So you're doing an assignment on Five Women Wearing the Same Dress ...
If you are coming to Five Women Wearing the Same Dress for assignment commitments as well as personal enjoyment, this page might be of help to you. The following points will hopefully assist you in ordering your thoughts and opinions.
Before Seeing the Play
So What is it You Need?
It is important to clarify in your head exactly what it is that you are being asked to do: a review, an analysis of the elements of drama or perhaps a set analysis. Whatever it is, it is important that you identity the specific elements of the production you need to pay close attention to. This way, you will also be able to research effectively before seeing the production.
How much research you do before seeing the production is up to you, however I would suggest that you become acquainted with the general plot outline of the play, who the playwright is. The information provided on this site should be sufficient, however it is also helpful to do a quick net search and have a look at a couple of different productions that have been done and reviews of these productions. This will assist you in better understanding what you are seeing. With Five Women Wearing the Same Dress, less research is needed in the sense that it is set in modern times, and therefore you should be acquainted with the majority of what the character's are talking about.
During the Performance
No doubt you have all had to perform at one stage or another - whether it be a high school musical, classroom performance or perhaps a community theatre production. Therefore you would be aware of the important role an audience plays in a performance. So you can play a big role in making the performance great by not talking, unnecessary movement, obvious disinterest, mobiles etc - but most importantly, by being enthusiastic!
Note taking is often an area of contention. I would encourage you to take either no notes, or minimal notes, because often you miss out on seeing the play - and that's why you've come, to see the play as well as hear it. However, I understand that some people feel the need to take notes to use whilst writing their assignment - and that's fine, after all, we are individuals! If you wish to take notes, I would encourage you to bring a small notebook that won't be distracting to others and try to write in bullet point so that you don't have your eyes off the action for too long.
What to Look For
There are a number of things that go on during the course of a performance and you can't always see it all, but generally, you want to watch the main action. However, if you are say, focusing on the lighting or set design in your assignment, you may wish to spend more time looking at the way in which the set is utilised in comparison to someone who is focusing on the dramatic action, but you do need to keep an eye on what's going on at the same time. It is also useful to keep in mind the other audience members, particularly when preparing to write a review: How are they reacting? Do they seem to be enjoying the experience?
Gauging Audience Response
One of the best ways to gauge audience response is to use your eyes and ears as you're walking out of the theatre. Are people happy? Are they laughing or crying? As they walk past the ushers do they comment on the play? Little things like these can help you to ascertain the general audience response to the performance.
After the Performance
While it's Still Fresh
One of the hardest things I used to find when writing an assignment on a show was by the time I got around to writing it my memory of the performance had faded, and as always when we look back, we get a distorted view. So the following are hints that will help you when you come to actually writing the assignment. Some of these will be more useful than others to you depending on what your assignment is supposed to be about. Of course, these exercises will work best if you do it as soon as you get home or the next day at the latest.
On a piece of paper write down roughly the progression of the story and the result of each major event (eg in the case of The Heidi Chronicles: ... Heidi is protesting for Women in Art, Peter comes and visits her to tell her he's gay. Result: Heidi realises that she will never be with Peter...). This will help you to remember the general plot of the play and hopefully trigger your memory.
On a piece of paper write the emotions that you felt during the performance - even 'hungry' if that's how you felt at the end of the first act - using one line for each emotion. Then, when you think you've got them all there, go back and write next to them the reason you felt that emotion (eg In the case of The Heidi Chronicles: 'sad when Heidi and Scoop danced at Scoop's wedding because you realised that although they love each other they will never be together' or 'hungry at the end of Act One because I hadn't eaten since lunch time'). In situations where you are feeling 'distracting emotions' (eg hungry), think about why you were distracted by them - did this have anything to do with you being 'bored' during that part of the play? Is this significant?
This gives you a reasonably accurate representation of your emotions whilst watching the play. This will help you in formulating questions such as 'Did the performance achieve its emotional intensity for me?' as well as identifying any possible biases of your own.
The Dramatic Elements
On a piece of paper list the elements of drama that, in your opinion, were most often used in the production. Were they used successfully? How were they used? How could they have been used better? ( Note: Dramawise - Haseman, B & O'Toole, J (1991) Dramawise Australia: Rigby Hinemann - is a useful resource when discussing the elements of drama).
Seeing a play is also a good opportunity to go out afterwards for coffee with your friends. Discuss the play - your favourite scenes, your least favourite scenes, general thoughts and opinions and so on. This will also assist in developing a wider view of the play as others may have seen things that you have missed.
For those wanting specific help with writing a review, I suggest that you refer to the 'Writing a Play Review' section of Australian Drama by Judith Gadaloff - Gadaloff, J. (1991) Australian Drama Australia : Jacaranda Press - if you would like to obtain this information, please email the dramaturge.
And remember ... Justify! Justify! Justify! It's not enough to say 'I thought it was really boring' in an essay or review - you need to address why you thought it was boring.