This project is due Sunday of Week Four and is worth 30 points.
For this project, you will attend a live theatrical performance in your area. You may choose a play or musical performed in a professional regional theater or by a good community theater or opera company.
Please, no school plays. All choices of performance must be pre-approved by the instructor. Students must obtain a program as both proof of attendance and source of information about the play. This program must be scanned and uploaded along with the assignment. Your instructor will be happy to help you find a play in your area.
Musical theater and opera are acceptable. Students with children may attend a professional children’s theater production.
After attending the play, write a three-page theater review, in which you critique the performance. Your critique should contain a brief summary of the plot as well as descriptions of certain aspects of the play such as acting, directing, set design, costumes, lighting, performance space, sound, etc. Not all of these aspects need be described; choose those most salient to your experience of the play.
For help writing a theater review, you may download and read the two reviews below:
August Wilson: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – Attached
Octavio Solis: Lydia – Attached
Reviews should be in MLA or APA format and should contain a complete bibliographic reference for the theater program, textbook, and any other source of information used. Information on formats may be found here:
MLA Format: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/09/
APA Format: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/11/
Students will be graded on the depth and thoughtfulness of their responses. Any indication that the student did not actually attend the play in question—such as not understanding basic plot points or characterizations—will result in a failing grade. Shallow or superficial responses will not receive a passing grade. Plagiarism will result in a zero grade.
All papers should be in MLA or APA format and should contain a complete bibliographic reference for all sources. Proper in text citation format should also be used.
Information on formats may be found here:
MLA Format: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/09/
APA Format: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/11/
Students will be graded on the depth and thoughtfulness of their responses. Shallow or superficial responses will not receive a passing grade. Any indication that research on the topic was not done will result in a failing grade. Plagiarism will result in a zero grade.
In reality, Octavio Solis mines a new vein
The family drama ‘Lydia’ is ‘the kind of play that I said I would never write.’
|THIS TIME ITÂS PERSONAL: Octavio Solis Â work is about a Texas family whose teenage daughter has been disabled. (Christine Cotter, Los Angeles Times)|
By Jan Breslauer
April 12, 2009
Playwright Octavio Solis has become an overnight sensation, and it took only 25 years. Long respected in theater and Latino arts circles, the writer is having breakthrough success with his play “Lydia.” Set in El Paso in the 1970’s, “Lydia” portrays the saga of the Flores family, whose teenage daughter, Ceci, has been disabled in a horrific accident.
Into this household of troubled souls and buried secrets enters an undocumented caretaker who shares a mysterious connection with Ceci. With recent productions at Denver Center Theatre Company, Yale Repertory Theatre and Marin Theatre Company, the drama opens Wednesday at the Mark Taper Forum, directed by Juliette Carrillo.
“Lydia” has also been submitted for consideration for the Pulitzer Prize and is a finalist for the 2009 Harold and Mimi Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award.
“Lydia” is a breakthrough and a departure for Solis, known for poetic, lyrical language in plays typically not tied to any one setting. The heightened language is still present in “Lydia” but so too is realism. “It’s my first real true family play inside a house,” the writer says during a recent visit from his Bay Area home.
“This is one where everything is happening inside four walls and within a compressed period of time, often real time. I’ve written the kind of play that I said I would never write. “This is probably my most personal work,” adds the soft-spoken playwright.
“I felt compelled to write about a family in the realistic language that I grew up with.” “Octavio Solis strikes a beautiful balance in writing from his head and his heart,” says Bill Rauch, Oregon Shakespeare Festival artistic director, who has commissioned Solis to write an adaptation of Cervantes’ “Don Quixote.”
“His work is smart and passionate.” That combination of the emotional and the intellectual, the intimate and the dramatic, is what some feel gives “Lydia” its power.
“It’s a domestic drama, but the language and the theatrical idiom are anything but domestic — the way the combination of Spanish and English in the play is both comforting and jarring; the shifts in tone and mode are exhilarating, and the mysteries of the story stay with you long after you’ve read or seen it,” says James Bundy, dean of the Yale School of Drama and artistic director of Yale Repertory Theatre.
