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Urban Drama

Hello all, I hope you guys are having a good week!

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 We’d 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:

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.

first student: John

What is your opinion of this genre of Film and Theatre?

I believe this genre of Film and Theatre provides an excellent medium in which to address inner-city related issues. The dramatization of urban life provides an entertaining method that draws the attention of the audience and provides an opportunity in which certain topics can be brought into the conversation.

What do you believe are some of the major themes or issues that this genre deals with?

Some of the major themes or issues that this genre explores relates to racism, poverty, and other socioeconomic issues that minorities face during urban city life. From the urban dramas that I have seen, street life is filled with so many everyday struggles of trying to get by day to day. In a highly urbanized area, so many people are living in close proximity with one another that people are often overlooked. These people that society has disregarded, often turn to a life of crime and drugs in order to get by.

Would you ever go to a play like Our Lady of 121st Street? Why or why not?

I would go to a play like Our Lady of 121st Street as long as there is a meaningful message and entertaining story to it. I can see how people may turn away from such films due to the foul language, but I believe playwrights use that kind of language for a reason. It may be used to portray the kind of social norms and cultures prevalent in the lives of the characters and allows the audience a perspective on their world. It may feel uncomfortable, but that may also be the intention of the writer to possibly portray the lack of “proper language” due to their socioeconomic situations.

Would you seek out another Urban Drama film in the future. Why or why not?

I do not have any problem with watching Urban Drama films. Before this lecture, I actually had no idea of the variety of movies that were considered Urban Drama films and how many I have already seen. If it’s an interesting story related to urban issues and it provides a meaningful message, I would definitely watch it.

second student: Anu

What is your opinion of this genre of Film and Theatre?

The genre of the Urban Drama in Film and Theatre, in my opinion, is an intrinsic piece of content that is shown and should continue to be shown. To reach a completely different audience that displays the lifestyle of these characters or the issues raised in race, multi-culturalism, labour, over-population, filth, chaos, and corruption on their central characters is very important to understand and educate others with these issues. It is an overlooked genre that should be shown more and allow others to be educated with these controversial issues.

What do you believe are some of the major themes or issues that this genre deals with?

As stated above from the Urban Drama article, the issues raised is in race, multi-culturalism, labour, over-population, filth, chaos, and corruption on their central characters. I personally agree with this statement because there is definitely a lot of discrimination involved and especially with our new president, discrimination has been worse than before. Another issue that seems to be raised is struggling to see who is a bigger and better hustler, especially in the hood. Objects such as guns, knives, hoodies, cars, drugs, and alcohol also becomes an issue on who possesses the most objects and they are shown as the leader of the group or “the one who runs the hood.”

Would you ever go to a play like Our Lady of 121st Street? Why or why not?

I would like to watch the play like Our Lady of 121st Street because I can gain a better understanding of the different lifestyles and have a better insight on why they make certain decisions. I love educating myself on other people’s culture because it allows me to emphasize others to understand them better.

Would you seek out another Urban Drama film in the future? Why or why not?

I would seek out an Urban Drama film in the future because not only is it interesting learning about different cultures, but, as mentioned above, this will allow me to gain a better understanding of the different lifestyles and obtain better insight on other peoples experiences and their reasoning’s of choices. People’s mind are developed differently due to their surroundings, family, and their way of fitting in. It will be educating to learn more than what I know.

 

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