Musical Theatre Lit

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Course Description:
The ultimate goal of this course is to make you better artists – in any pathway — as you gain a fuller understanding of musical theatre repertory, as well as the arch of musical theatre history. This class is also designed to build your literacy skills. With its history and literature focus, this class is an academic course, and to do well, it is important that you take your academic responsibilities seriously. However, you will also be performing monologues, relating facts to your personal experience, and listening to music on a daily basis. Moving chronologically, you will choose an iconic script from each decade of musical theatre history to read, while studying the social and artistic context in which the show was produced. We will also look at the source material that inspired these shows. At the end of each unit, you will apply your knowledge of repertory and history in a Socratic seminar, a project, or a written assignment.

Essential questions that we will explore throughout the year are: Is musical theatre a misunderstood genre? In what ways do musicals surprise us? What are the professional standards of musical theatre versus straight theatre? How do musicals reflect American society? What makes a musical successful in different time periods, and how does this change? How have production elements changed over time? How does musical theatre interact with other art forms? To act well in a musical, what extra demands are placed on you? Throughout each unit, we will look more specifically at the people, shows, production methods, and source material that define certain decades of musical theatre history.

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GCAA School Wide Standards

  • As a school we have established a set of basic expectations that all of us are held accountable to. You are expected to follow these rules everyday. The GCAA School Wide Standards are:
  1. Report to class on time and attend all classes regularly.
  2. Accept responsibility for your learning:
    • Complete homework assignments.
    • Bring required materials to class each day.
    • Be attentive in class and listen, speak and discuss when appropriate.
    • Be open to acquiring and using new knowledge. Connect what you learn in one place to that which you learn in another.
  3. Respect the teacher’s position as leader in the classroom:
    • Follow the teacher’s direction.
    • Adhere to individual classroom guidelines.
    • Be positive about learning.
    • Build strong relationships with teachers and other students.
  4. Respect the authority of any adult in the building:
    • Comply with the directions and requests of any adult in the building, whether or not you know them.
    • Learn to value the dignity and worth of all individuals in the school community.
  5. Be considerate to and respectful of others:
    • Refrain from teasing, interrupting, or criticizing others.
    • Refrain from using vulgar or obscene language.
    • Refrain from acting out anger and frustration through fighting or other inappropriate behaviors. \
  1. Be considerate to and respectful of others CONTINUED:
    • Keep all food and drinks in the cafeteria except when authorized by a teacher and take responsibility for any wrappers, etc. of food eaten between classes.
  2. Cooperate with the specific rules of the school:
    • Dress in appropriate attire which does not distract or offend others (see Dress Code section of handbook).
    • Refrain from running in the halls, speaking loudly and banging lockers while classes are in progress.
    • Assume responsibility and accept consequences for your own behavior.
  3. Ask for help when you need it.
    • Your teachers, counselors, and administrators are here to help you; your activity sponsors and older students are resources.
  4. Respect the rights of others, especially to learn, by not creating excessive disruption in the halls, library, cafeteria and other common areas.
    • Obey the laws of society, including prohibitions against assault, theft, vandalism, possession of illegal substances and possession of weapons.

 To honor and integrate the GCAA School Wide Standards into our classroom, we will adhere to the following rules in Musical Theatre Lit:

Listen the first time.
Follow classroom procedures.
Ask for help when you need it.
Express yourself in appropriate ways.
Come on time; come prepared.

 Course Outcomes:

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • apply conventions of standard English in writing and in discussion.
  • develop written and verbal arguments about texts integrating details from the text.
  • make connections between texts and yourselves, the world (past and present), and other texts in writing and in discussion.
  • analyze how characters, themes, and motifs are developed throughout texts.
  • recall the plot of various texts.
  • notice stylistic choices made by various authors and analyze their effects.
  • apply your creativity to creative writing tasks.

Instructional Materials

The following materials and supplies will be needed daily:

Copy of the script we are currently reading
Textbook: Strike Up the Band, by Scott Miller
Three ring binder provided by the student for looseleaf paper and handouts
Pens and pencils

Semester One Scope and Sequence:

The semester will be divided into six three-week units. They are as follows:

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Unit I: The Melting Pot, 1893-1940
Scripts read: Showboat & Anything Goes

 Essential Questions: Is musical theatre a misunderstood art form? Why or why not? Who created musical theatre? How and why? What role did immigrants have in creating musical theatre? What were the first musicals, why are they important, and how did they take risks?