“It’s one of the most important plays of this decade.” The writing bug Considering the stylistic divide between Solis’ earlier works and the giants of American realism, it’s easy to understand why the playwright might be puzzled by some of the response to “Lydia.”
And yet, writing intimately about a family’s domestic life as well as the darker side of the American dream, Solis does share a thematic kinship with great U.S. dramatists of generations past. Opining about the play’s Colorado premiere, Denver Post theater critic John Moore described “Lydia” as “very much the Latino cousin of ‘Death of a Salesman.’
” And actor David DeSantos, who has performed in Solis’ “La Posada Mágica” at South Coast Repertory, seconds the analogy. “I can only compare Octavio Solis to a modern-day Arthur Miller ,” says DeSantos, currently acting at OSF. “His unflinching take on the human condition, as Miller embraced, is one of Octavio’s strongest assets.
” In “Lydia,” says DeSantos, Solis “found a story so dark and tragic. It is desperate and painful but layered with so much love.” From an actor’s point of view, another similarity is the psychological richness. “Octavio gives actors a road map to a truth that is terrifying and exhilarating in the same breath,” DeSantos says.
“In the same way that you open up Odets, Miller or Williams and find a treasure chest of layered honesty, when you open an Octavio Solis play, we actors have a raw, visceral experience.” Yet even among those who have worked with Solis for years, there is disagreement over whether “Lydia” is a new type of play for the writer.
To Carrillo, who also directed the Denver and Yale outings of the play, “Lydia” is less of a departure than a continuation. “It certainly brings in many of the themes he’s been working with — broken relationships, violence, secrets, passionate love, death,” says Carrillo, who first worked with Solis in the late ’90’s, when she was running SCR’s Hispanic Playwrights Project.
“But what is profoundly special about this play is how close to the bone he is cutting. It comes from a very deep, personal well.” That personal well is, in many respects, where “Lydia” is set; Solis grew up less than a mile from the Rio Grande, near El Paso. “So, the border has always been a presence in my life and my psyche,” he explains.
“It looms large in most of my works that I set in Texas. “There will always be that dichotomy between the first world and the Third World, right there in our backyard. For it to be poignantly expressed as a body of water, a river, where I lived, just makes it more mysterious to me.
” Solis, 50, was born in El Paso to Mexican-born parents. He attended college in San Antonio and received an MFA in acting at the Dallas Theatre Centre, when Trinity University had its graduate program off site there. Fresh out of school, he was cast in a production of Eric Overmyer’s “Native Speech” in Dallas.
It proved a turning point. “Instead of thinking I wanted to act in plays like this,” Solis says, “I started to think I wanted to write plays like this.” Solis produced some experimental writing at a bar where he was then bartending — when he wasn’t teaching high school. That situation lasted until the late 1980’s:
“My wife made me quit those jobs and said, ‘Look, we’ll live on my income.’ She’s an attorney.” In 1988-89, Solis was accepted into a workshop with playwright Maria Irene Fornes as well as South Coast Repertory’s Hispanic Playwrights Project, then run by playwright Jose Cruz Gonzalez.
Solis thus became part of a budding movement that would change American regional theater. The late 1980s saw the blossoming of multiculturalism: a proliferation of culturally and ethnically specific workshops, playwriting labs and other development initiatives, supported by government and private sources.
“I’m lucky in the sense that I was a product of that,” Solis says. “I think the artistic directors who embraced it all believed in it, and they had tremendous funding for it. But when the money dried up, it became very hard for the theaters to continue.” A planned trilogy Sustained by personal and institutional sources; Solis has finally made it to the A-list of regional theater.
His current commissions include Denver Center Theatre, SCR, Yale Rep, OSF and California Shakespeare Festival. “Don Quixote” will mark Solis’ third play at OSF and the first since Rauch was appointed artistic director in 2006.
“As a language-based theater, we embrace writers who use language in extraordinary, fresh and beautiful ways,” says Rauch, formerly of L.A.’s Cornerstone Theater. Yale Rep will get the sequel to “Lydia,” Part 2 of a projected trilogy, currently titled “Yolanda.” The play takes up the story of Alvaro, one of the minor characters in “Lydia,” 30 years later.
