Instructor's Teaching Experience:
This is a really good play for teaching because the National Theater has the full Gillian Anderson performance on their database, and the film with Brando is extremely accessible, so there is a lot of opportunity to really view what is happening as well as reading it. We also read this after reading Roxanne Gay’s “Not Here to Make Friends: On the Importance of Unlikable Female Protagonists.” This worked really well because both Blanch and Stanley can be extremely unlikable, and students are not shy about saying so. Having read Gay’s article led to a productive conversation about being unlikable vs being a villain. It is also important to note that I taught this during Zoom semesters and haven’t taught it since.
Looking at Van Gogh’s The Night Cafe – this piece of art was one of the images that inspired the design, the ambiance, and the lighting. Starting the class with a close reading of this image – what they see and more importantly getting them to describe some of the stylistic decisions. The painting is not quite realism. The painting is an instance of Van Gogh's use of what he called "suggestive colour" or, as he would soon term it, "arbitrary colour" in which the artist infused his works with his emotions, typical of what was later called Expressionism. This allows us to get into the stylistic, expressionist qualities of his play. You might play a portion of the poker scene from the National Theater Live Archive and have them recognize how some of those qualities in the painting come to life.
What is Parody: One activity I like to do is introduce the parody play Belle Reprieve and let them watch scenes from both and look for where there is reverence for the original and where there is critique. It’s also a really good way to introduce a queer reading – because it’s a very queer parody. It’s also really funny, and helps students better discuss the plays climax.