected? Which elements of the production did he or she most emphatically employ to convey his or her interpretation?
16. Is the audience’s reaction surprising to you at any time? What are those moments and how did the audience respond?
17. How would you classify the production in terms of genre? Is it participating in many different genres or is it fairly consistent?
18. What are the major themes of the production and how did the various parts of the production—from the play’s title to the finished performance—contribute to the overall production and those major themes?

Writing:
1. Organize your thoughts:
Using your observations guided by the questions above, piece together the reasons for your opinion about the play using the following question to drive your argument: What was the main idea or theme of the play and how did the technical and performative aspects you are focusing on work to represent and clarify that idea?
Using specific elements you witnessed during the performance, construct a thesis statement for your paper. Your thesis statement should include the specific qualities or instances that you thought made the performance a success or failure in terms of getting the various artist’s ideas across. Is there wiggle room between these two judgments? Yes, but you should probably figure out what about the production either made you ultimately enjoy it or not. See below for more directions on how to best structure your paper.

2. Tone:
Do not write a purely descriptive review (“The lighting successfully created many blue colors”), or an overly critical one (“The blue lighting was too harsh and annoying, making it fail to elicit the depression the lighting director was hoping for”). You must find a balance between these two so that your judgment of the play appears based on the qualities of the production rather than on your inability to understand the show or how much Starbucks and/or very greasy Pepperoni Pizza you consumed before seeing it. In other words, maintain a professional yet engaged tone throughout. If you do not understand what is going on up on the stage, admit it. You’re not being graded on how angry or elated you can be in regard to a production, but how well you justify how the workings of this particular artistic moment evoked your emotions. See below for more directions regarding your language.

General Writing Guidelines

Structure
• Write an introductory paragraph to establish your topic and pique your reader’s interest.
• Develop a clear thesis statement (main point) and make sure that each body paragraph supports that main point.
• Unite each body paragraph with a claim that supports your thesis (topic sentence).
• Provide detailed examples as evidence to support each claim. Oftentimes, one or two very detailed examples are more effective than several very general examples.
• Organize paragraphs logically.
• Develop transitions between paragraphs to lend coherence to your argument.
• Develop a concluding paragraph that clearly indicates the end of the essay, sometimes stating or restating the thesis.

Language
• To convey your meaning effectively and to keep the reader awake and interested, choose and organize
your words carefully.
• Use action verbs (not is, was, were, am) and specific nouns.
• Vary sentence structure and length.
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