S DI TE PET RECTEPHEN ER D BY BE DU LBE BO R IS
T H UR OF E P RIC D O ULU UFF WE R M MO VIN
TABLE OF CONTENTS Standards 2 Guidelines for Attending the Theatre 3 Artists 4 Themes for Writing and Discussion 6 Mastery Assessment 15 For Further Exploration 16 Suggested Activities 22
ÂŠ Huntington Theatre Company Boston, MA 02115 September 2013 No portion of this Curriculum Guide may be reproduced without written permission from the Huntington Theatre Companyâ€™s Department of Education & Community Programs Inquiries should be directed to: Donna Glick | Director of Education Huntington Theatre Company 264 Huntington Avenue Boston, MA 02115
AUTHOR CREDITS This curriculum guide was prepared for the Huntington Theatre Company by: Alexandra Truppi | Manager for Curriculum & Instruction with contributions by: Rebecca Curtiss | Communications Manager Donna Glick | Director of Education Dan Pecci | Creative Services Coordinator
STANDARDS Student Matinee performances and pre-show workshops provide unique opportunities for experiential learning and support various combinations of the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts. They may also support standards in other subject areas such as Social Studies and History, depending on the individual play’s subject matter. Activities are also included in this Curriculum Guide and in our pre-show workshops that support several of the Massachusetts state standards in Theatre. Other arts areas may also be addressed depending on the individual play’s subject matter.
COMMON CORE STANDARDS IN ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS Reading Literature: Key Ideas and Details 3
Reading Literature: Craft and Structure 6
• Grade 8: Analyze how particular lines of dialogue or incidents in a story or drama propel the action, reveal aspects of a character, or provoke a decision.
• Grade 8: Analyze how differences in the points of view of the characters and the audience or reader (e.g., created through dramatic irony) create such effects as suspense or humor.
• Grades 9-10: Analyze how complex characters (e.g. those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the themes. • Grades 11-12: Analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop related elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters are introduced and developed).
• Grades 9-10: Analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature from outside the United States, drawing on a wide reading of world literature. • Grades 11-12: Analyze a case in which grasping point of view required distinguishing what is directly stated in a text from what is really meant (e.g., satire, sarcasm, irony, or understatement).
Reading Literature: Craft and Structure 5
Reading Literature: Integration of Knowledge and Ideas 7
• Grade 8: Compare and contrast the structure of two or more texts and analyze how the differing structure of each text contributes to its meaning and style.
• Grade 8: Analyze the extent to which a filmed or live production of a story or drama stays faithful to or departs from the text or script, evaluating the choices made by the director or actors.
• Grades 9-10: Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks), create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise. • Grades 11-12: Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure specific parts of a text (e.g., the choice of where to begin or end a story, the choice to provide a comedic or tragic resolution) contribute to its overall structure and meaning as well as its aesthetic impact.
• Grades 9-12: Analyze multiple interpretations of a story, drama, or poem (e.g. recorded or live production of a play or recorded novel or poetry), evaluating how each version interprets the source text (Include at least one play by Shakespeare and one play by an American dramatist).
MASSACHUSETTS STANDARDS IN THEATRE Acting
Reading and Writing Scripts
• 1.7 — Create and sustain a believable character throughout a scripted or improvised scene (By the end of Grade 8).
• 1.12 — Describe and analyze, in written and oral form, characters’ wants, needs, objectives, and personality characteristics (By the end of Grade 8).
• 2.8 — Improvise characters, dialogue, and actions that focus on the development and resolution of dramatic conflicts (By the end of Grade 8).
• 1.13 — In rehearsal and performance situations, perform as a productive and responsible member of an acting ensemble (i.e., demonstrate personal responsibility and commitment to a collaborative process) (By the end of Grade 8).
• 2.11 — Read plays from a variety of genres and styles; compare and contrast the structure of plays to the structures of other forms of literature (Grades 9-12).
• 1.14 — Create complex and believable characters through the integration of physical, vocal, and emotional choices (Grades 9-12). • 1.15 — Demonstrate an understanding of a dramatic work by developing a character analysis (Grades 9-12). • 1.17 — Demonstrate increased ability to work effectively alone and collaboratively with a partner or in an ensemble (Grades 9-12).
• Strand 6: Purposes and Meanings in the Arts — Students will describe the purposes for which works of dance, music, theatre, visual arts, and architecture were and are created, and, when appropriate, interpret their meanings (Grades PreK-12).
• 2.7 — Read plays and stories from a variety of cultures and historical periods and identify the characters, setting, plot, theme, and conflict (By the end of Grade 8).
• 4.6 — Draw renderings, floor plans, and/or build models of sets for a dramatic work and explain choices in using visual elements (line, shape/form, texture, color, space) and visual principals (unity, variety, harmony, balance, rhythm) (By the end of Grade 8).
• 4.13 — Conduct research to inform the design of sets, costumes, sound, and lighting for a dramatic production (Grades 9-12).
Connections • Strand 10: Interdisciplinary Connections — Students will apply their knowledge of the arts to the study of English language arts, foreign languages, health, history and social science, mathematics, and science and technology/engineering (Grades PreK-12).
AUDIENCE ETIQUETTE Attending live theatre is a unique experience with many valuable educational and social benefits. To ensure that all audience members are able to enjoy the performance, please take a few minutes to discuss the following audience etiquette topics with your students before you come to the Huntington Theatre Company.
• How is attending the theatre similar to and different from going to the movies? What behaviors are and are not appropriate when seeing a play? Why?
• Remind students that because the performance is live, the audience will affect the actors’ performance. No two audiences are exactly the same and no two performances are exactly the same — this is part of what makes theatre so special! Students’ behavior should reflect the level of performance they wish to see.
• Theatre should be an enjoyable experience for the audience. It is absolutely all right to applaud when appropriate and laugh at the funny moments. Talking and calling out during the performance, however, are not allowed. Why might this be? Be sure to mention that not only would the people seated around them be able to hear their conversation, but the actors on stage could hear them, too. Theatres are constructed to carry sound efficiently!
• Any noise or light can be a distraction, so please remind students to make sure their cell phones are turned off (or better yet, left at home or at school!). Texting, photography, and video recording are prohibited. Food and gum should not be brought into the theatre.
• Students should sit with their group as seated by the Front of House staff and should not leave their seats once the performance has begun.
