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yracuse Stage is committed to providing students with rich theatre experiences that explore and examine what it is to be human. Research shows that children who participate in or are exposed to the arts show higher academic achievement, stronger selfesteem, and improved ability to plan and work toward a future goal. Many students in our community have their first taste of live theatre through Syracuse Stage’s outreach programs. Last season more than 30,000 students from across New York State attended or participated in the Bank of America Children’s Tour, Backstory performances, artsEmerging, the Young Playwrights Festival, and our Student Matinee Program. We gratefully acknowledge the corporations and foundations who support our commitment to in-depth arts education for our community. Children’s Tour Naming Sponsor

Student Matinee Series Sponsor

additional support by

ArtsEmerging supported in part by

John Ben Snow Foundation, Inc.

Kathy & Dan Mezzalingua

The Kochian Family The Bass Family

Backstory Program supported in part by

General Educational Outreach supported in part by

The Golub Foundation

Lori Pasqualino as “Annabel” in the 2010 Bank of America Children’s Tour: Annabel Drudge... and the Second Day of School. Photo by Michael Davis

09/10 SEASON CLASSROOM STUDY GUIDE Editing, Layout & Design by Michelle Scully

CONTENTS Timothy Bond

Producing Artistic Director Syracuse Stage & SU Drama

820 E Genesee Street Syracuse, NY 13210 www.SyracuseStage.org Director of Educational Outreach

Lauren Unbekant (315) 443-1150

4. 5. 7. 8. 10. 12. 14. 15. 16.

Introduction & Planning Your Visit Teaching Theatre Title Page/Credits About the Play Context About the Authors History Resources Syracuse Stage Season 2010-11

Manager of Educational Outreach

Michelle Scully (315) 442-7755


Group Sales & Student Matinees

Tracey White (315) 443-9844

Since 1849 National Grid and its predecessor companies have been part of the Syracuse community, helping to meet the energy needs of over two million Upstate New York customers. We are proud to contribute to the quality of life through the energy we deliver and through the many ways we give back to the communities we serve.

Box Office

with additional support by

(315) 443-3275

Syracuse Stage is Central New York’s premiere professional theatre. Founded in 1974, Stage has produced more than 230 plays in 37 seasons including numerous world and American premieres. Each season, upwards of 90,000 patrons enjoy an exciting mix of comedies, dramas and musicals featuring leading designers, directors and performers from New York and across the country, supported by a full-time and seasonal staff of artisans, technicians and administrators.

EDUCATIONAL OUTREACH AT SYRACUSE STAGE The Bank of America CHILDREN’S TOUR brings high-energy, interactive, and culturally diverse performances to elementary school audiences. The BACKSTORY Program brings history to life, as professional actors portray historical figures in classrooms and other venues. artsEMERGING takes students on an in-depth exploration of our mainstage season using a multi-cultural, multi-arts lens. The YOUNG PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL challenges students to submit original tenminute plays for a chance to see their work performed at Syracuse Stage.

Find us on:



hen the first cavedweller got up to tell a story, theatre began. Almost every culture has some sort of live performance tradition to tell stories. Television and film may have diminished the desire for access to theatre, but they have not diminished the importance.

Live theatre gives each audience member an opportunity to connect with the performers in a way he/she never could with actors on a television or movie screen. The emotions can be more intense because the events are happening right in front of the audience. In the classroom, theatre can be an effective teaching tool. The NY State Teaching Standards value students’ observation of and participation in theatrical performances, both in traditional settings and classroom exercises. We at Syracuse Stage hope that our Study Guides will help you discover a multitude of possibilities for integrating this season’s productions into your lesson plans. We encourage you to delve deeply into our plays with your students and examine not just the story and its themes, but also the manner in which it is told — the casting, visual design, sound design, movement and choreography, and dialogue. If we can be of any further assistance toward this end, please feel free to call our Education Department at (315) 4431150.


“Theatre brings life to life.”

