“appears to be”

It was great meeting you all today, as we began Jackie Sibblies Drury’s Fairview, winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for drama.

Charles Browning and Heather Alicia Simms in *Fairview* at the Soho Repertory Theatre (2018), photo by Julieta Cervantes

The précis of Fairview informs us that “Act One appears to be a comedic family drama.”

As we discussed this morning, the play — from its title to its epigraph to its stage directions to its dialogue — interrogates the gaze, the spectacle, even surveillance. It challenges us to challenge the act of looking and the position of being looked at. For class this morning, regarding the opening stage directions and dialogue, as well as the front matter that is usually regarded as extraneous to the text of the play, your questions were:

  1. Which stage direction is the most challenging to interpret and play out?
  2. How do you propose to make Act One “appear. . . comedic,” to prompt laughter?

Your task now is to extend these questions to the rest of Act One. In your ~150-word responses, try to discuss a part of the text that occurs after what we discussed today, of course incorporating this morning’s discussion as you deem relevant. Your responses should be grounded in the text, preferably quoting and interpreting what you quote. All semester, they will be due at noon Wednesdays; as such, responses to this prompt are due at noon, January 15.

7 thoughts on ““appears to be”

  1. Keisha’s soliloquy on page 26 may be the most challenging stage direction to interpret and play out. “(Keisha looks out toward us and has a soliloquy, which is a theatrical device where a character talks aloud and no one onstage can hear them.)” This may be difficult for the actors to play out, because they will have to ignore Keisha until it is their moment to reenter the action of the scene.

    The text of Keisha’s soliloquy may be difficult to interpret, in the sense that there is not a lot of context within act one. Some of Keisha’s soliloquy may be foreshadowing what occurs later on in act two. In act two she receives a letter. Once Keisha and the other characters of Fairview realize the content of the letter they judge and define her by the content. The lines that may foreshadow this are “Yes, something is keeping me from what I could be. And that something. It thinks that it has made me who I am. It’s…It’s just so confusing.”

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    An excellent opportunity to illicit laughter from the audience presents itself on page 21. Jasmine is talking about her and Beverly’s brother, Tyrone. Jasmine: “And you know our brother is the same way. Do whatever he need to do to be at the center of attention. Crazy-ass Geminis.”
    This would be a perfect time for Jasmine to tell a funny story about something crazy Tyrone has done to be at the center of attention.

  2. In my opinion, the most important moment for the play to continue forward as well as for the audience to gain a more grounded understanding of the ‘family drama’ occurring, is when the character of Dayton enters onto the stage and “sees Beverly,” or is otherwise watching/stalking Beverly. I believe this part of the act would be most challenging to interpret because it is not just the action of Dayton watching/being a voyeur, but this moment is also the first representation the audience receives of the relationship dynamic between Beverly and Dayton. Furthermore, not only do the actors have to do the actions of watching and being watched but they also have to convey and/or emote senses that have been ignited as a result. Although the audience can see how affectionate Dayton and Beverly are towards one another later in the act “he chases her, pulls her in for a bigger kiss”, that first moment where Dayton enters does indeed center his gaze and sets the tone for their entire marriage.

  3. The stage directions that are most difficult to interpret and act out are Keishas stage directions on page 16. The directions state that she does, “maybe none of those things but maybe all of them.” It is impossible to do all of something and none of it simultaneously, moreover, act as if one is doing everything and nothing at the same time. Furthermore, it also says that she does “everything that teenagers do.” If we are to take this literally, this could mean a multitude of different things.
    To make act one appear comedic, I propose adding specific tone to the characters voices during certain scenes. To illustrate, on page 13, when Beverly says, “Dairy Free” she says it sardonically because she is responding to her sisters hypocritical actions. Another way to make act one appear more comedic is adding emphasis to certain words in lines of dialogue. For example, on page 22, when Jasmine says, “Girl you got drama,” girl should be emphasized. Furthermore, Jasmines character could laugh through the line implying that it’s obvious that there is drama in her life.

