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Script Analysis and Production


Scott Plate, MFA, AEA, SAG/AFTRA
COURSE DESCRIPTION                                         


This course contains two parts. The aim of the first part of this course is to teach proficiency in the analysis of play scripts, and to develop practical skills rather than to accumulate factual information. The analytic exercises should not be undertaken in the sense of “how would I direct, or even re-write this play” but instead should attempt to answer the question “how does this play work?” As theatre professionals, it is important that we learn to use the raw material of a script, and that our sense of what is theatrical about dramatic text emerges from empirical work with a playwright’s language.


The second part of the course will consist of working with scenes from the plays analyzed and staging them with actors, using the understanding we’ve acquired in our analytical work. Special emphasis will fall on learning to articulate the world of the play in a way that galvanizes collaboration.


There will be an analytic exercise due each week of part one of the course. The maximum length of each assignment is both sides of a single page (8.5” x 11”), with at least one-inch margins at the top, bottom, left, and right. It should be in two parts: significant elements and unifying principle. A sample is provided below.


The significant elements should be listed in outline form. These elements are those aspects of the play or passage that you feel are not immediately apparent, yet are essential to understanding the work. Basically, we are looking for motifs—recurring images, ideas, phrases, events, character types, relationships—that give the work its coherence.


The unifying principle, placed at the end, is a statement that you feel sums up the meaning of the play or passage as a whole. Since it is a summation, it should be cogent and short. Maximum length: 20 words.


NO LIBRARY RESEARCH IS PERMITTED FOR THIS COURSE. NO SECONDARY SOURCE MATERIAL MAY BE USED TO SUBSTITUTE FOR YOUR OWN ANALYSIS. Any information you transmit from another source, such as a previous course or your own reading, must be footnoted.






Twelfth Night


Significant Elements


1.   The title refers to a holiday characterized by gift-giving, disguise, carousing,

       and topsy-turveydom.


2.   There are many gifts in the play: Olivia sends Viola a ring, Orsino sends

      Olivia a jewel, Olivia sends Sebastian a pearl, Feste gets tips from Viola, Orsino,           Sir Toby, and Sir Andrew.


3.   There is much disguising in the play: Viola as Cesario, Feste as Sir Topas; Feste’s           endless posturing; Malvolio’s reverie in II.v., and later in his gartered get-up;                   Maria writing for Olivia.


4.   There are many images of fluids throughout the play: references to the sea, to                 tears, liquor, urine, blood, ink, rain, water, ale, gall, the humours, and drowning.


5.    In contrast, there are a few references to dryness: to Sir Andrew at I. Iii. 62-73;               III. ii. 54-56, and Feste at I. v. 36.


6.    People speak throughout the play of being drawn by their eyes: I.i. 20-21; I.v.                 282-84; II.v. 22-23; III.iii. 22-24, 40-45, etc.


7.   This is related to the theme of projection: Olivia’s line: “I would you were as I would         have you be,” relates to her image of Vila/Cesario, but could also refer to Orsino’s         love for Olivia, and to Malvolio’s reading meanings into the found letter.


8.    Projection is also involved in more minor elements, such as Antonio’s confusions           about Viola and Sebastian, or the joke about “We Three” at II.iii. 15.  Projection is           also related to alternate meaning of the subtitle (What you will) and to the                       important  word “fancy,’ which has two meanings, to fantasize and to love.


Unifying Principle: In the fluid world of Illyria, characters move from deluded love to true love, from projection to reality.

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