Monday, January 9, 2012

Do Plays Need a Conflict? A Lack Thereof in Ferber and Kaufman's Stage Door

I wrote a brief article about Peak Performance's Stage Door for The Montclarion, but unfortunately they were unable to use it. I might post it as one of my lost articles on here. This piece is not the article. I wrote this essay for my blog and it is actually a lot more detailed than the article I wrote for the paper so I figured I'd post this one to give the play some written recognition.

After A Chorus Line, the next Peak Performance I saw on campus is Stage Door, a play written by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman. I had to see it for classes and actually read it in my "Introduction to Theatrical Medium" class. It is a very enjoyable play, but I have one complaint about it: There doesn't seem to be a conflict.

Stage Door takes place in a 1930s rehearsal club where young actresses live as they try to find work in New York. We follow the storylines of the characters, especially the lead character Terry Randall. Throughout the play we watch her struggle to keep a job and start her career as an actress. She then ends up getting a lead role with her boyfriend's help at the end. I'm happy for her, but that kind of bothers me because of its convenience considering her man, David Kingsley, is an agent who falls in love with her.

The answer to my question seems to be pretty obvious. Of course a play needs a conflict. Without a conflict there would be no story. Though we see Terry resolve her conflict, the play doesn't necessarily keep you at the edge of your seat until it happens. In Arcadia, the characters try to figure out if Lord Byron committed a murder and who the hermit in a painting is. All of the events throughout the play are clues working up to the ending when all is revealed. In Sweeney Todd, Todd's ultimate goal is to kill Judge Turpin for the negative impact he has had on his life. The audience questions whether or not he will succeed. In The Grapes of Wrath, the Joad family must find a way to California and make ends meet during the Depression. Will they finally settle down and find a place to call home or will they continue to bask in uncertainty? In The Rimers of Eldritch, the characters must determine what happened regarding Skelly Manor's death and much like in Arcadia the scenes are clues to find this out. In The Seagull and A Man of No Importance, the focus is more on character development rather than plot. The conflicts are more inwardly based rather than outwardly. Characters struggle with their own inner conflicts and relationships with others. Will they accept themselves and work out their issues or will they hit rock bottom? The one show that resembles Stage Door is A Chorus Line because both display people desperate for jobs on the stage and show you background stories of the performers that people don't normally think about. However, the difference is, in A Chorus Line, the audience doesn't know who Zach will chose for the job until the very end, so it gives them something to look forward to. Are we supposed to look forward to seeing if Terry gets an acting career by the end of the play? I'm sorry, but for some reason, that is boring to me.

These plays I mention have a purpose and a reason for their existence. They have stories to tell and they want the audience to share in the experience and suspense. The audience solves the conflicts with the characters if the characters and audience members have a strong enough connection. Stage Door doesn't give the audience much reason to care about the characters and plot from my perspective.

A play's solid conflict is the core of a story. Everything that happens in a story surrounds that conflict. In Stage Door, this isn't necessarily the case. My thing is that Stage Door is more like a reality show than a play with conflict. It isn't a play with a beginning, middle, and end, but rather a bunch of written moments documenting the lives of these women, especially Terry. It represents young women in their everyday lives trying to get jobs in the theater rather than being faced with one conflict to resolve (or not resolve) by the end of the play. It looks like a normal everyday setting and the characters are so natural with each other. It is written that way and the actresses portray it that way. This is actually a reason why I like the play. I like the natural flair it has. However, even though each of them have their own agendas, they don't seem to grow as characters much. They interact with each other, leave, and show up again. They go to their jobs and other appointments and seem like interesting individuals to get to know, but because everything is so sporadic and brief, the audience isn't given a chance to care about these characters as individuals, so therefore it is more difficult to feel for them in their struggles. Well, the audience does care if the women get jobs or not, but our hearts don't necessarily ache for them because there aren't much connections between the audience and the characters for this to be so, probably because there are so many of them. All of the characters blend in together, except a select few. You actually want to see this select few more because they seem very potentially entertaining, but you don't, probably because it would require more time and effort to incorporate it all.

If the girls don't get jobs, the audience doesn't feel heartbroken for them but rather say, "Well, that's life." It's not a big deal to me because people lose jobs and have difficult jobs all the time in everyday life, so it's not looked upon as a conflict for a story but rather as something that normally happens. People always work their way up in their careers. This makes the play very bland. The lead character Terry is also very bland and doesn't even change from beginning to end, so there isn't any character development either. She is given the chance to work in film as opposed to theater, but she refuses. In A Chorus Line, the audience learns about the different struggles the characters have endured, so therefore it is more heartfelt. Also, you get to know every character individually and share the journey with them as opposed to Stage Door when you only get to know Terry and share only her journey. Sure they try to show background of other characters as well, but Terry is the only one you truly get to know from beginning to end because her story is the only story the play really follows in-depth.