At the end of this unit, you will be able to: argue against some musical theatre stereotypes, describe the pioneers of musical theatre, what they accomplished, and explain their importance, explain why certain musicals between 1843 and 1940 are important, and analyze the relationship between musical theatre and turn-of-the-century American society.

Your end-of-unit project will be an 8-page children’s book distilling the history of the Federal Theatre Project.

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Unit II: An American Art Form, 1940-1950
Scripts read: Oklahoma & Kiss Me Kate

 Essential questions: What were American audiences like in the 1940s? How did musicals relate to their lives? How did Rogers and Hammerstein approach musicals in new and creative ways? What other people were important to musical theatre during the 1940s, and why? What 1940s musicals are considered important, and why?

At the end of this unit, you will be able to: analyze the relationship between musical theatre and American society, explain the importance of selected artists and musicals, explain how Kiss Me Kate, Oklahoma, and other 1940s musicals challenged audience expectations and/or expanded production methods.

Your end-of-unit assignment will be design a playbill for a 1940s musical of your choice

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Unit III: The Golden Age, 1950-1960
Scripts read: Guys and Dolls, The King and I, West Side Story, Gypsy, or My Fair Lady

Essential Questions: What were American audiences like in the 1950s? How did musicals relate to their lives? How do musicals in the 1950s recycle and adapt the production methods of the 1940s? What people were important to musical theatre in the 1950s, and why? What 1950s musicals are considered important, and why?

At the end of this unit, you will be able to: analyze the relationship between musical theatre and American society, explain the importance of selected artists and musicals, explain how one 1950s musical challenged audience expectations and/or expanded production methods.

Your end-of-unit assignment will be a group PowerPoint presentation pitching the 1950s musical you read for contemporary revival to an audience of producers/investors

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Unit IV: Fiddling with Change, 1960-1969
Scripts read: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying & Cabaret

 Essential Questions: How did 1960s musical theatre reflect 1960s American society? What new production methods were introduced in the 1960s, and how did they change musical theatre? How did the relationship between musicals and audiences change in the 1960s? Why are certain people and shows considered important in the 1960s? How do How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying & Cabaret represent general trends in musical theatre in the 1960s?

At the end of this unit, you will be able to: discuss how specific musicals addressed the “zeitgeist” of the 1960s, describe new production methods and trace their effect on musicals that came later, argue the importance of certain people and shows, and have a detailed understanding of the plot and characters of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and Cabaret, as well as how How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and Cabaret fit into the general trends of the 1960s.

Your end-of-unit assignment will be to research an influential 1960s musical we didn’t read during class and present it to the class in your chosen format – a variety of format options will be provided.

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Unit V: No Longer Musical “Comedy,” 1970-1979
Scripts read: A Chorus Line, Sweeney Todd, Follies, or Chicago

 Essential Questions: How did 1970s musical theatre reflect 1970s American society? What new production methods were introduced in the 1970s, and how did they change musical theatre? Why are certain people and shows considered important in the 1970s? How does A Chorus Line/Sweeney Todd/Follies/Chicago represent general trends in musical theatre in the 1970s?

At the end of this unit, you will be able to: discuss how specific musicals addressed the “zeitgeist” of the 1970s, describe new production methods, tracing how 1960s production methods developed and matured in the 1970s, argue the importance of certain people and shows, and have a detailed understanding of the plot and characters of A Chorus Line/Sweeney Todd/Follies/Chicago, as well as how A Chorus Line/Sweeney Todd/Follies/Chicago fit into the general trends of the 1970s.

Your end-of-unit assignment will be a two page research paper using MLA format on an important actor/producer/director/dancer from the 1970s, plus a monologue and a monologue performance in which you create a new character loosely inspired by this person (à la the 1970s musical A Chorus Line).

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Unit VI: Songs for a New World, 1980-2000s

Scripts read: Dreamgirls, Miss Saigon, Into the Woods or Sunday in the Park with George and Rent, Aida, Spring Awakening or Ragtime

Essential Questions: What new production methods were introduced in the 1980s, and how did they change musical theatre? What new production methods were introduced in the 1990s, and how did they change musical theatre? Why are certain people and shows in the 1980s considered important to the history of musical theatre? Why are certain people and shows in the 1990s considered important to the history of musical theatre?

