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Educators

Resource Guide
2008

TTABLE OF CONTENTS
Table of contents

ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT3

ABOUT THE PLAY.4-5

PRODUCTION: An Interview with Evan Stein..6-7

THEMES TO EXPLORE: Down the Rabbit Hole..8

THEMES TO EXPLORE: The Healing Process...9-10

THEMES TO EXPLORE: The Kennedy Curse.11

REFERENCES...12

AFTER THE SHOW QUESTIONS.13

ACADEMIC STANDARDS..14

ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT

David Lindsay-Abaire is a successful American


playwright, best known for his 1999
Broadway hit, Fuddy Meers, and for his 2007
Pulitzer Prize-winning play in drama,

Rabbit Hole.

Born in 1969, David grew up in a selfdescribed, blue-collar family in Boston,


Massachusetts. His mother was a factory
mother and his father worked for the Chelsea
fruit market. Lindsay-Abaire first became
interested in playwriting as a student at the
prestigious New England boarding school,
Milton Academy, where he attended classes
on an academic scholarship. David later went
on to study theatre at Sarah Lawrence College (Bronxville, New York).
After receiving his undergraduate degree, he was accepted into the Lila
Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program at the Juilliard School, where
he was mentored by Marsha Norman and Christopher Durang.
Citing playwrights John Guare, Edward Albee, Georges Feydeau, and Eugene
Ionesco as major influences, Lindsay-Abaire describes his works as being filled
with outsiders in search of clarity. He has received commissions from South
Coast Repertory, Dance Theater Workshop, and the Jerome Foundation.
Additionally, he has received playwriting awards from the Lincoln Center
LeComte du Nuoy Fund, Mixed Blood Theater, Primary Stages, and the South
Carolina Playwrights Festival, to name a few.
Lindsay-Abaires other works include Kimberly Akimbo (2000), Wonder of the
World (2000), Dotting and Dashing (1999), Snow Angel (1999), The Lil Plays
(1997), and A Devil Inside (1997). Among his most recent projects are writing
the books for the musicals High Fidelity and Shrek.

ABOUT THE PLAY


PLOT SYNOPSIS:

ORIGINS:

Eight months after the accidental death


of their four-year-old son, Becca and
Howie are struggling to return to their
daily lives. When Beccas younger (and
perpetually troubled) sister Izzy
announces that she is pregnant, the
couples differing styles of grieving are
thrown into sharp relief, as Beccas
desire to escape the constant
reminders of her son clash with Howies
attempts to hang on to details of their
little boys past. Alternatively, sad and
funny, Rabbit Hole is a deeply human
look at one familys attempts to come
to terms with the impossible and
emerge stronger than before.

Rabbit Hole was commissioned by South

Coast Repertory and first presented at its


Pacific Playwrights Festival Reading Series
in 2005. In February 2006, it received its
Broadway debut with The Manhattan
Theatre Club at the Biltmore Theater. The
production was directed by Daniel Sullivan
and starred Cynthia Nixon, Tyne Daly, John
Slattery, Mary Catherine Garrison, and
John Gallagher Jr. The play ran for 77
performances and was later rewarded with
five Tony award nominations. Since its
2006 New York debut, the show has had
successful runs in Boston, Cleveland, St.
Louis, and various other U.S. cities.

From left to right: John Slattery, Cynthia Nixon, Tyne Daily and Mary Catherine
Garrison in the Manhattan Theatre Clubs 2006 production of Rabbit Hole.

ABOUT THE PLAY (Continued)

Rabbit Hole Wins the


Pulitzer Prize for
Drama!

The following is an excerpt from the


BroadwayWorld.com article published on
April 16, 2007:

Past Notable Winners:

