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TABLE OF CONTENTS Standards 3 Guidelines for Attending the Theatre 4 Artists 5 Themes for Writing & Discussion 7 Mastery Assessment 9 For Further Exploration 10 Suggested Activities 13
ÂŠ Huntington Theatre Company Boston, MA 02115 May 2014 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 This curriculum guide was prepared for the Huntington Theatre Company by: Marisa Jones | Education Consultant with contributions by: Donna Glick | Director of Education Katelyn Diekhaus | Education Intern Alexandra Truppi | Manager for Curriculum & Instruction 2
Smart People Curriculum Guide
COMMON CORE STANDARDS IN ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS 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.
Reading Literature: Key Ideas and Details 3 • 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).
Reading Literature: Craft and Structure 5 • 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.
Reading Literature: Craft and Structure 6 • 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: Integration of Knowledge and Ideas 7 • 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).
Smart People Curriculum Guide
MASSACHUSETTS STANDARDS IN THEATRE Acting • 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).
Reading and Writing Scripts • 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).
Technical Theatre • 4.13 — Conduct research to inform the design of sets, costumes, sound, and lighting for a dramatic production (Grades 9-12).
Connections • 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). • 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’s behavior and reactions will affect the actors’ performances. No two audiences are exactly the same, and therefore 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.
Smart People Curriculum Guide
• 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, gum, and drinks 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.
Lydia R. Diamond
A Diamond in the Rough: The Making of an American Playwright Lydia R. Diamond was born in Detroit on April 14, 1969, two years after riots engulfed the city and exposed deep racial tensions and inequality. She was born to an African-American family, but one that had fared better than many other disadvantaged families in the African-American community. Her grandfather was an accomplished musician and teacher who served as principal of a predominantly white school. Her grandmother was also an accomplished musician and teacher with an advanced degree. Her mother, a pianist and flutist, came to manage a fine arts center at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. These key family members served as important role models and gave Diamond the confidence to pursue her interests. Diamond was not herself a musician — at the age of 12 she was more interested in acting out the novel she had written with her Barbie dolls than pursuing the violin. But she nonetheless shared her family’s interest in the arts and education. After high school, Diamond was accepted into the acting program at Northwestern University in Chicago. There she took a playwriting course taught by the only African-American
professor on campus, and shortly after switched her major to performance studies in order to expand her focus beyond acting to include playwriting and other aspects of performance art. After graduation, Diamond stayed in Chicago, a city well-known for its vibrant theatre scene and community of independent artists. She founded Another Small Black Theatre Company with Good Things to Say and A Lot of Nerve Productions. To make ends meet financially, she worked as a cook and waited tables, but still made time to perform in the restaurant’s basement. Diamond was writing, acting, and making theatre in every way she could, but her focus eventually and perhaps inevitably narrowed. Diamond became a resident writer with Chicago Dramatists and ultimately defined herself exclusively as a playwright. During an interview with the Ma’at Production Association of Afrikan Centered Theater she remarked, “My experiences as an actor helped me understand that I am truly a playwright, that writing the plays made me feel empowered in a way that acting never did.” With this realization followed a period of difficulty. She worked whatever temp jobs she could find to keep herself afloat Smart People Curriculum Guide
