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CC 223 : Semester project
Introduction Duties Requirements Progress reports Suggestions Milestones
Introduction.
 
       

Tragedy tomorrow, comedy tonight!

As a semester project students will adapt Aristophanes' Wasps, updating the play for a 21st-century Skidmore audience.

Students will present the play to the campus community on an evening in December.

   
 

The purpose of the project is for students to approach Greek comedy from a different direction -- to take on the role of a comic poet within the context of a living production, rather than the more passive role of a modern reader.  At issue here is the very notion of a classic -- what makes a work worthy of inclusion on a list of great works.

As this project is a group effort, everyone should conscientiously observe requirements and deadlines.  Workloads should be as even as possible; each student must pull his or her own weight. This page describes the scope, duties, and schedule of the project.  Please refer to it often to ensure that you are well-informed.

The final version of your comedy will reflect the changes and choices you have made along the way. The plot might be altered; characters, condensed; choral odes, changed into hip-hop. The choices are limitless and yours to make in the service of addressing your audiences' sensibilities and concerns.

A NOTE ON GRADING:  Professor Curley will assign a blanket grade to the project after the performance (e.g., a wobbly preparatory phase but a superb performance might garner a B+ overall). Students will then reflect on their contributions and, using the blanket grade as a baseline for their individual grade, recommend to Prof. Curley what percentage of the blanket grade they should receive individually.

EXAMPLES.  A student who has performed all of his or her duties might feel entitled to 100% of a B+ blanket grade, which would garner an individual grade of B+. A student who admits to not working as hard as others might deem that 80% of a B+, or a B-, is appropriate. A student who has worked far and above the average standard, perhaps to compensate for other underperforming students, might claim that 120% of a B+, or an A, is appropriate.

Whatever the case, Prof. Curley will review students' recommendations carefully when assigning individual grades, reserving the right to raise or lower a recommended percentage.

   
Duties.
 

Each member of the class will be assigned a duty (or, if the work is small, duties) to undertake as the project moves forward. Here is a preliminary roster of duties and the responsibilities involved; others might suggest themselves as the project proceeds.

Writers (3 or 4 max.)

Cocorelis, Davido, Sardelli, Travagline [email the writers]

Writers generate the script to be used in the performance.  Over the course of the semester they update and maintain the script and ensure that everyone is on the same page.

Writers will have a superb grasp of grammar and syntax, an ear for the stage, and a sense of humor. They should also have a knack for translating 5th-century BCE Greek cultural references into 21st century Skidmore ones.

Note that writing cannot happen without research.  The primary and secondary sources assigned in CC 223, as well as the discussions and other course activities, will provide background for the project;  yet further reading is not only inevitable, but also encouraged.  The broader and deeper the research, the broader and deeper the final play;  a shallow and narrow play, in turn, is the result of shallow and narrow research.  Professor Curley will be happy to recommend appropriate reference works and readings.

Actors (3 or 4 max.)

Dufault, Elias, Elwell [email the actors]

Actors perform the primary speaking (i.e. non-choral) roles of the play.  We often speak of the "three-actor rule" in ancient drama, which was really only a convention and meant that all of the principal roles (excluding the Chorus and extras) could be played by three actors. In your production, the three-actor rule may be "bent" -- just as Aristophanes sometimes bent it -- to accommodate one additional actor.

Actors should have some stage experience (or at least raw talent), should be articulate, and should be willing to memorize the script. Cross-gender casting is encouraged. Note that all members of the class must appear onstage in some capacity, but the principal speaking roles should be reserved for the actors. Actors may alter the script here and there, provided that any alterations are communicated to the writers.

The primary work of the actors will begin once the script rough draft is delivered by the writers. However, actors should familiarize themselves with the characters in question, which will be known in advance, and should meet to cultivate a style of performance suitable to the production.

Chorus (3 or 4 max.)

Cahill-Yi, Morgan, Wrigley [email the Chorus]

The ancient Chorus is the heart-and-soul of the production, commenting on the drama as it occurs through speech and especially song and dance.  Its moments of singing and dancing (choral odes or stasima) shapes the audience's perception of the play as much as the performances of the actors do.

Members of the Chorus will have a talent for singing, dancing, and/or playing an instrument (a concession to modern times). A very important member of the Chorus is the Chorus Leader, who answers for the Chorus during spoken episodes, and who in your production might well choreograph the choral odes

The primary work of the Chorus will begin once the script rough draft is delivered by the writers. However, Chorus members should familiarize themselves with the myth in question, which will be known in advance, and should meet to cultivate a style of performance suitable to both ancient material and modern audiences.

The Chorus will work with the writers in crafting the odes, the writers providing the themes in outline, the Chorus taking those themes and running with them.

Production designers (3 or 4 max.)

Moller, Rodino, Rotter [email the designers]

Production designers are primarily responsible for the visual aspects of the play:  costumes, masks (if applicable), sets, and props. They also secure and prepare a venue, publicize the event, and assist the actors in performance.

The ideal designers will have some experience or acumen in the visual or performing arts and the drive to put ideas into action and get things done. Being on a limited budget, they will also understand the virtue of simplicity.

Much of the design work will be done toward the end of the semester. Nevertheless, it is never too late to begin conceptual work on the production.

NOTES:

Writers, Actors, Chorus, and Desginers constitute four discrete teams; it is assumed that the teams will meet regularly outside of class throughout the semester to assess the tasks that need to be done. At the same time, teams are also responsible for communcating with other teams as approriate.