Zelda Fichandler

Founding Artistic Director Arena Stage, Washington DC

PROMPT ARRIVAL gives your students plenty of time to arrive, find their seats, and get situated. We ask that you arrive 30 minutes prior to the performance.

BUSSES should load and unload students on E. Genesee

St., where red cones will indicate bus-only parking. Please do not block the Centro Bus Stop at the corner.

USHERS will escort you to your seats. We request that

teachers and chaperones distribute themselves among the students, and help us to keep students in their seats once seated.

BACKPACKS, cameras, food, and drink are not

allowed into the theatre, nor can we store them. Please leave these items at school or on the bus.

PHOTOGRAPHY and video recording per-

formances is illegal, disruptive, and sometimes dangerous. Cameras and other recording devices, including cell phones, will be confiscated.

SNACKS & SODA, whenever possible, will be available during intermission for $1. These are to be consumed in the lobby only.

RESTROOMS are located in the main lobby, but

please only allow students to exit during a performance in the case of an emergency.


Instead of instructing students to remain totally silent, please discuss the difference between appropriate responses (laughter, applause, participation when requested) and inappropriate noise (talking, texting, etc). 4


A heatre




Any piece of theatre comprises multiple art forms. As you explore the play with your students, examine the use of: WRITING


Teaching Theatre



Most (but not all) plays begin with a script — a story to be told and a blueprint of how to tell it. In his famous treatise, The Poetics, the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle outlined

SIX ELEMENTS OF DRAMA that playwrights are mindful of to this day:

Plot What is the story line? Language What happened before the play started? What does each character want? What do they do to achieve their goals? What do they stand to gain/lose?


What ideas are wrestled with in the play? What questions does the play pose? Does it present an opinion on those questions, or leave it to the audience to decide?


Who are the people in the story? What is their relationship to one another? Why do they do what they do? How do their ages/status/etc affect them?

What do the characters say? How do they say it? When do they say it? Do they speak to one character differently than another? Why?


How do music and sound help to tell this story?


What visual elements support the play? This could include: puppets, scenery, costumes, dance, movement, and more.

Other Elements: Conflict/Resolution, Action, Improvisation, Non-verbal communication, Staging, Humor, Realism and other styles, Metaphor, Language, Tone, Pattern and repetition, Emotion, Point of view.

At its core, drama is about characters working toward goals and overcoming obstacles. Ask students to use their bodies and voices to create characters who are: very old, very young, very strong, very weak, very tired, very energetic, very cold, very warm. Have their characters interact with one another. Give them an objective to fulfil despite their environmental obstacles. Later, recap by asking how these obstacles affected their character and the pursuit of his/her objectives. 5

Teaching Theatre


Most plays utilize designers to create the visual world of the play through scenery, costumes, lighting, and more. These artists use


to communicate information about the world within the play and its characters. Have students discuss these elements BEFORE attending the performance and ask them to pay special attention to how these elements are used in the production’s design. Whether your students are observing a piece of visual art like a painting or a piece of performance art like a play, allow them first to notice the basic elements, then encourage them to look deeper into why these elements are used the way they are.

LINE can have length, width, texture,

direction and curve. There are 5 basic varieties: verticle, horizontal, diagonal, curved, and zig-zag.

SHAPEis two-dimensional and encloses space. It can be geometric (eg. squares and circles), man-made, or free-form.

FORMis three-dimensional. It encloses space and fills space. It, too, can be geometric (eg. cubes and cylinders), man-made, or free-form.

SPACEis defined and determined

by shapes and forms. Positive space is enclosed by shapes and forms, while negative space exists around them.

COLORhas three basic properties:

HUE is the name of the color (eg. red, blue, green), INTENSITY is the strength of the color (bright or dull), VALUE is the range of lightness to darkness.

TEXTURErefers to the “feel” of an object’s surface. It can be smooth, rough, soft, etc. Textures may be ACTUAL (able to be felt) or IMPLIED (suggested visually through the artist’s technique).