Says Dean Bundy: “He’s a good writer for the Rep because he has a distinctive voice and an adventurous aesthetic.” And the third play of the trilogy might go to Denver. Yet Solis is not immune to the recession. His “La Posada Mágica,” which has been staged as a holiday season event at SCR for the past 15 years, has been canceled for the first time.
Still, Solis’ star is rising fast. “In these hard times, I have to admit I’m doing well,” he says. “I’ve always had a backup of five commissions. And most theaters have said, ‘Write what you want to write,’ which gives me the artistic freedom to explore. I have to count my blessings.” firstname.lastname@example.org
https://theater.nytimes.com/ mem/ theater/ treview. html?res=9902e6db1639f931a25753c1a962948260
Theater: Wilson’s ‘Ma Rainey’s’ Opens
LATE in Act I of ”Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” a somber, aging band trombonist (Joe Seneca) tilts his head heavenward to sing the blues. The setting is a dilapidated Chicago recording studio of 1927, and the song sounds as old as time. ”If I had my way,” goes the lyric, ”I would tear this old building down.”
Once the play has ended, that lyric has almost become a prophecy. In ”Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” the writer August Wilson sends the entire history of black America crashing down upon our heads. This play is a searing inside account of what white racism does to its victims – and it floats on the same authentic artistry as the blues music it celebrates.
Harrowing as ”Ma Rainey’s” can be, it is also funny, salty, carnal and lyrical. Like his real-life heroine, the legendary singer Gertrude (Ma) Rainey, Mr. Wilson articulates a legacy of unspeakable agony and rage in a spellbinding voice.
The play is Mr. Wilson’s first to arrive in New York, and it reached here, via the Yale Repertory Theater, under the sensitive hand of the man who was born to direct it, Lloyd Richards. On Broadway, Mr. Richards has honed ”Ma Rainey’s” to its finest form. What’s more, the director brings us an exciting young actor – Charles S. Dutton – along with his extraordinary dramatist.
One wonders if the electricity at the Cort is the same that audiences felt when Mr. Richards, Lorraine Hansberry and Sidney Poitier stormed into Broadway with ”A Raisin in the Sun” a quarter-century ago.
As ”Ma Rainey’s” shares its director and Chicago setting with ”Raisin,” so it builds on Hansberry’s themes: Mr. Wilson’s characters want to make it in white America. And, to a degree, they have.
Ma Rainey (1886-1939) was among the first black singers to get a recording contract – albeit with a white company’s ”race” division. Mr. Wilson gives us Ma (Theresa Merritt) at the height of her fame. A mountain of glitter and feathers, she has become a despotic, temperamental star, complete with a retinue of flunkies, a fancy car and a kept young lesbian lover.
The evening’s framework is a Paramount-label recording session that actually happened, but whose details and supporting players have been invented by the author.
As the action swings between the studio and the band’s warm-up room – designed by Charles Henry Mc Clennahan as if they might be the festering last- chance saloon of ”The Iceman Cometh” – Ma and her four accompanying musicians overcome various mishaps to record ”Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and other songs.
During the delays, the band members smoke reefers, joke around and reminisce about past gigs on a well-traveled road stretching through whorehouses and church socials from New Orleans to Fat Back, Ark.
The musicians’ speeches are like improvised band solos – variously fizzy, haunting and mournful. We hear how the bassist Slow Drag (Leonard Jackson) got his nickname at a dance contest, but also about how a black preacher was tortured by being forced to ”dance” by a white vigilante’s gun.
Gradually, we come to know these men, from their elusive pipe dreams to their hidden scars, but so deftly are the verbal riffs orchestrated that we don’t immediately notice the incendiary drama boiling underneath.
That drama is ignited by a conflict between Ma and her young trumpeter Levee, played by Mr. Dutton. An ambitious sport eager to form his own jazz band, Levee mocks his employer’s old ”jug band music” and champions the new dance music that has just begun to usurp the blues among black audiences in the urban North.
