Monologue Must Share: Calvin Candie, Django Unchained

I’ve got the 52 Plays in 52 Weeks Challenge but I’ve also had a little challenge going for a long while now that I haven’t talked about.

I’ve made myself a long list of films to get through in search of good monologues that students could adapt and perform for their Individual Performance in the HSC.

This one, that I just had to share, is from the film Django Unchained. Now it is rated MA15+. It is violent. There is bad language. This YouTube clip is in serious breach of copyright.

In saying that however, I just had to share this moment from the film. How Leonardo Dicaprio has not won an Oscar I still do not understand.

I was completely glued to him during this scene. I can’t really describe it. You just have to watch it. Whilst watching it however,  I did wonder, could it be performed on stage? I don’t see why it couldn’t. With a few little tweaks (namely the knife cutting the skull as blades are not permitted in performances) it could be a really good piece for a strong male actor and I always seem to find it hard to find good male pieces. Or maybe I’m just completely mental for thinking this could work as a piece of performance.

What do you think?

You can find other monologue suggestions at the top of the page under the Suggestions for Monologues section.

52 Plays in 52 Weeks: Week 20

Falling Petals by Ben Ellis

I’d forgotten how full on this play is. The language, the action and the content itself.

Set in the fictional town of Hollow, a mysterious syndrome begins to plague the town affecting only the young. The town is quarantined, schools are closed and fences go up. Guards patrol new enforced borders, but amongst the townsfolk denial runs deep. Phil and Tania are determined to do their final exams, whilst Sally mourns for those that are dying feeling lost, stuck, yet loyal to her hometown with little support and love from her family and friends.

It’s a disturbing idea that some kind of disease, something in the swine flu vein, could plague an entire population. That part of the story makes the play somewhat futuristic and out of this world. Yet real because in recent times it has happened. The placement of a Japanese sakura tree as the central place the teens go to when studying, hanging out or escaping is a bittersweet image as the play progresses. It is very out of place in the Australian landscape, yet continues to live despite the drought. Each petal falling from the tree symbolises the death of another child. Whilst the children die, the adults are not particularly sympathetic and become selfish – every man for himself. Even when it comes to their own children. At the same time, when you look at how someone like Phil behaves throughout the play you can understand where those horrible Gen Y stereotypes come from. Or perhaps it is the youth of every generation we just forget as we get older about how it used to be?

I found it compelling to read yet disturbing. The visuals are what grabbed me with this play. The beautiful images contrasted with the harsh ones. I think this would be a great one to explore for any of the projects but I like the idea of it being used for  Poster/Promotion. It has lots of potential.

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52 Plays in 52 Weeks: Week 19

The Female of the Species by Joanna Murray Smith

I know that the Board of Studies recently updated the Drama Prescribed Texts for 2015-2017 but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t re-read over some of the ones on the current list (for one more year at least) in order to help my students with their Individual Projects!

So I have had a bit of a binge read over the last few days (so much for one play a week!) and will be reading a couple of the plays on the current list as well as those on the new list. I’m reading the texts on the new list to help me make a decision as to what I will teach at the end of this year!

I’m a huge Joanna Murray Smith fan. I’m surprised this is the first play of hers I’ve written about in the challenge. It is a favourite so I’m glad it’s on the list.

The plot is loosely based on an incident whereby well known feminist Germaine Greer was held at gunpoint in her own home by a disturbed student. Margot, the main protagonist draws parallels with Greer and Molly with the disturbed student whose life has been affected by her mother’s beliefs that were so heavily influenced by Margot’s writing as well as Margot herself. Margot, stuck for what to write about in her new book, questions where her beliefs lie and what she will, in fact, write about. Molly meanwhile has had all of hers shattered and is stuck, lost, seeking retribution for what Margot has written. In comes Margot’s daughter Tess, exhausted by her responsibilities as a mother and unhappy in her marriage to further stir the pot.

Views on feminism and the role of feminism in our society today is the broader questions being asked in this play. Something I find compelling and relevant to all women. It is certainly thought provoking and the use of comedy to propel the dramatic questions makes it even more interesting to read. Well paced and highly engaging. Aside from being an HSC text there could be possibilities to adapt some of Margot’s dialogue into a short monologue.

Image Credit: The “Who Needs Feminism?” Tumblr  where the picture was sourced can be found here.

52 Plays in 52 Weeks: Week 18

Citizenship by Mark Ravenhill

I have been busily reading a fair few plays these last few months but have not posted about them despite having the best of intentions. This one was brought to my attention by the lovely @ellysandbrook. Elly has been really helpful these past few months with suggestions for plays that I could do with my junior students. I had mentioned how much of a fan I was of the National Theatre program (I’ve posted about them here and here) which we are lucky enough here in Australia to be able to go and see at the cinema. She brought to my attention the NT Connections program and the work of Nick Drake as well as the work of English playwright @markravenhill. I hadn’t thought to look for playwrights on Twitter but Elly linked me up with a few.

I bought Mark Ravenhill’s play through my Kindle and had the New Connections 2009 Plays for Young People posted from Amazon UK. Rather promptly I might add.

I really felt Citizenship captured the confusion, the drama and the attitude of being a teenager. In parts you could tell that the dialogue was written for English teenagers with a few other English references but on the whole the ambiguity of the setting could really have had the situations Tom and Amy find themselves in happening anywhere in the world. With any teenager experiencing it or having thoughts about it. The are lots of possibilities for a director and actors in terms of interpretation also.

