Thesis: Anna Deavere’s production “Notes from the field” shows many aspects of social injustice like police brutality, incarceration and school to prison pipeline towards minorities in America
This is my thesis, if you want you can change it based on the instructions. I think you also have to watch the play itself too because the files are the script of the play.
A performance response paper captures your first-hand experiences of theatre in performance, and it is an
opportunity to connect what has been learned in readings and in class with a theatrical event.
This should be an analytical essay—concern yourself with what the play or performance means, how it conveys
its ideas to its audience, how it plays a part within a certain tradition, or how it mirrors our culture or time.
Choose a key topic for investigation, which is a question and idea that will focus your argument. You may decide
to 1) use the play’s form and content to analyze the way it creates its theatrical effect and meaning, or 2) use
history to explore the play’s meaning in terms of its background and cultural underpinnings.
Try to stick to the page limit, with double-spaced, 12-point Times New Roman font, one-inch margins. If
you find yourself going over by a few paragraphs in order to establish your argument, that is fine, but shorter is
not. Please number your pages. Points will be deducted from papers submitted after the deadline.
All conclusions reached in your essay should be adequately supported; when you make a claim related to the
play or the performance, provide a specific example from the play or production that will support that claim.
All papers should have a clear thesis statement; this is not a thumbs-up/thumbs-down of why you liked or
disliked the play. (See page 2 for examples.) In a performance reflection, you have to be both spectator taking in
and enjoying the performance and a critical analyst of the production itself. Do not simply summarize the plot
or give an opinion regarding the text of the play being mounted; your writing must be grounded in the
Concentrate on a select number of important ideas and aspects of the production– focus your attention on only
what you consider the most significant parts. Do not try to cover too many production elements (i.e.
performance of every actor, every costume change, every directorial decision, and so on); instead, develop a few
key ideas in thoughtful detail. A critic is not someone who simply “criticizes,” but a person who studies,
analyzes, and then renders a supported judgment of what he/she has seen.
Before You Watch: If possible, read the play before the production (or research the performer). Do you have a
good sense of how a “standard” production might look? Pick out, as you read, several critical or problematic
points within the play that may be of particular interest to watch for.
Watching the Production: View the play with willingness to accept the play as presented. Take notes on a small
pad of paper in the show—this will help your writing process!
Try to understand the elements of the performance as choices. Note any surprising aspects of the experience.
(Were you shown new insights by the production? Does it try to communicate something new or different?)
After watching the performance, take notes. You’ll need these details in order to substantiate your argument.
Writing the Reflection:
Begin your paper as soon as possible after seeing the production. Any extra time should be used on revision. The
closer you write to the time of the performance, the more your memory and initial response will feed your thesis
and argument, and the better your paper will be. Don’t delay on starting the process!
Here are some examples of what a thesis based on a production might look like:
“Papp’s production of Lear captured all the horror of a world where love can’t be counted on and where life is
nasty, brutish, and appallingly short.” (Note that this thesis asserts that Papp captured the essence of what is in
Performance Response Guidelines
the text itself — the expectations set up by the thesis are that the reviewer will then analyze the methods by
which the director achieved this effect.)
“Smith’s You Can’t Take It With You made me sympathize with the notion that freedom must permit eccentricity
and even, to a point, endorse it. Without that sympathy, the play would have been reduced to pure chaos and
would have failed to portray an American ideal of freedom.” (This thesis suggests that “sympathy” was the
director’s intention. The reviewer gives a strong indication of what he/she expected to find in the production.)
“In You Can’t Take It With You, the acting by the family members on the open, exposed stage displayed an
innocent and vigorous freedom, as well as a proud independence in their confrontation with accepted norms of
behavior.” (This reviewer suggests that s/he will examine acting style and design in order to analyze how these
elements determine the portrayal of this family in this production; this thesis also implies that at the center of
this production is a conflict between a family and their society.)
Interpret, Analyze, Evaluate
For each element that you discuss, describe the physical aspects of what you saw performed. (Whatever you
include should contribute to the assertion you made in your introduction and thesis.) Focus on particular
moments that will provide the evidence for your final evaluation. Assume that everything used in production has
significance, but don’t panic if you cannot find “answers” for all the questions raised by what you see. You can
question as well as commend the performance, especially if the production fails to answer questions that you
feel need answers. If the questions/problems are relatively minor, ignore them and focus on the more important
concerns. Your conclusion should recapitulate your thesis, and also show why your response to the play is valid
and significant. Don’t be afraid to leave your reader with something to think about!
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