Volume 1 Number 2
A Look Behind the Scenes
Learning What We Already Know
Explain yourself! When asked to do this by a room full of high school teachers, you can bet my mind jumped into gear, even if it was first thing on a Saturday morning. Having just listened to the radio dramatization of Louisa, and armed with the text of both Mary Wilkins Freeman's original short story and my adaptation for radio, the teachers wanted to know: Why did I choose a particular sound bridge? Did Louisa have to cry? Why did I include one scene, exclude another? How did I handle character development? How did I feel about Jonathan Nye? Who chose the music? Were the song lyrics relevant? Why the incorporation of prayer? Phew!
rebuild it in a slightly different form.
This process of deconstructing/rebuilding is to look at fiction from the inside out and to learn what we already know--how to create story. The urge to spin narrative is, after all, a universal human compulsion. Students have their own stories to tell.
Teachers grapple with how to make their subjects appear relevant to students, and literature is no exception. To "borrow" a story and adapt it to radio format provides immediate access to the communality (and variation!) of human experience that all good narrative contains; it also leads students towards their own creative devices. The literature of yesterday and tomorrow are not divided by a great, non-traversable chasm. There is no chasm. All there is is the need to tell and the desire to hear.
Eliza Anderson teaches playwriting at the Trinity Repertory Conservatory, Providence R.I.
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