America Melodrama: The Rent

September 23, 2014

A fun, action packed, classic melodrama lesson presented at Sutter's Fort in 

September by Carolyn.   PowerPoint is to the left and written lessonn is below.

Costumes Enough

Carolyn Elder

www.costumesenough.com

Carolyn@costumesenough.com


Title: American Melodrama

Grade Level 4 and up with extensions

 

Objective:  Through activities in this drama unit, the students will perform and become familiar with the conventions of melodrama which was very popular in the United States during the 1800s.

 

California VAPA Standards Addressed

 

Artistic Perception

Processing, Analyzing, and Responding to Sensory Information Through the Language and Skills Unique to Theatre

1.1 Use the vocabulary of theatre to describe theatrical experiences, such as sense memory,

Script, cue, monologue, dialogue, protagonist, and antagonist.

1.2  Identify the structural elements of plot (exposition, complications, crisis, climax, and

resolution) in a script or theatrical experience.

 

Creative Expression

Creating, Performing, and Participating in Theatre

2.1  Participate in improvisational activities to explore complex ideas and universal themes in literature and life.

2.2  Demonstrate the use of blocking (stage areas, levels, and actor’s position, such as full front, quarter, profile, and full back) in dramatizations.

2.3  Collaborate as an actor, director, scriptwriter, or technical artist to create formal or informal theatre performances.

 

Historical and Cultural Context

Understanding the Historical Contributions and Cultural Dimensions of Theatre

            3.4 Identify types of early American theatre, such as melodrama and musical theatre.

 

Aesthetic Valuing

Responding to, Analyzing, and Critiquing Theatrical Experiences

            4.1 Develop and apply appropriate criteria to critique the work of actors,             directors, writers, and technical artists in theatre, film, and video.

 

Time: 50 minutes
Floor Plan: Clear area for groups to work and an area for presentations.

Materials Needed:

  • 􏰀  PowerPoint for this lesson

  • 􏰀  Student copies of The Rent

 

Purpose:

Through activities in this drama unit, the students will become familiar with the conventions of melodrama which was very popular in the United States during the 1800s.

 

Background:

Melodramas are a very simple form of drama which was very popular in America during the 1800s. The most famous melodrama is UNCLE TOM’S CABIN based on the novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe.

 

Please  PowerPoint for additional background information on melodrama.

 

Vocabulary:

Antagonist—a person, situation, or the protagonist’s own inner conflict that is in opposition to the protagonist’s goals.

Blocking—the positions and movements that an actor does, throughout the play,             that are designed and planned by the director to focus the audience’s attention on the important place or person during every moment of theplay

Dialogue—the lines or words spoken in a play between two or more characters. Protagonist—the main character of a play and the character with which the             audience identifies most strongly.

Script—the written dialogue, description, and directions provided by the playwright.           Stage directions—instructions in the script relative to movement, business, and so on. Some stage directions are written in by the playwright, others are created by the director.

Stereotype character—a character representing generalized racial or social traits             repeated as typical from work to work, with no individualizing traits.

Tableau—a scene on stage with silent, motionless actors. French for “living picture.” A scene on a stage, a float, or in a parlor entertainment in which costumed actors pose motionless in imitation of a famous painting, a   literary, historical, or mythical event—very popular during the 19th century.

 

Actual Lesson Sequence

  • Use the American Melodrama Powperpoint to discuss the historical facts of melodrama.

  •   Read The Rent it as a class. Divide the class into four groups and have each group read one part. Have the entire class add the sound effects that are in the script.

  • Ask the students to stand up. Put the overhead of the hero on the overhead. Have the students stand in the typical positions of this character. Repeat with the other two characters. Next, practice how stereotype characters walk. Ask the students to walk around the room as the hero. They are not to talk or giggle, just show how a hero walks. Now a victim. How does the victim walk? Now show the villain. A really bad guy. Mean. Steals candy from babies. Good. Now freeze.

  • Review directions  with the students and pass out copies of the script. Allow the students to work for a few minutes, then present.

 

Assessment:
Advanced:
Student includes, in a complete manner, all the required elements of the assignment (opening and closing tableau, large gestures, sound effects, and facing front). The presentation clearly communicates the melodrama and is executed with a high degree of skill in areas of theatre performance, such as projection, articulation, and movement. The piece is very unique, expressive, and entertaining.


Proficient: Student includes, in a complete manner, most of the required elements of the assignment (opening and closing tableau, large gestures, sound effects, and facing front). Most of the presentation is executed with a competent level of skill. The piece is entertaining, but at times the performance may show a slight weakness in performance values, such as projection, articulation, staging, etc.

