To understand the title of the week’s announcement, read the quote from the playwright Suzan-Lori Parks:
So much of African-American history has been unrecorded, dismembered, washed out, one of my tasks as a playwright is to … locate the ancestral burial ground, dig for bones, find bones, hear the bones sing, write it down.Suzan-Lori Parks
If you’ve ever read a play and then saw it live onstage (or onscreen), you’ll know that a play looks rather–well–boring, especially compared to watching it. It’s just a lot of conversation written with a bunch of indecipherable stage directions. It seems like a bunch of bleached bones–at first glance.
However, when you think about it, bones are pretty important. Without bones, we’d all be a pile of muscle, hair, cartilage, and organs. If you’ve ever broken a major bone, you know that you can be pretty incapacitated while it heals.
Dialogue is the “bones” of so many things–it’s one way we communicate, a way we attempt to share the deepest emotions and the most difficult ideas with the world around us. Parks says that her task as a playwright is to find the “bones” of Black people–a group that has been silenced for centuries by slavery, Jim Crow, and ongoing racism–and “hear the bones sing.” She wants to record the dialogue/bones and let them speak to the world.
First, I want you to read a monologue of one of Parks’ characters in the play we’re going to read: Lincoln. You can download it here. I’ve also uploaded a copy on the Course Profile page titled “Reading Assignment #7: Lincoln Monologue, Topdog/Underdog.” (Apologies for the graininess of the copy–I misplaced my personal copy and I had to find one on the internet!)
Next, I want you to watch the same monologue on YouTube. Watch it at least twice. Once for familiarity, the second time, I want you to read the text while watching/listening to the video.
By Wednesday, November 25, I want you to respond to the following questions in the “reply” section of this Announcement:
- Which did you enjoy/appreciate more–the text or the YouTube video? Why? Be honest and specific!
- When you read the monologue while watching/listening to the video, were you able to read/hear anything you hadn’t noticed before?
- What do you think this play is about, just based on this monologue?
The details about other things that are due this week are on the Assignment page, but before you run off, let’s talk a little about some vocabulary that’s necessary to know when you’re reading and responding to the text you need to read (in Reading Assignment #6, you’ll be reading three scenes from “Topdog/Underdog,” and eventually responding to questions I have about the scenes).
Rhythm & Pace
Think about music. All music, whether it’s classical, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, rap, you-name-it, has a rhythm and pace. There are places where it’s fast, slow, medium, etc.
The same can be said about dialogue in a play or a short story. There are moments when someone isn’t speaking that can tell us a lot about a person or what they’re trying to communicate. Just as important as what is said in a dialogue, it’s what isn’t said or how it’s said that’s important.
The comedian Jerry Seinfeld says it well in the following clip I found on YouTube.
Pay attention to the stage directions in the scenes you’re going to read in “Topdog/Underdog.” I have them below with some explanation.
Take a little time, a pause, a breather; make a transition.
An elongated and heightened (Rest). Denoted by repetition of figures’ names with no dialogue. Has sort of an architectural look:
This is a place where the figures experience their pure true simple state. While no action or stage business is necessary, directors should fill this moment as they best see fit.from “Topdog/underdog,” by Suzan-Lori Parks
Go to the Assignment page and see what’s due this week!