while making time for writing. Her first production that was not self-produced was supported by MPAACT, a black theatre company in Chicago. The Inside, which was hailed as a “piercing take on race, academia, art and sexuality,” caught the attention of the greater Chicago theatre scene. Her big break came when Chicago’s Goodman Theatre produced her play The Gift Horse. She had been discovered. Martha Lavey, artistic director of the prestigious Steppenwolf Theatre Company, along with its director of new play development, Edward Sobel, commissioned Diamond to write Voyeurs de Venus following the success of The Gift Horse. This piece depicted the exploitation of a 19th century South African woman kidnapped and taken to America. Steppenwolf also commissioned Diamond to write an adaptation of Toni Morrison’s critically acclaimed novel, The Bluest Eye. Diamond eventually moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts with her husband, John Diamond, a sociologist and former professor at Harvard University. She is a Huntington Playwriting Fellow and was a professor at Boston University. Her play, Harriet Jacobs, based on Jacobs’s autobiography Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, was commissioned by Steppenwolf Theatre and performed at Central Square Theater in Cambridge in 2010. Much of Diamond’s work deals with the complex concerns of upper-class African-Americans, particularly in the professional and academic circles in which she is intimately involved. But her work also draws from some of her earliest and most painful experiences. She writes: “It’s very simple. The Bluest Eye is the story of a little African-American girl and her family who are affected in every
direction by the dominant American culture that says to them, You’re not beautiful; you’re not relevant; you’re invisible; you don’t even count. That is what is painful in the novel — the way in which our country has dealt with race, the way in which the power structure has hurt us, AND the way in which it has made us hurt ourselves. Often enough, we African-Americans don’t get the opportunity to say, This is the source of my dysfunction, and it’s not all my fault. To be shown that when you are young is painful, horrible. On the other hand, it is very affirming to have all these things made very clear and relevant; things that I knew were sick and wrong, things that touched me in these intangible ways, all made clear just by having the lives of people like me represented in literature.” Diamond continues to explore the issues closest to her heart through her remarkable playwriting career. Her latest triumph, Smart People, is no exception.
Questions: • Which character or characters in Smart People, if any, do you think Diamond modeled after herself and her own personal experiences? • Diamond’s high school English teacher gave her a copy of Beloved by Toni Morrison which she said “went over my head.” Discuss how this gift and mentoring may have set the stage for Diamond’s playwriting career. • Why is it important not only to discuss the plight of poor African-Americans in today’s society, but the difficulties facing people of color in all socio-economic strata?
Smart People Curriculum Guide
Wendell W. Wright, Nikkole Salter, and Jason Dirden in the Huntington Theatre Company’s Stick Fly (2010)
THEMES FOR WRITING AND DISCUSSION Pride and Prejudice All of the characters in Smart People have a great deal of pride. Brian and Ginny are proud of their scholarship; Jackson is proud of his medical career; Valerie is proud of her acting. They also seem proud, in a way, of their perspective on race and gender issues. They have devoted their lives to challenging stereotypes and making others aware of the injustices that minorities and women face. As a result of these experiences, they seem comfortable making light of stereotypes, or confronting stereotypes headon, whereas others might tiptoe around them. For example, after telling an off-color joke about Asian-Americans, Brian says: “My politics are such that I can make that joke.” Yet some of the characters’ comments could be construed as prejudicial, regardless of their source. This uneasy connection between pride and prejudice challenges playgoers to consider whether so-called “political correctness” helps or hurts our society’s pursuit of equality and decency. A recent event in popular culture brought attention to this very issue: Stephen Colbert, a popular TV personality who often uses satire to fight against bigotry, was accused of stepping over the line when a twitter account operated by his TV network (but not controlled by him personally) posted a derogatory and insensitive comment about Asian-Americans. The comment was tweeted after a show in which Colbert had lampooned Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder’s attempt to smooth over grievances about his team’s name by making charitable donations to NativeAmerican organizations. The tweet read: “I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong DingDong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.” Many people were deeply offended by this joke, which, although perhaps intended to satirize racial insensitivity, was itself viewed by many as insensitive. Of course it is Colbert’s job to satirize and parody controversial topics trending in the mainstream media, even if it might make people uncomfortable. In Smart People, it is Brian’s and Ginny’s job to pursue their research and scholarship on racial issues, even if their findings might be controversial. Their professional status gives them increased freedom to challenge conventional notions of what is “politically correct.” But as Brian discovers in the play, and as Colbert’s real-life experience reminds us, gray areas remain with respect to what lines they or any person, advocate or not, can cross, regardless of good intentions.