At the end of this unit, you will be able to: describe new production methods, tracing where they came from and how they affect the current landscape of musical theatre, argue the importance of certain people and shows, and have a detailed understanding of the plot and characters of two of the above scripts, as well as how they fit into the history of musical theatre during the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s.

Your end-of-unit assignment will be a Socratic seminar using five paragraphs of notes prepared in advance.

 Grading and Evaluation:

The following is a breakdown of semester one grading according to GCAA policy:

Homework: 10%
Classroom Assignments & Formative Assessments: 30%
Summative Assessment: 60%

Absence Policy

Your attendance in this class is crucial to your learning. If you miss class due to an excused absence, please check in with me during the next class period about what you missed. The work that you missed will be promptly due the following class period; after that it is considered late and credit will be docked. We won’t talk about missed work at the beginning of class; I will give you a packet of any missed work with your name on it that you can review independently after your warm up. Then, during independent work time, we’ll discuss your questions. If you miss class due to an unexcused absence, we will need to have a conversation about your circumstances to determine if your work can be accepted.

Late Work Policy

If you turn in late work the same day it was due (even if it was not complete during class), you can still receive up to 100 percent on the assignment. Otherwise, the highest you can receive for late work is a C.

School wide Grading Scale:

A       90-100%
B       80-89.9%
C       70-79.9%
D       60-69.9%
F       0-59%

School wide Plagiarism Policy:

 Rationale

GCAA values academic integrity and honesty. They are fundamental to the teaching and learning process. Teachers and administrators have the full expectation that all work be entirely the result of the student’s own efforts. Plagiarism, cheating or other forms of academic dishonesty will not be tolerated. Collaboration and cooperation are not the same as cheating or plagiarism. Teachers will inform students when collaboration is an acceptable option. The determination that a student has engaged in academic dishonesty will be based on specific evidence provided by the classroom teacher or other supervising individual. Students found to have engaged in academic dishonesty will be subject to disciplinary action at the classroom and/or building level, specified in the plagiarism policy that follows.

Examples of Academic Dishonesty (not exhaustive)

  • Copying someone else’s homework and/or giving your work to another to be copied
  • Working together on a take-home test or homework unless specifically allowed by the teacher
  • Looking at another student’s paper during an exam
  • Looking at your notes when prohibited
  • Taking an exam out of the classroom unless specifically allowed (either in person or by using electronic means)
  • Using notes or other outside information on an exam unless specifically allowed
  • Giving someone answers to exam questions during the exam
  • Passing test information from an earlier class to a later class
  • Giving or selling a paper or class work to another student
  • Quoting text or other works on a paper or homework without citing the source
  • Handing in a paper purchased from a term paper service or from the Internet
  • Handing in another’s paper as your own
  • Taking a paper from an organization’s files and handing it in as your own
  • Changing a test, a paper, and claiming it had been graded incorrectly
  • Presenting another student’s work as your own

Examples of Acceptable Behavior in the Creative Process

  • Discussing the assignment with others for clarification
  • Discussing ideas and details for understanding
  • Exchanging drafts of work for critical peer response
  • Participating in classroom activities pertaining to the writing process: pre-writing, drafting, revising, editing and publishing

Consequences of Plagiarism

  1. Whenever a teacher reasonably believes, based upon significant evidence, that a student has plagiarized part or all of an assignment or infringed upon copyright protection, the teacher shall evaluate the nature and extent of the plagiarism or copyright infringement, advise the student of the existence of the violation, and state the penalties to which the student may be subject:
  • Indicate in writing to the student and the student’s parents, with a brief statement of the circumstances, that the teacher has a reasonable belief that the student has engaged in a violation.
  • Require the student to rework the assignment entirely, using his/her own ideas and style.
  • Refer the student to the proper school authority for any additional counseling or discipline consistent with any other policy of GCAA.
  1. Whenever a teacher reasonably believes, based on significant evidence, that a student has knowingly assisted another student in plagiarizing part or all of an assignment, the teacher will evaluate the nature and extent of the assignment lent to the student who plagiarized and inform the student that he/she may be subject to the following penalties:
  • Indicate in writing to the student and the student’s parents, with a brief statement of the circumstances, that the teacher has a reasonable belief that the student assisted another student in plagiarizing.
  • Refer the student to the proper school authority for any additional counseling or discipline consistent with any other policy of GCAA.
  • In addition to disciplining the student according to the provisions of the policy, the teacher will continue to emphasize to the student the value of honest authorship.