Already Levee has challenged Ma by writing a swinging version of ”Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” that he expects the record company to use in place of the singer’s traditional arrangement.
Yet even as the battle is joined between emblematic representatives of two generations of black music, we’re thrust into a more profound war about identity. The African nationalist among the musicians, the pianist Toledo (Robert Judd), argues that, ”We done sold ourselves to the white man in order to be like him.
” We soon realize that, while Ma’s music is from the heart, her life has become a sad, ludicrous ”imitation” of white stardom. Levee’s music is soulful, too, but his ideal of success is having his ”name in lights”; his pride is invested in the new shoes on which he’s blown a week’s pay.
Ma, at least, senses the limits of her success. Though she acts as if she owns the studio, she can’t hail a cab in the white city beyond.
She knows that her clout with the record company begins and ends with her viability as a commercial product: ”When I’ve finished recording,” she says, ”it’s just like I’d been some whore, and they roll over and put their pants on.” Levee, by contrast, has yet to learn that a black man can’t name his own terms if he’s going to sell his music to a white world.
As he plots his future career, he deceives himself into believing that a shoeshine and Uncle Tom smile will win white backers for his schemes.
Inevitably, the promised door of opportunity slams, quite literally, in Levee’s face, and the sound has a violent ring that reverberates through the decades. Levee must confront not just the collapse of his hopes but the destruction of his dignity.
Having played the white man’s game and lost to its rigged rules, he is left with less than nothing: Even as fails to sell himself to whites, Levee has sold out his own sense of self-worth.
Mr. Dutton’s delineation of this tragic downfall is red-hot. A burly actor a year out of Yale, he is at first as jazzy as his music. With his boisterous wisecracks and jumpy sprinter’s stance, he seems ready to leap into the stratosphere envisioned in his fantasies of glory.
But once he crashes lands, the poison of self-hatred ravages his massive body and distorts his thundering voice. No longer able to channel his anger into his music, he directs it to God, crying out that a black man’s prayers are doomed to be tossed ”into the garbage.” As Mr.
Dutton careens about with unchecked, ever escalating turbulence, he transforms an anonymous Chicago band room into a burial ground for a race’s aspirations.
Mr. Dutton’s fellow band members are a miraculous double-threat ensemble: They play their instruments nearly as convincingly as they spin their juicy monologues.
Aleta Mitchell and Lou Criscuolo, as Ma’s gum- chewing lover and harried white manager, are just right, and so is Scott Davenport-Richards, as Ma’s erstwhile Little Lord Faunteroy of a young nephew. It’s one of the evening’s more grotesquely amusing gags that Ma imperiously insists on having the boy, a chronic stutterer, recite a spoken introduction on her record.
Miss Merritt is Ma Rainey incarnate. A singing actress of both wit and power, she finds bitter humor in the character’s distorted sense of self: When she barks her outrageous demands to her lackeys, we see a show business monster who’s come a long way from her roots.
Yet the roots can still be unearthed. In a rare reflective moment, she explains why she sings the blues. ”You don’t sing to feel better,” Miss Merritt says tenderly. ”You sing because that’s a way of understanding life.”
The lines might also apply to the play’s author. Mr. Wilson can’t mend the broken lives he unravels in ”Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” But, like his heroine, he makes their suffering into art that forces us to understand and won’t allow us to forget.
Recording the Blues MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM, by August Wilson; directed by Lloyd Richards; costumes by Daphne Pascucci; setting by Charles Henry McClennahan; lighting by Peter Maradudin; music direction by Dwight Andrews; sound by Jan Nebozenko; production stage manager, Mortimer Halpern; associate producers, Bart Berman, Hart Productions and William P. Suter.
The Yale Repertory Theater production presented by Ivan Bloch, Robert Cole and Frederick M. Zollo. At the Cort Theater, 138 West 48th Street. Sturdy vant John Carpenter Irvin Lou Criscuolo Cutler Joe Seneca Toledo Robert Judd Slow Drag Leonard Jackson Levee Charles S. Dutton Ma Rainey Theresa Merritt Dussie Mae Aleta Mitchell Sylvester Scott Davenport-Richards Policeman Christopher Loomis