However, I still like the play regardless of this lack of conflict and powerfulness in delivery. I have a tendency to like plays and other mediums that involve groups of girls together. Madeline, a childhood favorite, The Crucible, and A Children's Hour are among some of my favorites. The fact that the women in Stage Door are very into theater is another reason why I enjoy it.

So the question I pose is, does a play absolutely need a significant conflict for it to be enjoyable?

Well, I guess not, because I straight up told you that I like Stage Door. But I guess what I am arguing is whether or not a play needs that energized spark in order for people to like it and ultimately leave a lasting impression. For example, when I saw Sweeney Todd in Kasser I felt a huge adrenaline rush because it was so amazing. When I saw The Rimers of Eldritch in Fox I felt numb, in a bad way because of the rape scene, but regardless it was still memorable because of how it made me feel. When I saw The Grapes of Wrath in Kasser, I felt numb, in a good way because it was magical. However, when I saw Stage Door, I didn't feel anything explosive like that. I felt relaxed and sat back and enjoyed it. I did the same thing when I saw A Chorus Line in Memorial, but I felt a better connection with that story.

Sitting back and enjoying a play in a relaxed manner isn't a bad thing. That's what plays are for, to relax and enjoy a show as a brief escape from reality. But the thing with theater and art too is it makes you come to realizations about life because of what it exposes, so in this way theater has two functions. Sometimes having such an emotional reaction from a play and therefore obsessing over it afterward, because you like it, can be exhausting, so I guess it's nice to not have every play do that to a person. Sometimes plays have to be tame to juxtapose the plays that are not. The contradicting of both types of plays helps them to stand out as artistic pieces and also helps audiences appreciate and enjoy both in the long run.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012 First Published Article of the YEAR!!!

Much like during my summer break, I am lucky enough to have gotten the opportunity to work for Patch during my winter break as well. This is actual my premiere article for Bloomfield Patch.

Andrea D'Arco and I went to the same grade school, Lacordaire Academy. I actually graduated with her older brother. She and I had recently become friends on Facebook when I saw her post a link about a show she is in Off-Broadway. I then decided to do a profile story on her.

Click here for my article!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy One Year Anniversary to "Taking it One 'Stef' at a Time!" Part 2

Okay so here we go! The Top Five Blog Posts of "Taking it One 'Stef' at a Time" So Far! :D

#5 The Problems I Have with FOX's "Glee": Representations
Published: September 2, 2011
Page Views: 167
"GLEE!" This post was a long time coming in my brainstorming, so I was glad to write out all my qualms with the show and get them out there. It's funny because after writing this series I wonder why I even like the show lol. I'm proud of this piece and worked very hard on it. I like how I touch on a lot of different points about what is and is not represented in "Glee" rather than just one solid subject. I think my favorite part is the "White Guys are Stupid" section. I personally think it's pretty funny. If you look at different TV shows, and maybe even movies and plays, this formula is very prominent nowadays.

That being said, how ironic that this post is next on this list...

#4 Hope vs. Steffy: Virginity vs. Promiscuity in Young Women Represented by a Soap Opera
Published: August 18, 2011
Page Views: 398
YES! I'm glad this one was so popular! If I'm not mistaken, this may be one of my blog posts I did not post on Facebook in the places I normally post them, so I'm happy that people were able to find it! Like my other posts about sex, this one also covers a topic that is very important to me. I was actually hoping to give you an update of what's been happening on the show since then, so now is the perfect time to do so. Okay let's see, this piece was published in August and we are now in January...and it is STILL the same storyline! No wonder people are sick of it! It's been dragged on for almost five months now! Basically everything I said I didn't want to happen happened. Liam married Steffy and Hope is all heartbroken over it. Steffy is on a quest to keep Hope away from Liam and now has gotten her brother Thomas involved. Thomas, who is smitten with Hope, has now proposed to Hope last Friday but just today she rejected him because she wants it to be right and is still hung up on Liam. AND, for that matter, we still don't know what Liam wants. He is still caught between two women and letting other people constantly tell him what to do. Actually, you know what?? He fits the model of a "Dumb White Male TV Character" pretty well! The show plays weekdays on CBS at 1:30 PM on the east coast. Check it out if you want. Maybe my ranting about it doesn't exactly convince you that it is worth your time, but still. You'll most likely see Liam because his storyline has been the most prominent nowadays and we pretty much can't get away from him. See for yourself if you agree that he fits the model like the other guys do. It's SO annoying!

#3 PBS Kids TV Shows and their New Characters that are Actually Worth our While
Published: June 21, 2011
Page Views: 519
Hey cool! One of my few blog posts NOT about sex! This one is actually the positive half of my discussion about new PBS characters. I like that I wrote about both sides of the debate.