Questions: • Do you believe that being of a particular race or gender, or devoting your life to race and gender issues, should give you more license to joke or speak openly about stereotypes? Is the average person too sensitive about such matters — or not sensitive enough?
Stephen Colbert, The Colbert Report
• During the 2014 NFL playoffs, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman was labeled a “thug” in the media following a post-game interview on the field. Many critics, including Sherman himself, objected to this word choice on the grounds that the word was “racially coded.” What is racially coded language? What social, historical, and political factors contribute to the racial coding of language? What does Valerie mean in Smart People when she recounts how white employers seem afraid that she will “give the key to [her] thuggish boyfriend”?
Academic Freedom “Look baby, you just have to look at everyone like they’re under a microscope. Like ants. Figure out the patterns.” - Stick Fly by Lydia R. Diamond Most colleges and universities in North America have adopted a “tenure system” in an attempt to provide a safe haven within their institutions for professors and researchers who want to explore subjects that are unpopular, controversial, or mainstream. Achieving tenured status is very difficult. The individual must develop a body of published work and must demonstrate a wide range of talents, including fundraising ability, academic strength, and researching skills, and administrative and teaching abilities. To make the situation even more challenging, there are few tenure-track positions open at any given time and a limit of the term (typically seven years) during which a professor can be under review or at what is considered the “junior level.” And just because a professor checks all of the appropriate boxes during his or her time on the tenure track, it does not guarantee the position. The irony, of course, is that while pursuing tenured status, junior professors must conform to all of the established principles and methods in their respective fields, and do their best to avoid controversy — in the hope that, at some point in their future career, they will no longer be under this pressure or have to “toe the party line.” The spirit of this professional academic system — protecting great minds in their pursuit of knowledge and solutions to problems, no matter however uncomfortable the results — is a noble one. Allowing professors and researchers to speak out against authority
Smart People Curriculum Guide
ensures that the best and brightest do not fall the way of Galileo, persecuted for speaking an unpopular truth; however, there are some unintended and unfortunate consequences of protecting a favored few. One is the plight of adjunct professors who receive low wages, limited benefits, and no job security. Another is that hiring inequities, including the underrepresentation of women on college faculties, tend to persist much longer than they otherwise would or should. In the play, Brian loses his job as a tenured Harvard professor after publishing research that suggests white people are “programmed to distrust and fear those with more melanin.” He accuses other scientists of deliberately avoiding such research out of concern that “big moneyed donors and government interests” would “pull [their] resources” in response to any controversy. In contrast, Brian believes that a scientist’s job is to “ask the hard questions in pursuit of the hard answers,” even if controversial, and thereby “bear the burden of enlightenment and reason.”
Questions: • Do you think it’s fair that Brian lost his job as a result of his research? Should tenured professors be free to say whatever they want, or should there be a limit? What about young professors who have not yet earned tenure? When should a university be able to punish or fire a professor in order to protect its reputation or its values? Do you feel the same way about middle or high schools and their teachers? • What do you think Lydia R. Diamond’s reaction would be to Brian’s research (outside of her fictional world)? What point might she be trying to make with her play’s conclusion?
Privilege “He asked me where I went to school, and when I said undergrad Cornell, Masters and first doctorate Princeton, and second doctorate Harvard, he said . . . no, no. High School.” - Brian Smart People is about just that — smart people; people who are in positions, as a result of family financial support, education, or their own innate abilities, which allow them a certain level of freedom to pursue their interests and passions. Their lives are not about providing for their families or simply getting a meal on the table. They are proud of how they use using their intellect not just for their own survival but also to improve the lives of others. For Brian, Ginny, and Jackson, they’ve made careers out of researching and working with the disadvantaged and underserved populations around them. While these choices are outwardly noble, these characters could also be construed as self-serving. After all, Ginny is able to fuel a large shopping habit on a professor’s salary. 8
Smart People Curriculum Guide
Nikkole Salter, Jason Dirden, Billy Eugene Jones, and Rosie Benton in the Huntington Theatre Company’s Stick Fly (2010)
Jackson delivers a counter-point: “Isn’t what makes us human supposed to be our ability to subvert our impulses, our genetically driven impulses?” He believes that even if Brian is “right,” his research will not benefit society in any significant way. It is an accepted cultural norm that a person’s “animal instincts” are not an excuse for inappropriate behavior and must be suppressed. In Jackson’s view, Brian is putting his career on the line for an idea that adds little value to the conversation or any hope for affecting real change in the face of racial inequality.
