Reflection Note

Before I leave and face one of the most stressful exam weeks in a long time, I just wanted to leave you guys with this (hopefully) short response note that explains my reasons for writing a blog for this course, why I chose the blog as my final submission format, the challenges I faced, learning experiences and my take home message. It might be a little boring, but in case you’ve been wondering what I’ve learnt and why I did what I’ve done, this will clear things up for you!

Also I did receive some recommendations for plays I should review! Thanks guys, keep them coming!

Response Note:

The final assignment involved a few big decisions to ensure a successful outcome. Deciding on the format wasn’t much of a tough decision for me; I love writing blogs, and have had some experience with writing and editing blogs in the past, as well as I enjoy posting my own opinions and reflections about a topic and seeing how others react to them. I’ve created blogs for previous literary studies courses and found it to be a great learning experience, so I thought that a blog would be an ideal format. Then it came to deciding what exactly I wanted to blog about; this took a few weeks for me to figure out; at first I wanted to review plays we did in class or I went to see but then I realized that that might not be enough to show for an entire semester and besides, reviews for plays happen all the time, what sets my work apart?

After much thought I realized, I could document the entire course in terms of how it’s proceeded, what we’ve been doing, the play’s we’ve read, discussions we’ve had, assignments, my reflections and further research into topics I’ve found interesting and so on. This sounded like a great idea because it would ensure I was actively working on the final submission throughout the course, and constantly thinking about what we were doing in class-essentially the blog would give me a podium to express my opinions and thoughts on what was being done, be it different plays, theories or just what I felt about the progression of the classes. Most of all though, it would be interesting to look back at where I started and how far the learning and knowledge acquired through the course has taken me. The blog was a good way to document the course as it also allowed a coherent and structured format for organization of the posts.

It was around the second week of the course that I created my blog and began writing. I had laid out a concrete plan that I intended to stick to; I had to write a post for almost every class, unless what we’d done in class hadn’t interested me at all, which was unlikely. Additionally, I had to post twice a week, and include at least one ‘reflections’ post-it summed up how the course was progressing, my likes and dislikes and so on. The general posts would comprise of extra research conducted on topics I’d found especially fascinating, my thoughts, notes taken in class, videos and pictures and any assignments written during the duration of the course.

However, as I continued writing I realized writing a blog wasn’t as smooth a process as I’d expected it to be, and I encountered a few challenges along the way. The main challenge was to make the blog appealing and entertaining while at the same time making sure it retained some academic semblance and content. Although I enjoyed writing posts on the theory we did and discussions we had in class, it was difficult to write a post that was entertaining and absorbing. Another big challenge I faced was making the posts interactive, so that they’d have elements that involved the person reading the post. I tried including pictures and videos wherever I could to make posts interactive and appealing, and made an effort to ensure the posts were ‘reader-friendly’ (I did this through use of points instead of long essays for most of posts, and simplified language). In one of the posts (Ghashiram Kotwal) I changed the structure in a way that I hoped motivated people to go back and do some additional research for themselves and come up with their own viewpoints. It became hard to consistently write posts and stick to my plan due to cancelation of classes, holiday’s scheduled on class days, and because of this I sometimes went at least a week without blogging at all. Furthermore, sometimes for a few of the discussions we’d have in class it would be difficult to find reliable sources to back them up (for example-Brecht’s relation to the Indian context) and I’d have to rely entirely on my class notes. Conversely, a lot of the materials we had examined in class had many papers and articles written about them so it was also a tough task to make my posts sound original and one of a kind rather than a repetition of the sources online.

Blogging was easy, convenient and provided a good structure for my views; looking back from now to the beginning of the course I understand that having a well-organized piece is important if you want to be able to trace the trajectory that the course has taken. I have tried to be consistent with my writing, but due to missed classes, assignments and other work, occasionally I haven’t been as consistent with my writing as I could have been, however, I have done my best to ensure that each class was documented despite shortcomings. Much of the information on the blog has been derived from my class notes, online research or educational videos.

I feel like writing a blog allowed me to reflect and react constantly throughout the journey of the course. It encouraged me to conduct more research on topics that sparked my interest and gave me a chance to voice my beliefs to others. In a sense it allowed an active dialogue between me and the readers and because I knew other people would be reading my work on some level it motivated me to make sure my writing was up to certain standard.