Timothy Bond

Jeffrey Woodward

Producing Artistic Director

Managing Director


Based on the motion picture by Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown and Bob Clark Adapted by Philip Grecian Directed by Seth Gordon

Nov. 30 - Dec. 30 A smoking furnace, a bully named Farkus, a pack of thieving-baying hounds, a dingblang-fuzzle-whizzin-mouthed old man, a prized leg lamp that’s more leg than lamp—and a bunny suit: Is this the stuff of Christmas? It is for Ralphie, and all he really wants is a legendary official Red Ryder 200-Shot Carbine Action Range Model Air Rifle with a compass and this thing which tells time built right into the stock. Brighten the holidays with this hilarious and critically acclaimed stage adaptation of Jean Shepherd’s wry and witty tale of a special Christmas past and journey back to a time when we all had less and it felt like more. The film A Christmas Story opened in theatres in 1983 and has since become an American classic. Since 1997, the movie has been shown on television every year on Christmas Eve into Christmas Day in a 24-hour marathon. Based on a series of short stories by Jean Shepherd, the film was adapted into a stage play in 2000 by Philip Grecian and has enjoyed successful runs in every corner of the United States and parts of Canada. 7



About play

A look at

A Christmas Story

As our Narrator, the Adult Ralphie, describes it, fictional Holman, Indiana, where the Parker family is looking forward to Christmas, offers a Norman Rockwell view of American life in the late 1930s. Ralphie Parker, our nine-year-old hero really, really, really wants an “official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle with a compass in the stock, and this thing that tells time.” Whiney little brother Randy, who has not willingly eaten a meal for as long as Ralphie can remember, is forcing the spunky Mrs. Parker to resort to some pretty desperate means to get some food into him. Mr. Parker (The Old Man), the bumbling but well-meaning dad, is anxiously awaiting a “Major Award” from a contest submission. Christmas fever has also taken hold in school, where Ralphie unsuccessfully tries to enlist his teacher, Miss Shields, in his campaign for the Red Ryder Rifle. After school, Ralphie and his pals Flick and Schwartz work to avoid bully Scut Farkus, who strikes terror in the hearts of all those poor souls just trying to walk home from school. Ralphie’s hilarious rush toward Christmas includes an encounter with a frozen flag pole, a visit to Santa, and a pink bunny suit on the big morning. Could the Red Ryder rifle still be under the tree?

Red Ryder

Created in 1938 by comic book artist Fred Harman, the fighting cowboy character Red Ryder enjoyed a long life in comic books, novels, radio shows, movie serials, and on TV. Red Ryder was also a merchandising face for Daisy Air Rifles, which sold air rifles and BB guns similar to — but not exactly the same as — the one Ralphie Parker wants to see under the tree.

Harold Grey’s comic strip Little Orphan Annie, featuring a plucky little girl and her faithful dog Sandy, first hit the funny papers in 1924. By the time the Great Depression hit, the optimistic tot with curly red hair was a national icon. A 15-minute daily radio series featuring her adventures began in 1930 and continued through 1942. The show, sponsored by Ovaltine, a popular chocolaty drink mix, offered kids like Ralphie a secret decoder pin so they could decipher coded messages, usually previews of the next episode. Little Orphan Annie slipped quietly back into the comic strips until 1977 when she reappeared as the heroine of the megahit Broadway musical Annie, which has been made into a film twice. When the Chicago Tribune Syndicate dropped the Little Orphan Annie in June of 2010, the once ubiquitous strip was carried by only 20 papers. But never fear. The spunky kid and Sandy may live on in merchandising deals, and the musical Annie is slated for a revival.

