Production Paper Guidelines
4-5 pg. production paper.
A production paper captures your first-hand experiences of theatre in performance, and it is an opportunity to connect what has been learned in readings and in class with a theatrical event.
This should be an analytical essay—concern yourself with what the play or performance means, how it conveys its ideas to its audience, how it plays a part within a certain tradition, or how it mirrors our culture or time. Choose a key topic for investigation, which is a question and idea that will focus your argument. You may decide to 1) use the play’s form and content to analyze the way it creates its theatrical effect and meaning, or 2) use history to explore the play’s meaning in terms of its background and cultural underpinnings.
Try to stick to the page limit, with double-spaced, 12-point Times New Roman font, one-inch margins. If you find yourself going over by a few paragraphs in order to establish your argument, that is fine, but shorter is not. Please number your pages. Points will be deducted from papers submitted after the deadline.
All conclusions reached in your essay should be adequately supported; when you make a claim related to the play or the performance, provide a specific example from the play or production that will support that claim.
All papers should have a clear thesis statement; this is not a thumbs-up/thumbs-down of why you liked or disliked the play. (See page 2 for examples.) In a performance reflection, you have to be both spectator taking in and enjoying the performance and a critical analyst of the production itself. Do not simply summarize the plot or give an opinion regarding the text of the play being mounted; your writing must be grounded in the production itself.
Concentrate on a select number of important ideas and aspects of the production– focus your attention on only what you consider the most significant parts. Do not try to cover too many production elements (i.e. performance of every actor, every costume change, every directorial decision, and so on); instead, develop a few key ideas in thoughtful detail. A critic is not someone who simply “criticizes,” but a person who studies, analyzes, and then renders a supported judgment of what he/she has seen.
Try to understand the elements of the performance as choices. Note any surprising aspects of the experience. (Were you shown new insights by the production? Does it try to communicate something new or different?) After watching the performance, take notes. You’ll need these details in order to substantiate your argument.
Writing the Reflection:
Here are some examples of what a thesis based on a production might look like:
“Papp’s production of Lear captured all the horror of a world where love can’t be counted on and where life is nasty, brutish, and appallingly short.” (Note that this thesis asserts that Papp captured the essence of what is in the text itself — the expectations set up by the thesis are that the reviewer will then analyze the methods by which the director achieved this effect. I would also expect this writer to select and analyze moments from the play that exemplify the nastiness, brutishness and appalling shortness s/he references in the thesis.)
“In You Can’t Take It With You, the acting by the family members on the open, exposed stage displayed an innocent and vigorous freedom, as well as a proud independence in their confrontation with accepted norms of
Production Paper Guidelines
behavior.” (This reviewer suggests that s/he will examine acting style and design in order to analyze how these elements determine the portrayal of this family in this production; this thesis also implies that at the center of this production is a conflict between a family and their society.)
Interpret, Analyze, Evaluate
For each element that you discuss, describe the physical aspects of what you saw performed. (Whatever you include should contribute to the assertion you made in your introduction and thesis.) Focus on particular moments that will provide the evidence for your final evaluation. Assume that everything used in production has significance, but don’t panic if you cannot find “answers” for all the questions raised by what you see. You can question as well as commend the performance, especially if the production fails to answer questions that you feel need answers. If the questions/problems are relatively minor, ignore them and focus on the more important concerns. Your conclusion should recapitulate your thesis, and also show why your response to the play is valid and significant. Don’t be afraid to leave your reader with something to think about!
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