Staging Connections: Stephen Belber on The Power of Duff Stephen Belber is an acclaimed playwright, screenwriter, and film director. His plays include his breakout hit Tape starring Robert Sean Leonard and Ethan Hawke, his Broadway debut Match directed by the Huntington’s former Artistic Director Nicholas Martin and starring Frank Langella, Carol Mulroney, which premiered at the Huntington in 2005, and others. Over the summer, he corresponded with dramaturg Charles Haugland about the origin of his latest play and the challenges of staging a story about faith. When did you start writing The Power of Duff? What was the spark? I first wrote this piece as a screenplay in about 2006. The initial impulse came after reading a Time magazine article (in an issue dedicated to religion in America), which stated that 19 out of 20 Americans believe in God. And while that didn’t necessarily surprise me, it was somewhat eye-opening the more I thought about it. And so then I thought: this is something that should be written about if done in a non-obvious way, because here we have the vast majority of an enormous nation believing, at the very least, in the legitimacy of a true spiritual force, and wouldn’t it be interesting to create a character that taps into
Stephen Belber, playwright
or in some way comes to harness that power in a simple but surprising and unique way. Additionally, I thought, what if this character stumbles into this situation accidentally and honestly, and what if he or she was deeply flawed and susceptible to nonsaintly impulses. Have you written about faith or prayer before? What attracted you to this theme? (And why are there so few plays on that subject?) No. And even though one would think this an obvious topic on which to write, there’s probably a slight taboo around it due to its being difficult to come at
in a way that’s profound but subtle. With The Power of Duff, I’ve simply tried to ask questions that most humans ask at one point or another: how can I feel more connected, what’s the best way to be human, faith in what? I’m under no illusion of having answers, I’ve simply asked in as honest (and theatrical) a way as I know how, trying to place my character in complicated situations with no easy solutions, and in so doing hopefully dramatizing simple questions of faith. Many of the plays you are best known for have small casts and are tense and concentrated. What attracted you to telling this story that plays on a broader canvas across a larger ensemble? To begin with, I had for some time been wanting to write a more sprawling play [many of Belber’s plays feature small casts]. That, combined with the fact that this story began as a screenplay, encouraged me to expand the size of the cast to fit the scope of the story. Faith is a big topic, but so is the idea of connection, and I was intrigued by the idea of a wholly disconnected individual alone on an enormous and barren stage, and then, to juxtapose that with the same character surrounded by a multitude of people — and yet still unable to connect. This latter stage picture seemed to me an apt representation of “society” in many ways: we are sometimes most alone when plopped down amidst the world. What drew you to set the play within the stinging (and often very funny) politics of a newsroom? I think I was looking for a character that could be very palpably stuck, and somehow the idea of an anchor at a mid-sized city’s local news desk fit the bill. Not that it’s an unfulfilling job, but Charlie Duff, at this juncture in his life, has hit a complete dead end — he is someone who never made it nationally, who is no longer inspired by journalistic glory or integrity, and is successful but in a severely limited way. His is a road of seductive mediocrity that leads to either pompous self-regard or extreme yearning and existential woe.
THEMES FOR WRITING AND DISCUSSION The Role of the Media
“What the hell did you just do?” Sue Raspell demands of her co-anchor, Charlie Duff, after the close of their evening newscast early in Act I of The Power of Duff. “You can’t just…pray…It’s a news show, Charlie!” Charlie insists that he just wanted to say something about his recently deceased father, but Sue and sportscaster John Ebbs are certain that Charlie has overstepped the bounds of journalistic integrity and that news director Scott Zoellner will be quick to dole out consequences. Sue and John are partially right. Zoellner leaves multiple voicemails for Charlie, none of which he returns. But by praying at the end of a live news broadcast, Charlie inadvertently sparks a debate about the role of the media in public life. As a journalist, is it Charlie’s job to simply present objective information, or does he have a greater obligation to use his platform to make what he thinks will be a positive impact on the world, even if the vehicle he chooses to make that impact is one that some people will find objectionable or offensive in the context of a news broadcast? If he offers a prayer on the air, is he inherently endorsing a point of view? When Zoellner finally does confront Charlie following his second on-air prayer, he speaks plainly about the need for objectivity in the broadcast. “We’re a news show, Charlie, providing untarnished, unslanted, uninflected information,” he says. “We don’t provide ‘solace,’ and given the length of your experience, you should know that better than anyone.” Sue reminds Charlie that communicating the news is an important responsibility and echoes Zoellner’s insistence that the integrity of the broadcast must be unquestionable. “Certain things don’t mix. The work we do here is good,” she says. “I can see how the work might not always seem ‘vital.’ But people do watch; what we do does make a difference” (Act I). Charlie sees her point and agrees, but when he returns home, a surprise encounter with a neighbor supports Sue’s argument in an unexpected way. “I just wanted to say I saw your broadcast earlier, when you said the prayer for people who have, you know, lost some one,” the neighbor begins. “I lost my wife a couple years ago…I guess I just wanted to say thanks. It’s a fine line between moving on and denial. And you sorta made me check in. With stuff that I hadn’t been checking in with. Gave she and I a little…connection, I guess. Anyway—thanks” (Act I). While Sue believes that Charlie’s prayers prevent them from making a difference in viewers’ lives, the prayers provide precisely what Charlie’s neighbor needed. Charlie’s resolve that he is doing the right thing is reinforced the next day when he learns that the station’s Twitter account received thousands of thankful messages in response to the previous night’s broadcast. People have also started to congregate around the building with signs that bear messages such as “In Duff We Trust.” The shows of support encourage Charlie to end that night’s broadcast with a prayer that kidnappers of a local girl will return her to her parents. Mere seconds after the broadcast ends, Zoellner is on the set to reprimand Charlie. ZOELLNER: It is just so wrong on so many levels—Journalistic integrity, religious pluralism, FCC regulation, The League of Benevolent Atheists… CHARLIE: Everyone watching wants that girl to be released!— ZOELLNER: Irrelevant!— CHARLIE: Why is praying for something that everyone wants irrelevant?— ZOELLNER: You’re missing the point!— CHARLIE: It’s no different than editorial commentary—
