It’s time for Behn! I love this play, and I really enjoy teaching it–I just hope that the limited time we have is enough, and that the disruptions of midterm can be overcome. Tomorrow, students will have read acts 1 and 2 of the play, so I’d like to give them a little bio and background/critical information about Behn as a context, saving the thematic issues until next class. Then, I plan to have students get into groups and select the scene–or some portion thereof–they feel is most important thus far. That should give us an interesting place from which to think about key ideas, images, characters, and events, plus set us up for some thematic discussion next class. Using their ideas, we’ll watch select scenes from the BBC/WPT production, which should raise more questions for them. I’m going to ask that, for next class, students jot down one key question they’d really like answered about the play–and I can’t forget to go over updates to the summary assignment!
Our last discussion in Theater History was taking up the role of the thematics of theatricality in The Country Wife; I wanted to organize our thinking on the theatricality of court culture, the generic features and cultural significance of comedy during the period, and the purpose served by “the playhouse” in Wycherley’s drama. I started with a clip from The Last King, a tool to get a discussion going about court theatricals and innovations in the stage that derived from masque culture, and then I wanted to show another clip from the same film–a contrasting clip that shows Nell Gwyn on the public stage, in a comic performance. I had planned to spend most of the time after that highlighting and discussing the metatheatricality of The Country Wife, reading the play as a partial document of theatrical culture in the Restoration. Sadly, the computer kept hanging! So, I wasn’t able to show the clip that connected the three parts of the lesson plan, and that made me feel very discombobulated. Added to which, folks seemed a little less than invested in commenting on the features of the court masque and what that suggested about Restoration culture. Well, live and learn–I’m working on a collection of video clips that can be streamed over the web or drawn from a data disc, which should help avoid these problems in the future. And yet…
I am also not quite satisfied with the daily summary assignments; I feel they’re incredibly useful, especially in a world where summary skills and accurate observation are being waylaid by opinion and gut response. However, I am beginning to suspect that the class doesn’t quite approach the summary assignments in a fully effective way–making them not useful as study guides, for one. The level of completeness and accuracy I would like to see just isn’t consistently there, and so students don’t seem to be getting much out of the exercise. I’m considering having summaries of each play for the remainder of the term, rather than summaries of each reading assignment as it comes. Perhaps the holistic summary will be more useful for students.
We’re just beginning Tartuffe in EN203, and I think that students will be very interested in the play over the next meetings. In class, I went over some of the essential introductory context information, specifically the cultural and historical contexts of the “Enlightenment,” and then considered the resonance between that context and first reactions to the play. Some students had interesting observations, but I think many hadn’t been able to read the play completely by Thursday. After the mini-lecture, which took up about 25 minutes of classtime, and the first part of discussion, we watched the first scene of the play in a recording of a staged production (Broadway Theater Archive) by Circle in the Square.
I spent all day on Friday finishing their first essays. Whew!