From her clients’ or patients’ perspectives, she might not really understand what life is like for the people she researches and counsels. Jackson is unsuccessful in a more traditional hospital setting, so he could be hiding behind the lofty notion of “helping people” as way to legitimize his failures as a medical resident. Meanwhile, Valerie thinks that, as a white man employed by Harvard, Brian is rather ill-suited to advocate for racial equality. “You think it’s hard studying black?” she says, “Try being black.” Valerie is in a slightly different position than the other characters. She is pursuing an acting career, which means she also has to clean houses and pick up odd jobs to afford to live. Jackson disapproves of her doing so and implies that she should be above such work with her particular education and background. The fact that her parents could, seemingly quite easily, help her out during tough financial times makes her struggle seem more like a choice than a necessity. The characters in Smart People are the cultural elite. Their natural talents and intelligence coupled with their exemplary educational backgrounds give them a privileged status in society, regardless of their race or family heritage. Diamond’s play explores the issues that are unique to people of color in the upper class and the struggles that they must inevitably face, privileged as they may be.
Questions: • Who do you think is the most privileged character in this play? Why? • How do the characters use their privilege to the benefit of themselves? • Are any of the characters modeled after Lydia R. Diamond? Do you think she drew on her own experiences to write this play, or is it entirely a piece of fiction?
MASTERY ASSESSMENT Scene 1 1. What does the audience see at the beginning of the play, before Valerie takes the stage? 2. What is the profession of each of the main characters (Valerie, Jackson, Ginny, and Brian)? 3. Describe the conflict that each character faces during the first scene.
Scene 2 4. What does Valerie request from her mother? What is her mother’s reaction?
Scene 3 5. How do Ginny and Brian meet? Does Brian like Ginny? How can you tell?
Scene 4 6. Why is Valerie at the hospital? Who attends to her? 7. How many stitches does Valerie need? 8. What medical advice does Jackson give to Valerie?
Scene 5 9. Why is Brian in trouble with the Dean of the college? 10. What point is Ginny trying to make to her client?
Scene 6 11. From the phone conversation between Valerie and the reporter, what can you infer about the purpose of the interview and the main point of the future article?
Scene 7 12. Why does Ginny visit Jackson’s clinic? What is Jackson’s response to her request?
Scene 8 13. How is Valerie helping Brian? What happens that disrupts their work?
Scene 9 14. From her brief monologue, what can you infer about Ginny’s shopping habits?
Scene 10 15. What news does Jackson share with his mother?
Scene 11 16. After Ginny’s second visit, what does Jackson do with her proposal?
Scene 12 17. Why does Brian call Ginny? What does Ginny want to talk about? 18. Why does Valerie call Jackson? What happens when she calls him back a second time?
Scene 13 19. Why does Brian believe his workplace environment is shifting?
Scene 14 20. For whom does Ginny mistake Valerie?
Scene 15 21. Describe Brian’s theory of racism. Why is it upsetting to his superiors?
Scene 16 22. How does Jackson feel about Brian’s research findings? 23. Who wins the basketball games between Jackson and Brian?
Scene 17 24. Why is Ginny arguing with the sales clerk? What is the outcome?
Scene 18 25. Why does Valerie struggle during her next audition?
Scene 19 26. How does Jackson respond when Ginny comes to his clinic again?
Scene 20 27. How did Jackson claim to “test” Valerie on their first date?
Valerie’s means of paying rent?
Scene 21 31. What images are being projected in Brian’s lab?