ZOELLNER: It’s different because you’re invoking God, you pious fuck! I’m trying to run an im partial news program, not The Billy Graham Theological Fireside Chat! (Act I) Charlie insists that his prayers are nondenominational and that there’s no evangelizing taking place. Zoellner, however, is unconvinced. He asserts that Charlie’s actions are violating basic journalistic principles. “My job, Charlie,” he explains, “is to fight the good fight. To not succumb to the temptation of sentimentally catering to the masses. Central to the American Experiment is objective coverage and dissemination of the events that take place in our society. That is an unambiguous and unimpeachable right of the human beings who have signed the social contract of this country—whether they actually want it or not” (Act I). But as Charlie’s prayers receive more and more attention and the broadcast’s ratings increase, Zoellner begins to see the purpose of the news in a different light. “The numbers for our show—and I use the word ‘show’ here not by accident because we are a show, we are showmen, and women if you will, presenting nothing short of a spectacle,” he claims. “The numbers for our show have dramatically spiked since you transformed the anchor desk into a pulpit” (Act I). Zoellner decides to give in to what the people seem to want. He previously argued that it was the media’s responsibility to provide unbiased information about real-world events and to dig into the tough issues with no easy answers. Now, he has a different view. “What I said was in reaction to the early recklessness of Charlie’s prayers,” he explains. What I am recognizing now is the larger context . . . Which is that your average American’s world view is inherently imbued with their religious leaning. Any geopolitical insight they might gleam from our program is immediately filtered through whatever theological gauze they’ve wrapped across their beady little eyes, so for us to hide behind false religious neutrality is non sensical. Americans can’t watch a dog fart without projecting onto it their God-of-the-Day’s pithy little aphorism—so I am simply embracing that. If they can’t leave God by the curb for half an hour, then we’ll shove God down their throat. (Act I) In Zoellner’s opinion, Channel 10 news no longer exists to communicate the truth, even if people do not want to hear it. Instead, “it’s really about reconciling Godliness with the marketplace.” He is interested in partnering with “a global media start-up that wants to stream up live for the last 5 minutes at 6 and 11; they also have a reality show proposal that they swear will be unobtrusive…Look—we have two choices here, guys: We either stop and give into the natural volatility of human emotions that exists regardless of what we do. Or—we launch ourselves into the battle with nobility and courage—and we fight the insanity. (PAUSE; to Charlie) The prayers are already on YouTube. Why not make it official” (Act I). While Charlie’s prayers provide Zoellner with an ideal way to hook new viewers, he soon finds himself forced to choose between reporting inconvenient facts and maintaining the illusion that viewers have bought into. For weeks, the story of uninsured AIDS patient Joseph Andango who Charlie prayed for at the end of one evening’s broadcast developed in the best way Zoellner could have hoped for -- Andango received an outpouring of support from the community and even met a new partner. The media-ready image is shattered, however, when the Channel 10 team learns that Andango has attempted suicide, and Zoellner must decide whether to report it. JOHN: Should we run a story about it? ZOELLNER: …. My instinct is no, that it’s not newsworthy. And who knows, there could also be other factors at play—
SUE: Like what? ZOELLNER: Like things in his personal life, his financial situation, he could be a manic depressive— CHARLIE: The guy is sick and he doesn’t wanna suffer, Scott— ZOELLNER: Fine, then that in and of itself doesn’t merit an entire segment— CHARLIE: We’ve already run 2 segments on the guy but now you just wanna ignore him because he’s in a coma? ZOELLNER: We ran a story about his inability to afford health care— CHARLIE: And now you don’t wanna publicize the fact that your “human interest” story has a shitty ending. SUE: I don’t think that’s what he’s saying, Charlie— CHARLIE: It happened!—It’s news. ZOELLNER: People commit suicide every day; we don’t report them all. So it’s only news when I say it is. So we’ll find out more and evaluate tomorrow. (Act II) If they report Andango’s suicide attempt, they maintain journalistic integrity by reporting truthful, accurate facts about a story of local importance, but would simultaneously destroy the narrative in which Zoellner has cultivated. If they don’t, they continue to present a more flattering version of events that is free from complications—but they will abandon their obligation to provide comprehensive coverage.
QUESTIONS 1. From 1993-1997, the Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Committee of Concerned Journalists did research, held public forums, and conducted surveys in order to create a Statement of Purpose and identify guiding principles for the field. The resulting Statement of Purpose says that: The central purpose of journalism is to provide citizens with accurate and reliable information they need to function in a free society. This encompasses myriad roles—helping define community, creating common language and common knowledge, identifying a community’s goals, heroes, and villains, and pushing people beyond complacency. This purpose also involves other requirements, such as being entertaining, serving as watchdog and offering voice to the voiceless.
Which of these roles arefulfilled through Charlie’s on-air prayers? With which roles do his prayers stand in conflict? Read the list of nine core principles at journalism.org/resources/principles. As journalists, which principles do Zoellner, Charlie, and Sue seem to value the most? 2. In Act I of The Power of Duff, channel 10 news director Scott Zoellner tries to persuade Charlie and the anchor team that they should accept a recent proposal to make reality show focusing on Charlie’s nightly prayers. Charlie responds with the following criticism: You’re lying to yourself! It’s a blatant self-lie! This is what America does best: Turns genuine impulse into manufactured bullshit, anything authentic into low-brow, cash-seeking entertainment. The moment you put yourself out there they will bludgeon it like a piece of fucking veal until all original instinct is ground into meaningless pulp. So no—I will not be participating in the ritualistic neutering of the first honest
thing I’ve done in years. Sorry to disappoint.
What point is Charlie trying to make about reality television and about America in general? How is this similar to critiques of real television news today? 3.
Compare and contrast the broadcasts of a local news channel, the national evening news, and programs on cable news stations, including audience demographics, geographic reach, type of stories, anchor/host formats, and objectivity. How well do they fulfill the journalistic Statement of Purpose and core principles? What are some common criticisms of news organizations in 2013, especially those operating on cable television?
Parent-Child Relationships Charlie Duff speaks to millions of people every day. As co-anchor of the 6pm and 11pm broadcasts on Channel 10 in Rochester, NY, he imparts information and provides insight into events that impact his viewers’ lives. But despite his ability to connect to a wide array of people through his job, Charlie finds it difficult to relate, especially to those closest to him. Uncomfortable in the role of both son and father, Charlie has allowed years to pass without having meaningful interactions with his own father and son. As the events of The Power of Duff unfold, Charlie is both required and inspired to find new ways of navigating through the parent-child relationships in his life. Early in Act I, Charlie’s cousin Bob calls from Oregon with the news that Charlie’s father has recently passed away, prompting Charlie to travel home. Although Charlie rarely saw him, his father was extremely proud of his son’s accomplishments. “He was always talking about his son Charlie,” Bob reports. “‘The best anchor in Rochester.’ Probably loved you so much his heart gave out.” Bob’s words strike Charlie deeply, and he is filled with guilt. “I hadn’t gotten out here much the last couple of years. Kept meaning to,” he says. Bob tries to assuage Charlie’s feelings with a dinner invitation and changes the subject by asking about Charlie’s family. But this exchange proves no less awkward; when Bob inquires after Charlie’s teenage son, Charlie gives that vague response that Ricky is “good…He’s a…a good kid.” It is clear that Charlie’s disconnect is not just limited to his relationship with his father—it extends to his son, as well. In the first few scenes of the play, Charlie is asked more than once about how his ex-wife, Lisa, and Ricky are doing, and each time he is unable to answer with anything more than a few generalities because he has not seen or spoken to either of them in some time. The effects of this are drawn into the open when he reaches out to Lisa and Ricky to try to reconnect with them following his father’s death. CHARLIE: Hey Ricky. LISA: He likes “Rick” these days. CHARLIE: OK; hey, Rick. RICKY: Hey. CHARLIE: You can’t say “Hey, Dad”?
