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The Director's Notebook

The Director's Notebook

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Published by Rob Melton
This drama activity is designed for use in English classes studying contemporary or Shakespearean plays. It includes the requirements for the group project, in addition to step-by-step planning, prepration and performance suggestions, the project results in a group of students performing one of the key scenes of the dramatic work. Background information is provided.
This drama activity is designed for use in English classes studying contemporary or Shakespearean plays. It includes the requirements for the group project, in addition to step-by-step planning, prepration and performance suggestions, the project results in a group of students performing one of the key scenes of the dramatic work. Background information is provided.

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Published by: Rob Melton on May 05, 2010
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Julius Caesar Project RequirementsRob Melton -- EnglishREQUIREMENTS
:Your group leader will select a scene of at least one hundred lines from the list provided by your instructor, but not muchlonger than that. Your scene should have at least three major characters.
PLANNING
:Your group will prepare a Director's Notebook. Your notebook must include the following:1. A detailed drawing of your stage, including any unusual structures, furniture, doorways, etc.2. Detailed description of the blocking. You may need to draw several sketches to indicate movement.3. Identify the through line and the beats and how each is played.4. Define motivation both generally (the whole play) and specifically (in this scene). How is characterization andmotivation achieved (costume, use of props, tone of delivery, stance, expression, make-up, etc.)5. At least three sketches for blocking.6. At least one sketch of a costume, and descriptions of costuming for all characters. Explain your choices.7. A concluding section in which you describe what you have learned from this project.Your notebook should address the following: the stage, set, lighting, special effects (music, thunder, etc.), props,characterization, motivation, achievement of the through line, beats, blocking, and costuming and disguise. Your notebook should not necessarily be ordered in this way. Let your notebook form its own shape; just be sure thetopics are covered. If you have a friend who is good with drawing, costuming, or architecture, I do not object to your consulting with them, or getting them to draw part of your project.
PREPARATION
:Once the director's notebook has been completed, you must assign roles, rehearse, build costumes and props, andpresent your scene to the class. There will be a rubric for both the director's notebook and the scene presentation.
PERFORMANCE
:Your group will perform your scene in front of our class.
The Director’s NotebookGOAL
:The director’s notebook allows your group to work creatively as well as intellectually with Shakespeare’s plays. For thisassignment, your group must address those issues a director would face in staging a particular scene. Although thisassignment can give a student interested in theater extra experience in his or her field, it is designed for ALL students,including those with little or no theater experience.
BRIEFLY
:Your notebook should address the following 11 elements: the stage, set, lighting, special effects (music, thunder, etc.),props, characterization, motivation, achievement of the through line, beats, blocking, and costuming and disguise.
SPECIFICALLY
:
The stage
. There are essentially three types of stages: 1) the thrust stage, like Shakespeare’s Globe theater; 2) the arenastage, in which the audience surrounds the players who act in an open space; and 3) the proscenium stage (the typewe’re most familiar with), where the stage is framed, usually with a curtain that opens and closes to reveal the stage, andwhere the actors make their entrances and exits from stage left or right. It is often thought of as a room with three walls,the fourth wall removed so that the audience can look in. Although Shakespeare wrote primarily for a thrust stage, hisplays can be successfully performed on any kind of stage. Each type of stage interacts differently with the audience. For instance, there is a clear division between play and audience in a proscenium theater. In an arena stage, the audience ismore intimately connected with the players. Consider the relationship between the two as you select your stage type.Whichever you choose, be sure to use your space effectively. For instance, for a thrust stage, how will you use thebalcony or the inner stage, if at all? For an arena stage, how will entrances be made, or furniture (if any) brought on andtaken off?
Set
. Set tells the audience where this scene takes place. A single piece of furniture or prop can symbolize much. For instance, one bed and you have a bedroom, a lantern and you have a night-time scene, a bloody sword and shield andyou have a battlefield. That’s not to say that you should necessarily go for the minimalist look, but don’t underestimate thepowerful effect such things have.
Lighting
. Lighting indicates mood: harsh and glaring for battle scenes or arguments; soft and warm for love scenes.Lighting can also indicate or emphasize such things as a burning city, or a brightly shining moon.
 