I received a few emails concerning a few posts on the blog, people wanted more information on certain topics as well as wrote in to inform me of their take on my writing which was great since my blog was doing exactly what I wanted it to; not only was I documenting the course and people were actually reading my writing, but I was also driving other individuals to explore new areas of interest and receiving feedback on my posts. All in all, the course itself exposed me to many new works of writing, theater and clearly illustrated the strong relationship drama and drama performance has with society. It was an amazing learning experience, a glimpse into the wide, never-ending world of drama and taught me to observe and reflect on what I read more closely as ultimately behind many plays are messages being passed onto us and others within society.

 

The End… or is it?

And so, the course comes to a close. It’s been a long journey, but an interesting one, and I can’t deny I’ve learnt a lot, much more than I had expected. Looking back, I’m glad the blog has done exactly what I wanted it to: act as a place to document the classes, and theory, share my thoughts, feelings and reflections and share my assignments. The blog traces a trajectory, from the very beginning, to the very end.

My reflections remain the same from the last time I wrote them (which wasn’t really so long ago). I still enjoy the lively classroom discussions, active debates, new readings and reading plays together in class, giggling at all the double-meaning/undertone parts. There is a sort of bittersweet ending to this course; while I’m glad my semester is coming to an end and I’m FINALLYY going home for summer, not only am I going to miss the small class and the people, but also the excitement of opening up a new play and knowing that it held something great in store. Sure, I could read plays on my own but….its never the same.

I’m going to miss the videos and the films and the screenings in the preview theatre and the random tangents in conversation. I’m going to miss the opinions of everyone else and the chatter about different plays going in in different cities. I think we can all deduce that I’m really going to miss this course.

So, this post is all about the highlights of the classes! Lets beginn!

FAVORITE PLAY: Mister Behram

BEST MOMENT(S): A one-to-one class with the teacher where he told me all about a play he’s written. Also, since I can’t pick one, the second reading of Mister Behram where everyone read it exactly according to stage directions and pointed out some questionable parts.

THE DISCUSSIONS AND DEBATES WERE GREAT

BEST FILM: Bertolt Brecht, screened in the preview theatre…If I’d had popcorn it would have been perfect

READING PLAYS IN CLASS –> EXCITINGGG

TAKING NOTES—> 😦 not so exciting but necessary

Doing research and writing posts on the blog- FUN

 

This blog has been great, a big shout out and thank you to everyone who emailed me/commented/liked/ followed! I’m not entirely sure if I want to end this blog so soon 😥 so I think I’m going to probably keep it going, posting my reflections on whatever plays I watch in the future, or happen to stumble across. I hope you guys learnt something too!

Feel free to email me if you want me to check out some plays….I’d really appreciate it!

Bertolt Brecht and Aristotle: Epic vs Dramatic

My last post was all about Arturo Ui, and my review of the play. Looking back I realized I still had a ton of notes on a discussion we had in class about Bertolt Brecht and Aristotle and how they are really quite different, so I figured this would be a good time to put it all up!

If you read my review then you’d have a brief introduction as to who Bertolt Brecht was (if you haven’t read the review, read it!)

Bertolt Brect and Aristotle had two very different views on theater, and after a ton of research and notes I’ve written a (not so small) piece on what I understand these two views to be:

Epic Theatre is a theatre movement in mid-20th century that is greatly linked to German playwright Bertolt Brecht who called it his modern theatre; it’s also known as Brechtian acting.

Bertolt Brecht

The goals of Epic Theatre are what make it so different. The main purpose of the play is to only present ideas and not to imitate reality. It encourages the audience to think and then make judgments and act. It clearly shows the audience an argument with its different viewpoints. Due to the fact that the audience is only an observer, he remains at an emotional distance from the action thus always aware that it is watching a play. It’s an enacting of reality and not reality itself. It should be able to change the human being because if the audience can be critical about what’s happening, it’ll be able to know its causes and effects and will be able to change it in their own real lives. Brecht deliberately used unrealistic techniques in set design, light and visuals to always remind the audience that this is not even close to reality and that they are watching a play. Brecht wanted actors to make a balance between “being” their characters and showing the audience that the character is “being played”. The actor must always remember that he is an actor and that he is only portraying the feelings and emotions of his character. Epic actors are only narrators and tools of representation. They narrate the events and do its actions only to make the audience understand the situation.  Brecht wanted to create productions that are entertaining and that provokes people to think and learn. An epic play consists of scenes that exist by its own and doesn’t connect to the scene before or after it.

