African American Lit | 9/28/16 | Joanne Ramadani
For our group project, I propose that we, as a class, write a script for a play in which we transform our readings and essays/blog posts into characters, settings, or events in the shared story we will tell. The plot will be determined by the entire class, but the central theme will be formation and/or deformation in some capacity and it will take place in the modern day era.
This project will explore the specific aspect of the struggle in black artistic and intellectual tradition, through the struggles of characters in a play. Addressing the concept of engaging a broader public, the wonderful thing about this project is that it can “jump off the page”—meaning that we can actually perform it (i.e. do a reading or even put on a full performance) and upload it to YouTube. Situating this play in the modern day era will allow us to directly or indirectly reference current issues while also being able to invoke black music or literature from any time period. As mentioned, this project will involve taking our academic work and our readings (probably the texts we have examined so far, but the floor is definitely open to some more options as the semester proceeds) and creating new ideas, characters, and places with them, which I will now discuss in more detail.
I write this proposal with the intent for this to be a truly collaborative project, so every person in the class would write one scene from the play. Each of our current posting groups will comprise one act of the play, making it a three act play with four (or five, in the case of Group B) scenes in each act. Each person in the class will create a character for the play using a combination of one of the texts we’ve read, two original instances of that character’s personal history (it doesn’t have to be overly complex or long—something like “[Character] never learned how to ride a bike” will be able to elicit questions for the author: e.g. why did they never learn how to ride a bike?), and their own personal choice of academic work. Continuing along that train of thought, each group will come up with a plotline for their act in order to integrate all three plotlines into one cohesive narrative. The groups would present their plotlines to the class, and we can solve inconsistencies using the blog as a means of communication (i.e. the groups can post their plotlines and the class can comment on them).
It would look a little like this, using Group A as an example:
Act 1 - Group A
Scene 1 - David
Scene 2 - Farrah
Scene 3 - Megan
Scene 4 - Shaunna
I understand the concept of creating a character using a literary text and a piece of academic work sounds vague at best and overly complicated or pretentious at worst, but I propose that character traits can come from certain events in life or in literature. For example, Harriet Jacobs discusses her confinement in her grandmother’s shed—a character based off of a portion of Jacobs’s narrative could be claustrophobic, or could be an anxious person. This could tie into an overarching narrative of formation—completely hypothetically, the buildup of this character’s stressors (loud noises, quick movement, etc.) in the context of an event in an increasingly tense cultural atmosphere (something like the Ferguson protests, to give a concrete example) could cause a catalyst within either the character themselves or within the scope of the plot. Of course, the characters won’t just have one character trait, and in order to keep them from becoming caricatures of what we’ve read, we will have to ask questions about those characters using the original pieces of backstory.
In order to actually physically carry this project out, the only materials we’ll need are pens and paper. Groups will need to meet up outside of class at least once to talk about plotlines and how their characters interact, if at all, and to introduce a sense of cohesion to the acts. Timeline-wise, this is the structure I have in mind: Character concepts will be due on October 19th, plotlines and some ideas for settings will be due on October 31st, first drafts will be due on November 14th, second drafts will be due on November 28th, and since I’m not sure when Professor Curseen wants this due or how it falls in with the end of the semester (we have two project days before the semester ends, but that’s not really a great time to be revising work), I will offer two possible due dates for the final project: December 8th or December 13th, depending on if we want to record a reading of the play out loud in class.