2004-2005: Doubt by John


Patrick Shanley

1992-1993: Angels in
America: Millennium
Approaches by Tony Kushner

1986-1987: Fences by
August Wilson

1977-1978: The Gin Game by


D.L. Coburn

1964-1965: The Subject was


Roses by Frank D. Gilroy

1954-1955: Cat on a Hot Tin


Roof by Tennessee Williams

1948-1949: Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

1937-1938: Our Town by


Thornton Wilder

1927-1928: Strange Interlude


by Eugene ONeill

1917-1918: Why Marry? by


Jessica Lynch Williams

David Lindsay-Abaire's Rabbit Hole has been announced


as the winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Drama,
according to the Pulitzer website. The prestigious award
honors "a distinguished play by an American author,
preferably original in its source and dealing with
American life. [] Lynne Meadow, Artistic Director of
MTC, said, I believe David Lindsay-Abaire is one of the
great talents working in the American theatre today. He
has a unique comedic vision that he combines with
poignant and deep dramatic insight. I am deeply proud
of MTCs collaboration with David since 1999 and
congratulate him on this prestigious recognition.
Theatre critics Ben Brantley (The New York Times),
Karen D'Souza (San Jose Mercury News), Rohan
Preston (Star Tribune), Haverford College professor
Kimberly W. Benston and playwright Paula Vogel
selected this year's Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Established in 1917 in honor of journalist/publisher
Joseph Pulitzer, the Pulitzer Prize honors high
achievement in 21 journalism and arts categories,
including History, Fiction, Poetry, and Music; the Drama
category was founded in 1918. The 2006 Awards have
also marked the first time that the Pulitzer for Drama
was considered for plays that opened between March
2nd and December 31st (rather than the previous time
span of March 2nd to March 1st).

PRODUCTION SPOTLIGHT

Q & A with
Pittsburgh Public Theaters
Master Electrician
Evan Stein
What is the role and function of the
Master Electrician in theatrical
productions?
The Master Electrician is the liaison between
the Lighting Designer (and his/her design
ideals) and the Technical reality and physical
limitations of what can actually be
accomplished on stage, with respect to lighting
and electricity. An LD might explain what
effect s/he is trying to create and leave it up to
my team to use the resources available to us to
create the desired aesthetic. Additionally, I
program the lighting control consoles to
execute lighting effects over time during
performances. I am also the department head of the team of Electricians working on a
particular production.
What made you choose this as a career?
I have been interested in theater and specifically Lighting Design for as long as I can
remember. I found my love for the arts when my family, and four other families attended
Sunday matinees at Point Park Theaters Playhouse Junior series. After the show, all the
neighborhood kids would come back to my basement to reenact the play that we had just
seen. Since then, I graduated from Penn State with a BFA in Theater Arts and have worked
around the region as a Production Manager, Lighting Designer, Theater Consultant and
Electrician.
How much of a hand do you get in plotting the lighting schemes? How closely do
you work with the lighting designer on productions? What is your relationship like
with him or her?
The Lighting Designer relies on the M.E. to understand his/her intentions and has to trust
that the M.E. can implement the intentions of the lighting design effectively. A good M.E.
can read the light plots and paperwork that the L.D. submits and implement them as specified. I try to go beyond the paperwork and understand what the L.D. is trying to accomplish
with light. By doing this, I can anticipate technical snafus that we might run into during the
technical process and have alternative scenarios available just in case.

PRODUCTION SPOTLIGHT (Continued)


There is a tremendous amount of pre-production work for you, but what happens
once the show moves into performance? What is your role then? Are you there
every night to execute lighting cues?
Yes, I run the lighting for every performance (8 shows per week). I also begin the advance
preparation for the next show, often before the current production is officially open.
Why do you think lighting is such an important element in a production? Do you
think it plays a part thematically or is it merely there to affect mood?
Lighting is absolutely one of the most important elements of a production! In addition to the
obvious need to see whats happening on stage [visibility], theatrical lighting also affects the
audiences inclination to believe whats happening on stage (for example, that the scene is
actually happening at night in a forest, or at noon on a rainy day) [plausibility]. The way that
light creates highlights and shadows on the scenery and actors affects the aesthetic
composition (the stage picture), and the way that lighting makes the audience feel and
respond to the scene [mood] are also very important elements of the Lighting Design.
What do you find most interesting about your job?
Good lighting designs communicate an unbelievable amount of information to the audience.
It is amazing and thrilling for me to be able to create such a frighteningly realistic
thunderstorm that the audience fears for their safety, or paint the most breathtakingly calm,
romantic summer evening on stage that might bring the audience to tears. Creating these
effects, while working collaboratively with the other departments involved in our productions
(sound, scenic, wardrobe, props, and paints) is more rewarding than anything else I could
ever dream of doing.
What is your most memorable moment from working in theater?
I think that all of my memories are unique.
From the early morning load-ins (the process
of loading set pieces into the theater space)
and the late-night load-outs, to the rewards
of experiencing a perfectly executed
sequence of cues, to covering up a mistake
backstage so the audience doesnt realize
whats happening (it happens more than you
may think), every memory that I have of my
experience in show business is priceless in its
own right.
Evan running lighting cues at PPT

Evan Stein has been the Master Electrician at


Pittsburgh Public Theater since Fall 2006.

