We will be seeing four productions at professional theatres this semester. In addition to discussions in class, you are required to write a performance analysis paper for some of the productions. Your ability to communicate in clear, concise writing is as important as your attentive, considered perceptions of each production.
Before you write this paper, you should have read your Ferguson text at least through chapter three. (I recommend that you read chapter four as well. This will especially be true for analysis papers after your first one.) Chapter two talks about the organization of a college paper, including the thesis and conclusion. I suggest you review this chapter and employ the use of an outline, which is discussed there—either before you write, or applied as an organizational tool after the fact to your first draft (which is how I usually work). Chapter three outlines the difference between a review and a formal analysis and contains all that you need to know to write a successful analysis.
As outlined in your Fergusen book, a discussion of production elements such as design, acting, direction, venue and audience are points to consider when writing your paper. Aside from discussing the points mentioned in your textbook, the elements of the “World of the Play” paper—point of view, style, environment, and imagery—are all possible lenses through which you may analyze the effectiveness of the production, as well. The content of each response paper is purposely left somewhat open to your own observations. However, the primary question to address is: How did the realized production differ from or align with your perceptions of the written text?
An analysis should demonstrate your understanding of the main ideas (themes) in the script and how the production served, or did not serve, those ideas. You should state this thesis early in the paper, probably in the introduction. If it is your point of view that a major theme of the script is, for instance, "a longing for the way things used to be and the disconnectedness of the human condition that is at the heart of such yearning", you should discuss how the production elements supported that idea.
As is true of all but the most expansive essays, decide what three to five elements were strongest or weakest in the production and focus on those things. Make use of any opportunity for conflict: "Location was clearly delineated in the the script, but set designer Eric Levinson took us in another, more abstract, direction." I'm interested in depth and precision of analysis, not breadth of scope. All of your papers for me (and for most classes, I suspect) will be of a relatively limited page length, so this should be the strategy for all of your analyses.
-The primary topic of this paper is: Did the directorial approach/ production style employed support or detract from the playwright's intentions (which you will have arrived at through your reading of the text)?
-Three to four pages, page numbers, double spaced, one inch margins, twelve point font, appropriate research and/ or citations as needed.
-Paper must have a clear introductory paragraph that states the particulars of the production and the main idea of the paper. You must also provide a concluding paragraph which “sums up” the observations and arguments of the paper.
-Wherever possible, support your ideas with quotes or specific examples from the performance. You should also take notes at any talk-back after the play and make use of them, as well.
-Do not just report what happened. Tell me why a certain change in the script, a directing or acting choice, or an element of the design affected how you understood or felt about the play. Be specific.
-The paper is not a review, but a more formal and considered analysis of the production and the script. Keep the voice declarative and active; avoid the use of “I” if possible. The insertion of "I" gets very repetitive and annoying because it is not only unnecessary (we know this is an essay by you), in some forms it makes it seem like you are excusing yourself ("It's only my opinion, but . . . "). It may be acceptable in a review (though it can be avoided there, too) but an analysis is stronger without it. Tell me something, don't tell me that you are telling me something.
-Due dates are specified in the syllabus schedule.
Other Possible Discussion Points
-Were the artists all "working on the same show" or did some elements seem not to fit with the overall concept?
-Did one aspect of the production particularly stand out from the others? Was this appropriate?
-If the play was presented in translation or adaptation, was the translation/ adaptation effective?
-Did the design and technology of the production contribute to or detract from a satisfying experience?
-Have you read or seen other works by this playwright? How was this play or production different or similar?
- If it is a new play, what changes did the playwight make to the performance script and were those changes successful?
-What did the actors and/or production design bring to the experience that highlighted themes or characters.
Production Analysis Paper