Should there be a director? That's a question open to discussion, but past experience suggests that the answer should be "no." Unlike a professional or semi-professional theatrical production, the CC 223 project usually works without a top-down approach, and a director (even one chosen from among the students) tends to be exposed to undue criticism and hostility. As noted, however, the question is open to discussion.

Professor Curley's role is to assist students in finding their tasks, to monitor their progress, offer advice and consultation, and (ultimately) to assign a grade to the completed project;  he will, as a last resort, moderate disputes.  Although he believes firmly in student autonomy, he must nonetheless offer feedback on the projects from time to time, usually in the form of questions, recommendations, and the odd bit of praise.  He will push, and he encourages the students to push back.

   
Requirements.
 

The following requirements must be observed:

  • The final version, thought it might depart from the original play in any number of ways, must still bear some resemblance to it.
  • The performance itself must last at least 40 minutes.
  • All students must appear onstage in some capacity during the performance.
  • All students must complete the required progress reports (see below).
   
Progress reports.
 

Four progress reports are due during the month of November — specific due dates given below. The reports should be emailed to the entire class (cc223-list@skidmore.edu), not just to Professor Curley.

Each report should be formatted as follows:

  • A list of the tasks that you and your team agreed to do that week, and which tasks you were responsible for.
  • The work done toward completing your tasks. Tell us what you did, watched, read, wrote, composed, acted, sang, danced, drew or made. Provide supporting evidence, including images, as appropriate. If you didn't complete all your tasks, tell us why and what still needs to be done.
  • Which tasks you are responsible for next week, and how you plan to complete them.
  • Any questions or concerns you have about the project thus far.

The purpose of the reports is twofold.  First, students keep track of their work by noting their progress on a regular basis.  At the end of the semester, each student will be able to look back on their efforts, hopefully with satisfaction.  Second, the reports allow Prof. Curley to evaluate students' progress, offer feedback, and assess their work.

Students must complete all reports in a satisfactory manner. Each missing or unsatisfactory report will result in your individual grade being lowered by a fraction (e.g., B+ to B with one missing report, B+ to B- with two missing reports, and so on).

   
Suggestions.
 

Here are some suggestions for you to bear in mind as the project unfolds.  Most of them involve courtesy toward your peers and common sense.

Think classically.

...But not too classically. Greek comedy, especially Aristophanic comedy, is rather idiosyncratic. You should take your cue from the poet, but the successful project will do what Aristophanes does without necessarily saying what he says.

Think simply.

You and the rest of the class will be working under many constraints, especially that of time.  It may not be possible to present a full-fledged, professional production, so rather than augment you may have to compress.  Simple thinking may also be a good philosophy when it comes to production values as well.

Think ahead.

Every detail of the production that can be scheduled should be.  Every member of the group should always know what his or her responsibilities are, and when they must be completed.  A modest up-front time investment will pay off in the long run.

Think kindly.

Finally, be decent to your peers.  In a group environment the actions of an individual resonate far beyond the self.  Being responsible and open to compromise ensure the success of the project more than any other actions.

   
Milestones.
 

Milestones will help keep the project on track.  Note that many are due Sunday nights by 11:00 p.m.

Setting the date (Tuesday, September 22, in class)

The first task, even before we have a chance to review the project in detail, is to set a date for the final performance, preferably an evening in early December. Bring your planners to class!

Overview (Tuesday, September 29, in class)

We will devote some time in class to reviewing the project as a whole, making sure that everyone is on the same page.  This is your chance to ask questions and make comments.

Qualifications (Sunday, October 4, 11:00 p.m. via email)

Read the various descriptions of the duties involved with the project. Send an email to Prof. Curley, describing your qualifications for the duty or duties you'd like to have. Every effort will be made to accommodate your request.

Duties assigned, play confirmed (Tuesday, October 6, in class)

Prof. Curley will report who has been assigned to which duty. The class will decide which play by Aristophanes to perform, whether the Wasps or something else.

Treatment (Sunday, October 18, 11:00 p.m. via email)

The writers will email the class and Prof. Curley with a brief synopsis, or treatment, of the adaptation, describing in broad strokes the plot and the approach. Sell your ideas, in other words.

Rough script (Sunday, November 1, 11:00 p.m. via email)

The writers should email the class and Prof. Curley with a working version of the play.  All matters pertaining to plot should now be settled.  A few gaps are acceptable, provided that there are summaries of what is missing.

Progress report 1 (Sunday, November 8, 11:00 p.m. via email)

Each student should email the class his or her first progress report.

Progress report 2 (Sunday, November 15, 11:00 p.m. via email)

Each student should email the class his or her second progress report.

Final script, progress report 3 (Sunday, November 23, 11:00 p.m. via email)

The writers should email the class and Prof. Curley with a polished-to-perfection version of the play.

In addition, each student should email the class his or her third progress report.

Progress report 4 (Sunday, December 6, 11:00 p.m. via email)

Each student should email the class his or her fourth (and final) progress report.

Presentation (Thursday, December 10, 8:00 p.m.)

A public performance of the CC 222 semester project, venue TBD.

Final reflections (Thursday, December 17, 12:00 p.m.)

Fill-in the final reflections form before the end of our final exam period (link on the Reflections page). At this time you will recommend an individual grade based on Prof. Curley's blanket grade for the project.

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© 2009 Skidmore College Classics Department