LISA: He’s not a big fan of the word “Dad” in reference to the specific context of you. (Act I)
Charlie is not deterred by Ricky’s resistance. As he continues trying to engage his son and ex-wife in conversation, however, he learns bits and pieces about their lives without him and he more fully understands just how out of touch he is. Charlie’s frustration mounts until he finally tries to confess his motivations to Ricky. “When your grandpa died,” Charlie reveals, “it made me realize that I hadn’t been living in a way that made that relationship as strong, or as, mutually beneficial—” But Ricky cuts him off sarcastically. “Can I ask you something…And I’m not trying to be harsh or particularly mean, but what are you thinking our relationship is gonna be right now? Are you expecting that we’re gonna be ‘best buds’ again?” Ricky’s firm rejection stings, but Charlie still holds on to the hope that he and Ricky will find a way to reconcile. As Act I draws to a close, Charlie begins to understand that Ricky’s rejection is a continuation of a cycle he began himself by creating distance with his own father. “Seven years ago,” he recalls at the close of his news broadcast one night: ...while walking with my 8 year-old son along the cliff overlooking the Genesee River, he turned to me and said, ‘This is the way it should be.’ Which is a nice sentiment, and would have made me happy enough on its own, if it weren’t for the fact that they were the exact same words, spoken in the same way, that my father had said to me when I was 19. He and I were sitting in the tiny sun room of his apartment in Springfield, Oregon, Christmas vacation of my sophomore year in college. The winter sun was coming in through the double-paned windows, there was a pause in the conversation, and then he turned, out of nowhere, and said, ‘This is the way it should be.’ When my son said that to me, over 15 years later…I suddenly knew, if only for a moment, that there was possibly something else going on in the world…that I truly wasn’t aware of. (Act I) Ricky is not won over by Charlie’s on-air revelation, and Act II begins with an argument between father and son. Ricky accuses Charlie of being a hypocrite for trying to be a guiding force for the community on television while neglecting his parental duties, and argues that his use of the story on-air is disingenuous. “You don’t get to act like an asshole for 15 years and then walk back in, hand me a Coke, and rub my hair. It doesn’t work like that,” Ricky says. “I don’t need the kind of ‘guidance’ you seem to wanna offer me when you’re not busy offering it to the rest of Rochester…We may have had a ‘good moment’ on some cliff when I was 8 but that is not some kind of get-outta-jail-free card 7 years later” (Act II). Charlie is willing to be patient and endures his son’s rant because he knows that, in many ways, Ricky is right. Yet Charlie feels he cannot end the conversation without sharing a cautionary tale complete with a lesson from his own experiences: CHARLIE: I turned away from my dad at a certain point and it screwed me up. Right up to now and who knows for how much more. So let me just say before you walk away like the rebellious little dude that I know you would like to be right now: I will keep coming after you until the day that I stop at which point it’ll be too late. So until that day, keep an open mind, because I happen to know that after it passes, I will grow old and die alone and you—if you’re not careful—will turn into a miserable little fuck. (Act II)
Although Ricky continues to be sulky and unresponsive with Charlie in person, Charlie’s words resonate with him, and soon, Lisa visits Charlie with some cautiously optimistic news. “I think Ricky would be… open to the idea of you going to his basketball game next Thursday,” she reports. “He mentioned it was a big game and I said as a joke…‘Wouldn’t it be nice if your father was there,’ because next Thursday is also his birthday…And he looked at me—and didn’t throw anything.” “And that made you intuit—?” Charlie asks, not completely following. “—That he might tolerate your presence at the game; in the back row,” Lisa concludes (Act II). Charlie asks Lisa to tell Ricky that he will be at the game and even proposes that he take the two of them to dinner afterwards. Lisa gently turns down the dinner—that’s pushing a bit too much—but agrees to tell Ricky about Charlie’s plan to attend the game. Unfortunately, despite his good intentions, Charlie breaks his promise. As national interest in Charlie’s on-air prayers grows, Charlie is invited to New York City to talk with media executives about future programming possibilities. Upon his return, Charlie arrives at his office to find Lisa waiting for him, ready to tell him that he has done permanent, irreversible damage to his relationship with his son. “What the fuck is your problem, Charlie?” she demands. You call Rick on Monday telling him you’ll be at his game; you tell him you’ll take him out to dinner after—for his birthday—and that you hoped this could be the start of something new—and God bless him he actually started looking forward to it—he goes, “Mom, if Dad can stop being a self-involved freak for the course of a single evening, I’ll actually be impressed”—which for Rick is high fucking praise, and so what do you do with this opportunity…You weren’t “sent” anywhere!— Wherever you went it was because your insanely out-sized ego “needed” it more than it needed a small, vaguely selfish gesture to your son whom you haven’t spent a micro-second of quality time since he was 6 fucking years old…I’m sure you had a million reasons to go wherever you went…but they have little to do with your inability to be even a halfway decent simile of a dad… You can pray on TV until all the crippled children are running free across the fields, but it won’t mean shit if you can’t remember you have a son! (Act II) Her words leave Charlie silent. There is nothing he can say because, just like Ricky the week before, Lisa is right. He has continued his cycle of poor choices and misplaced priorities. He warned Ricky not to turn away from him, but when Ricky chose to turn toward him, Charlie was not there. Charlie finds his son at a bus stop late in the evening and apologizes for his mistakes. He reveals that the death of his mother when he was young led him to try to show his mental and emotional toughness by rejecting his father’s love and set him on what Lisa has referred to as “a solo mission” through life (Act II). But the betrayal is too deep for Ricky. He hears Charlie’s confession but leaves seeming to close the door on any opportunity for absolution. However, before long, a family crisis forces the father and son back together. When they are left with no one to cling to but each other, they must decide what kind of father and son they really want to be.
QUESTIONS 1. Does Charlie love his son, Ricky? Does Ricky love Charlie? Provide specific examples from the play to support your answers. 2. Charlie acknowledges that the strain on his relationship with his father was not the result of anything his father did, but rather his own choice to push others away. Despite Charlie’s rejections, his father kept trying to connect with him and frequently bragged about his son’s accomplishments. Compare and contrast the dynamic between Charlie and his father with that of Charlie and Ricky. What are the underlying causes of the tension in each relationship? How are the challenges in these relationships resolved, if at all? 3. Consider your relationship with your own parents or guardians. Have there been times when these relationships were stronger than others? What circumstances cause strain on the relationships between children and the adults responsible for taking care of them? What experiences can bring parents and children closer?