Scene 22 32. Why does Jackson finally agree to Ginny’s proposal? What does she have to promise?
Scene 23 33. Valerie asks if Brian offers gifts to research participants and he replies that it isn’t allowed. Why do you think that is? 34. Who is Valerie supporting in the presidential election? Does Brian think this candidate can win? 35. What anecdotal observation does Valerie make about canvassers?
Scene 24 36. Where does Jackson go in an attempt to win Valerie back? Does he succeed?
Scene 25 37. What problem does Ginny have, according to Brian? 38. What famous award has Ginny received?
Scene 26 39. For which part is Valerie trying out? For which other part does she offer to try out?
Scene 27 40. Why is Ginny calling customer service? What is the outcome of her call?
Scene 28 41. What “sickness” does Jackson’s brother have? What does Jackson warn him not to do?
28. Why is Brian unhappy with his undergraduate student?
42. Who does Brian try to put together on a “blind date”?
29. What troubles did Valerie have during high school?
43. How does the “date” end?
30. Why is Jackson disappointed by
Scene 30 Smart People Curriculum Guide
Larry Summers, Harvard President
John D. MacArthur, philanthropist
Toni Morrison, author
FOR FURTHER EXPLORATION Larry Summers At an academic conference in early 2005, Harvard’s President Larry Summers suggested “there are issues of intrinsic aptitude” that may explain why women are underrepresented in science and engineering faculties at top universities, and that these issues may be “reinforced by what are in fact lesser factors involving socialization and continuing discrimination.” These comments, which Summers called an “attempt at provocation,” did indeed provoke a public outcry, including accusations of sexism and intellectual sloppiness. After repeatedly apologizing for the comments, Summers eventually resigned from the Harvard presidency in early 2006. Some believe that the comments prevented Summers from being appointed Treasury Secretary or Federal Reserve Chairman under President Obama. Summers defenders, however, insist he is a champion of women’s rights and that his interest in these issues is a reflection of his concern for equality in academia and his commitment to addressing and identifying the causes of disparity, whatever they might be.
Questions: • Compare the Summers incident to what happens to Brian in the play. Do you think Lydia R. Diamond (whose husband was a Harvard professor) based Brian’s story, in part, on the Summers incident? Whose ideas are more provocative? What would Brian’s defenders say about him?
Genius Grants Ginny received a “Genius Grant,” which is a colloquial term for the MacArthur Fellowship, a prize awarded each year to approximately 20 to 40 Americans who “show exceptional merit and promise for continued and enhanced creative work” in any field. The selection process is highly competitive. In fact, the general public is not allowed to apply or submit nominations for the unrestricted award — a grant of $625,000. Instead, the committee at the MacArthur Foundation asks leading figures in their respective fields to 10
Smart People Curriculum Guide
nominate the best and the brightest with whom they’ve worked. This award is NOT given out based on past accomplishments, but rather is given to individuals who possess unusual creativity and future project ideas. The foundation was started to “[support] creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world.” However, there is no monitoring of grant recipients and no expectations that an individual’s goals will be realized. This flexibility ensures that the recipient will have complete freedom to follow his or her “genius” wherever it might lead. Brian admits that he envies Ginny’s award, but Ginny believes that it changed her life for the worse. “Praise is insidious and seductive,” she says. There are many examples, however, of MacArthur Fellows who achieved great things with the support of the fellowship program.
Questions: • Research the history of the MacArthur Fellowship. Find examples of award winners from different fields who used their “Genius Grant” as a springboard to even greater success. • If you were given a “Genius Grant” what would you do with it? What societal problems would you like to see fixed and what plan do you have for fixing them?
