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Reading Activist Playwrights, Writing Activist Plays

This unit asks students to engage in reading and writing plays that feature explicit political, contemporary, issues-oriented themes.  Centering Black, queer, and feminist/womanist artists’ work, this unit will help students investigate a range of the form and content used by playwrights in the 20th century, anchored in a Black aesthetic being articulated during the Black Arts Movement.   Students will use these plays as “mentor texts,” as they embark onto the second half of the unit: generating their own original theater pieces.  

This unit focuses students to engage in multiple lines of inquiry: researching the context of the play and playwright; uncovering the structure, design, and genre of the “big picture” of the piece and how the form relates to the message of the play; understanding how dialogue, character, and staging contribute to the larger effect of the piece and how the conflict(s) emerge(s); and evaluating the stylistic elements of a piece of political theater.   The second phase, and perhaps, larger intent of this unit, will then be realized through students endeavoring to write a theater piece that directly expresses their own worldview about the issues of society, community, power and identity.  The hope is that their own aesthetic will emerge as their generation displays its own particular versions of voice and identification, specific to this moment in time.

Anissa Weinraub

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