Public vs. Private Early in Act I of The Power of Duff, television news director Scott Zoellner comes to the newsroom floor deal directly with the decision by his on-air talent, Charlie Duff, to repeatedly pray at the end of the broadcast and, if necessary, to issue a disciplinary warning. “Do you believe in God,” he inquires before taking a momentary pause. Two other staff members, Sue Raspell and John Ebbs, are standing nearby, listening to the discussion. Zoellner asks Charlie if they should continue their conversation in private, but Charlie does not mind the audience. He has already crossed the line between public and private by putting faith in the television spotlight. Charlie’s co-anchor, Sue, finds his decision to mix an element of his personal life with his on-air persona problematic. She believes that it is necessary for public figures to keep their private lives separate from what they do for work. “It’s about compartmentalization,” she explains, leaving Charlie confused. “Everything,” she continues. “God; your job; your personal life. They need to be separate” (Act I). Charlie, does not seem to grasp Sue’s meaning, so she offers an example from her own life. “My son? Luke? How do you think I deal with that?” Still confused, Charlie asks what Sue means and forces her to retread ground they have already been down in order to make her point. SUE: (realizing he’s forgotten) He’s autistic, Charlie. He’s on the autistic spectrum. CHARLIE: I had no idea. SUE: Yes you did. We’ve talked about it— CHARLIE: Oh—right—I’m so sorry— SUE: It doesn’t matter. I specifically try not to discuss it because I refuse to be defined by it. Yes it’s a never-ceasing part of my life, but if I walked in here every day with a t-shirt saying “My son is autistic,” I would never reach fulfillment as a serious news journalist. CHARLIE: I understand— SUE: Certain things don’t mix. (Act I)
While Sue is able to manage the components of her life through compartmentalization, this strategy has not worked for Charlie. He has spent recent years intensely focused on his public face, absorbed in his effort to get ahead in his career. His personal affairs have suffered as a result—he neglected his relationship with his father, his marriage failed, and his connection to his son disintegrated. For Charlie, compartmentalization meant centering on one facet while abandoning the others. When he learns about the challenges Sue is facing at home, he is surprised that she is able to juggle multiple things without letting them disrupt each other. If her son’s challenges had more influence on Sue’s professional world, Charlie may not have been so oblivious. “Did you know Sue has an autistic son?” he asks John, certain that his lack of knowledge on the subject has more to do with Sue’s effort to keep it private from her colleagues and less with his own lack of attention. John, however, responds, “Ah—ya,” indicating that it is a pretty well-known fact, as is its broader impact on Sue’s home life. CHARLIE: Did I know that? JOHN: You should’ve. CHARLIE: She doesn’t talk about it a lot. JOHN: I know but it completely dominates her life. I also have a hunch it’s completely screwing up her marriage. (Act I) For John, the lines between public and private are somewhat blurred when it comes to his colleagues—in addition to hypothesizing about Sue’s marriage, he is eager to stick around to observe the confrontations between Zoellner and Charlie that would normally be carried out behind closed doors. John has a clearly defined on-air persona and The Power of Duff’s opening stage directions describe John as “the jovial sportscaster,” a role he not only plays during the broadcast but around the newsroom. But when it comes to his own personal affairs, John keeps certain things private and it is this side of John that is genuinely affected by Charlie’s prayers. When Charlie voices skepticism that his prayers are creating real positive change in the community, John makes a surprising confession. JOHN: Hey Charlie? I’m not a happy person. CHARLIE: What do you mean? JOHN: I’m on so many antidepressants . . . CHARLIE: I didn’t know that…You don’t seem…. to be a depressed person, John. JOHN: Yeah. I know. I make jokes for 15 hours straight, then go home and cry myself to sleep. Literally; I cry myself to sleep six nights outta seven. That’s why I’m always trying to get you to go for a drink, you fuck. (PAUSE) You really think I was taking a vacation last year? For two weeks—during the NBA finals? CHARLIE: But you’re like, jovial whenever I see you. JOHN: That’s why they call it manic, dipshit. CHARLIE: I’m sorry. I didn’t know. JOHN: It’s not usually my lead story. CHARLIE: I know, but I’ve known you for like six years. (Act I) While Charlie was unaware of Sue’s situation with her son because he was so focused on his role as a public figure, he was ignorant of John’s depression because John successfully compartmentalized it. But that does not mean that the private John is unreachable. “The reason I’m telling you is ’cause I actually do feel…connected these days, because of what you’re doing. It’s made me feel less shitty. About how shitty I feel,” he explains to Charlie (Act I).
For a little while, John’s revelation encourages Charlie to continue his public engagement on the typically private issue of faith, but a series of private challenges force Charlie to reconsider whether his melding of personal matters with public actions is the right thing to do. The first time Zoellner confronts Charlie about the prayers, he claims that in such a public setting, “there’s really no room for God; certainly not an overt God. Innate? Private?—go for it. On-air credit?—Can’t have it—not allowed” (Act I). Though Charlie initially resists, in the end, he comes to a conclusion that, while similar to Zoellner’s, is somewhat more nuanced: “Faith…has to start alone; in the dark; from which we take a single step forward…not knowing where it leads” (Act II).
QUESTIONS 1. Compare and contrast Charlie’s on-air persona with who he is in his private life. How are these two versions of Charlie Duff similar? How are they different? How do they each evolve over the course of the play? 2. How would you describe your own public persona? Do you present yourself differently when you are with teachers, friends, or family? Do you compartmentalize aspects of your life or personality? 3. When performing, singer Beyonce adopts an alter-ego named Sasha Fierce, and rapper/singer Nicki Minaj performs some songs as a character named Roman Zolanski. What roles do alter-egos play in these artists’ work? Consider celebrities and other public figures with well-defined public personas like Lady Gaga, Kanye West, Miley Cyrus, Sasha Baron Cohen, and Barack Obama. How would you describe the person they each portray in public? How similar do you think their public personas are to their real personalities?
Sacha Baron Cohen (left) as Borat Sagdiyev (right), a fictional Kazakh journalist.
Miley Cyrus (left) with Lady Gaga (right), a fictional pop star.