Toni Morrison Before writing Smart People, Lydia R. Diamond gained national acclaim when she adapted Toni Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eye for the stage. Morrison is widely regarded as one of the greatest living American writers and, like Diamond, is an AfricanAmerican woman. The Bluest Eye was her first novel and told the heartbreaking story of an abused young black girl who wished she could have blue eyes and white skin. Morrison went on to write many other critically acclaimed novels, winning the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1977 for her novel Song of Solomon, the Pulitzer Prize in 1988 for her novel Beloved, and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. She is known for her distinctive, spoken-word
Japanese camp trucks, 1942
Woodward Avenue, Detroit, 1952
prose that borders on poetry, for fearlessly confronting issues of race and identity, and for exploring the complex ways in which the past, through both memory and ancestry, haunts the present. Toni Morrison is also active and interested in politics. After the 1998 impeachment of President Bill Clinton, Morrison wrote: “Years ago, in the middle of the Whitewater investigation, one heard the first murmurs: white skin notwithstanding, this is our first black President. Blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children’s lifetime. After all, Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junkfood-loving boy from Arkansas.” Despite her great admiration for Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, she did ultimately endorse Senator Barack Obama in the 2008 election. She would later say that she “deplored” the treatment of Bill Clinton because “like a black on the street” he was not innocent until proven guilty during the impeachment process. But the “murmurs” to which she refers may be at the core of Brian’s inability in Smart People to believe that Barack Obama could have any shot at claiming the presidency. For many Obama supporters, the dream of a black president seemed like an impossible one until the day it was finally realized.
Questions: • Research (or, better yet, read!) Morrison’s work and consider whether it may have influenced Smart People. Does the play address feelings of inferiority or superiority similar to those addressed in The Bluest Eye?
Japanese Internment Ginny is a psychology professor who studies race and identity among Asian-American women. She believes “there are some issues in some Asian populations around self-esteem and expectations” and tries, through her work, to “give people a better set of tools for navigating” such issues, rather than “railing against the system that created the circumstances,” including, in particular, the infamous example of Japanese internment. During World War II, the U.S. government forced more than 100,000 Americans of Japanese descent, most of them U.S. citizens, into internment camps after Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor. The Supreme Court upheld the internment in the case of
Barack Obama at Harvard Law School, 1989
Korematsu v. United States, ruling that the government’s interest in preventing espionage overrode the rights and freedoms of the Japanese-Americans who were forced into the camps. Many years later, the United States finally admitted that the internment was discriminatory and unjustified. Monetary reparations were paid to the victims and their families.
Questions: • What is the legacy of the internment of Japanese-Americans? How do you think it affects Asian-Americans’ lives today? • When else in history has a government authorized the detention of an ethnic or religious group within its borders? In these instances, what stated goal or objective did the government claim internment would help achieve? • Do you believe the United States government could engage in this type of unconstitutional practice and that the courts would once again support it? Why or why not?
Detroit, Michigan Few cities in America have suffered as much turmoil as the largest city in Michigan. In July 2013, Detroit was declared bankrupt — the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. Followed shortly thereafter by the conviction of former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick on two dozen charges including extortion, bribery and racketeering, 2013 was a very difficult year for the people of Detroit. Along with economic woes due to a decline in manufacturing jobs (and the resulting population decline) and a political scandal that worsened the city’s financial crisis, there is an ongoing racial tension that further complicates city planning and recovery. The famous street known as 8-Mile is a symbolic marker between the devastated city and its more affluent suburbs. It is also a racial dividing line — the population of the city of Detroit is nearly 83% black. After rioting in 1967, whites moved out of the city in record number. The greater Detroit area is now considered one of the most heavily segregated metro areas in the nation. Racial hostility exists as a result of the city’s decline — the workers of Detroit built up the suburbs, but the suburbs have done little to help the city where nearly 80,000 buildings sit abandoned. And even as the city’s new mayor and voters approve funding to save the zoo and other cultural centers, the historical legacy of racial inequality hinders the city’s forward movement. But all residents of the Detroit area agree: Everyone wants this once-great American city to bounce back. Smart People Curriculum Guide
Questions: • Lydia R. Diamond, despite having moved frequently as a child before settling in Massachusetts, is sometimes referred to as a “Detroit native.” How might her connection to this city and her own experiences inform her ideas about race and inequality in present-day America? • What strategies are being used to try to attract people and businesses to relocate to Detroit? What specific opportunities exist there for people in the arts?