Special effects
. Thunder, gun shots, explosions, gods descending, ghosts ascending, doorbells ringing, angels singing.
Props
. Handkerchiefs, pens, hats, motorcycles, food and drink, mirrors, pictures, musical instruments, books. Articles of clothing or daggers/swords can also be props as long as you
do
something with them. Next time you watch a show/movie,notice when they use a prop. Rarely do they pick something up just to pick something up. It means or adds something tothe action, even if to add comedy or pathos. Do something creative with props.
Characterization
. You will need to know the play to fully appreciate characterization. Determine why they are in the storyand what they want out of the situation. Ask yourself, is this person basically cheerful, angry, ditzy, intellectual, emotional,effeminate, macho, foppish, devious, shy, hateful, and so on0? 0
Motivation
. Remember that whenever a character is on the stage, he or she always thinks that he or she is the mostimportant person on the stage. Ask yourself, in what ways does the action move around that character? Determine whatgenerally motivates that person throughout the play (i.e., to kill, trick, sleep with, tease, dominate someone else, or to gainhonor/power, to maintain a false image, to serve, etc.). Then ask yourself, what motivates that character in that particular scene? Why do they say the lines they do and in the way that they do?
Through line of a role
. According to Constantin Sstanislavski, in order to develop continuity in a part, the actor or actressshould find the superobjective of a character. What is it, above all else, that the character wants during the course of aplay? What is the character's driving force? If a goal can be established toward which the character strives, it will give theperformer an overall objective. From this objective can be developed a through line which can be grasped, as a skier on aski lift grabs a towline and is carried to the top. Another term for through line is spine.
Beats.
To help develop the through line, Stanislavski urged performers to divide scenes into unit (sometimes calledbeats). In each unit there is an objective, and the intermediate objectives running through a play lead ultimately to theoverall objective.Each scene is divided into beats in which a certain topic is discussed, or an action takes place. By dividing this scene intobeats we can see that this scene’s concerns include the playing of music; trying to get one’s meaning across withoutmisinterpretation or distraction, or, conversely, trying to conceal meaning; trying to define love; and talking about the battlefield, where they are not. By dividing the scene into beats you may also see when someone changes the subject. Whydoes this happen and how do the others react? In other words, your job in this section is not so much to tell us whathappens in the beat (after all, we can read the scene ourselves), but to explain the attitudes, motivations, and feelingsbehind what is said in the beat.
Blocking
. This is how the characters move about the stage. How do they enter the scene, where do they move to, wheredo they stand, how do they interact, and how do they get off the stage. A character should not enter, stand in one spot,and exit—nothing is more boring. Think of stage movement as a dance. The other characters are the dance partners andthe lines are the music. Alternately, think of the scene as a painting that must be composed to be seen. What will theaudience see?
Costuming and Disguise
. What a character wears tells us much. Hamlet is almost always in black. The lines or stagedirections may indicate costume and disguise, but sometimes it doesn’t. Use this opportunity to do something that addsmeaning. A great source for costume ideas can be found here: www.costumes.org http://www.uwplatt.edu/~hadorn/notebook.htm 
 
THE DIRECTOR’S NOTEBOOK QUIZ
Name_______________________________________ Rob Melton EnglishPeriod_____________Date_________________1.What are the three P’s you must complete to be successful with this project?2.What is the goal of the director’s notebook?3.How many areas should your director’s notebook address?4.Name the three types of stages. Put a check mark next to the type of stage Shakespeare primarily wrote for.5.What is the purpose of a set?6.What is lighting used for?7.List five types of special effects:8.List five types of props:9.What should you determine when you are creating a character?10.What two levels of motivation must you determine for each character?
11.
What is the through line of a role?
12.
What are “beats” and what purpose do they serve?13.What is blocking?14.What is the purpose of costuming?15.Who is your team leader? How can you support your team leader? If you are the team leader, how can you support your team?

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