MASTERY ASSESSMENT ACT I
1. What is Charlie Duff’s profession? 2. What type of news does John Ebbs report? 3. What is the topic of Sue’s investigative series? 4. What news does Charlie’s cousin from Oregon call to share? 5. What does Charlie do at the end of his next broadcast that shocks everyone? 6. What does Zoellner threaten to do if Charlie does it again? 7. What condition does Sue’s son have? Why does she choose not to discuss it? 8. Why does Charlie’s neighbor thank him? 9. What prompts the sudden influx in Tweets to the station’s Twitter account? 10. Why does Zoellner see what Charlie is doing as such as problem? 11. What do the people who kidnapped Emily Salter do? Who does Emily’s mother thank? 12. After Emily Salter’s release, what do people begin Tweeting to the news station? 13. What causes Zoellner to lift Charlie’s suspension? 14. Who are Lisa and Ricky? 15. How does Ricky respond to Charlie’s attempt to reconcile their relationship? 16. Why did Ricky tell Charlie to stay away from him two years ago? 17. What does Charlie ask Lisa for? How does she respond? 18. Who is Joseph Adango? What has happened to Joseph as a result of Charlie praying for him on-air? 19. What secret does John reveal about himself to Charlie? 20. When Charlie visits Joseph Adango, what do they find they have in common? 21. What happened to Joseph shortly after Charlie’s prayer? 22. What kind of deal does Zoellner want to make with a media company?
ACT II 23. According to Ricky, why is Charlie a hypocrite? 24. Why is CNN in Rochester? 25. Where is Joseph Adango? 26. When was the last time Charlie prayed? 27. Why does Lisa think Ricky might be open to Charlie attending his basketball game? 28. What does Sue tell Charlie she is considering doing? 29. How do the protesters in Ron’s story feel about Charlie and his prayers? 30. Why does John think about jumping into the water? 31. What does Zoellner say has happened to Joseph Adango? 32. Why does Zoellner not want Charlie to pray for Joseph Adango? 33. Who will see Charlie’s broadcast tonight? How? 34. What does Charles pray for on the broadcast? 35. What does Zoellner tell Charlie has happened to Joseph Adango? 36. Who is Tim Brewer? What does he want Charlie to do? 37. What does Charlie ultimately want to do with his notoriety? 38. What does Lisa confess to Charlie? 39. What experience from his teenage years does Charlie tell Ricky changed the way he thinks about life? 40. Why did Ron Kirkpatrick go to New York? 41. Who has been absent from the news station for two days? 42. Why is Lisa in the hospital? 43. What does Ricky want Charlie to do that he cannot? 44. What does Charlie pray for in his last on-air prayer?
FOR FURTHER EXPLORATION Faith in the Public Square
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The rights to freedom of religion and freedom of speech are both guaranteed by the First Amendment, but controversy often arises when these two freedoms intersect in public settings. When Charlie begins praying at the end of the news broadcasts, Zoellner is concerned that they may have potentially offended “Jews and Muslims who watch this program” (Act I). Sue defends Charlie by pointing out that Charlie was not speaking to any specific denomination, but Zoellner approaches the conversation from a perspective in which Christianity is the dominant, default religion, and his objection to Charlie’s prayers reflects a desire to not alienate a portion of their audience by appearing to endorse a particular point of view. Although the news is not operated by a government agency, it is accessed by a wide variety of the people and is intended to serve the public as a whole. Faith and religion can be contentious issues when placed in the public square—In some cases, as Charlie learns in Act II, it is not the specific content of the faith-based material that is offensive, but the presentation of the material in a public forum that goes too far. UNSHAVEN MAN: (Gentle) I saw your little prayer last week, about moving the earth? Well you know what I would like? (Strong) I’d like you to fuck off! You want us to move the earth?— It’s already moving: GLOBAL FUCKING WARMING! I’d like to see your ‘magical earth-moving prayers’ move THAT one back to how it was! CHARLIE: If you don’t like it don’t listen— UNSHAVEN MAN: Well I did listen! And you know what I didn’t like?!—What I don’t like?! I don’t like ‘He who offers false consolation’! Religion kills, fucker! It’s a man-made weapon that kills those who need it most! You’re killing the innocent, Duff! In the Establishment Clause, the part of the First Amendment that reads “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” is generally interpreted as prohibiting Congress from establishing a national religion and for the United States government to display a preference for one religion over another. Citizens who object to the presence of religiously-oriented materials in public settings often invoke the Establishment Clause in support of their arguments: • In 1962, the Supreme Court ruling of Engel v. Vitale ended the mandatory in-school recitation of a prayer written by public school officials. The case was brought by the families of Jewish students enrolled in Hyde Park, NY, who argued that the prayer violated their religious beliefs. The Court ruled that government-written prayers were an unconstitutional violation of the Establishment Clause. • In 2005, the United States Supreme Court issued two rulings regarding the display of the Ten Commandments, one on a stone monument outside of the Texas Capitol building in Austin and
the other at a courthouse in Kentucky. In the Texas case, Van Orden v. Perry, the Court ruled the display to be constitutional on the grounds that the monument was placed there to commemorate the “people, ideals, and events that compose Texan identity” and that as one of the 38 monuments and historical markers surrounding the capitol building, it had historical value. In the Kentucky case, McCreary County vs. ACLU of Kentucky, the Supreme Court ruled that displays of the Ten Commandments in two county courthouses and a local school district were unconstitutional because they were not integrated into other material so as to carry a secular message and that the display of the Commandments in public classrooms violated the First Amendment. • In 2011, the governor of Rhode Island, Lincoln Chafee, chose to call the blue spruce on display in the Rhode Island State House a “holiday tree,” rather than a Christmas tree. According to the Associated Press, Governor Chafee said that his decision was in “keeping with Rhode Island’s founding in 1636 by religious dissident Roger Williams as a haven for tolerance, where government and religion were kept separate.” Objectors included state representative Doreen Costa, who referred to Chafee as “Governor Grinch.” • Jessica Ahlquist, an atheist student at Cranston West High School in Cranston, RI, won a lawsuit in 2012 in which she argued that a banner on display in her school auditorium was a violation of the Supreme Court’s 1962 decision banning mandated prayer in schools. The banner, which was titled “School Prayer” and addressed “Our Heavenly Father,” was removed. • In early September 2013, an atheist couple from Acton, MA, brought a lawsuit against the Acton-Boxborough Regional School District with the goal of ending the daily practice of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in Public Schools. The couple claimed that the pledge’s inclusion of the words “under God” indicates that those who believe in God are more patriotic than those who do not and that the practice of reciting the pledge is therefore discriminatory against atheists. The phrase “under God” was not in the original version of the Pledge of Allegiance adopted in 1942, but was added in 1954. As of late September 2013, the Massachusetts Supreme Court had not yet issued a ruling in the case.