THEMES TO EXPLORE

DOWN
THE
RABBIT
HOLE...

DOWN
THE
RABBIT HOLE.

The title of David Lindsay-Abaires play may bring to mind Lewis Carrolls Alice,
who disappeared down a rabbit hole into a world turned upside-down. Unlike
Rabbit Holes Becca, however, Alice awakens in the lap of her sister to realize it
was all just a dream. In addition to this allusion to Alice, the play makes two more
direct references to its title.
Becca, the grieving mother, invokes the plays title in a late scene. Jason, the teenager who drove the car that killed her son Danny, has sent her a science fiction
story he had written for the schools literary magazine, in attempt to comfort her
and atone for the accident. The story recounts a scientist who discovers a warren
of holes riddling the universe, portals to an endless series of parallel universes.
When the scientist dies, his son goes searching for him through these rabbit
holes, as Becca calls them, in the hope that if there are an infinite number of universes, in at least one of them he will find his father alive and well. Danny hopes
Becca may find solace in the thought that her son lives on elsewhere.
The richest and perhaps darkest allusion, however, comes from another rabbit reference in the play. Its brief, but telling: Beccas mother Nat is helping her daughter clean the toys and books out of Dannys room when Nat comes across an old
copy of The Runaway Bunny, Margaret Wise Browns childrens book of a little
bunny that wants to run away. But the bunnys mother says, If you run away, I
will run after you. For you are my little bunny. The bunny says he will become a
fish and swim away, or a bird and fly away, or a boat and sail away. But his
mother patiently replies to every threat that she will always be there for him. The
motherly promise of reassurance has made the book a classic, but Becca, who implicitly made the same vow to her child, now must bitterly face the reality that the
one to whom she promised permanence is no longer there.
Article courtesy of the Goodman Theatre

THEMES TO EXPLORE

THE HEALING PROCESS:


Dealing with Bereavement in Rabbit Hole
David Lindsay-Abaires play explores the lives of a family after
having recently lost 4-year-old Danny in a tragic accident. The
remaining family members are left to struggle with both a
seemingly insurmountable amount of grief, and the desire to
move forward with their lives. Nicole Martorana from the
Huntington Theater writes that plays approach to
bereavement is in keeping with contemporary psychological
findings, emphasizing that the process is unique to the
Individual, rather than some kind of universal experience.
Becca and Howie, Dannys mother and father, are the perfect
examples of how human beings deal with their grief
differently. Becca attempts to cope with her sadness by
purging their home of her sons possessions, whereas Howie
wants to keep everything in the house intact, almost like a
memorial to Danny. Undoubtedly, both parents are
experiencing tremendous grief, but they demonstrate it with
conflicting actions.
There are different stages to the grieving process, and no two
individuals experience these stages in the same fashion.
Bereavement is an ongoing processit has no set timetable,
no concrete set of rules. It is an individualized journey that all
people must travel in order to find their own understanding,
peace, and solace.

THEMES TO EXPLORE

FIVE STAGES OF GRIEF by Elizabeth Kbler-Ross


Although it was stated in the previous page, that the process of death and
bereavement is an individualized journey, there are several markers that
most people experience while grieving. In 1969, psychiatrist, Dr. Elizabeth
Kbler-Ross, described what she called The Five Stages of Grief in her
book, On Death and Dying. Kbler-Ross not only applied these stages to
death, but to any form of a catastrophic personal loss (career, income,
freedom, divorce, etc.) The psychiatrist claimed that the steps do not
necessarily follow the order below, nor are all the steps experienced by all
people; however, most individuals will move through at least a few of the
stages. The Five Stages of Grief has become a popular model for
counselors and mental health professionals who deal with grieving
patients regularly. Below are the stages that Kbler-Ross identified:

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Denial: The initial stage: It cant be happening.


Anger: Why me? Its not fair.
Bargaining: Just let me live to see my child graduate.
Depression: Im so sad, why bother with anything?
Acceptance: Its going to be OK.