The New Connections plays were very English. I got a real sense of what it must be like for a teenager living in England and I could see the differences to that of teenagers here in Australia and that, for many teens, these differences would make it difficult for them to relate to the characters. In saying that too I could just be showing my age. From the collection, some could most certainly be adapted but all in all I felt most would be done justice with their intended audience in mind: young, British teens.

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52 Plays in 52 Weeks: Week 17

Water by the Spoonful by Quiara Alegria Hudes

The holidays are a great time to waste hours searching for all things drama related. A time to surf and unlock material one would not normally have time to find during the term.

I decided to look for more plays to read for my on again, off again 52 Plays challenge. In so doing I came across one of my favourite blogs 365plays.wordpress.com and The Pulitzer Prize website.

All I know about The Pulitzer Prize is that it is a very prestigious award. I’ve had the privilege of seeing some of this award winning work both here and in New York. Winners such as Next to Normal, August: Osage County, Rabbit Hole, Doubt, In the Next Room or the vibrator play and RENT. So I thought I would take a look at some of the recent recipients.

I chose Hudes’s Water by the Spoonful purely on whim. I think the thing that drew me to it was the fact that it was set in Philadelphia. I love that city. They talk about the “Philly’s” and “hoagies” which are two of my loves from that city.

Water by the Spoonful is the second in a projected trilogy, revolving around a Puerto Rican-American ex-Marine, Elliot, who is dealing with the traumas of a brief tour in Iraq.

In the current play, the first focusing on Elliot’s time on duty, his war wounds are merely background, and a framing device for the play. In the first scene, Elliot asks a college professor to translate an Arabic phrase for him. Why, or what the significance of the apparently innocent phrase is does not become clear until much later, and then only partially. The mystery hovers intriguingly over the play, propelling a narrative that blossoms into something more fragrant and enriching.

Half of the play’s scenes involve Elliot, who is working at a Subway sandwich shop in Philadelphia and facing, along with his divorced cousin Yaz, the sudden death of the aunt who raised him. In the other half, we follow a group of seemingly unrelated characters, who exchange messages in an online chat room for recovering crack addicts. There’s a link between the two that is revealed halfway through the play. In a thematic sense, they are all part of the same story: the search for human connection in a harsh and destabilising world.

What I liked about this play was how skillfully Hudes reveals the connection between the seemingly separate story lines. It propelled me to want to keep reading and helped to heighten the dramatic tension.

It is very American, very Puerto Rican-American at that which may be difficult for many of us in Australia to fully understand. In saying that though, the fundamental spine of the piece is universal and could be translated skillfully to any culture.

What other famous play writing prizes do you know? Share them in the comments.

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52 Plays in 52 Weeks: Week 16

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time

Adapted by Simon Stephens, Based on the Novel by Mark Haddon

I had been meaning to read this play for some time. I finally got around to it and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I started the novel some years ago and didn’t finish it. When I saw that the National Theatre company was producing it I was keen to watch it as part of its National Theatre Live program. For one reason or another, I missed that as well, unfortunately.

I just had a feeling about it when I heard it was going to be turned into a play. That it would be interesting to see how they could bring the story to life on stage and capture the essence of Christopher’s character as a boy with tendencies that place him on the autism spectrum.

I watched a couple of clips on the National Theatre’s YouTube channel and was amazed to see the set and the way the director had manipulated the performance space to create various locations in the story and to capture what is going on in Christopher’s mind.

Reading this play reminded me that a Director’s Concept can be anything you want it to be and to think beyond the script. I think I am someone that tries to be far too faithful, realist and literal in my interpretation of things.

In thinking about the classroom, it would be possible to piece together parts of Christopher’s dialogue to create  a monologue for a performance. There is also a particularly lengthy section after the curtain call that would be interesting to play around with on stage.

I’m keen to produce this at school. I’ll keep it up my sleeve as a possible production in the new year…

Check out the website for the London West End Production here.

I’ve also embedded the two clips I watched from the National Theatre YouTube channel below.

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52 Plays in 52 Weeks: Week 15

All Stops Out by Michael Gow

So I’m a bit on again, off again with my challenge I know. Recently though, I managed to sneak in some time to read a play. It was rather relevant considering many of the students at our school were preparing for their Trial HSC and now my darling Year 11’s are about to embark on their Yearly Exams before hitting the big Year 12 next term.

All Stop’s Out is a play that explores the differing attitudes to study, the consequences of our actions and the possibilities for our future. Sam is a natural at study, an absolute nerd. He hits the books hard. Danny finds it a little more difficult. Linda thinks Jenny is wasting her time whilst Cathy regrets not working harder whilst the parents…Well, the parents are always anxious. It’s their child’s future after all.

I’ve always liked Michael Gow because the way he writes appears very simple but it isn’t. It is multi-layered. The dialogue suggests action and setting and you can understand the character’s subtext easily from this. His plays could work in any space and with very little in the way of set and costume. It leaves a lot open to interpretation for a director. Often there is always a bit of a twist at the end too. It’s a little dated but nothing that a bit of tweaking of cultural references couldn’t change.

I used a scene from this play to explore motivation and subtext and found it to be quite successful with the students. Well worth the read.

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