Published on March 28, 2008
Understanding Plays : Understanding Plays A play is a written story meant to be acted out on stage. How is a play different from a story? : Most of a play is dialogue, or the conversation between characters, and stage directions. How is a play different from a story? Stage Directions Describe the Scene : Stage Directions Describe the Scene Gives information that helps readers “see” the scene. Notice how the stage directions on the next slide help you picture the scenery as you begin to read the play “Star Sisters” Slide 4: Characters: Narrator Red Star Sister Bear Red Star White Star Sister Lynx White Star Star People Wolverine Little Star Star Grandmother Trees (Setting: the forest at night. The night is clear and stars shine in the sky. The sisters lay on blankets looking at the sky. There may be a forest backdrop and/or trees and bush sets. Stars may be attached and hanging over the sisters.) Stage Directions: Describe the Action : Stage Directions: Describe the Action A play is mostly dialogue but the playwright still needs to describe what’s happening. Stage directions describe the action. They give information about how characters should sound, how they should move, and how they should handle props. Notice how the stage directions on the next slide describe the action. Slide 6: SCENE I NARRATOR: One night, two sisters went outside to sleep under the stars. RED STAR SISTER: (Gestures towards sky) Look up into the sky. WHITE STAR SISTER: It is beautiful up there. RED STAR SISTER: I would like to marry a star. WHITE STAR SISTER: I, too, would like to marry a star. RED STAR SISTER: Which one would you marry? WHITE STAR SISTER: I would marry that big white star. RED STAR SISTER: I would marry that bright red star. WHITE STAR SISTER: I am feeling very tired (sighs). RED STAR SISTER: (Yawning) I am tired too. The two Sisters fall asleep. As soon as they do so, Red Star and White Star enter and walk quietly towards the Sisters. RED STAR: This is my wife-to-be. WHITE STAR: This is the one who wants to marry me. RED STAR: Let us take them to the Sky Land now! How Dialogue is Used : How Dialogue is Used You often judge your friends and learn about them by listening to what they say, you do the same with characters in a play. Dialogue tells you who the characters are, what they think, how they react to each other, and what’s happening. Focus on the dialogue on the next two slides. Slide 8: SCENE II White Star Sister and Red Star Sister are asleep on the bare stage. They are surrounded by a crowd of Star People. RED STAR SISTER (waking): Where are we? Sister, wake up! WHITE STAR SISTER: I dreamt that a star came down from the sky. Ah, who are these people? ALL OF THE STAR PEOPLE: We are the Star People. STAR GRANDMOTHER: You are not dreaming. LITTLE STAR: You are in the sky. Red Star Sister and White Star Sister stand up. RED STAR SISTER: How did we get up into the sky? RED STAR: Do you not remember? You said you wanted to marry me. I am Red Star. WHITE STAR: And your sister said she wanted to marry me. I am White Star. WHITE STAR SISTER: Where is our wigwam? LITTLE STAR (pointing towards the floor): It is way down there. Slide 9: STAR GRANDMOTHER: Every night our job is to look down through the holes in the sky. ALL OF THE STAR PEOPLE: When people look up, they see our faces looking at them. WHITE STAR (taking White Star Sister’s hand): Come with me, my wife. I will show you your new home. RED STAR (taking Red Star Sister’s hand): My wife, come with me. I will show you your new home too. SCENE II dialogue describes the action and makes clear what characters are thinking. Dialogue explains action: how and why sisters were brought to Sky Land and the job of the Star People. Dialogue explains characters thoughts: sisters were surprised to be in Sky Land and Red Star and White Star want to share their homes with the sisters. Focus on Key Lines and Speeches : Focus on Key Lines and Speeches Every play has key lines and speeches. These parts of the play usually come at important moments and suggest the playwright’s message. To find key lines and speeches, look for parts that tell you important things about the plot or characters. Read Scene III. Can you identify a key line or speech? Slide 11: SCENE III White Star Sister and Red Star Sister are walking around the stage. The basket is on one side of the stage. All around them Star People are kneeling or lying on the stage with their faces looking down through the holes in the