Reflection Activity:

Ask your students to reflect on a time in their lives when they have experienced loss. It does
not necessarily have to be a death; rather, it can be a friend moving away, a parent losing
their job, etc. Have them address each stage that they experienced by writing down their
thoughts (what they were thinking during the actual event) on a piece of paper. Afterwards,
ask for volunteers to share what they wrote. Did they experience all five stages? What order

did they follow? How long was the entire process?

Going Further
Break your students into groups of four or five and ask them to create tableaus (frozen
pictures) of what each stage felt like to the person experiencing it. Share with the class.

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THEMES TO EXPLORE

THE KENNEDY CURSE:


An American Familys Personal
Tragedies

Who is Aristotle Onassis?

During the birthday party scene in Rabbit


Hole, Howie and Nat discuss a timeline of

events that details a cultural myth known


as the Kennedy Curse. This curse refers
to a series of tragic events that happened
to the famed Kennedy family over the
years. Accidents and deaths occur in all
families, but due to the high level of
publicity, it seems as if the Kennedy clan
received more than a generous amount of
misfortune. Some believe that there is a
certain karmic trade-off for the fame,
power, and fortune that they acquired,
thus resulting in the numerous tragedies.
The most notable tragedies were the
assassinations of brothers John F. Kennedy
and Robert F. Kennedy, and the death of
John F. Kennedy, Jr. who perished in a
plane crash in 1999.

Aristotle Onassis

Along with the Kennedy Curse, Aristotle


Onassis is also referenced in Rabbit Hole.
Aristotle was the most famous Greek shipping magnate of the 20th century. Onassis
was originally married to Athina Livanos,
but later wed Jacqueline Kennedy after the
death of JFK. Aristotle had two children
Alexander and Christina. In 1973, at the
age of 24, Alexander was killed in a plane
crash. Aristotle died a mere two years after
his son at the age of 69. It is rumored that
Aristotle never recovered from the death of
his son, and lost his desire to live. Some
contribute this fact to his early death in
1975. How does this father/son dynamic
relate to the story in Rabbit Hole?

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REFERENCES

WANT TO LEARN MORE?


Check out these resources!

On the works of playwright David Lindsay-Abaire:

To read more about David Lindsay-Abaire and his plays, visit the
New Dramatists website at:
http://www.newdramatists.org/david_lindsay_abaire.htm
On Elizabeth Kbler-Rosss Five Stages of Grief:

On Death and Dying by Elizabeth Kbler-Ross. Routledge, 1973.

On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the


Five Stages of Loss by Elizabeth Kbler-Ross. Simon & Schuster
Ltd, 2005.

An Empirical Examination of the Stage Theory of Grief by Paul K.

Maciejewski, PhD. JAMA, February 21, 2007-Vol 297, No. 7.


On the Kennedy Curse and Aristotle Onassis:

The Kennedy Curse: Why Tragedy Has Haunted Americas First


Family for 150 Years by Edward Klein. St. Martins Griffin, 2004.

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Museum and Library


www.jfklibrary.org

Ari: The Life and Times of Aristotle Socrates Onassis by Peters


Evans. Summit Books. 1986.

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AFTER THE SHOW QUESTIONS

The following are questions to consider after seeing the


performance of Rabbit Hole:

What is the significance of the plays title? What is the metaphor of the
rabbit hole? What changes when one goes down the rabbit hole? What has
changed for each character in the play?

How do the shows technical elements (i.e. set, costumes, sound,


lighting) aid in telling the story of Rabbit Hole?

How has Dannys death changed each character? Additionally, how has his
death changed the relationships between the characters?

It is apparent that Becca and Howie are struggling to make their


relationship work. What are the challenges they face in staying
together?

Compare Beccas grief for Danny to Nats grief for her son, Arthur. How did
each lose her son? How is their grief similar? How is it different?

Referring to the Five Stages of Grief, where is each character in the


grieving process? What is different about each characters ways of
coping with his or sadness?

How will each character go on with his or her life? Speculate what you think
each character will be like in 5 or 10 years? How will time affect the
characters and their longing for Danny?