 

Needs Improvement: Student does not include the required elements in a complete manner. A few required elements may be missing altogether (opening and closing tableau, large gestures, sound effects, and facing front). Some elements of melodrama are communicated but with limited clarity. The piece may be tedious to view. The students have difficulty with projection, articulation, and movement.

 

Needs Major Improvement: Many required elements are missing or poorly executed. Piece is tedious to view. Performance lacks clarity, the students do not move with purpose. Piece demonstrates little understanding of melodrama, may be very short and painful for the audience to sit through. The students fail to achieve basic performance requirements of projection and articulation.

 

Other Considerations:

􏰂 If the class does not divide evenly into groups of four, have one student who is playing the hero play that part for two groups. You may also assign a student to do sound effects or act as director in a group of five.

 

Possible Extensions:

  • 􏰂  Memorize The Rent and stage it for class.

  • 􏰂  Add music samples of American music of the period.

  • 􏰂  Collaborative Melodrama. Identify a current event or historic event that could be divided into good vs. evil. Identify the characters and dire problem you intend to use to create a melodrama. Write a melodrama about your event.

  •  

Sources:

Burke, James and Nolan, Paul, Between Hisses, Denver, Colorado Pioneer Drama Service, Inc., 1973.
Johansen, Mila, 101 Theatre Games, USA, Players Press, 1994. ISBN #0-88734-911-0. Between Hisses, Pioneer Drama Service, Inc., Denver, Colorado (American period music)

The Sacramento Bee, Sesquicentennial edition, January 18, 1998.

 

Melodrama

Melodramas are a very simple form of drama which was very popular in America during the 1800s. The most famous melodrama is UNCLE TOM’S CABIN based on the novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe.

 

Plot Traits of Melodramas:

􏰃 Good Vs. Evil
􏰃 Extreme life situations
􏰃 Stage spectacle and theatrical effects
􏰃 Stereotype characters
􏰃 False accusations
􏰃 Eavesdropping, conspiracy
􏰃 Long forgotten family secrets
􏰃 Something comes from nowhere to save the day 􏰃 Sentimental or “tear jerker” scenes
􏰃 A title and a subtitle
􏰃 Over acting!!!!
􏰃 Melodrama Character Types: hero, villain, and victim


MELODRAMA PROJECT Directions:

􏰃  Work in groups of four actors.

􏰃  Read The Rent as a class

    Read The Rent in your group

􏰃  Assign parts and staging

􏰃 Rehearse your melodrama

 

Your melodrama must have:

1)  Opening tableau

2)  Large gestures

3)  Over acting

4)  Closing tableau

5)  Everyone facing front

6)  Sound effects (storm)

7)  Remember—Don’t speak the stage directions. Act out the stage       directions.

      8) Present your melodrama to the class

 

 

The Rent

Or Curses Foiled Again

Characters Sick Parent, Beautiful Daughter or Handsome Son, Landlord, Hero.

(STORM HOWLS).
PARENT (ENTERS): coughs and sighs.
DAUGHTER: We must pay the rent.
MOTHER: We can’t pay the rent.
LANDLORD (ENTERS): Time to pay the rent.
DAUGHTER: We can’t pay the rent.
LANDLORD: You must pay the rent!
MOTHER AND DAUGHTER: We can’t pay the rent!
(LANDLORD POINTS TO DOOR. WOMEN PREPARE TO OBEY.

DAUGHTER FEARS FOR SICK MOTHER. STORM HOWLS).

LANDLORD (to daughter): Unless---you pay the rent.
DAUGHTER: I--pay the rent?
MOTHER: Never! You shan’t pay the rent!
(MOTHER PULLS DAUGHTER TO THE DOOR, OPENS IT.
STORM DRIVES THEM BACK.
MOTHER COLLAPSES, COUGHING.
DAUGHTER IMPLORES LANDLORD TO SPARE THEM
FROM BEING CAST OUT INTO THE STORM. LANDLORD LAUGHS. STORM HOWLS. MOTHER RISES AND STAGGERS FORWARD TOWARDS THE DOOR AGAIN).
DAUGHTER: Stop! I’ll pay the rent!!
(LANDLORD ADVANCES TOWARDS HER IN AN EVIL FASHION).

MOTHER: No
(HERO LOOKS IN, IS HORRIFIED).
LANDLORD: Yes! Pay the Rent! (SEIZES HER. STORM HOWLS) .

HERO (ENTERS): Stop! I’LL pay the rent.

MOTHER/DAUGHTER/LANDLORD: You’ll pay the rent?
(HERO PAYS THE RENT. LANDLORD HESITATES).
HERO: I have paid the rent.
LANDLORD: Curses! Foiled again. (LANDLORD SLINKS OFF STAGE).

MOTHER (NEAR COLLAPSE): Oh!
DAUGHTER: My Hero!

 

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