sky. As White Star Sister and Red Star Sister walk around, the Star People look up at them and then look back down again. WHITE STAR SISTER: We have been in the sky for a long time, Sister. RED STAR SISTER: Has White Star been kind to you? WHITE STAR SISTER: He has been very kind to me, but there is nothing to do here in the Sky Land. RED STAR SISTER: Red Star has been kind to me too. But I miss my home. LITTLE STAR: Are you sad? WHITE STAR SISTER: I miss my mother and father. RED STAR SISTER: I miss my home and my friends. LITTLE STAR: Come with me. I will take you to my grandmother. Slide 12: Little Star leads the Star Sisters across the stage to Star Grandmother. Red Star and White Star and nearby, looking through holes in the sky. LITTLE STAR: Grandmother, they are sad. They miss their families and their friends. STAR GRANDMOTHER: Look down through this hole. What do you see? RED STAR SISTER (looking): I see my family’s wigwam. WHITE STAR SISTER (looking): I can hear my people singing. STAR GRANDMOTHER: You are ready to go home. RED STAR (standing up): If you are ready to go home, we will help you. WHITE STAR (also standing): We will miss you. RED STAR: But you should be with your family. STAR GRANDMOTHER: Get into the basket. We will tie a long rope to it. The Star Sisters climb into the basket. ALL OF THE STAR PEOPLE: We will lower you to the world below. Theme : Theme Plays have a theme. Can you identify the playwright’s message? Remember to pay attention to the “big idea” of the play, what characters say, do, and think, what characters think about each other, and what important lesson about life you can learn from the play. Finish reading the play and identify the theme. Slide 14: SCENE IV White Star Sister and Red Star Sister are standing in the nest, peering upward. The Trees stand in the background. RED STAR SISTER: Wait, Star People! Don’t take the basket away. We have not reached the ground yet. We are in an eagle’s nest at the top of the tree. WHITE STAR SISTER: They can’t hear you. RED STAR SISTER: How can we get down from this treetop? WHITE STAR SISTER: We will call for help. Look, there is bear. RED STAR SISTER: Come up here and help us get down. BEAR: Who is asking for help? WHITE STAR SISTER: We are! Up here, in the eagle’s nest. BEAR: I am too busy to help you. I am looking for honey. WHITE STAR SISTER: He is going away. Oh, how can we get down? WHITE STAR SISTER: Look, there is Lynx. RED STAR SISTER: Please help us get down. LYNX: My claws aren’t sharp enough. That is too far to climb. Slide 15: RED STAR SISTER: He is going away too. WHITE STAR SISTER: Who is that coming? RED STAR SISTER: Oh no, it is Wolverine. If Wolverine helps us, he will make us like with him. WOLVERINE: Did I hear someone speak my name? Ah, looook. Twoooo pretty sisters in a tree. I will help them get doooown. RED STAR SISTER: Go away, we do not need any help. WHITE STAR SISTER: Shh. Let him help us down. I have a plan. Wolverine helps the Star Sisters climb out of the eagle’s nest and down the tree. WOLVERINE: There, I have helped you doooown. Now you can come and cooook my fooood and live with me. WHITE STAR SISTER: Wait, I forgot my comb. RED STAR SISTER: I forgot my comb too. WHITE STAR SISTER: Please climb back up and get our combs. WOLVERINE: The forest is thick here. Hoooow will I find yoooou when I come back down? WHITE STAR SISTER: We will whistle to you. Slide 16: WOLVERINE: Wait here for me. Don’t forget toooo whistle when I get back. RED STAR SISTER: He’s gone. Now let’s run away. This is the path to our village. WHITE STAR SISTER: Wait. I have to ask the trees for help. (Takes the kinnikinnick from her pouch.) I am placing this kinnikinnick (kih-NEE-kin-nik) here on the ground for you as a gift. Help us. When Wolverine come down, whistle to him. TREES: We will help you, little ones. WHITE STAR SISTER: Now let’s run away! WOLVERINE: I am back noooow. I could not find your coooombs. Sisters, where are yoooou? Whistle toooo me. (A Tree whistles.) There yoooou are. (Another Tree whistles.) Or are yoooou there? (Trees whistle all around him.) Oh noooo, they have tricked me. Now I have noooo one to cooook for me. NARRATOR: So White Star Sister and Red Star Sister tricked Wolverine and came home safely. And from then on, they never again slept out at night under the stars or forgot how much they loved their homes and families. Theme Diagram : Theme Diagram Helps you figure out the theme and state it in your own words. Plays are Organized Into Sections: : Plays are Organized Into Sections: Sections of plays are called acts. They are usually divided into 1 to 5 acts. Each act is broken down into one or two smaller scenes that establish different times or places in the story. Act III from: Toad of Toad Hall Scene 2 THE DUNGEON Scene: A Dungeon. On a heap of straw in the corner TOAD sleeps uneasily. The door is unlocked and PHOEBE, the jailer’s daughter comes in with breakfast on a tray. TOAD sits up and takes the straw from his hair. PHOEBE: Good morning, Toad. TOAD (gloomily): Good morning, woman. Cast of Characters : Cast of Characters A list of all the play’s characters. Sometimes a short description appears after the character names, telling something about them. You can often learn about the play just by skimming through the cast of characters. From: Pecos Bill by John Tichanor Characters: Narrator Ma Pa Pecos Bill Chuckwagon Chuck Sourdough Sal Hardtack Hank Flap Jack Sluefoot Sue (Coyote & Cattle) Setting : Setting The place and time of the scene or play. Setting is usually given in the stage directions for an act or scene. Most plays have 1 general setting, but each scene may take place in its own special place and special time. Setting often influences the mood and reveals what the characters are like. Setting changes help show how the time has changed in a play. Setting : Setting From: Star Sisters by Joseph Bruchae Scene I Red Star Sister and White Star Sister lie on blankets outdoors in the forest. NARRATOR: One night, two sisters went outside to sleep under the stars. RED STAR SISTER: Look up into the sky. WHITE STAR SISTER: It is beautiful up there. Narrator : Narrator Explains or moves along the action of the play with comments. Has an inactive role in the play because he is not one of the actual characters in the play. From: Star Sisters by Joseph Bruchae Scene I Red Star Sister and White Star Sister lie on blankets outdoors in the forest. NARRATOR: One night, two sisters went outside to sleep under the stars. RED STAR SISTER: Look up into the sky. WHITE STAR SISTER: It is beautiful up there. Monologue : Monologue Speech by one character who is alone on stage. from: “What’s Your Problem?” Jillian walks onto the stage alone. A spotlight shines only on her. JILLIAN (staring into the audience thoughtfully): What am I going to do? Marcus asked me to the dance, but mom won’t have enough money for a dress. Do I make up an excuse Marcus will believe or do I accept his invitation and try to come up with the money? I don’t want mom to feel bad for not having enough money. I’ll just go to class. Something will come to me. (Jillian walks out of the light and into the classroom.) Prologue : Prologue A speech or poem spoken to the audience at the beginning of the play to introduce information. NARRATOR: It is two weeks before the Senior Prom at Kennedy Smith High School. Students are organizing decorations for the dance and asking each other for dates in the hallways. Almost everyone is excited. Some students wonder if they will be asked to the dance while others tell their friends they want to go alone. Teachers are telling students to get to class. Props : Props Objects used in plays to create the setting. Below are some props you might see in “Star Sisters” Scenery : Scenery The background screens or hangings used to create places or settings in plays. You might see this background in “Star Sisters” Lighting : Lighting Focus lights to draw attention to a single character, a group of actors, or the color mixture of the lights create night and day. Sound Effects : Sound Effects Sounds created offstage that are like the normal sounds of the play’s setting. Sounds of a Storm Sounds of a Telephone Read the Play Carefully : Read the Play Carefully Pay attention to key details about characters, setting, and plot events. Take notes to keep track of information. Try different organizers depending on whether your focus is on plot, characters, setting, or theme. Read the Play Carefully : Read the Play Carefully Pay attention to key details about characters, setting, and plot events. Take notes to keep track of information. Try different organizers depending on whether your focus is on plot, characters, setting, or theme. Use an Organizer : Summary Notes : Use an Organizer : Summary Notes Gives you a complete record of the important plot events and gives characters’ feelings. For Example: Use an Organizer: Web : Use an Organizer: Web Lets you organize ideas around key events, characters, or ideas.