  4. 1) I would say the demonstration of their feelings and thoughts is challenging to play out. The actors have to be expressive and nonchalant, which can be hard to achieve without it coming off weird. Especially for expressing thoughts, “Beverly thinks: Everything is fine. Everything is going to be perfect today.” That line can also be confusing, having the knowledge the play is supposed to be comedic. It makes you wonder what can possibly happen after this scene with the amount of nerves Beverly has towards the reunion. Delivery can also be a key factor for interpretation. “Food?” after Beverly questions him for the utensils he brought can be delivered in a snarky way or in a lighthearted way. In general, the interpretation is up to the audience. The play seems to be an interesting drama, with the way act one finishes.

    2) As I mentioned in the interpretation response, delivery of lines can effectively prompt laughter. Sometimes, its the right person for a role or character, appealing to the true message/goal of a scene to deliver the line effectively. The atmosphere also plays a part. Regarding prompting laughter through reading the act, I think more side comments from the narrator can help for lightening the mood and saying a quick comment, similar to a show I’d watch growing up “Everybody Hates Chris”. Even in that show, delivery was key. I think people prefer humor that doesn’t try too hard, if a line comes off corny or cliche, it can be distracting.

  5. 1) At the start of the play, the what seems to be the hardest stage direction for the performer to interpret is the sequences such as “Beverly thinks” (7) It would require the actor to pull really exaggerated faces to relay such actions, especially Beverly’s mantra of “everything is fine” (7). As the play progresses, though, the biggest challenge appears to be the lack of stage directions; there is a large section of directions where Jasmine echoes Beverly’s earlier actions of checking herself in an invisible mirror, but it turns into briefer and briefer direction for the actor.

    2) To make the play more comedic, there could be more sequences that lean into the character’s relationships with one another; such examples are already present in the form of Beverly’s root vegetable rant (19) and the stage direction for Jasmine and Keisha “(They do their special Auntie-Niece greeting)” (15).

  6. I downloaded a Kindle version, therefore my page numbers are different. However, when stage directions are given to Jasmine as it states “(to herself)”, the reader may find it most challenging to interpret the play from an audience point of view because there is a very fine distinction between talking aloud to oneself and to another person. For example, Jasmine asserts to herself “Having a private-ass conversation with myself thinking through my own damn thoughts and she trying to tell me that what I am thinking to myself is wrong.” This would require a heightened sense of awareness and/or surveillance to interpret the connection exchanged with the actor and the audience. Furthermore, this stage direction is important because we get to see inside a character’s thoughts and who they are. For an actor to distinguish their intention to its audience is a skill acquired alone.

    Laughter may be prompted when Keisha enters according to stage direction and starts to dance while rubbing her stomach and smelling her armpits. This is something that captures the audience’s attention. Because knowledge was not yet clearly revealed as to why she had began dancing around Jasmine and Beverly, it appears comical, or even silly in a way the audience questions.

  7. 1. Stage direction can be very difficult to “get right” when there isn’t a written section with a clear description of where items should be placed, where actors’ entrances and exits are located, and what the stage should look like. A lack of clarity in stage direction may have been deliberately elided by the director to give weight to the importance of variable interpretation and the value of inevitable ambiguity in written stories (which is how directors are reading the play before they engender a set with actors and so forth).

    You are asking for a specific section of Act 1 as an answer, and to that I maintain my answer given in class: that the indented introduction would be the most difficult to portray to an audience without prior understanding of the play. This is because Beverly is thinking, not vocalizing, that “Everything is fine.” How the director conveys to the audience, and gets the audience to comprehend, what “fine” is supposed to mean through a manneristic, physical gesture is something I have trouble visualizing in my mind.

    
2. There are a lot of reasons why this play is funny. There’s no punctuation, and therefore no pause, between and within sentences. Lack of punctuation in the dialogue naturally forms a feeling in the audience that the two characters are bickering and bantering. Two examples: Dayton teases Beverly when she’s stressing over perfection; Jasmine bickers over warm rosé with Dayton and Beverly. There’s also pervasive irony in Act 1. Beverly projects herself onto Jasmine when she complains to Dayton that her brother “never puts the family first,” which she herself is doing by putting her own values first. Jasmine is also projecting herself onto her mother as she asserts her mother “Always wants to be in the center of everything.” Why these modes of comedy are funny, you’d have to ask a psychologist.

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