 

Aristotle 

Dramatic (Aristotelian) Theatre on the other hand is not the opposite of epic theatre but has different goals and techniques. Dramatic theater treats its audience as passive and can not be reached except through their emotions. The dramatic stage fully embodies the plot/event. It fully involves the audience by putting them into the action thus endangering emotion in him. For example in The Skin of our Teeth, the audience are asked to get chairs from the auditorium to ‘save the human race’ by burning them to keep themselves warm. It makes the audience very involved in the play and what’s happening to the extent that it doesn’t give them a chance to look at the play from a distance and reflect. Scenes are linked to each other; in The Skin of our Teeth, scenes lead to each other. It presents you with the world as it is so the audience leaves the theatre believing that life is unchangeable and inevitable. Dramatic theatre allows the audience to see a representation of reality encouraging us to accept it without thinking so that’s why it gives you a sense of inevitability and fate. The audience identifies with the characters through terror and pity. Dramatic theatre’s illusion of representing the present event doesn’t encourage the audience’s reflection on what’s happening and on the themes presented.
According to Aristotle, to achieve unity of action and maintain its illusion, the dramatic play must consist of scenes that are linked to each other and that lead to each other leading to a climax of catharsis (evocation of intense fear and pity).

Brecht believed that theatre should not play with the audience’s feelings but should appeal and influence his reason/mind. It should encourage the audience to have a more critical attitude to what’s happening on stage. He wanted to reach ultimate objectivity from the audience’s side instead of identifying with the characters. This way the audience will learn the real truth about their society and world.

Brecht refuses to assume that the audience could only be reached through their emotion but through their minds so he doesn’t want the audience to relate to the characters and become emotionally involved with them (breaking empathy for characters) at all but make them think about their own life and this is where change will come. He did present feelings but he did that from a standpoint critical to the feeling.

Feelings and identifying with the characters affect the audience’s objectivity and reasoning. Brecht believes that the Aristotelian thought on feelings (The audience feels exactly what the character on stage feels) wears out the audience. Feelings alone are not enough for transformation and change; thought and reason are the keys.

Some extra notes and my reflections:

-For Aristotle–> drama=representational–> what ‘Poetics’ aimed to target

-Impact of drama has to be ‘cathartic’–> you go to watch performances in order to “purgate” your emotions

-Greek theater–> wanted to invoke Gods, and these Gods would enter on stage–> demons would enter from other places (related to Indian folk theater)

-Brecht–> politically charged, known for his plays, poetry and fiction

-Brecht-> big believer in art being closely linked to society and his work has given a new direction into art and society

-Brecht countered much much of what Aristotle said, and Brecht believed in the Marxist idea of changing society (base, structure and superstructure) and especially focused on superstructure

-Brecht counters Aristotle’s idea of theater and questions the idea of the “natural”–> Brecht see’s life as never being natural, and believes ideas to be constructed by society (beginning, middle and end given by society, not God)–> drama considered to come from social constructs

-Brecht believed there was no set beginning, middle and end because life is EPISODIC

Exposition–> Brecht said it was Episodic, as life occurred in Episodes—> Aristotle believed in an ‘Act’ structure

-Brecht strengthened Marxist ideas and weakened Aristotle’s ideas

-According to Brecht- what is important is not to imitate life but what are the forces that create life? who created that human pattern? what has made human patterns the way they are? Doesn’t want to imitate feelings and characters but imitation of thinking processes is needed=called empathy–> Aristotle believed the opposite

-Stanislavsky- Russian director who proposed the idea of sympathy and was very important in character building

-There is a need to look at life through empathy rather than sympathy= Brecht

-Brecht didn’t want the audience to feel cathartic effects–> doesn’t want the audience to only focus on emotion

-Brecht wants to create characters and scenes that cause “defamiliarization” and estrangement in the audience–> he wants to separate the audience and the play

-During Brecht’s plays–> the audience at some point acts as a 3rd person

-During Aristotle’s plays–> plays engaged the audience as if audience were characters

-Brecht was the audience to detach and think and then feel, not only feel, therefore Brecht creates thoughtful, analytical and creative engagement with the audience

Want to know more? Visit the links below!

http://faculty-staff.ou.edu/L/A-Robert.R.Lauer-1/Brecht.html

http://nebo-lit.com/drama/illusion-and-alienation-drama.html

Reflections, Reflections, Reflections

So I’ve realized that it’s about time I wrote my first reflections post. Now I had planned to write a reflections post sooner but I guess I never really got around to it…which is why now is a perfect time to start!

