Th, May 26th–Humanities

HW: Read Brave New World Chapters 14-15.

What we’re up to:

  • Free Will
  • Cogito Ergo Sum
  • Brave New World

 

Let’s talk Free Will first. I missed the article discussion, but let’s have it now. Do we have free will and does it matter? If you knew–beyond a doubt–that free will was an illusion would it change how you felt about your own decisions? About your justification in judging others? About your willingness to get out of bed at all?

On to Descartes! We’ll read from his Discourses on First Philosophy and decide whether or not everything that we know is an illusion created by an evil demon.

Finally, let’s talk BNW. We’ll probably only be able to talk about Chapters 7-9. How close is our own society to this society?

Th/F–May 26th-27th–AP

What we’re up to:

  • Choosing the Play.
  • Readthroughs.
  • Discussion and Questions.
  • Choosing the Scene and beginning memorization.

Ok, if you haven’t already, groups need to choose their play. I’ll help.

Next, you’ll finish your readthrough and answer the following question on paper in a small group discussion:

  1. What is the main question this play seeks to answer? What are the offered answers and what seems to be the answer that is landed on by the end?
  2. Describe the world that the play creates. Are events guided by character choice or do the characters seem to be at the whim of some vengeful fate/God? Is this a believable or fanciful world? Explain.
  3. What is the inciting incident which gets the story started? What is the final conflict that is resolved by the end?
  4. How–if at all- do the characters change during the course of the play? Why do they change/fail to change? What does that say about the ideas the play seems to be dealing with?
  5. What are the crucial themes of the play? What abstract ideas–honor, loyalty, family, gender, love, etc.–reverberate through the actions and discussions of the play?
  6. How should this play–ideally–be staged? Should their be an elaborate set or a minimal one? Props? Lighting? Special effects?
  7. How does the medium of the dramatic play differ from other media? What advantages does it have over other media? What are some of the drawbacks? How does this play exploit the advantages? Would this work as a movie or TV show? Why/ why not?

The American Play assignment:

Requirements:

  1. Prepare a scene from your chosen play in which every student has at least 50 lines memorized. You can double parts, move/cut lines, or otherwise make alterations in order to make the workload more or less equal.
  2. Together, write a short plot summary and a statement of the play’s theme. Explain how the playwright uses character, language (dialogue and stage directions), and/or setting to communicate that theme. Each character should write a one paragraph explanation of your character’s motivation (what do they want in this scene and why) and contribution to the theme.
  3. Together, plan blocking (movement) that is visually interesting and conveys important information about character, relationships, conflicts, and themes. Consider how to use levels, stage areas, setting, and proximity to communicate this.
  4. Contribute basic costumes, props, and set elements to make the scene come alive. Keep it simple, but make creative choices. If you have essential elements that you cannot create in class, you can explain this before the beginning of your scene.
  5. Scenes are due the last week of school: June 20th-24th.
  6. Grade are not based on acting ability but rather the completion of the written part (#2), accuracy of memorization, and the skill in which the blocking contributes to the audience’s understanding of plot, character, and theme.

 

W, May 25th–AP

What we’re up to:

  • Another round of American plays
  • Choosing your play
  • Read-throughs

Ok, so I’ve been sick, but now I’m back…better than ever. Or at least not that much worse…

We’ll start by moving to play groups. You need groups of 2-5 and–for once–you can work with whomever you want.

Each groups should do four rounds of the following:

  1. Choose a play that looks promising. See the number of players. You’ll be able to combine roles if necessary, but check to see what is required.
  2. Do a read through of the first 15 minutes. Note the setting, characters, style, and themes.
  3. Discuss what you think of the play so far. What’s intriguing about it? What speaks to you?
  4. Go on to the next play.

OK! Then, it’s time to choose your play!

Now you’ll do a complete runthrough. It will probably take the entire period to finish the play, but if you do finish, here are the questions I’d like you to answer as a full group.

  1. What is the main question this play seeks to answer? What are the offered answers and what seems to be the answer that is landed on by the end?
  2. Describe the world that the play creates. Are events guided by character choice or do the characters seem to be at the whim of some vengeful fate/God? Is this a believable or fanciful world? Explain.
  3. What is the inciting incident which gets the story started? What is the final conflict that is resolved by the end?
  4. How–if at all- do the characters change during the course of the play? Why do they change/fail to change? What does that say about the ideas the play seems to be dealing with?
  5. What are the crucial themes of the play? What abstract ideas–honor, loyalty, family, gender, love, etc.–reverberate through the actions and discussions of the play?
  6. How should this play–ideally–be staged? Should their be an elaborate set or a minimal one? Props? Lighting? Special effects?
  7. How does the medium of the dramatic play differ from other media? What advantages does it have over other media? What are some of the drawbacks? How does this play exploit the advantages? Would this work as a movie or TV show? Why/ why not?

 

Thu, May 19th–Humanities

HW: Read BNW Chapters 7-9

What we’re up to:

  • Existential Shark Tank
  • Brave New World Chapters 4-6
  • Is there free will?

First question:

What official rituals foes our school offer for students? Does our school have enough of these rituals? Should we have fewer or more? How do rituals encourage positive group behavior? How do rituals encourage less positive behavior? Should there, for instance, be a Homecoming Court? Why/why not?

OK, let’s give you a little time and then you’ll present your products. At the end, the class will vote on their top three products.

Next, I want to talk BNW. What do you think about those Solidarity Services? Do rituals help groups feel connected?

Finally, let’s talk about Free Will. We’re moving to a unit on metaphysics and epistemology and to start, I’d like to see a couple short movies about free will. If we believe that there is no free will, does that undermine our ability to judge others or find motivation to act?

Thu/Fri–May 19/29–AP

HW: Revisions of Fascination Essay. Reading of Semester Nonfiction books. Completing Rhetoric in the Wild

What we’re up to:

  • Discussion on Queen of Versailles–How do Documentary filmmakers use rhetoric?
  • Introduction to the Play Unit
  • Introduction to American Plays
  • Readthroughs and Discussion

 

Ok, first, let’s finish Queen.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Describe your impression of the Siegel family. Be specific about how the filmmakers depict them in their choices of what to show, how to show it, how they use music and other cinema techniques.
  2. Who did you sympathize with and who did you not? Why do you think so?
  3. AO Scott said this, “Schadenfreude and disgust may be unavoidable, but to withhold all sympathy from the Siegels is to deny their humanity and shortchange your own. Marvel at the ornate frame, mock the vulgarity of the images if you want, but let’s not kid ourselves. If this film is a portrait, it is also a mirror.”
  4. What are the ways documentarians can manipulate our impressions? Are they fair? What is/is not ethical in these choices?
  5. Is this movie exploitative? Does it make it too easy to mock someone rather than think deeply and critically about society?

OK, now let’s talk American drama. We’ll look at 4 different classic American dramas:

We’ll do a readthrough where 4 groups will take turns reading the first 15 minutes of the play together. After each readthrough, we’ll ask these questions:

  1. How does the playwright introduce the characters? What do they do/say that gives the audience a sense of who they are?
  2. How does the playwright introduce the setting? What do we figure out is true about the play’s world?
  3. How does the playwright introduce the themes? What are the ideas and conflicts that are already beginning to be set up?

Next week, we’ll look at some more contemporary plays and small groups will choose their focus play.

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