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Grade: Senior
Subject: Literature

#4075. Drama Interpretation and Analysis

Literature, level: Senior
Posted Tue Jan 8 14:58:21 PST 2008 by Danielle Cohen-Bautista (, Palm Springs, CA
Materials Required: two or more contemporary dramas
Activity Time: two to four weeks
Concepts Taught: Analyzing Conflict and Character, Adapting a Drama

Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller
Long Days Journey Into Night, by Eugene O'Neill
A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry
A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tenessee Williams

Each student will compose outline responses to the following prompts, choose his/her best response, and make an oral argument to his/her group of what "cutting" [scene(s) or partial scene(s) from the play(s)] would best illustrate the ideas s/he has developed in that response. Student groups will then decide on a performance concept (see instructions below), and rehearse and perform a "cutting." Finally, each student will fully develop, revise, and publish a composition in response to the prompt s/he chooses.

Prompt I: Consider one of the plays you read independently, and write a well-developed essay in which you analyze how the author elucidates the conflict. You might consider such elements as setting, allusion, symbolism, and characterization.

Prompt II: Choose two characters (one from each of two plays you read) and write a well-developed essay in which you compare or contrast them in terms of how they are characterized, and what they represent (i.e. aspects of the individual, of society, of the human condition or spirit).
Examples of Character Choices:
Blanche from A Streetcar Named Desire and Beneatha from A Raisin in the Sun
Mary from Long Days Journey into Night and Mama from A Raisin in the Sun
Jamie from Long Days Journey into Night and Biff from Death of a Salesman

Prompt III: From the plays you read, choose the character with whom you most identify or sympathize. Explain the reasons for either your identification or sympathy with the character, and analyze the techniques the author uses to evoke such a response.

Developing a Performance Concept
Drama Oral Interpretation

NOTE: Because of time constraints, your drama interpretation will be a reading rather than a full-blown enactment. That means you will not be moving around. However, you may want to add slight gestures or sound effects to convey the meaning you intend and/or the spirit of the script.

Every group should:

Determine how many distinct, individual voices the scene requires, and how these voices should blend or contrast.

Consider if there should be a separate voice for each character in the scene, or if one person will read the lines of more than one character.

Ask itself questions: If one person reads the lines of more than one character, how will the audience know who is who? Will someone read the stage directions? If so, how will we keep that from being distracting to the intensity of our performance? If no one reads the stage directions, how will we indicate what action is occurring? Should we (must we) add music or other sound effects? Do we need someone to direct that rather than read?

Write a script of the interpretation (and give each group member a copy) so that you can rehearse and perform smoothly.

Option I: Your group chooses to present a conceptualization of the conflict of the play (Prompt I).

1)Choose the scene or parts of scenes (the "cutting") that will best illustrate that conflict.

2)Determine what parts of that "cutting" are the points of greatest intensity, and decide how you can emphasize them in a reading (bearing in mind the "NOTE" above).

Option II: Your group chooses to present a comparison/contrast of two characters,one from each of two plays (Prompt II).

1)Choose the scene or parts of scenes (the "cuttings") that will best illustrate what the characters represent, and that will best illustrate the similarities and differences between the characters.

2)Make decisions about how you will make voices blend and contrast, and how you can best deliver your group's interpretation (essentially, a dramatic response to Prompt II).