Plays Cause Panic

Today, in my class with one student, that one student started panicking. I don’t blame him, but I hope he doesn’t reach the wrong conclusions.

At this time of year in the course I introduce a short play called “The Box” by Rich Smolen. The students are supposed to decide what motivates the three characters and then block the play. After a couple classes of practice, they are supposed to put on a staged reading of the play.

This poses some interesting problems for my student: 1) he has to play three parts even when they fight; 2) he has to give each a different way of speaking and different mannerisms 3) he has to interpret the play, which reminds me a lot of a Samuel Beckett play, and (spoiler) decide what’s in the box at the end; 4) he has to do all this by himself.

Unfortunately, because his English is excellent, he’s used to getting by with the bare minimum of effort. Already this year he’s done a monologue as a character who seemed suspiciously like him and improvised his way through a different monologue. (Improv is his way of NOT doing the required writing.) At no point has he tried to do anything resembling an actual “character”.

Today, after he got the assignment and was turned loose on the play, he panicked and said he didn’t understand. I told him a couple ways to interpret the play and the characters. He got a “Eureka” look and then stared at the paper, partly to waste time and partly to figure out what to do.

The problem is, for this assignment, he has to turn in a script book with all his blocking notes and his notes about the characters. If he doesn’t do that, his grade will suffer. I’m expecting him to try to improv the entire and thing, if I get anything resembling a script book, it will be a few scribbled notes.

Then again, I’ve already been surprised by students this term. Maybe he’ll surprise me, too.

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