The first and second questions are about the film and the third question is about politics
1. After viewing the documentaries about playwright August Wilson's life and work, discuss what you consider to be the most significant contribution Wilson made to the theatre, and how you would describe his legacy. Your responses should be brief, 1.5 pages in length, but detailed and thorough.
Writing a successful critique means going beyond simply deciding whether the film adaptation was “good” or “bad”. Value judgments like “it was great” are impossible to support with any real evidence. Instead, carefully consider the effectiveness of the film adaptation, and how the creative choices made by the director, actors, and designers inform your understanding of the play. You may begin by simply asking yourself your general emotional response to the film (I loved it, I only liked certain aspects of it, I thought it would never end...) but that is merely scratching the surface. Your task is to determine critically and then articulate intellectually why you believe the film succeeds or fails in its adaptation of the play you read.
Justification of your opinions is key. There is no “right” or “wrong” response to a work of art. However, if your perspective lacks justification your opinions will lack validity. Stating “this film was effective because the acting was good” will not suffice. Why was the acting good, and what do you mean by “good”? Explain and use examples.
Among the cast, performance styles varied. Meryl Streep’s interpretation of Mother Courage also appeared inordinately funny.
Among the cast, performance styles varied; rather than fragmenting the production, however, this collage of techniques complemented the evocative and eclectic setting and highlighted the way that Kushner’s script spoke across specific historical moments. Meryl Streep’s interpretation of Mother Courage also appeared inordinately funny, thereby turning preconceived notions of the tragic character on their head and allowing the contemporary audience to see the play with fresh eyes.
(Excerpt from Theatre Journal 2007).
The non-underlined portions merely state the author’s observations. The underlined portions explain and justify why these observations matter.
Use these general guidelines to inform your approach to writing your critiques. Each critique will have its own specific prompt.
2. You already saw and critiqued the critically-acclaimed RSC Hamlet set in West Africa with a cast of Black actors in all major roles. This week you will watch documentaries about American playwright August Wilson. Among Wilson's many influential views is his strong perspective on so-called "color blind" casting. Wilson vehemently objected to plays by white writers being cast with Black actors. He would have objected to the RSC's 2016 Hamlet. To quote Wilson:
"To mount an all-black production of any play conceived for white actors as an investigation of the human condition through the specifics of white culture is to deny [Black people] our own humanity, our own history, and the need to make our own investigations from the cultural ground on which we stand as Black Americans. It is an insult to our intelligence, our playwrights, and our many varied contributions to society and the world at large."
Discuss whether Wilson's declaration above changes your opinion about the 2016 Hamlet set in West Africa, or not. There is no "right" or "wrong" here. The point is to discuss what you think about Wilson's POV. (150 words)
3. Following the final election on November 2nd, students will submit a 750-1000 word analysis of the election results, utilizing the various inputs that we have discussed in class and that they have experienced on the campaigns. Students will include an informational interview with a professional that they have met throughout the campaign to provide additional learning. The interview need not be about the post-election, but can be focused on any aspect of the campaign.
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