Annie Little Orphan



Jean Shepherd




was born on the south side of Chicago, Illinois, on July 26, 1921. He earned his amateur radio license when he was just 16. Shepherd’s career began in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he had a television program called Rear Bumper. In 1957, he was recommended to replace Steve Allen on NBC’s Tonight Show, but NBC executives were contractually obligated to offer the job to Jack Paar. However, Shepherd’s work in television continued, and in the early 1960s, Shepherd ran his own weekly television show on WOR in New York. Between 1971 and 1994, he wrote and produced numerous works for both television and cinema and was the writer and narrator of the show Jean Shepherd’s America. The show followed Shepherd as he told his famous narratives, visited unusual locales and interviewed local people of interest. He used a similar format for his next show, Shepherd’s Pie. Shepherd had a gift for relating to a wide audience, and it is believed that he performed entirely without scripts. In addition to his radio and television work, Shepherd also performed regularly at various local colleges and universities. Due to his popularity, these shows were sometimes broadcast live on the radio. Eight record albums of live and studio performances of “Shep”, the nickname Shepherd was known by, were released between 1955 and 1975.

The Film

Shepherd’s most famous work is the 1983 feature film A Christmas Story, which is now considered a holiday classic. A Christmas Story was based on collected short stories from Shepherd’s books In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash and Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories. Several of the stories were ones Shepherd had shared with his radio audience including “Duel in the Snow, or Red Ryder Nails the Cleveland Street Kid” and “Flick’s Tongue.” In the film, Shepherd provides the voice of the adult Ralph Parker. He also has a cameo role playing a man overseeing the line at the department store where people are waiting for Santa Claus. A Christmas Story, which has remained popular since its debut, is just one example of Shepherd’s ability to create some of the most nostalgic and truly American pieces of humorous storytelling. Shepherd’s simple and relatable style has often led to his being compared to Mark Twain. Shepherd died on October 16, 1999, just days after the contracts were signed, allowing his holiday classic to be adapted for the stage. Information Source: A Christmas Story Study Guide, The Cleveland Playhouse


hilip recian

About THE


began his show business career at the age of four as a ventriloquist and a magician. […] Other works include Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, The Velveteen Rabbit, The Dragon of Nitt, Lion and the Lyre (translated and performed in Russia), Little Pills (based on Moliere’s Imaginary Invalid), Toby Saves the Farm, and a translation of Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Mr. Grecian has also adapted many novels and films into plays for staged radio dramatization, including Dracula!, Frankenstein, Twisted Tales of Poe, The Blood Countess, and It’s a Wonderful Life. Other plays include his widely popular children’s classic, The Velveteen Rabbit and the official stage adaptation of the motion picture A Christmas Story, which is produced annually by a number of professional, educational and community theatre companies throughout the English-speaking world.




emories ake emoirs


Jean Shepherd’s A Christmas Story is based in part on In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, a collection of his short story memoirs first published in the 1960s. Shepherd’s writing is precise: he knows exactly how to use a phrase to evoke a memory. That’s one reason A Christmas Story is so special. Even its most outrageous moments feel grounded in reality, and the reader experiences it along with the characters.

What is a Memoir?

A memoir is a piece of autobiographical writing, usually shorter in nature than a comprehensive autobiography. Like most autobiographies, memoirs are generally written from the first person point of view; however, memoirs are structured differently from formal autobiographies, which tend to cover the writer’s entire life. Memoirs focus on the development of the writer’s personality. Memoirs are often more emotional and concerned with capturing particular scenes, or a series of events, rather than documenting every fact of a person’s life. The development of a memoir is determined by the work’s context and is therefore more flexible than the traditional chronological development of an autobiography. The narrative structure of a memoir is also different from an autobiography in that it has many of the same qualities as a traditional piece of fiction. Memoirs have a setting, plot development, imagery, conflict, characterization, foreshadowing, flashback, irony, and symbolism.

Who writes Memoirs?

Historically, memoirs have dealt with public matters rather than personal. Many older memoirs contain little or no information about the writer and are almost entirely concerned with other people. Traditionally, memoirs tended to be written by politicians, military leaders, or businessmen. The books often dealt exclusively with writers’ careers rather than their private lives. Modern expectations, however, have changed this, even for heads of government. People are interested in seeing the human side of others. Memoir writing is becoming popular with people from all walks of life, including Holocaust survivors, actors, teachers, musicians, petowners, and former first ladies. What is special about a memoir is that it allows the reader to learn about a small moment in another person’s life, a moment that might have had a dramatic effect on the beliefs and attitudes of the writer.