QUESTIONS 1. In Act II of The Power of Duff, Channel 10 airs a story about people who are protesting Charlie’s act of praying on-air. Charlie responds by commenting, “if there weren’t people shouting, we’d be in deep trouble.” What does he mean? 2. Research other instances of controversy surrounding displays of religious material or statements in public settings such as schools and government buildings. Did anyone challenge these materials? On what grounds? What arguments do the display’s defenders use? 3. Research your school’s and local government’s history of decorating for the holidays, and describe the approach they take. Do they emphasize one religion’s holidays? Do they try to be inclusive by including items that represent many different religions? Or do they use general nondenominational
decorations and holiday messages? Have there ever been objections to faith-related displays in your community? How do you feel about faith based displays? 4. Justices of the Supreme Court have developed the following list of considerations for cases dealing with the constitutionality of religious displays in public settings: • • • •
Secular purpose; was there religious motive? Endorsement; do they show government neutrality toward religion? Coercion; do they place impermissible pressure, such as school prayer? Historical practice; are they part of the “fabric of our society,” such as legislative prayer?
Apply these tests to Charlie’s prayers on the Channel 10 news broadcasts. If the network were considered the “government” of the broadcast, would Charlie’s prayers violate the Establishment Clause? 5. How would you feel if the events depicted in The Power of Duff happened in real life and an anchor on your local news began praying on the air? Explain why you would support or oppose this action.
Statistics on Faith in America The Pew Research Center’s Religion and Public Life Project published a 2008 report that included the following findings about faith in America: • 92% of Americans believe in some sort of God or universal spirit. This group includes the 60% of Americans who believe that God is a person with whom they can develop a relationship; 25% see God as an impersonal force, and 7% don’t know or aren’t sure. • 56% say that religion is very important in their lives. • 28% of American adults have left the faith in which they were raised. • 78.4% of adults identify themselves as Christian, a category that includes Catholics, various Protestant denominations, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Orthodox, and other Christians. • 16.1% of people say they are not affiliated with any particular religion—the number increases to 25% in the 18-29 age group. One quarter of unaffiliated adults consider themselves atheist or agnostic (1.6% and 2.4% of the overall adult population), while the rest are evenly divided between secular unaffiliated and religious unaffiliated. • 4.7% of the adult population belongs to other religions, including Judaism (1.7%), Buddhism (0.7%), Islam (0.6%), Hinduism (0.4%), or other world religions and faiths (1.3%). • 51% of adults are members of Protestant churches, a highly diverse group that includes evangelical, mainline Protestant, and historically black Protestant churches. • 31% were raised in the Catholic faith, but only 24% currently describe themselves as Catholic. Roughly 10% of all Americans are former Catholics.
• 1.7% of the adult population identifies as Jewish, mostly identifying with Reform, Conservative, or Orthodox Judaism. • 70% of Americans who are affiliated with a particular religion also believe that many religions can lead to eternal life. 68% also believe that there is more than one way to interpret the teachings of their religion. • Of those who are not affiliated with any particular religion, 41% still say that religion is at least somewhat important in their lives, 70% say they believe in God, and 27% say they attend religious services at least a few times a year. • Among American adults who are married, 37% are married to someone with a different religious affiliation than their own.
QUESTIONS 1. The Pew Research Center study’s findings that the majority of Americans believe that multiple religions can lead to eternal life and that each religion’s teachings can be interpreted in more than one way, indicating that Americans are relatively non-dogmatic about their beliefs. Consider the Rochester community’s reactions to Charlie’s prayers. On what grounds do Charlie’s supporters and detractors base their arguments? 2. Research religion in your own community. What faiths do your family, friends, and neighbors identify with? What houses of worship are located in your hometown? Do any of the institutions in your community, such as hospitals or schools, have religious affiliations? How important is religion in your daily life? What roles do religious groups play in your community?
Finding Connection and Community via Technology Spotlight lasered on Charlie. When he speaks, the video for the first time projects his live image across the entire set so that we now see him in intense close-up. As Charlie starts, the play’s other characters arrive on stage and, one-by-one, look up to listen—Lisa and Ricky most prominently. It is as if time has stopped as an entire community watches and listens . . . As the giant video image of Charlie FREEZES . . . as do the characters who have been watching the screen . . . and from the utter stillness Charlie now stands and leaves the studio—making his way toward the others—who now form a line, their backs to us. As Charlie reaches them, he too turns, and together they regard his frozen image—all of them standing and watching his giant image—along with the rest of the world . . . In this image, which closes Act I of The Power of Duff, Charlie’s prayer on a television news broadcast serves as a common bond among the characters that are separated by geography and the walls of their homes, but united by the television signal that reaches into each of their living rooms. Before long, members of the community reach back, as viewers with connections to hardships send prayer requests via Twitter and others post video clips of the prayers to YouTube. Even those who object to Charlie’s prayers use technology to communicate their message by leveraging local media attention to get the station to broadcast their protests. John, Channel 10’s sportscaster, quickly notices that the
prayers are creating a real sense of community in Rochester, a feeling that goes deeper than the 140 characters Twitter allows. “People are feeling united, man,” he recounts. “And it’s not like Facebook where it’s like, ‘Oh hey Billy, it’s sunny here in China.’ It’s more like, ‘Hey, my brother, you are my fellow human being and I love you and that’s what gives my life a little meaning’” (Act I). It is easy to see why technology plays such a significant role in discourse around Charlie’s revised broadcast send-off line. Television, and particularly television news, has been a major technological tool for communicating information and influencing public opinion since the 1950s. In 1953, 50% of American homes had a television, a number that global media research firm Nielsen reported grew steadily to a high of 98.9% in 2009. In 2011, however, Nielsen found that the percentage of American households with a television dropped for the first time to 96.7%. Nielsen cited two major reasons for the decline: poverty (some low-income households can no longer afford television sets) and the increasing dominance of other technologies such as computers and smart phones. Many young people have grown up with other types of technology are choosing to use internet streaming, websites, and social media for access to news and entertainment. In October 2012, Twitter claimed that its site logged 500 million tweets per day on average and in May 2013, Facebook reported it had grown from a mere 1 million monthly users at the end of 2004 to 1.11 billion users. A 2010 report by Nielsen found the following about daily internet use by American adults: • • • • •
55% of American adults use the internet. 30% of adults use the internet to get the news. 15% use social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. 15% watch videos. The average American also spends more than 60 hours online each month, which totals out to 30 days every year.
How personal and intimate is technology-based connection? Is communication that is not in person automatically impersonal? In The Power of Duff, the connection is deeply felt by many Rochester residents, but Charlie’s ex-wife, Lisa, identifies a challenge. “I saw the one where you prayed for the kidnapped girl to be released,” she says. “It’s by far the most popular. (PAUSE) I was trying to see in your eyes what exactly was going through your mind.” “And?” Charlie asks. “The pixilation wasn’t good enough,” Lisa responds (Act I).
