Backstage Badger

Posted by on Apr 13, 2012 in Theatre, Theatre in the Making, Uncategorized | No Comments

I’m pretty late to this party, but the archive at is worth a look for those of you on productions right now. And actors, if you’re wondering why the technicians are getting surlier as the rehearsal goes along, you need look no further to understand what you’re putting them through:


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Example Weekly Check-in Posts

Posted by on Apr 5, 2012 in Theatre | No Comments

7/8 Grade Drama is beginning their production unit, and everyone is responsible for tracking their progress in their design areas. Part of that tracking will take place in your blogs, using the Weekly Check-in entries. These entries should support your Process Portfolio and give me an idea of your personal engagement during the project. Below, I provide two examples of check-in posts: one that is a strong example, and one weak example. Use these for your reference as you develop your own portfolios in the coming weeks.

For these examples, I am going to use a set-design project.

Weekly Check-in: Good Example

This week’s goal:

I need to take my drawings of the set, and create plans for the carpenter so that we can start construction next week.

26 May

Fig. A: Original sketch

  • I began by revising my original sketch (Fig. A) from last week and made a rough draft at 1:100 scale so I could see the exact placement of set pieces.
  • Finished a rough scale sketch (Fig. B)

Fig. B: Scale sketch

28 May

  • Used Vectorworks to begin rendering the final step unit.
  • Could not figure out how to use the “Stair” tool to automatically create steps.
  • Consulted tutorials on for help with some of the tools.

30 May

  • Completed initial Vectorworks rendering of step unit (Fig. C).
  • Exported to PDF and printed to take to the shop for the carpenters to begin construction.

    Fig. C: Final step unit


I was unable to meet the goal I set for myself this week. I have a rendering of the final step unit, but I do not yet have construction plans for the carpenters. Now, they can see how it is supposed to look, but they don’t know how to build it!

Working with Vectorworks was much more difficult than I had expected. I spent far too much time trying to work with the Stair tool, and though the tutorials helped, I never got the result I wanted. Looking back on it, I might have been able to produce the drawings much faster, if I had just completed them by hand. However, I understand the program much better now, and I will probably be able to work faster on future projects.

Goal for Coming Week

I need to complete the construction plans in the first part of the week, so that the carpenters can begin construction. When those plans are complete, I need to begin paint elevations, so that we can see what the final set should look like when it is finished and painted.

Weekly Check-in: Weak Example

This week’s goal

Draw things for set

May 26

  • Drew stairs.

May 28

  • Didn’t work, so I drew them again.

May 30

  • I did my drawings.

I drew this

Drawing is fun. I don’t like my drawing very much. It needs more color.
Goals for Coming Week
Draw better. Or maybe paint.
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4/30: Commedia Performance from i Sebastiani

Posted by on Mar 30, 2012 in IB Daily, Theatre in the World | No Comments

Just in time for our own performance, here’s a useful model for comparison:

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Archival Footage

In preparation for the upcoming TPPPs, here are some long lost videos from our 2010 unit on Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed. Some photos are also available, buried over here somewhere.

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12/13: Annotated Citation Page

Posted by on Dec 13, 2011 in IB Daily, Theatre in the World | No Comments

Budget Wayang Kulit

During today’s puppetry presentations, the subject turned to annotated source lists. First a reminder: your annotated bibliographies are due by Friday in class.

For those of you who still have questions about what that document should look like, check out this example (you’ll need to be logged into your webmail to view it). Be warned this sample is from a paper submitted early in the new curriculum cycle, and it displays some useful mistakes.

Remember the requirements of a source critique. Just like in history class, you need to consider the origin, purpose, values, and limitations of your sources. In dramaturgical research, however, these familiar points have slightly different focus than you find in other subjects.

  • Origin: who wrote this, and why should we take their word? What makes their assertions worthy of our attention?
  • Purpose: Why did the author create this source? To teach? To examine a point of theory? Who was the intended audience? General readership? Students? Practitioners?
  • Values: In what ways does this source help to answer your question? What aspects of the document itself make it especially useful to you?
  • Limitations: What makes you question the validity or usefulness of the source? What did you have to be careful to keep in mind while referring to it?

Unfortunately, the example that I provide above does not address these four points in every case. Each of your sources needs a short paragraph that touches on all four of the items above. This does mean that you also have to research your sources—but then, if you included them in a major project, you’ve certainly done that already… right? Right?

