theater film media

You may choose to focus on one part of a question that has several parts.


Write a message to Samuel Beckett in which you tell him what it is like to read his plays today. Assume that he understands the current media environment: he knows about the Internet, and you do not need to explain its existence. You don’t need even to explain Snapchat. Nevertheless, you wonder if he fully realizes the difference that it makes to encounter his plays today rather than in the 1960s or 1970s. His plays were always disorienting: are they differently disorienting today?

You may choose the format of your message: a letter? (Beckett’s selected letters are available in print in four volumes.) A sequence of postcards? Or . . .?


In his memoir, the American novelist and political provocateur, Gore Vidal, wrote that he once served as “interpreter” between the English actress Claire Bloom and Tennessee Williams as Bloom was preparing to play the role of Blanche. Williams asked her if she had any questions about the play:

“Yes.” Claire pulled herself together. “What happens after the final curtain?”

The Bird [Vidal’s nickname for Williams] sat back in his chair, narrowed his eyes. “No actress has ever asked me that question.” He shut his eyes, thought. “She will enjoy her time in the bin. She will seduce one or two of the more comely young doctors. Then she will be let free to open an attractive boutique in the French Quarter . . .”

“She wins?”

“Oh, yes,” said the Bird. “Blanche wins.”[1]

Write a scene set in this “attractive boutique.” You may include characters from A Streetcar Named Desire, or invent new ones, or choose to write a monologue.


Write the first scene of a play in the style of Julia Jarcho in which you work inside a popular genre that is not one of the genres she engages with in the plays we read.


Watch Pedro Almodóvar’s film, All About My Mother. All About My Mother is in many ways built around A Streetcar Named Desire. How does All About My Mother serve as an interpretation – of even a critique – of Williams’ play? How do the issues of Williams’ work find their way into the film? What does it mean that Almodóvar puts the end of the Hollywood film (which is not the end of the play we read) on stage, inside the film?


Watch one of the three Hollywood films central to Adrienne Kennedy’s A Movie Star Has to Star in Black and White: Now, Voyager, Viva Zapata, or A Place in the Sun. Discuss the importance of one of these films to Kennedy’s play. What does a comparison between the classic film and the play help to foreground in Kennedy’s play? How does Kennedy’s use of these films/characters/stars within the play complicate the play’s – and/or the movie’s – treatment of race, sex, gender, family life, etc.?


Discuss the place of narrative or storytelling in one of the plays by Beckett. How does telling stories serve to solidify or to estrange the solidity of “character”? What does it mean when figures on stage listen to themselves speak? Does listening divide a person?

[1] Gore Vidal, Palimpsest: A Memoir (New York: Random House, 1995) 156.

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