Theater / Musical Review

Theater / Musical Review (20%)

There is something unique about experiencing an event in a live, personal encounter. This semester you will attend a live theater or musical performance and write a review of the performance. (If this is not permissible due to Covid-19, you will watch an online production.)This must be an event you attend this semester. Events must be approved by the instructor unless you choose an event from the “Pre-Approved Events” list below.

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Pre-Approved Events

Any event put on by Actor’s Theatre

Any event put on by the UofL Theater Department

Any play at The Bard’s Town or Commonwealth Theater

Any play or musical put on by a high school

IMPORTANT:

  • Submit the assignment through SafeAssign on BB. It is due Mon. Dec. 7 by 11:59 PM.
  • You must include proof of your attendance. This can be a ticket or a time-stamped picture of you at the event. If you fail to include proof of attendance, your grade will be lowered by 30 points.
  • Any paper discussing unapproved events will receive a 0.

In 1000-1500 words (3-4 typed pages), you will analyze the relative success or failure of a given production. You will describe the production using technical vocabulary from Chapter 6 of Reality Through the Artsand then offer a detailed review of the success/failure of the production. This assignment asks you to be both an engaged audience member and an art critic.

Limit your review to a few essential observations (2-3) since you will not be able to discuss all production elements (costumes, music, lighting, individual actor performances, set changes, etc.) Your job as a critic is to be objective and critical, not nasty, which means the tone of your paper is important.

BEFORE: If possible, read the play beforehand. At the very least, read a summary of the play so you have a sense of what the characters might look like, the type of costuming that might be used, a possible set design, and the expected theme/tone of the work.

DURING: Attend the play with an open mind and take notes, paying careful attention to the following:

  • Choice of costumes and set design
  • Type of stage
  • Delivery of lines by the actors (serious, comedic, formal, etc.) and use of gestures/body movements
  • The range and skill of the actors (Were they professionals, students, amateurs? Be fair to the level of their talents – Broadway plays and high school productions utilize different actors.)
  • Special effects (lighting, sound, audience participation, machinery, etc.)

 

WRITING THE REVIEW:

Paragraph 1 – Include title of play, name of playwright, name of director, place and date of performance you attended. The last line of your introduction should be your thesis statement (1-2 sentences) where you offer a general impression of the relative success / failure of the production.

Paragraph 2 – Give a brief summary of the main events / plot points of the play. This should not be longer than half a page so be succinct.

In the body of the paper (the next 2-3 pages), you will choose 2-3 aspects of the production and analyze them. For example, if you are discussing the lighting, you will describe the way lighting is utilized in the play and then you will interpret/evaluate those choices. Why were the lights dimmed at the beginning of a scene – was it for mood, shock effect, the slow unfolding of dread? If you are writing about costumes, you will describe them briefly and then analyze the choices. Did everyone wear the same costumes? If so, why do you think they did? Were some costumes more elaborate?  If so, why?

In other words, don’t simply report the production details but analyze and interpret.

Conclusion – Draw conclusions for the reader. Would you recommend this performance? Why or why not?

 

BAD THESIS: “The play Lear was a lot of fun to attend and the costumes and lighting made it especially enjoyable.”

(Note that there is no critical engagement, and nothing to “prove” or argue.)

 

GOOD THESIS: “In Smith’s You Can’t Take It With You, the acting by the family members on the open, exposed stage allowed them to confront accepted norms of behavior and the lighting was used to create a somber and mournful mood.”

(Note that this thesis focuses on only a few aspects of the production.)

 

Examples from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Writing Center website

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