Script Analysis Paper: The Initial Response
Due: 4/1 @ 11:59PM via Canvas submission. Late submissions will be penalized by a full letter grade reduction per day late.
Your task is to create an initial response document around Our Town. An Initial Response is a document used by directors and dramaturgs when doing their script analysis work prior to the start of rehearsals.
I have provided a copy of Our Town for you on Canvas under the Week 3 module. This version of the script is available to you for free through the library.
First, if you are able, it's a good idea print out the script and make notes directly on it. I have generally found that people dig deeper when they can mark up the script in analog rather than taking notes on a digital copy.
Divide your paper into the following six sections, and use bullet points for structure:
Positives (+) – Things, ideas, or moments in the play which you find to be amazing, exciting, electrifying, thrilling. The things you think would look great onstage, that really pop for you, really stand out, really get you thinking.
Challenges (-) - The things you feel would be difficult to adequately stage. Things that are gratuitous, over the top, illogical, or flawed.
NOTE: This is NOT a spot to dump negative OPINIONS about the play. This is not the spot to tell us you don't LIKE the play. This is a spot to list things in the play that might be CHALLENGING to produce or things that are difficult to understand, not difficult to like.
FOR BOTH POSITIVES AND CHALLENGES: You must list at least 2, no more than 3, items for each, with each item getting a good-sized paragraph. (5 – 7 good sentences per paragraph.) Thus, if you wrote about two positives and two challenges, you'd have 4 paragraphs total between these two sections, each paragraph having between 5 and 7 good sentences.
Cracks/Threads (*) - Your way into the play. How do you, personally, as someone who has seen some plays and has been writing a lot about them, get into this play? Perhaps something in it reminds you of something in your life. Perhaps there's a relationship dynamic in the play that reminds you of people you know. Maybe the setting of the play speaks to you because you've been there, or it reminds you of places you've been. This is a spot to pour YOURSELF into the paper: why is this play relevant to you? Limit yourself to 2 paragraphs for this section.
Concretes (^) - Physical items called for in the script—set pieces, props, and costumes, mostly. Track each concrete object, item, or set piece called for directly in the script.
Audio/Visual moments (A/V) - Sound, light, and physical moments that really stand out as important.
FOR BOTH CONCRETES AND A/V MOMENTS: Track as many as you can in your reading, and then pick the MOST IMPORTANT 4 or 5 with 1 – 2 sentences explaining the importance of each. I cannot stress enough: the point of these two sections is CURATION—gather a lot of data, and then evaluate and weigh it, including only that which is essential to an understanding of the play.
Also: Be as specific as you can about each item you list in these sections. Imagine a play that is set in a bar, and imagine that the bar is used in every scene. It would be a bad idea to write this about that imaginary play: "Entire play: the bar. The play takes place in a bar, and every important scene happens there." Instead, you would pick a moment in which the bar was MOST IMPORTANT. For example: "Sc. 1 –the bar. It is here that the main character professes his love for his friend..."
When reading Our Town, if you encounter any props, costumes, set pieces, or audio-visual moments that are used multiple times, pick the MOST IMPORTANT usage, and write about that, and only use that set piece, costume, prop, or audio-visual moment once in your script analysis document.
Synthesis - Write this section after completing the rest of the document Your goal here is to SYNTHESIZE all of the items listed in your document into a cohesive statement about your understanding of the play. Tell me what the play is about, using the reactions, threads, concretes, and A/V moments you discovered and ranked as most important. This is NOT about your reaction to or enjoyment of the play. This is you talking about what this play is about, how it works, what makes it worthy of producing. It should be 2 – 3 paragraphs long. DO NOT SUMMARIZE THE PLOT IN THIS SECTION. Write about the play thematically: don't tell me what happens—tell me what it's about.
TOTAL DOCUMENT LENGTH:
The entire document should end up being 5 pages—. Be as concise and direct in your writing as possible. Remember the point of a document like this: it's a reference tool for directors and their teams at the start of a rehearsal process. If it's overly wordy, then a director has to stop and search for information when time might be limited.
Prior to the due date, if you have a draft ready that you'd like me to look at, email it to me. If you have questions or concerns about your process in getting started on this project, email those to me, too—I'll be happy to help!
In addition to posting this assignment sheet, I've also posted a sample Initial Response so you have an idea of how the document must be formatted.
Rubric notes are on the next page.
The majority of your grade will be decided by how closely you follow the instructions in this document. To summarize, you need:
2 – 3 positive reflections on the work, 5 – 7 sentences each.
2 – 3 reflections on challenging moments in the work, 5 – 7 sentences each.
1 crack/thread, detailing how you gain access to/understanding of the play, 10 – 14 sentences maximum, 5 - 7 sentences minimum.
4 – 5 concretes, 1 sentence each.
4 – 5 A/V moments, 1 sentence each.
1 synthesis, 10 –15 sentences.
Making sure that your document adheres to the sentence/paragraph structure above is a big step toward getting a good grade on this project.
Beyond that, I will be looking most closely at the depth to which you dig into the play in drafting your document. Make sure that you do not hover at surface realizations about the play.
Essentially, remember to always ask yourself why something is significant or important—don't just label something as significant and important and move on. When you describe a positive response to the work, for example, don't just say it was good and move on—say why that moment was good, what truly makes that moment special and different from other moments in the play.
And, one final reminder: work submitted late is reduced a full letter grade per day late, so be sure to submit this document on time!