Harvard University All of the characters in Smart People have some affiliation with Harvard University, which is one of the most prestigious universities in the world. Brian and Ginny both work for Harvard; Jackson is a current medical student; and Valerie is a recent graduate of the American Repertory Theater’s acting institute, supported by the university. Throughout the play, the university and its prestige seem to have a gravitational effect on the characters and their sense of self. Harvard University was founded by the Massachusetts state legislature in 1636 and was named after its first financial sponsor, John Harvard. It was the first university founded in the United States and is part of the Ivy League. With the largest endowment in the world totaling over $30 billion, Harvard boasts a unique reputation amongst academic institutions. It also claims the most competitive and rigorous admission process in the country with
roughly 35,000 high school seniors applying for just over 2,000 spots (5.8% acceptance rate). Harvard is the subject of countless books and films, and boasts such notable alums as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts and President Barack Obama (one of eight Presidents with Harvard on their resume), and even notable dropouts such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg (both of whom left the university to become entrepreneurs). The university offers programs in a wide range of academic disciplines, and includes an undergraduate college with 46 majors to choose from as well as graduate schools in medicine, divinity, law, dental medicine, arts and sciences, business, design, education, public health, government, engineering, and applied sciences. In its current form it is hard to imagine that this school was founded initially to train young men interested in joining the clergy. Diamond’s play Smart People will not be the final time Harvard makes an appearance in a work of art and as many of its graduates go on to change governmental policy, and make scientific and artistic breakthroughs and medical advancements, the university’s long legacy will continue.
Questions: • Why do you think Lydia R. Diamond chose Harvard University as the backdrop for her play? • Would you be interested in attending an Ivy League school? Do you think Harvard is the “best” place to go to college? Why or why not?
Suggestions for Further Reading To broaden your familiarity with Lydia R. Diamond and the world of her play, Smart People, please consider the following list of further reading. Some of these texts were also used in research for this guide. ALONSO, KAREN. Korematsu v. United States: Japanese-American Internment Camps. Enslow Publishers, 1998. BENSON, APRIL. To Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Over Shop and How to Stop. Trumpeter, 2008. BRADLEY, RICHARD. Harvard Rules: Lawrence Summers and the Battle for the World’s Most Powerful University. Harper Perennial, 2005. DIAMOND, LYDIA R., Stick Fly: A Play. Northwestern University Press, 2008. DOUTHAT, ROSS G., Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class. Hyperion, 2006. LAGNADO, L. & S. DEKEL. Children of the Flames: Dr. Josef Mengele and the Untold Story of the Twins of Auschwitz. Penguin, 1992. MORRISON, TONI. Beloved. Vintage, 1987. MORRISON, TONI. The Bluest Eye. Vintage, 1970. OBAMA, BARACK. Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. Broadway Books, 2004. SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. Julius Caesar. Dover Thrift Editions. Dover Publications, 1991. SHEM, SAMUEL. The House of God. Berkley Trade: Reissue, 2010.