You’re probably wondering what is a reflections post..well in this context I’ll be talking about generally how the course is going, what were the highlights, the drawbacks, the fun times, etc etc.. I’m sure you get the point, its reflections just like I said. Simple right? Since I do have a tendency to ramble I’m going to organize my thoughts into points, starting with…

*drum roll*

  1. THE COURSE

Honestly, the course has been going pretty good. We’ve been following a set pattern with classes well planned out and full of discussion, and the great part is the teacher encourages us to voice our opinions and he actively inculcates dialogue in class; I never realized how much other people’s takes on the same text could be such a learning experience. Usually the class consists of either reading a text/discussing theory or a text/powerpoints/ videos or movies./random tangents (unavoidable). Now I’m not a huge class participator, and I don’t see why we’re graded on participating in class, but during the course I’ve actually contributed in ongoing class discussions..semi-actively (yay me). I also like how the course has progressed slowly, not going too fast or rushing through plays but spending quality time on each text, reading it in class and then voicing our own opinions. I’ve been exposed to Indian playwrights that I didn’t know anything about, and overall the flexibility in class structuring has been refreshing..it’s pretty awesome not to have your hand spasming after class because of all the notes you’ve taken (as a psych major, it happens to me all too often). The grading components (2 Assignments, 1 final assignments) have been well spaced out, and proportional to the work load, and all in all I think I’ve really enjoyed whats been happening.

2. THE MATERIAL

Well where to start! We hit the ground running, starting with readings from the very first class (Seymour Chatman), readings on folk theater and performance, plays (Ghashiram Kotwal, The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui, Kichakvadh) along with presentations, videos and short films on playwrights/plays/folk drama and theater. There hasn’t been too much additional reading material and the readings we’ve read have really helped understand discussions we have in class (especially the folk performance readings). I’ve quite enjoyed the plays too, maybe not so much Kichakvadh, but the other two have been really great and introduced me to different drama forms. The videos we’ve watched mainly consisting of short clips of the plays we’re reading have helped visualize the stage as we’re reading, and I also liked the BBC documentary we watched on Bertolt Brecht, it was quite good. http://www.thedramateacher.com/brecht-on-stage-video/ –> you’ll find the documentary here!

3. WHAT I’VE LIKED

Definitely the plays, especially Arturo Ui, I think it really put out a message to all of us and Brecht did an amazing job with the setting and use of dialogue. If you’ve read some of my other posts theres a ton of stuff on folk theater too which I found really interesting, I mean living in India of course you hear about it from time to time but actually reading plays and researching for my assignment I came across a ton of new information and the whole topic is fascinating in how much there is to it. I thought the videos were informative too, the ones on tamasha were pretty good, and it breaks up the monotony of constantly talking. I think talking about plays people have watched, in class, has also been fun because we get to hear about their experiences and get to know of plays that sound really interesting.

4. WHAT I HAVEN’T LIKED

Honestly, not much, I think the course has gone quite well.  I mean I didn’t enjoy Kichakvadh as much as the other plays, but I suppose that can’t be helped.I do wish we watch some more videos in class, and documentaries, about the playwright and his life. It really helped understand Arturo Ui when we watched the documentary about Brecht because I got to understand him as a playwright and a director and how he developed his own form of theater as well the times he lived in, which just served to enhance my reading and understanding of the play itself.I think that maybe spending a little more time on the Dramatic Performance Act and seeing how it relates to society now, is it still as relevant and necessary in today’s times, how has it affected plays or the message certain plays are trying to put across and so on might have been good. Its too bad that there hasn’t been a sort of field trip thing where we all go together to watch a play as a class, I think that would be a really memorable experience but maybe a bit tough to fit in what with different schedules and lack of class time. Oh well.

 

So far things are going pretty well, we’re progressing at a good speed, I like the readings and plays and there isn’t a very heavy workload so it sure makes things a little easier. Stick around for more reflections posts!