The Response Essay:
Remember your assignment from Module 5: All My Sons? Remember how you made a list of observances about all the production elements: lights, sound, media, acting, costumes, directing, props, staging, set design? Keep that in mind when you go to see your selected show. Take a note book with you to show and write down what you see. this will help you write this essay.
The Golden Rule for these essays is to point out details over generalities.
Your response, then, should use the observations you made and recall to support an argument (thesis) that you think the production was about. I am not interested in whether you liked the performance or not, or even whether you thought it was good or not — I want you to explore what you thought the production was trying to do and how it went about doing it.
You do not need to cover every aspect of the production; as you think and write, focus on those things that are most helpful in supporting your argument. Remember that it is not enough to say that “the costumes helped define the characters.” You must be specific. “The use of a stiff, canvas fabric for the clergyman’s costume helped create him as a rigid and inflexible character. This is another example of how the production was trying to depict the church as insufferable and organized religion in general as a great evil in the world.”
So when you watch your play think about what the “message” of the play is. What is the production trying to say? For example: The Three Little Pigs is a story with which we are all familiar. What is the message of the story? Basically, hard work pays off. The first two pigs quickly build homes with inferior materials then go play, while the third pig labors in the construction of his house of bricks for a long time. In the end the third pig’s house is the only house that doesn’t get blown over by the wolf. So if you were watching a play about this story for your Performance Response, you would analyse and describe all the production elements and how they help in the telling of this message.
Write your response with the class in mind as the audience — do not recount the story! In other words do not give a plot overview. We don’t need to know the story, we just need to know the message (which is your thesis statement) and how the production elements help tell that message. Also, don’t analyse characters or give character sketches. This paper is not about plot and story or character analysis. It is a response to the production. I want a thesis about the production and I want that thesis to be backed up with an analysis of the production elements. How do you do this well? Keep reading.
As soon after the performance as possible, you should make notes about what you saw, heard, and felt (that is, what decisions did the production make in the visual [what you saw], acoustic [what you heard], and kinetic [what you felt as movement] realms of the theatre.) What did the set look like? What did it “feel” like? What did the costumes look like? How did they help define the characters? What did the actors do (how did they move, sound, express themselves, and so on)? After you have recorded your first reflections, think about the idea or ideas behind the production. In other words, what is the play about? Love? Forgiveness? Hate destroying the protagonist like a cancer? What about the production conveyed this conceptual meaning? NOT what about the story conveyed the meaning, or what you learned about the characters, BUT what in the production (the elements) conveyed the meaning. In other words, if you see a production about a man whose hate for someone is controlling every part of his life, he can’t sleep, he loses his job, he neglects his wife and children to the point of familial disaster, maybe your thesis statement would be, if you allow hate to control your life it will destroy you. So what is the lighting doing that conveys that? Does it grow darker? Does it flash when he’s wrestling with the hate? Does it shift showing separation between the man and everyone else? What about the costumes? Does the man’s white, button down shirt become torn at the sleeves and yellowed under the armpits? Does he lose his shirt? What about the staging? The set? The sound? How does the actor’s behavior change? Does he carry himself differently? Does he develop a limp?
Again the Golden Rule for these essays is to point out details over generalities.
Remember: you may end up writing (or re-writing) the introduction only after you have developed your argument (thesis) — but whenever you actually write it, the introduction goes in the first paragraph and that paragraph should end with your thesis statement. Do not forget to write a concluding paragraph at the end of your paper. Remember, also, that paragraphs generally focus on one main idea — re-read what you write and add paragraphs where necessary. Finally, make sure that your sentences progress logically from one to another. Avoid sentences such as: “The play used costumes very well. The use of multiple levels in the set was exciting. I thought the red dress worked the best.” These sentences are too general and don’t convey enough meaning.
One last time, the Golden Rule for these essays is to point out details over generalities.
Writing is thinking on paper. It provides you an opportunity to decide whether you actually believe what you think you do. If you write something that, upon reading, strikes you as false, change it. Be prepared, in fact, to discover that your thoughts change as a result of your writing — and be prepared to change what you write as a consequence.
Each paragraph should be well-written, observing the standards of formal academic writing. Length should be around 700-900 words. You must include in the heading for the assignment the name of the production,where you saw it,the theatre company or theatre, and the date on which you saw it.
CHECK THE ATTACHMENT TO SEE MY NOTE ON THE list of observances about all the production elements.