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POST-SHOW ACTIVITIES HOW DOES A PLAYWRIGHT USE A REVERSAL TO COMPLICATE A SCENE ABOUT SIBLING RIVALRY? (Common Core Code: CCSS.ELA.W11-12.3.B)


After watching True West, students explore the dramatic device of reversal in their own scenes. NOTE: This activity builds on the pre-show playwriting activity on the previous page. If your students did not begin a sibling conflict scene, take them through the first steps of creating characters before introducing their reversal.


DISCUSS


Explain that in theatre, playwrights use a reversal of fortune, or change in circumstances, to raise the stakes for the characters. Discuss Shepard’s use of reversals throughout True West. How do Austin and Lee reverse roles as the play moves forward? How does the balance of power between them reverse?


WRITE


Revise the sibling conflict scene they’ve started (using pre-show instructions on the previous page) and add a reversal into the scene. The goal is to change the direction of the scene and potentially reverse the power dynamic they have set up, just as Austin and Lee change roles in the play.


HOW DOES AN AUDIENCE MEMBER USE RESEARCH AND IMAGINATION TO INVESTIGATE THE PLAYWRIGHT AND DIRECTOR’S CHOICES IN TRUE WEST?


(Common Core Code: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-10.1.A)


After watching True West, students use elements of the playwright’s biography and the director’s statements about the play to unpack production choices.


BRAINSTORM


Working as a whole class or in small groups, generate a list of questions about the play. Encourage students to think about the choices made by the playwright and production-specific choices made by actors, director, and designers.


RESEARCH


Divide the class in half. Have one group of students read the Sam Shepard biography and notable works list found on pages 4−6 of this guide. Have the other half of the class read the interview with director James Macdonald found on pages 10−11. Ask students to highlight or annotate sections that speak to the questions brainstormed.


INTERVIEW


(This section of the activity can be done in pairs, small groups, or as a whole class.) Select one student to take on the role of Sam Shepard and another to take on the role of the interviewer, possibly choosing a specific interviewer to ground the improvisation. Stage a talk show interview, in which the interviewer poses the questions generated to Shepard and Shepard answers, using information gleaned from the biography and making inferences. Repeat with a student in the role of James Macdonald.


REFLECT


How did learning about the playwright’s life change how you understood True West? How did exploring the director’s perspective clarify what you saw on stage? Would you have liked to read these articles before you saw the production, or was after better? Why?


TRUE WEST UPSTAGE GUIDE


21


FOR EDUCATORS


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