Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking and Data (an android) enjoy a leisurely game of poker in the holodeck (a holographic imaging playroom) on board the starship Enterprise. Actually, the only one enjoying the game is Stephen. Isaac, who is easily annoyed anyway, becomes increasingly agitated during a light-hearted discussion about the planet Mercury since he hasn’t a clue that it even exists, while Albert tries in vain to smooth his ruffled feathers. Data appears befuddled as ever over human psychology, which more often than not defies anything approximating logic and reason, and Hawking grins like the Cheshire Cat, confident in the knowledge that he’s about to beat the pants off his esteemed colleagues with a Royal Flush.
Such was the prologue scene to the episode titled, “Decent” from the television series,
Star Trek, The Next Generation
(aired April 21, 1993).
Hawing, the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, author of
A Brief History of Time,
and an avid
fan, planted the idea for the scene during a visit to Paramount where the series had been shot, and hence (although unbeknownst to Professor Hawking), the idea for this next lesson in which students will learn about characterization and writing scenes. The general topic for these scenes will be an argument about the creation of the universe.
After viewing the clip mentioned above, students will be presented with a
Talking Heads ¥ Profiles
handout that includes brief profiles of the following: Aristotle, Saint Augustine, Ptolemy, Nicholas Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler, Isaac Newton, Immanuel Kant, and Edwin Hubble (based on information from from
A Brief History of Time
, pages 1-13, and the eighth grade science text,
Exploring the Universe
, pages 56-62; see “Talking Heads ¥ Profiles” in the appendix). After reviewing the profiles with the class, I will discuss various aspects of characterization as the playwright’s way of showing how each person in a play is unique, and how the playwright reveals characters through dialogue, descriptions, and stage directions. Students will then be instructed to write a scene with two or more of the profiled personalities involved in an argument about the formation of the universe. They will also be given the option of working in pairs or small groups (no larger than four members) if they would like to work cooperatively. Students may add characters, either from the mythology that had been addressed in the last class, or inventions of their own. They must put whatever characters they choose in a particular setting (such as the poker game in the Star Trek clip). In developing their characters, students will be advised to look to the following aspects of characterization: function, physical appearance, social behavior, psychological profile, morality; how the character is typified; how he is individualized; whether or not he is sympathetic to the audience or unsympathetic; a protagonist or antagonist. This activity will take up about half of the class time. We should wind up with four to five drafted scenes since most students usually enjoy working in groups. In preparation for the next class, I will review and lightly edit the scenes, type them, and make multiple copies of each scene so that by the next class, we can have a readthrough of the students’ work.
During the last five minutes of class, students will receive back their folders and will be directed to the answers to the first two questions asked of them in this unit—
“Who are you?
“Where did the world come from?”
They will be asked to add to these answers in relation to the quote that appears at the beginning of this section (from “No Way to Stop It” by Rogers and Hammerstein). Once again, the writing should be guided by stream of consciousness. This process will be repeated at the end of each of the four major sections of this unit and students will be instructed to be guided by the quotes that head each section respectively.