Performance Project   [PDF]

The purpose of this assignment is for you to understand how the physical performance of a script can deepen your understanding of a play.  This is a group project, but you are assessed individually for this assignment.  The assignment consists of two parts:

Part I

Interpretive Performance Assignment:  Choose, interpret, and present an important scene (about 10 minutes of performance) or soliloquy (about 30 lines of text) from the assigned play and present it to the class.  You should include the suggestions of costumes, sets and props, and memorize all of your lines.  Use theatrical reviews and performance-based articles to guide you.

Strong performances will:

  • Use the secondary source texts to identify and solve any performance problems.
  • Have a strong interpretation.  This means that each performance will emphasize something specific in the scene that relates to a theme or idea in the play.  You may wish to emphasize the attitude or intent of a character, have props and costumes that repeat the theme, or switch the sexes of the characters for emphasis in order to achieve your interpretation.  (Be sure that the play warrants such interpretations.)  This is an issue of interpretation and intent of the scene, not the style of the scene.  (Don’t be subtle.  Remember this maxim of the theatre: It is better to be clear than to be right!)
  • Be clearly contextualized.  Be sure we know what the proceeding incident/scene was.  (I have seen mock programs work well here as well as a self-written introductory soliloquy and/or sonnet.)
  • Involve all group members to some extent (you may choose to have a director who does not act, if you wish, or have one actor play several small parts, or divide a main part up by having two actors play the same role).
  • Include theatrical suggestions: be clear about where the stage is, where the audience should sit, what the scenery is (if there is any), use props and costume suggestions, make use of lighting or a sound track or anything else you think will add to a clear interpretation of the scene.
  • Scenes must have all lines memorized (it is better if the script isn’t “in the way”).  If you have a small part, memorize everything.  If you have a bigger part, feel free to have a prompter on hand to help you.  Soliloquies must be fully memorized.
  • Demonstrate a clear understanding of the scene or soliloquy.  Be prepared to answer questions such as: “What is the scene/soliloquy about?  Why is it important to the play as a whole?  What is going on in the scene?  What theme did you emphasize and how?”

Part II

Written Assignment: The week after presentation each participant must turn in an analytical paper (1000 words).  The paper must analyze how the experience of the performance clarifies a specific aspect (or two) of the text.

Strong papers will:

  • NOT, I repeat, NOT, be an analysis of the rehearsal process or a review of your performance.
  • Use the secondary texts to contextualize the chosen scene and interpretation.
  • Use the performance as a place of analytical support. 
  • Begin with the scene and use both textual evidence as well as information you learned while performing the play in order to support your main idea.
  • Be well planned and well organized.  Be about 1000 words long.
  • Have a controlling idea (a clear thesis statement), be coherent (what you write should make sense), and be cohesive (your ideas should “stick” together logically).
  • Use the space to analyze the text in terms of the assignment—avoid plot summary and personal opinion.
  • Use specific examples from the text to support your point and critically analyze those examples.
  • Have well-developed paragraphs and sentences.
  • Be properly formatted according to MLA standards (refer to the English department’s Essay Writing Guide for proper formatting).  Please staple your paper together.
  • Be proofread and mechanically correct (no typos, no misspelled words, use correct grammar, punctuate properly etc.)
  • Be enjoyable to read.  This is best accomplished by exploring an idea that interests you.
  • When used, secondary research materials (scholarly articles and books) will be appropriately chosen, correctly interpreted, and “in conversation with” your idea.

Helpful hints:

  • Choose a scene that is important to the play (don’t choose a scene based on the number of actors that you have).  Remember, you have to defend why you chose your scene and interpretation.
  • Be sure you allow enough time for the assignment.  Start rehearsals as early as possible and meet with your group (if applicable) at least twice.
  • Make rehearsal copies of your scene or soliloquy (don’t try to carry around the book).  Mark up your copies with notes to yourself about how to say lines or where to move.
  • Rehearse the scene/soliloquy at least a couple of times.  If you are doing a soliloquy, ask a classmate or friend to watch and make comments.
  • Remember to breathe.
  • Make time for the paper.  Freewrite, draft, proofread and have a classmate read it over, have your group act as a peer review.
  • I encourage you to discuss your scene choice or your analytical paper with your tutor.