So, what questions do you have? Post in the comments if you have a question about a specific source. You can email me, too, but I think the rest of the group would benefit if the discussion is out in the open.

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Puppets Are Back, says Huffington Post

Posted by on Dec 9, 2011 in IB Daily, Theatre, Theatre in the World | No Comments

Are puppets making a come-back? The Huffington Post is running an article on the reappearance of puppetry in popular culture, citing the new Muppets movie, Broadway shows like War Horse and Hand to God, and—because it’s Huffpo—the recent Fox News blithering over Communist Muppets.

Matt Acheson at Lincoln Center Theater, 08/2011

Matt Acheson demonstrates leg movement on a War Horse

In the midst of all this, they threw in a few brief words from War Horse‘s puppetry associate, Matt Acheson [Hey, I’ve met that guy!], who touched on a point central to our study. As he puts it:

as human beings, we respond to seeing this “tactile and visceral” object, so intricately crafted, yet you still “somehow feel this extremely emotional experience.”


Acheson said a puppet scratching its face simply holds more weight than a human scratching its face. It’s more interesting to watch, he said, though he can’t fully explain why.

I’d like to think about “why”. Even in our own work in class, everyone sat riveted by the simple movements of our paper puppets. Would the reaction have been the same if I had said to a member of class: “walk across the room, stop for some reason halfway across, and then continue.”? What is it about the use of a puppet that makes such a straightforward scene so compelling for the audience?

via Puppets Are Back: The Reemerging Popularity And Relevance Of Inanimate Objects. Found, as usual, throughMary Robinette Kowal‘s Google+ stream.

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Great IPP resource

Posted by on Nov 30, 2011 in Theatre, Theatre in the Making | No Comments

Wrapping your head around IB assessment criteria is never anybody’s idea of a good time. Thanks to Seamus then for finding this excellent article on Triple A Learning‘s blog, which breaks the IPP criteria down in a natural way.

They take the example of a student writing a script for in Independent Project, and walk through the questions to ask and pitfalls to watch out for:

It is not enough to direct a scene/show; act in a play; write a play; design set, costume or lights; stage manage; etc… Students must be able to support their work by understanding the demands of the particular role they have chosen. If a student wants to write a play for their Independent Project, then how have they understood the demands of that area?

Pop over the Triple A to read the full article.

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11/23: Puppet Olympics

Posted by on Nov 24, 2011 in IB Daily, Theatre | No Comments

As the culmination of our intro to puppetry, our intrepid mannequins performed an acrobatic routine. The original requirement was jumping jacks, a cartwheel, a sprint, and a bow. Our second puppet had the handicap of being short one puppeteer, but still managed a pretty strong showing.

And now a reflection opportunity. Looking at the movement of your group’s puppet during this sequence, comment on the points below. Relate your comments to the four elements of puppetry that we discussed (breath, focus, intentional movement, contraction/expansion):

  • At what moments does the motion become fluid, believable, or “true”? What contributes to this?
  • When does the puppet’s movement become forced, impossible, or “false”? How does that happen?

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Victor Karloch and Puppet Horror

Posted by on Nov 24, 2011 in Theatre | No Comments

I am going to continue to let Mary Robinette Kowal teach my puppetry unit for me.

She has just posted a trailer for an amazing, creepy-looking film: The Narrative of Victor Karloch. This is also an interesting follow-up to Rajvi’s question about on-stage horror. Aside from the directing, the color palette, and the sound effects, how does the use of puppetry itself contribute to the mood here?

While we’re on the subject, you know why marionettes are the scariest puppets?

It’s the suspense.

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11/15: Puppet Making

Posted by on Nov 17, 2011 in IB Daily, Theatre in the Making | No Comments

And now, onto puppets.

Those of you who followed my travels over the summer will be completely unsurprised to find Matt Acheson’s collaborative puppet workshop xeroxed into my own course. I’m also lifting liberally from materials graciously provided by Mary Robinette Kowal, whose Twitter feed becomes positively hair-raising when she is constructing puppets.

In Wednesday’s class, we began our own puppet-building project. From long strips of art paper, students rolled up a couple of diminutive puppets for our coming workshop. A bit too diminutive, as it turns out. I intended the puppets to be about a meter tall, but when I got our paper, I forgot to account for the loss of length that came of all that twisting. So we’ve got a bit of a puppet-leprechaun.

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