Abstract painting by
Elizabeth Sanderson
entitled:
DOWN THE RABBIT
HOLE

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ACADEMIC STANDARDS

Pittsburgh Public Theaters production and resource guide fulfills


the following Pennsylvania Academic Standards:
READING, WRITING, SPEAKING AND LISTENING
1.1 Students will identify, describe, evaluate, and synthesize the essential ideas of
the text.
1.3 Students will analyze and interpret the play based on literary elements and
devices, dramatic themes, and the use of language.
1.4 In post-show activities students can compose dramatic scenes where they work
to construct dialogue, develop character, and outline plot.
1.6 Students listen and watch a selection of dramatic literature, analyze and
synthesize the many elements of drama, and respond to post-show talkbacks
and discussions with Public Theater staff, teachers, classmates, and students
from other school districts.
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
3.2 Students can critically evaluate the status of existing scientific theories such as
string theory and worm holes.
HISTORY
8.1 Students understand and analyze chronological thinking and historical
interpretation by placing the era of the 20th and 21st century North America in
the context of human history.
8.3 Students identify and evaluate the political and cultural contributions of the
Kennedy family to United States History.
8.4 Students evaluate the significance of Aristotle Onassis and the economic,
political, and cultural contributions he made to world history.
ARTS AND HUMANITIES
9.1 Students experience the production and performance techniques of
professional theater. Students consider the cultural and historical context
of the play. In post show talkbacks, discussions, and writing assignments,
students are encouraged to describe the various elements of the work,
evaluate the play critically and aesthetically, and consider the social impact
of the work.
FAMILY AND CONSUMER SCIENCES
11.2 Students will assess the relationship of family functions to human
developmental stages. Students will evaluate the effectiveness of using
interpersonal communication skills to resolve a conflict.

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Join the fun in our Summer Youth Classes!


Go to www.ppt.org/content/education.cfm for more information.
Acting Workshop: Scene Study
Ages 1317
June 1627
This popular twoweek workshop features some of The Publics best guest artists as instructors and will fo
cus on the actors character development, objectives, subtexts, and scene work. As always, experienced and
new actors are welcome; dedication and enthusiasm are the only prerequisites. Class meets from 10:00 am
to 3:00 pm, Monday through Friday. Instructor: Amy Landis $275
Playwriting
Ages 1317
June 23 July 11
This threeweek introductory course is composed of intensive writing exercises that illuminate the basic ten
ets of playwriting and screenwriting. Students ages 13 to 17 will be encouraged to find the dramatic connec
tions between their work and their personal experiences. This course culminates in a reading of the stu
dents work by a company of professional actors. Class meets Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10:00
am to 1:00 pm. Instructor: Rob Zellers $225
Acting Workshop: Making It Real
Ages 1012
June 30 July 11
How does an actor make it real? How do you make the audience believe you? Students are guided through
an exploration of the basic skills of acting addressing these questions. Inclass exercises in improvisation,
character development, and movement will help students find truthfulness in the art of acting. Class meets
Monday through Friday, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm. Instructor: Kristen Link $225
Acting Workshop: Shakespeare Intensive
Ages 1317
July 14August 1
If you are interested in learning more about classical acting, this class is for you. The focus, as always, will be
on character development with additional work in vocalization and movement. Students approach Shake
speare from an actors perspective, using the text and verse to develop character. Class meets Monday
through Friday from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm and culminates in an actual performance of one of the works of
William Shakespeare. Instructors: Lisa Ann Goldsmith and Amy Landis $325

This Resource Guide was created by Kristen Link, Education & Outreach Coordinator with contribu
tions by Evan Stein, The Huntington Theatre Company, The Goodman Theatre, and Oregon
Shakespeare Festival.
Pittsburgh Public Theater would like to thank our 20072008 Education and Outreach Partners:
American Eagle Outfitters, Amsco, Inc, a subsidiary of ESB Bank, Anonymous, Bayer Foundation, Bridges & Com
pany, Inc., Henry C. Frick Educational Fund of the Buhl Foundation, Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, Common
wealth of Pennsylvania, Dominion Foundation, Eden Hall Foundation, The Grable Foundation, Highmark Blue
Cross Blue Shield, Huntington National Bank, Levin Furniture, McFeelyRogers Fund of The Pittsburgh Founda
tion, NexTier Bank, Oregon Metallurgical Corporation, an Allegheny Technologies Subsidiary, Pittsburgh Post
Gazette, The Techs , and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center .

Tell us what you think!


Questions or comments may be sent to Kristen Link at:
klink@ppt.org

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