QUESTIONS 1. When Zoellner proposes a reality television show that focuses on Charlie’s broadcast-closing prayers, Charlie resists because he believes that it is wrong to commodify something done out of an honest desire to do good in the world. Zoellner tries to persuade him otherwise by challenging Charlie to “beat them at their own game. Transcend the bullshit and say something real. Make us sit up; so that we listen in a way we didn’t think we could. You have a power. It is effective, it is far-reaching, and it is yours.” What does it mean to “sell out”? If Charlie were to go along with the reality show, is that what he would be doing? How much power do media figures have to influence your views and decisions, whether they communicate via television, Facebook, Twitter, a blog, or some other platform?
2. Peter DuBois, the Huntington Theatre Company’s Artistic Director and the director of The Power of Duff, says that the play reminds him of films such as “As Good As It Gets [and] About a Boy—stories about men who get lost and then something happens in their life that changes them, and they get to reconnect with living again in a way that they never thought they’d be able to.” Watch these films to learn about the characters of Will Freeman (About a Boy) and Melvin Udall (As Good As It Gets). How are they similar to Charlie Duff? What life circumstances do they have in common? How do Will and Melvin manage to reconnect with living? In The Power of Duff, what unique role does being on television play in helping Charlie reconnect with living? 3. In September 2013, NBC’s morning news program, Today, added a new digitally-based feature called the Orange Room. According to a September 12, 2013 article on Today.com, the Orange Room is “a space that connects the show and the audience like never before . . . [It] will allow viewers to weigh in and influence show segments and give them unprecedented access” to the show’s anchors, hosts, and guests. What do you think motivated NBC News and the producers of Today to add the Orange Room to the program? 4. How do you use technology to stay connected to friends, family, and what’s happing in your community? Do you use one platform (Facebook, Twitter, text message, Face Time, Skype, etc.) more than others to communicate with particular people in your life? What are the benefits and limitations to each method? How does the use of technology-based communication impact in-person communication? When you watch a locally or nationally broadcast event or television program, do you feel connected to others who are watching? Why or why not?
Suggestions for Further Reading and Viewing Plays by Stephen Belber Tape (2000) The Laramie Project (2001—with Tectonic Theatre Project) Match (2004) Carol Mulroney (2005) The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later (2009—with Tectonic Theatre Project) Film and Television Citizen Kane (1941) All the Presidents Men (1976) Network (1976) Broadcast News (1987) Shattered Glass (2003) Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004) Goodnight and Good Luck (2005) “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (CBS) “The Newsroom” (HBO) “NewsRadio” (NBC)
Acting—Scene Study and Character Analysis Select and perform a scene from The Power of Duff. PART I: Begin preparations to perform the scene by completing the following questions: • What are the given circumstances (5 W’s) of this scene? • What is the scene’s primary conflict? • Objectives: What does my character want in this scene? What does my character want in the play overall? • Tactics: What is my character doing to get what he or she wants? • Obstacles: What or who is standing in the way of my character’s efforts to achieve his or her objective? • Stakes: What is at risk for my character? What is the best thing that could happen if my character achieves his or her objective? What is the worst thing that could happen if he or she fails? • What adjectives describe my character’s personality? Are there any contradictions? • What statements does my character make about him or herself? What do others say about my character? • Describe the status of each character in the scene. Does anyone have power over someone else? PART II: Create a biographical sketch of your character by answering the following in first person from the character’s perspective: • Full name and date of birth. • Where did you grow up? Where do you live now? • Do you have any siblings? • Describe your relationship with your parents. • How did your childhood influence who you are today? • When you were young, what were your dreams and aspirations? Have these dreams changed over time? If so, how and why? • Do you have any secrets? If so, what are they? • What is your best quality? What is your worst quality? • Describe your sense of humor. • Do you have any hobbies? If so, what are they? Why do you enjoy them? • List your favorites: Food, color, music, season.
PART III: Put the scene on its feet. How can you use stage pictures to communicate the story of the scene? Consider: • Composition of the onstage images. • The rhythms of the actors’ movement around the stage. • The pacing of the dialogue. • How the actors’ body language and vocal expression reflects the information examined in Parts I and II.
Classroom/School-wide News Broadcast Use the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism (journalism.org) to investigate the nature and purposes of the media, then create your own live newscast in your classroom, and if possible, for school-wide airing. Show students an airing of a live local newscast and discuss: • What vocal qualities do the anchors and reporters use? • What kind of information is provided in different types of stories? • How is the camera used to tell the story visually? How does the footage combine with the re porter’s recorded narration and live reporting? • How much of the broadcast is scripted and how much is impromptu? • How formal or informal is the language used in scripted segments? • What is the difference in the approach to broadcasting the stories of the day versus longer-term investigative pieces? Divide students into teams to produce segments on topics such as: • Important school announcements and news • Local current events • Performing Arts presentations (by students and by community and professional groups per forming locally) • Sports teams (high school, college, and professional) • Opinion polls regarding school lunch, dress codes, standardized testing, pop culture, etc.
Scenic Design—Projections For The Power of Duff, the Huntington Theatre Company included a Projection Designer on the design team to create the images from the news broadcast to be seen on projection screens onstage depicting the Rochester news broadcasts for the theatre audience, as well. Projections have also been used in other theatrical works to create the entire environment on stage or to provide historical and other contextual information for what is happening in the play from moment to moment.
Use Microsoft PowerPoint or another slideshow computer program to create a projection design for one or more scenes from The Power of Duff. • If you are creating projections to serve as the environment, approach this work from scenic design perspective.
• What is the setting of the scene?
• Who does this space belong to? Who spends time there and how do they treat their environment?
• How old or new is the room?
• What colors evoke the mood of the scene?
• If you are creating projections for the purpose of visually providing historical context moment to moment in the scene, approach this work from a dramaturgical perspective.
• What historical or cultural references does the dialogue contain?
• What is the history of the scene’s setting and its cultural significance?
• What offstage events are referenced that could be shown in the projections?
• What information would draw the audience further into the world of the play?
Identify moments in the script when different images should appear during the scene and
create a slideshow of images. Play the slide show as others read the scene out loud.
Letter Writing Imagine you are Charlie Duff’s deceased father. Write a letter to Charlie giving him advice on how to reconnect with Ricky. Consider the following questions in your letter: • What went wrong in your own relationship with Charlie? • How do you feel about Charlie, even though you did not see him often in the last few years before you died? • How do you feel about Lisa and Ricky? • Why do you think Ricky is so resentful of Charlie? • Why do you think Charlie behaved as he did? How can Charlie learn from his past mistakes? • What regrets, if any, do you have about how you parented Charlie? • What do you want for Charlie more than anything else? Be sure to use specific evidence from the play to inform your writing.