performance response 4

I hope all of you are well. In light of the COVID-19 developments the requirement that the Second Production Response be written about a live theatre show has been lifted. Below are links to four different plays which were recorded in front of live audiences. You may choose one of them to watch and write your paper about. Other than that all instructions for this assignment stay the same. Let me know if you have any questions.

All the best to all of you and stay healthy,

Instructor of Record

R.S. Abaffy

THAR 2000


Simon McBurney


Winner of the 2008 Olivier Award for Best New Play, A Disappearing Number tells the true story of the extraordinary collaboration between Cambridge professor G.H. Hardy and self-taught mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan, who made some of the most significant mathematical discoveries of the 20th century.

This production was devised by Complicité and directed by Simon McBurney and is accompanied by an in-depth conversation about the show and the company, between Co-Founder Annabel Arden and Associate Director Catherine Alexander.

*Contains strong language.



In the winter of 1940, Raleigh and May are forced to share a seat on a crowded train headed east, only to discover a mutual attraction that will change their lives forever. The first part of Arlene Hutton’s Nibroc Trilogy was captured live by Cinevative at the Rubicon Theatre Company in California.

Directed by the award-winning Katharine Farmer, this poignant production follows the relationship between May and Raleigh in Kentucky at the height of the Second World War.

Directed by

Katharine Farmer


Geoffrey Atherden


A young mother is taken by the Intelligence Services for interrogation in this popular comedy that comes with a warning for the Facebook generation.

This production was captured by Australian National Theatre Live at Sydney’s famous Ensemble Theatre and uses witty dialogue, projections and live recordings to highlight the threat of surveillance.

Contains some strong language.

Directed by

Shannon Murphy


Written during his imprisonment and the abortive Russian Revolution of 1905, Maxim Gorky’s dark comedy about the fears and obsessions of the intellectual elite is brought to life by multi-award-winning director Timofey Kulyabin.

Set in 1999 at Stanford University, this modernised interpretation focuses on the interplay between characters and their search for meaning, all while being unaware of their impending annihilation. This production was captured live by Stage Russia HD at the Red Torch Theatre in Novosibirsk, Russia.

Performed in Russian with English subtitles.

Contains adult content

Directed by

Timofey Kulyabin

The Response Essay:

Remember your Performance Response 1 assignment? Remember how you made a list of observations about all the production elements: lights, sound, media, acting, costumes, directing, props, staging, set design? Keep that in mind when you watch your second performance. Take a notebook with you to the show and write down what you see. This will help you write the essay. PLEASE NOTE: This assignment is different from Performance Response 1. This assignment is an essay with a thesis, supporting paragraphs, and a conclusion.

The Golden Rule for these essays is to point out details over generalities.

Your response should use the observations you made and recall to support an argument (thesis). Your thesis is a one sentence statement that tells what you think the show was about. I am not interested in whether you liked the performance or not, or even whether you thought it was good or not — I want you to explore what you thought the production was trying to do and how it went about doing it.

You do not need to cover every aspect of the production; as you think and write, focus on those things that are most helpful in supporting your argument. Remember that it is not enough to say that, “the costumes helped define the characters.” You must be specific. “The use of a stiff, canvas fabric for the clergyman’s costume helped create him as a rigid and inflexible character. This is another example of how the production was trying to depict the church as insufferable and organized religion in general as a great evil in the world.”

So when you watch your play think about what the “message” of the play is. What is the production trying to say? For example: The Three Little Pigs is a story with which we are all familiar. What is the message of the story? Basically, hard work pays off. The first two pigs quickly build homes with inferior materials then go play, while the third pig labors in the construction of his house of bricks for a long time. In the end the third pig’s house is the only house that doesn’t get blown over by the wolf. So if you were watching a play about this story for your Performance Response, you would analyse and describe all the production elements and how they help in the telling of this message, “hard work pays off.”

Your examples of the production elements are your evidence. This evidence must support the thesis statement. It is not enough to have a thesis and then describe the different elements you see. What you choose to describe about the elements has to further the point you are making with your thesis. There must be a marriage of the evidence to the thesis.

Write your response with the class in mind as the audience — do not recount the story! In other words do not give a plot overview. We don’t need to know the story, we only need to know the message (which is your thesis statement) and how the production elements help tell that message. Also, don’t analyze characters or give character sketches. This paper is not about plot and story or character analysis. It is a response to the production. I want a thesis about the production and I want that thesis to be backed up with an analysis of the production elements. How do you do this well? Keep reading.

As soon after the performance as possible, you should make notes about what you saw, heard, and felt (that is, what decisions did the production make in the visual [what you saw], acoustic [what you heard], and kinetic [what you felt as movement] realms of the theatre.) What did the set look like? What did it “feel” like? What did the costumes look like? How did they help define the characters? What did the actors do (how did they move, sound, express themselves, and so on)? After you have recorded your first reflections, think about the idea or ideas behind the production. In other words, what is the play about? Love? Forgiveness? Hate destroying the protagonist like a cancer? What about the production conveyed this conceptual meaning? NOT what about the story conveyed the meaning, or what you learned about the characters, BUT what in the production (the elements) conveyed the meaning. In other words, if you see a production about a man whose hate for someone is controlling every part of his life, (he can’t sleep, he loses his job, he neglects his wife and children to the point of familial disaster) maybe your thesis statement would be, if you allow hate to control your life it will destroy you. So what is the lighting doing that conveys that? Does it grow darker? Does it flash when he’s wrestling with the hate? Does it shift showing separation between the man and everyone else? What about the costumes? Does the man’s white, button down shirt become torn at the sleeves and yellowed under the armpits? Does he lose his shirt? What about the staging? The set? The sound? How does the actor’s behavior change? Does he carry himself differently? Does he develop a limp?

Again the Golden Rule for these essays is to point out details over generalities.

Remember: you may end up writing (or re-writing) the introduction only after you have developed your argument (thesis), but whenever you actually write it, the introduction goes in the first paragraph and that paragraph should end with your thesis statement. Do not forget to write a concluding paragraph at the end of your paper. Remember, also, that paragraphs generally focus on one main idea– re-read what you write and add paragraphs where necessary. Finally, make sure that your sentences progress logically from one to another. Avoid sentences such as, “The play used costumes very well. The use of multiple levels in the set was exciting. I thought the red dress worked the best.” These sentences are too general and don’t convey enough meaning.

One last time, the Golden Rule for these essays is to point out details over generalities.

Writing is thinking on paper. It provides you an opportunity to decide whether you actually believe what you think you do. If you write something that, upon reading, strikes you as false, change it. Be prepared, in fact, to discover that your thoughts change as a result of your writing — and be prepared to change what you write as a consequence.

Each paragraph should be well-written, observing the standards of formal academic writing. Length should be around 700-900 words. You must include in the heading for the assignment the name of the production, where you saw it, the theatre name, and the date on which you saw it. Points will be taken off if you do not. You must submit your assignment online no later than 11:59pm on Friday, April 10th.

You can upload a file in Word format (doc or docx), Rich Text Format (rtf), or PDF. No other file types can be uploaded.

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