#2 The Problems I Have with FOX's "Glee": Storylines (mainly Quinn's)
Published: September 5, 2011
Page Views: 927
"Glee" again! I guess people find it entertaining when I rant about Quinn Fabray. Like all of my posts about "Glee," I worked very hard on this one. It was the last post I published before my Fall 2011 semester started and I took a break from blogging, so I'm happy to have ended for a while on a post of which I am proud.

And the #1 "Taking it One 'Stef' at a Time" blog post so far is...

You probably could've guessed this one...

PBS Kids TV Shows and their Not-So-Heartwarming New Characters
Published: June 10, 2011
Page Views: A whopping 2,006!
I'm very pleased that my top blog post since I started blogging is one that is NOT about sex, but rather goes back to my childhood roots. The popularity of this piece shows that we still care about PBS and the intelligence and innocence it provides for our kids. I worked hard and long on this piece. I actually think I spent the most time on this one than I do on the other posts, so I am proud that it was and is a very successful piece!

A lot of these posts are tagged with the "Masterpieces" label, meaning that they are a bit lengthier than others and I put much effort into them, making them thought out expressive essays, and also have a good handful of comments, so I'm happy that my hard work has invoked a lot of thought and has not gone unnoticed. I also appreciate the positive comments the posts have gotten. I often wonder what kind of comments my controversial pieces would get, for I don't want my published views to instigate online arguments, but this has not been the case. I appreciate those who have commented for keeping things professional and clean. I also really like how people have searched for certain keywords and how come across my works that way.

Here's to plenty more new intriguing posts in the new year! :D

Happy One Year Anniversary to "Taking it One 'Stef' at a Time!" Part 1

Happy New Year 2012 Everyone! Let's all make this a great one! :D

Can you believe that exactly one year ago today I created "Taking it One 'Stef' at a Time?" I did it as a way to create new beginnings for the year 2011 and it was by far one of the best decisions of my life. I love this blog because it is a way to outlet my opinions and showcase my writing. Thank you to all those who appreciate my blog and have been reading it this past year! Here's to plenty more reading and writing in 2012!

To celebrate, let's take a look back at the Top Ten Most Popular Blog Posts of "Taking it One 'Stef' at a Time" during the first year of its run. I'm proud that these made the list because I consider these some of my best writing on this blog. A good majority of them are the pieces I wrote about sex, actually. Imagine that, sex being a popular thing to read about. Shocker.

#10 Real Influential Women Role Models (Real and Fictious): Kahlan Amnell and Cara Mason
Published: March 11, 2011
Page Views: 55
I'm actually pretty surprised this post made my Top Ten List as opposed to other ones. I actually felt that other posts from the 2011 edition of this series were more popular than this one, though I did often see this one show up in my list of most recently viewed posts, so I guess this isn't much of a surprise after all since it is one of the most popular posts of the series so far. Not that I'm complaining ;). This post is actually one of my favorites from the series and I had a lot of fun writing it because both Kahlan and Cara are very strong unique female characters from a very interesting story. I wouldn't consider them very popular characters, however, so that is another reason why I enjoyed showcasing them.

#9 Virginity...for Men
Published: December 27, 2011
Page Views: 69
I'm very impressed that this post made the list because I posted this one just last week. A lot of people "liked" it and it got a lot of comments and instigated plenty of discussions. I'm very happy that this post has/had such a positive following. The message I send through it is very important to me. I felt that it was something that needed to be said, so here's to hoping that it might start some kind of revolution.

#8 Women Enjoy Sex. Get Over It.
Published: October 19, 2011
Page Views: 85
Needless to say I was pretty angry when I wrote this one. I was actually in the process of writing another blog post or a paper when I felt that this one couldn't be delayed. Like #9, this one also sends a message that is very important to me and I am proud that it is a popular post. I often see it show up in my list of recently viewed posts. Maybe this one will also start a revolution and help people celebrate female sexuality and discontinue uses of words that downplay it. I can often refer back to it when I write other posts on here.

#7 Discussing Theatrical Nudity with Professor and Director Susan Kerner
Published: September 23, 2011
Page Views: 88
I'm kind of surprised and disappointed that none of my "Peak Performances and their Awkward Sexual Moments" posts made the list, but this one counts considering it is a spinoff of that series. I'm very happy with how enthusiastic my professor was during our interview. It was a very intelligent discussion. I got my answers about theatrical nudity, something I had been wondering about for a while. Ever since then she has been a proud supporter of my blog. It's nice that one of my blog posts involving theater, especially theater at my school, made this list, because this is the only one to do so.

#6 Genitalia: Should it be Discussed on TV?
Published: July 8, 2011
Page Views: 111
Yes. This. There's always a big debate of what should or should not be censored and for what reasons. This is me basically stating my argument against what is considered taboo about sex in the world and what we should do about it or if we should do anything about it at all.

So what blog post made #1? Stay tuned! I will post the Top 5 Blog Posts of All Time later on tonight!