OTHER MEMOIRS FOR YOUR ENJOYMENT… Home by Julie Andrews Growing Up by Russell Baker

The Life You Imagine: Life Lessons for Achieving Your Dreams by Derek Jeter

Teacher Man An American Childhood by Frank McCourt by Annie Dillard Dreams From My Father Marley & Me by Barack Obama by John Grogan 10

Memoir Styles

Memoirs can be humorous, dark, therapeutic, or charming. They allow for personal reconstruction of the events in the writer’s life. Memoirs can include dream sequences, daydreams, fantasies, and even slight embellishment of the truth as the quality of a memoir is not based solely in facts but also in its ability to evoke an emotional or personal reaction from the reader.





ullying among children and teenagers has been considered a normal and expected part of growing up in the United States. Only in recent years have people really started to consider the damage that is done by bullying and the lasting effects it can have on those who suffer from it. In A Christmas Story, Scut Farkus plays the role of that era’s typical neighborhood bully. Twist an arm, make a kid or two cry and then go on your way. In the past, the victim of bullying who ran to the teacher or his parents would have been despised as a “snitch.” Children either suffered in silence or fought back, much like Ralphie.

The Effects of Bullying

Almost 30 percent of teens in the United States are estimated to be involved in bullying as either a bully, a target of bullying, or both. Researchers have found that bullying is the worst among young teens and that boys are more likely to engage in physical bullying, while girls more often bully each other emotionally. Those who are the victims of either type of bullying can suffer from a number of negative effects. People who feel isolated because of being bullied sometimes cannot cope with the situation and feel as if they are helpless. Depression, anxiety and antisocial behavior are more common among those who are bullied, as is alcohol and drug use. Some people who are bullied may even resort to violence against themselves or others.



ullying Yesterday and Today

What makes bullying from the past so different from today is that it was often confined to minor scuffles. Unfortunately, in recent years it has morphed into a complex selection of methods for tormenting another person. Bullies of today can use technology to ruin the lives of people they’ve never even met. Bullying includes a wide variety of behaviors, including direct attacks such as hitting, threatening or intimidating, maliciously teasing and taunting, name-calling, making sexual remarks, stealing or damaging belongings or more subtle, indirect attacks such as cyber bullying, spreading rumors or encouraging others to reject or exclude someone.

hat to Do if You’re Bullied

There are things that victims of bullying can do to help alleviate the situation. First, talking to a parent, a teacher, school counselor, or principal can be beneficial. Many teens who are targets of bullies do not talk to adults because they feel embarrassed, ashamed, or fearful, and they believe they should be able to handle the problem on their own. Others believe that involving adults will only make the situation worse. However, education professionals have the training and the resources to handle a bullying situation so that there is a positive outcome. Students who are bullied should avoid being alone, and should ask their friends for support. Building self confidence is important because bullies often target those they see as weak or insecure. Playing sports, joining a club, or participating in an after school program can help those who are being bullied to make new friends and build self esteem. --Courtesy of The Cleveland Play House 11


Writing a Memoir

Instructional Procedures:


Lesson Summary

Students will use memoir writing as a way to explore the significance of an event or an important moment in history. Modifications are required by the individual teacher to meet the appropriate grade level and skill of each student.

1. Discuss with students the idea of memories […] 2. Next, discuss the idea of a memoir. Is it different from an autobiography? Memoirs are more than just an account of the past. They are an opportunity for individuals to explore, to discover and to make connections.

Appropriate for grades 6-12.