Smart People Curriculum Guide
SUGGESTED ACTIVITIES The Back Story: Exploring Characterization Men at some time are masters of their fates: The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings. - Cassius, Act I, Scene ii (Julius Caesar) Choose a character from Smart People to portray in a monologue of your choosing. In order to prepare for the role, consider (but do not feel limited by) the following areas of consideration: 1. Family life and childhood. What information from the play gives insight into what my character’s upbringing was like? Describe the cultural and environmental circumstances. Did I live with both parents and have siblings? What language was spoken in my home? Was I rich or poor? Where did I live? Imagine an important event in your character’s life prior to the time depicted in the play and speculate as to how this event may have influenced your character’s current objectives. 2. Relationships. With whom do I want to be romantically involved? What draws me to this person (or people)? Have I been married or in a serious relationship before? Am I easy to get along with? What contradictions are inherent in my character? What pitfalls might prevent a new relationship from forming? 3. Current Status. Where do I live? In an apartment or a house? Do I have roommates or pets? What is a typical day like for me? Do I call my mother? Do I eat in or eat out? What are my hobbies? Who is my best friend? Do I feel financially comfortable or strapped? 4. The World of the Play. What do I want? What are the obstacles in my way? Does my objective change throughout the course of the play? How, if at all, do I change from the beginning to the end of the play? Am I satisfied by the play’s conclusion? Select a monologue for your character from the play. Choose a moment from the play that you believe is important to your character’s journey. While rehearsing, consider your character’s backstory. How does truly understanding your character change the way you think about his or her lines? Rehearse with a classmate and share your backstories. If you have the same character, how do your backstories differ? Can you both be right? If you have different characters, do you think that it would be helpful for your characters in the world of the play to know this information about each other? Why or why not? If possible, memorize your monologue before sharing it with the class.
The cast of Smart People: Roderick Hill, Eunice Wong, Miranda Craigwell and McKinley Belcher III.
Smart People Curriculum Guide
SUGGESTED ACTIVITIES Project Implicit In Smart People, Brian’s research in the play is similar to the work of Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald, founders of Project Implicit at Harvard University. In 1998, the “Implicit Association Test” was introduced in scientific literature as a means to “detect the strength of a person’s automatic association between mental representations of objects (concepts) in memory.” This testing helps to uncover hidden or subconscious biases — despite research Banaji Greenwald participants’ conscious behavior or attitudes. Brian uses a similar model with Valerie after she agrees to be a research participant. To get a better sense of what this type of study entails, take a test! Visit Project Implicit at Harvard University (implicit.harvard.edu) and participate by completing one of their online assignments. After taking one or more tests, reflect on the following: • What were the researchers trying to study? • Did you find the test easy to take? Were you surprised by your results? Did you learn anything about yourself that you may not have been aware of? Extension: • Have the entire class take the same test and anonymously report their results. Create a graph or chart to visually depict the class’s attitudes.
Defensive Writing Choose one of the following lines from Smart People to use as a jumping-off point for an essay defending that character’s point of view. • BRIAN: Racist is not the worst thing you can call a person. • BRIAN: Our understanding of prejudice has largely been characterized as simple animosity born of fear and ignorance . . . [but] we are programmed to distrust and fear. • JACKSON: Isn’t what makes us human supposed to be our ability to subvert our impulses, our genetically drive impulses? • VALERIE: Seems like you’d rather be ‘something’ than ‘other’. • VALERIE: We’re all ok. We’re all democrats, right? See, we can talk about change.
Local Design The settings in Smart People depict real and imaginary locations in and around the cities of Boston and Cambridge. Create your own scenic designs for Smart People by researching (or better yet, visiting!) places such as Harvard Square and Boston’s Chinatown and Dorchester neighborhoods. Make notes and take photo evidence of elements such as: • Color schemes
• Building entrances
• Architectural features
• Plant life
• Gates, fences, and barriers
Use your research to create sketches of your designs.
Smart People Curriculum Guide
SUGGESTED ACTIVITIES Select a partner and choose three or more words from the list below. Create a scene (no longer than two minutes) in which you can appropriately incorporate the vocabulary you have chosen. Can you use the word so effortlessly that your audience has trouble picking your vocab word out of the dialogue? Creating a script is fine, but not necessary. You could also create a song, spoken-word poem or other performance piece. And as long as you have a rough plan, improvisation will work. If you are unsure of the appropriate definition, look up the word! (You might want to double-check just in case.) Bonus points to the group that can successfully incorporate the most words from the list.
Smart People Curriculum Guide
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Published on May 14, 2014
Published on May 14, 2014
Created by the Huntington's education department to provide guidelines for using SMART PEOPLE by Lydia R. Diamond in school curriculums.