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CC 222 : Semester project
Introduction Duties Requirements Progress reports Suggestions Milestones
Introduction.
 
   

A tragedy in the making....

The semester project for CC 222 is to write and produce an original Greek tragedy in English — that is, to compose and perform a play with the format and subject matter of the plays studied this term.

 

The project affords students the opportunity to apply their insights into tragedy, developed over a semester of reading primary and secondary sources, as well as working with masks and presenting stagings of tragic scenes.

The successful project will be more or less indistinguishable from one of the translated plays on the CC 222 reading list.  The audience should accept that it is a work of fifth-century Athens that has survived to the present day.  At the same time, the play must justify its survival, resonating with modern sensibilities and concerns.  This is the difference between a museum piece and a classic.

Constraints of time and resources may make it impossible to mount a full-scale theatrical production.  You should therefore aim for to produce a drama about 1,000 verses long (or a running time of a little over an hour).

As this project is a group effort, everyone should conscientiously observe requirements and deadlines.  Workloads should be as even as possible, and each student must pull his or her own weight.  It is assumed that students will meet regularly outside of class to complete the project. This is an ambitious assignment, to be sure, but it is possible to achieve within a single semester. 

   
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 may suggest themselves as the project proceeds.

Writers (4-5 ideally; 6 total)

Writers initially choose the myth and write 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 both a superb grasp of grammar and syntax and an ear for the stage.  Since the story will be set in the world of Greek myth, the writers should also have some familiarity with the legends and stories of ancient Greece (or should be willing to make themselves familiar).

Note that writing cannot happen without research.  The primary and secondary sources assigned in CC 222, 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 (4-5 max.)

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" to accommodate one or two additional actors (though the script should be written for three actors).

Actors should have some stage experience (or at least 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 both ancient material and modern audiences.

Chorus (5-7 max.)

The 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 perhaps 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 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.

Although the writers will initially script the odes, the Chorus should feel free to change them to suit the nature of the song and the dance — provided that the changes are communicated back to the writers.

Production designers (5-7 max.)

Production designers create the visual and perhaps musical 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 early 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 222 project benefits from open collaboration among all students, and a director (even one chosen from their ranks) 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 students' progress, offer advice and consultation, and (ultimately) to assign a grade to the completed projects.  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 will encourage the students to push back.

   
Requirements.
 

The following requirements must be observed over the course of the semester:

  • The subject of the tragedy must be Greek and mythical.  That said, the subject and its presentation should transcend the ancient world and reach a modern audience.
  • The finished script must be about 1,000 lines long — a combination of blank and choral verse.
  • The script must be written for, though not necessarily performed by, three actors. All speaking roles (excluding the Chorus, the Chorus Leader, and non-speaking extras) must be parceled out among the hypothetical three.
  • All students must appear onstage in some capacity during the performance.
  • All students must complete the weekly progress reports (see below).
   
Progress reports.
 

Six weekly progress reports are due between March 25 and April 29 — specific due dates given below. The reports should be emailed to the entire class (cc222-list@skidmore.edu), not just to Professor Curley.

Each report should contain the following:

  • 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.  Each missing report will result in your final 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.

The tragic stage saw many of Greek myth's greatest heroes and heroines come to life.  Don't shy away from engaging a famous myth — in fact, putting a new spin on a well-known story is how this game is played.  That said, do not distort a myth beyond all recognition.  Innovation involves repetition, and vice versa.

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.
 

Several milestones will help keep the project on track.  Note that many (but not all) are due Sunday nights by 11:00 p.m.

Overview (Thursday, February 14, in class)

An in-class review of the project webpage, and an opportunity for students to ask questions.

Qualifications (Sunday, February 19, 11:00 p.m. via email)

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

Project meeting 1 (Thursday, March 1, in class)

An opportunity for students to consider which myth to dramatize, to decide the date of the performance, and to learn to which duties they have been assigned. Bring your myth ideas and planners to this meeting.

Myth option (Sunday, March 18, 11:00 p.m. via email)

Email Professor Curley with a myth that you would like to see dramatized. In 6-10 sentences, indicate the characters and the situation, and why you think the myth would make for good tragedy. Prof. Curley will compile the list and distribute it before next class.

Project meeting 2 (Tuesday, March 20, in class)

An opportunity for students to select which myth will be dramatized and to shape the general outline of the myth. Bring the compiled list of options with you.

Outline and progress report 1 (Sunday, March 25, 11:00 p.m. via email)

The writers should email the class with a detailed outline of the tragedy that follows the classic tragic structure (prologue, parodos, episodes, stasima, epilogue, and exodos).   It must be clear from this outline what happens and who is involved.  The themes of the stasima, or choral odes, should also be stated.

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

Rough draft and progress report 2 (Sunday, April 1, 11:00 p.m. via email)

No fooling!  The writers should email the class with a working version of the play.  All matters pertaining to plot should now be settled.  A few gaps in speeches or songs are acceptable, provided that there are summaries of what is missing.

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

Final draft and progress report 3 (Wednesday, April 11, 11:00 p.m. via email)

The writers should email the class with a polished-to-perfection version of the play, the fullest possible realization of the class's initial vision.

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

Progress report 4 (Sunday, April 15, 11:00 p.m. via email)

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

Project meeting 3 (Tuesday, April 17, in class)

An opportunity for students to collaborate on any outstanding issues, perhaps in workshop-style.

Project meeting 4 (Thursday, April 19, in class)

An opportunity for students to collaborate on any outstanding issues, perhaps in workshop-style.

Progress report 5 (Sunday, April 22, 11:00 p.m. via email)

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

Progress report 6 (Sunday, April 29, 11:00 p.m. via email)

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

Formal presentation (Wednesday, May 2, 2:45 p.m.)

A public performance of the CC 222 semester project.

Final reflections (Tuesday, May 8, noon)

Fill-in the final reflections page before our last class (link on the Reflections page).

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© 2012 Skidmore College Classics Department