assignments

For this assignments, you will select significant productions of plays (from a national theatre, or featuring important personnel) that feature a monster. As part of your research, you will write a short summary of your findings of each of the productions. This summary must address the following questions: WHAT was the play about (a brief synopsis)? WHEN and WHERE did it take place? WHO was involved? Anyone of renown? Did it affect their careers? WHAT did the production look/sound like? What were the artists trying to ACCOMPLISH? How was it REVIEWED? Was it popular? Controversial? Unnoticed? Did it win any awards? You must include references (cited) to at least two reviews (or, better yet, include copies of the reviews in your research).

IMPORTANT: Give a SOCIAL CONTEXT for the show. What was going on in the world that made it relevant? Why did THIS monster resonate, or fail to resonate, with its audience?

SOURCES include: Reviews, historical and/or scholarly articles, performance reconstructions, theater biographies, and specialized periodicals, Productions stills or other relevant images. You will need 3 good sources! Here’s a sample of what a production history looks like:

SAMPLE PRODUCTION HISTORY (not of a monster play)

WHAT = A RAISIN IN THE SUN

WHEN = 1959 – MARCH – 10

WHERE = U.S.A. – NEW YORK – ETHEL BARRYMORE THEATRE (BROADWAY)

WHO = LORRAINE HANSBERRY (AUTHOR)

LLOYD RICHARDS (DIRECTOR)

RALPH ALSWANG (SETS AND LIGHTING)

VIRGINIA VOLLAND (COSTUMES)

SIDNEY POITIER (ACTOR – “WALTER”)

RUBY DEE (ACTOR – “RUTH”)

LOUIS GOSSETT (ACTOR – “GEORGE”)

CRITICAL RECEPTION:

Considered the first naturalistic play featuring African-American themes and characters, Hansberry’s semiautobiographical Raisin is still acknowledged as a stunningly ground-breaking play in American theatre history. The story is that of the Lee family, upwardly-mobile African-Americans who encounter tough challenges trying to move into an all-white neighborhood of Chicago. In light of a growing discontent and radicalism in the marginalized and disenfranchised black community of the era, who were being excluded from the postwar prosperity the country enjoyed, Raisin was hailed as a play that broke the “color barrier” (it was popular among mainstream white audiences and brought new black audiences into the theatre) and shattered not only the stereotype of black people as socially inferior to whites, but as incapable of producing realistic, psychologically-deep, and powerfully literary drama. Taking its title and themes of black social immobility and frustration from a famous Langston Hughes poem “Harlem” (1951), the play (like the poem) became (and remains) a symbol of the Civil Rights Movement. The production was honored by the New York Drama Critic’s Circle Award for Best Play of the Year (Hansberry would be the youngest person, and the first African-American, to receive this prize). Its director (Richards) and many of its stars (Poitier, Dee, and Gossett in particular) were already pillars of the black theatre, but this play would make them iconic figures in American theatre history. Upon closing in October of 1959, the production moved immediately to the Belasco, where it played until June 25, 1960. It was adapted into a 1961 Columbia Pictures film scripted by Hansberry and including the Broadway cast, and into a 1973 musical called Raisin, which won the 1974 Tony for Best Musical.

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