(This lesson addresses NYS English Language Arts Learning Standard 2: Language for Literary Response and Expression.)


excessive desire for wealth or gain

3. Explain that history is more meaningful once we as humans are able to see the whole picture in reflection. Getting into the mind of a historic character is one way to shed more light on a historical subject. Likewise, making life connections to events allows us to create a connection that results in a deeper understanding or sometimes the yearning to know more [...] 4. Have students brainstorm a timeline of their lives, adding key events as well as important and even not-so-important experiences. ie: illnesses, schooling, moves, sports, girl/boyfriends, losses, etc. --adapted from material from The Cleveland Play House



a bold or violent criminal; a bandit of the western U.S. in the 19th century

from the script


a tough, flammable substance used in motion-picture film

a mammal of the weasel family from which the Festering: domesticated ferret Lexicon: to cause irritation or the vocabulary of a language, an is derived; slang for a bitterness; to exist in a state of individual speaker or a subject despicable person deterioration





the act of completing or lacking sense, understanding or vicious ill will, spite or hatred; producing harm or evil feeling finishing something

Delusion: a persistent false belief


abusive or insulting speech, expression or language


a brand of powdered milk flavoring similar to Nesquik



a brand of car wax


the culminating point; the highest point reached in the heavens by a celestial body



a Persuasive theme

Lesson Summary


Students will use their persuasive writing skills to convince a group or person to believe their message. Modifications are required by the individual teacher to meet the appropriate grade level and skill of each student.

Instructional Procedures:


. Introduce the idea that there are two sides to every story. Good example to illustrate this point is to read the story of The Three Little Pigs followed by the reading of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs written from the point of view of the wolf.


. Discuss with the students how the two stories differ. A Venn diagram would be useful for recording student responses, either individually or together on the board.

. Have students present their arguments in a well formatted essay while following the writing process. Guidelines and rubric should be determined by the teacher based upon desired outcomes.

. Students need to brainstorm the reasons they might use to argue his point of view. They also must brainstorm as many reasons as possible to support the opposing view in order to effectively counter any opposition.


2 3 4 5

. Once students are familiar with the concept of two sides to every story, discuss how the wolf tells his version of the story – leading to the notion of persuasion.

APPROPRIATE GRADES: 2-6 (This lesson addresses NYS English Language Arts Language Standards 1, 2, 3 and 4.)

. Ask students for forms of persuasion that they are familiar with such as various advertisements.


• Students could give a speech to the class as their “accused” character with the classmates rendering a secret ballot verdict.

. Next discuss the elements of persuasive writing:

• Convincing arguments without sarcasm or name-calling • Evidence to support viewpoint (facts, examples, etc.) • Appeal to the reader’s sense of logic • Anticipate and address opposing views • Strong conclusion summarizing the importance of the writer’s view point – often with a memorable thought

• Students can write a persuasive advertisement for a favorite novel


. Instruct the students that they will have the opportunity to argue the side of a character that may have been “unjustly” accused or misunderstood. Some possible characters include: Cinderella’s stepmother or stepsisters, the Evil Queen in Snow White, Goldilocks, the Wicked Witch of the West, Rumpelstiltskin, Prince John, the Queen of Hearts, Captain Hook – just to name a few (For younger students it is easiest to give the class the same topic or character: Tom Turkey at Thanksgiving trying to convince a hungry holiday celebrant not to have the turkey for dinner.)

• Students can invent a new product idea and write a proposal for a company to buy it.


Materials and Resources: “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs” by Jon Scieszka Courtesy of The Cleveland Play House





ArtsWork.com http://artswork.asu.edu/arts/teachers/resources/theatre1.htm ChildDrama.com http://www.childdrama.com/lessons.html Educational Theatre Association http://www.edta.org/publications/teaching.aspx Kennedy Center http://artsedge.kennedy-center.org/teach/hto.cfm Viola Spolin http://www.spolin.com/

INFORMATION SOURCES & RESOURCES The Cleveland Playhouse http://www.clevelandplayhouse.com/ The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka; Illustrated by Lane Smith Education.com Stopping Bullying Behaviors: Advice for Parents and Caregivers http://www.education.com/reference/article/bullying-adviceparents-caregivers/ Bullying: An Age-old Problem That Needs New Solutions http://www.education.com/reference/article/bullying-aboutpower-and-abuse-of-power/




Profile for Syracuse Stage

A Christmas Story  

A Christmas Story-Study Guide

A Christmas Story  

A Christmas Story-Study Guide

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