Recognizing Elements of Performance Literature: A Streetcar Named Desire

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SWBAT make strategic use of digital media in presentations to enhance understanding of findings and reasoning in order to recognize the differences between drama and other sources of performance literature.

Big Idea

Stella's groove moves in Tennessee Williams' classic.


This lesson serves as the introductory lesson into the Tennessee William's play A Streetcar Named Desire.  The purpose of the lesson is to differentiate a play from other sources of literature, especially performance literature.  Students will understand that drama is very interactive with an audience so much that actors often feed off audience response.  This idea is important because I do want students to participate in acting out the play.

The Elements of Drama: Defining Differences in Performance Literature

30 minutes

As I give students notes pertaining to the elements of drama, I want them to recognize the differences between a play and other formats of performance literature.  In this case, I show them a clip from the August Wilson play Fences.  The scene is a very emotional portrayal of a mother and father discussing the future of their son.  I want students to notice the emotion and the audience's reaction.  They should also notice costumes, props, and other elements to a stage performance.  On the contrary, when students listen to the radio play, they will notice that the voices are canned, there is no energy infused from the audience, and sound is the only prop available to the actors.

Ultimately, students should conclude that a play is more interactive and engaging for an audience.  It is as close as an audience will get to the action of a work of literature.

I also want to provide my reasoning why I will ask all students to participate in acting out the play--my purpose is to convey that plays need to be performed more than read.

Students will write out their findings in their notebook and be prepared to use their information in a whole-class discussion.

The PowerPoint begins with a link to Fences and the radio play.

New Orleans in the 1940s and 1950s

30 minutes

In this section, I would like students to become familiar with the historical context of the play A Streetcar Named Desire.  The play's setting is post-war New Orleans.  I want students to grasp the unique racial and social makeup of New Orleans at this time.  While much of the American South was steeped in a Jim Crow mentality, New Orleans remained an anomaly with a progressive attitude toward racial harmony and sensuality.  These two elements provide the backdrop of the play.  It is also necessary to explain exactly what a streetcar is.

To faciliate an understanding, students will completed a K-W-L sheet (indicating what they know about New Orleans, what they want to know, and what they learned from viewing the video.)

We will complete the first two columns of the handout before the video, discuss what we added, and then students will write down all they learned from the video in the last column.  This last column will provide the basis of the class discussion following the video. 

This activity is Common Core aligned because it makes use of digital media to help students understand the historical context of the play and generate interest before participating in its performance.

Wrap Up: Ticket to Leave

10 minutes

Based on all the information they received during class including visuals of media pertaining to play, students will predict what the play is about and what the significance of the title,  A Streetcar Named Desire.