This week we have been looking at Urban Drama in Film and Theatre, its style, way of presentation, the people, the characters, and situations that fill up the pages of Urban Drama playwrights and screenwriters who seek to engage their audiences in very real and provocative ways. These movies and plays can be intense and searing at times with their topics and issues related to so called street life or stories that reflect the everyday struggles of so many that live in highly urbanized areas dealing with poverty, crime, family, drug abuse, gangs, race, and social and economic immobility. A recent television series on FX called Snowfall, deals with the history of the cocaine trade in south-central L.A. in 1983 and how it went from an elitist drug that was powder-cocaine, into what became known as crack-cocaine. The dramatic series is in every way an example of a particular aspect of realistic urban life in a very different time with respect to race relations in the United States in the early 80’s.It is very much an example of Urban Drama. Snowfall is one of MANY television series, films and pieces of Theatre that you can now readily find. It is interesting to note that the style of these plays are not always supposed to be realistic. In fact many playwrights will create stories that are slightly more melodramatic or having more melodramatic characters in some situations to make their social commentary have more impact and perhaps more entertainment in the storytelling. Stephen Adly-Guirgis is one of these playwrights who tends to tell his stories in a melodramatic fashion or style. The Last days of Judas Iscariot, Jesus Hopped the A-train, In Arabia Wed All Be Kings, Mother F@$%*& With A Hat all have melodramatic characters and more theatrical elements that help to lift the drama in a potentially provocative and entertaining way. The language and often course vernacular of the people and characters that populate his plays is very important to him as way to convey aspects of behavior, culture, decorum and a certain point of view about the society around him. Here is a six minute clip from a recent production of his play Our Lady of 121st Street. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmWuM-IDm5s WARNING: There is a lot of course language used in the dialogue within this clip which is the first scene from the play. You may want to use ear buds. It is your choice if you would like to watch the clip. One could make the argument that Urban Drama is a melding of particular aspects of so many of the other genres of Theatre and Film that we have looked at so far this semester, African American Theatre, Latino Theatre, Asian and LGBT Theatre. There are so many common themes that cross over these genres. Urban Drama will often purposely blend the characters and cultures to look more at the humanity of particular group of people rather than the specific cultural or ethnic background being the underlying through line. These plays tend to have a melting pot kind of casting that adds to the language, the conflicts and social angst in these stories. For your discussion this week: Part one: Reflecting on your studies this week including your own research and conclusions to what Urban Drama in Theatre and Film is: What is your opinion of this genre of Film and Theatre? What do you believe are some of the major themes or issues that this genre deals with? Would you ever go to a play like Our Lady of 121st Street? Why or why not? Would you seek out another Urban Drama film in the future. Why or why not? Your post should be at least 150 words with a response to two other posts with 150 words. Part two: respond to two other students First student: (Mohammed) What is your opinion of this genre of Film and Theatre? This genre of film and theater is raw. It pushes me to see realities of American society that are not pretty, but that are real and impacting lives of minorities around the nation. The way that this genre brings in the realities of minority groups from all over the nation is very important because it shows that the urban reality is a predominantly minority reality, which explains why it is left in the shadows by the dominant population. However, this genre retrieves these stark realities, injustices, and abuses from the shadows and plants them firmly on a stage in front of a live audience, and this results in understanding that threatens oppression. What do you believe are some of the major themes or issues that this genre deals with? I believe that this genre deals with the themes of racism, oppression, homophobia, discrimination, sexism, and poverty. All of these themes negatively impact urban dwellers’ life experience, and so by talking about them society is presented with a problem it needs to fix. Would you ever go to a play like Our Lady of 121st Street? Why or why not? I would go see a play like Our Lady of 121st Street because it points out how the lives of people in urban centers are deeply influenced and directed by their ethnicity and the place that society relegates their ethnicity to. I know the whole point is about Sister Rose’s body, but that is actually the stage upon which all of the much more complicated stories unfold. I felt like I had my eyes opened about so many issues in the urban reality with this play, and so I would definitely go and see it. Would you seek out another Urban Drama film in the future. Why or why not? I would seek out another urban drama film in the future because I feel as if it teaches me about social issues in the United States in an interesting and profound way. Second student: (Clint) What is your opinion of this genre of Film and Theatre? I believe Urban Dramas are a genre of film and theatre that take on a harsh issue or theme that may be difficult to open a dialogue about and brings it into conversation. The genre itself may not always be written as harsh and direct as the topics of discussion themselves, hell they may even be comedies, however they make these issues easier to talk about. It is because of this that the genre can be a very useful medium to tackle societal issues and make them easier to relate to and digest. What do you believe are some of the major themes or issues that this genre deals with? Racism and prejudice definitely seem to be a major theme within the Urban drama genre. We see so many of these different films with the involvement of different races and how society views and treats them. Another issue this genre seems to commonly address is that of poverty and trying to rise above it. Would you ever go to a play like Our Lady of 121st Street? Why or why not? I would watch this play because it seems like it would be able to shed light on a part of society that is often portrayed negatively, in a manner that can also be comedic and entertaining. Would you seek out another Urban Drama film in the future. Why or why not? I would definitely seek out other Urban dramas in the future, specifically those that use comedy to address the harsher issues, because those seem to be the easiest to digest overall.
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