Post-Show Questions for Discussion and Activities
Note to Educators: Use the following assignments, questions, and activities to have students evaluate their experience of the performance of Stick Fly, as well as to encourage their own imaginative and artistic projects through further exploration of the play in production. Consider also that some of the pre-show activities might enhance your students’ experience following the performance.
- Stick Fly: A Discussion. Following their attendance at the performance of Stick Fly, ask your students to reflect on the questions below. You might choose to have them answer each individually or you may divide students into groups for round-table discussions. Have them consider each question, record their answers and then share their responses with the rest of the class.
Questions to Ask Your Students About the Play in Production
- What was your overall reaction to Stick Fly? Did you find the production compelling? Stimulating? Intriguing? Challenging? Memorable? Confusing? Evocative? Unique? Delightful? Meaningful? Explain your reactions.
- Did experiencing the play heighten your awareness or understanding of the play’s themes? [e.g., coping with the challenges that test, confound and fracture families, such as personality and priority clashes, generational tensions, sibling rivalries, unmet or unbalanced child/parental expectations and the revelation of damaging secrets; the struggle to find identity at the complex juncture of race and class.] What themes were made even more apparent in performance? Explain your responses.
- Do you think that the pace and tempo of the production were effective and appropriate? Explain your opinion.
Questions to Ask Your Students About the Characters
- Did you personally identify with any of the characters in Stick Fly? Who? Why?
- What qualities were revealed by the action and speech of the characters? Explain your ideas.
- Did any characters develop or undergo a transformation during the course of the play? Who? How? Why?
- In what ways did the characters reveal the themes of the play? Explain your responses.
Questions to Ask Your Students About the Style and Design of the Production
- Was there a moment in Stick Fly that was so compelling or intriguing that it remains with you in your mind’s eye? Can you write a vivid description of that moment? As you write your description, pretend that you are writing about the moment for someone who was unable to experience the performance.
- Did the style and design elements of the production enhance the performance? Did anything specifically stand out to you? Explain your reaction.
- How did the production style and design reflect the themes of the play?
- What mood or atmosphere did the lighting design establish or achieve? Explain your experience.
- How did the sound design enhance your overall experience?
- Did the design of the costumes and makeup serve to illuminate the characters, themes, and style of the play? How?
- Exploring the Story and the Politics of Stick Fly. Lydia Diamond’s work has been celebrated for its contribution to the political discourse and perspective on race, class, and privilege in America, yet according to the playwright, “…[For] the most part, I tell the story, and the politics come out because that’s who I am. I think we have stories that are important to tell, and the honesty in those stories appeals to people.” Engage your students to tell the story of Stick Fly in their own words. Then ask them:
- What are the “politics that come out” in the telling of the story?
- What do the story and/or the politics of Stick Fly mean to you?
- What do you find compelling about the story and its politics? Confusing? Evocative? Challenging?
- Where do you find meaning (political or otherwise) in the play?
- Where does your personal experience converge with the politics of both play and playwright? Where does it diverge?
- Change in the World of Stick Fly (in the Mode of Fuchs). In her highly regarded essay entitled “Visit to a Small Planet: Some Questions to Ask a Play,” Yale School of Drama professor and performance scholar Elinor Fuchs offers a “template for the critical imagination” that asks a play viewer/reader to approach a play as if it were a new world with its own geography and rules. She suggests:
To see this entire world, do this literally: Mold the play into a medium-sized ball, set it before you in the middle distance, and squint your eyes. Make the ball small enough that you can see the entire planet, not so small that you lose detail, and not so large that detail overwhelms the whole.
In addition to contemplating the play planet in terms of space, time, climate, mood and music, and in terms of its inhabitants and their social interactions, Fuchs asks the viewer/reader to look at the play dynamically and poses the question “What changes in this world?”:
Look at the first image. Now look at the last. Then locate some striking image near the center of the play…To give an account of destiny on this planet range over these three markers. Why was it essential to pass through the gate of the central image to get from the first to the last?
Have your students contemplate the changes that occur in Stick Fly using Fuchs’ prompts above; contemplations can be made individually on paper first and then be brought into small group or full class discussion.
Use the following questions from Fuchs as further consideration of what changes in the world of Stick Fly:
- What changes in language? In tone, mood, dress?
- What changes in the action? Have we moved from confusion to wedding (the basic plot of romantic comedy)? From threat to peaceful celebration (the basic plot of [traditional] tragicomedy)? From threat to disaster (the basic plot of tragedy)? From suffering to rebirth (the plot of the Passion play)? From threat to dual outcome, suffering for evil persons and vindication for good (the basic plot of melodrama)?
- What doesn’t change?
- Is the world of the play at the end of the play a transformed world? Or is it the same world returned to “normal,” with minor adjustments?
Have your students explain/defend their responses. [For the full text of Elinor Fuchs’ essay see “EF’s Visit to a Small Planet: Some Questions to Ask a Play,” Theatre 34:2 (Summer 2004); 4-9.]
- Stick Fly: Character Collage. Ask your students to choose a character from Stick Fly whom they found particularly compelling (either because the student closely identified with her or him or because the student desires to understand the character better). Ask them to utilize the artistic medium of collage to create a visual representation of the character.
- They will need an 8½” x 11” sheet of paper (either colored paper or paper that can be painted), magazines with visual images/photographs, scissors, additional color paper for cutouts, colored pencils or paint for a background, and glue.
- They should think about how they might use color, images, and text to symbolize who their character is, what he or she wants, and what happens to her or him in the course of the play.
- Educators might also opt for their students to create electronic collages by utilizing PowerPoint technology and images gleaned from the internet.
- Students should be given time to show their finished collages to the class and to explain why they chose their particular character and how the objects and images in their collages express and symbolize their character.
- Playwrights’ Post-Show: Action & Conflict in Stick Fly. Have your students analyze and discuss the details of the dramatic in Lydia Diamond’s play by asking them the following questions [See “Pre-Show Questions and Activities,” Question 4 for a thorough explanation of the dramatic principles of action and conflict.]:
- What is each character’s action/want when the play begins?
- What conflicts arise? What keeps characters from getting what they want?
- Do any of the characters suffer from an internal conflict?
- Who gets what they want?
- Whose action/want changes? Why?
- How and why does each character change, if at all, during the course of the play?