Buffy Essay Introduction – Title TBC

Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ was my childhood. There is probably no other statement that could better define the importance of this television series on my life. From the ages of eight to thirteen, I would say I was living and breathing ‘Buffy’: the graphic novels, the VHS Box Sets, even the trading cards and pencil cases, I collected it all. Introducing me to a world of television drama (that I probably should not have been watching at that age), ‘Buffy’ was the show that kick-started an interest in US Drama that still lives on today.

The brainchild of Joss Whedon, ‘Buffy’ ran for seven seasons between 1997 and 2003, using the “easy (and) obvious metaphor (that) ‘high school is hell’ ”(Neil Gaiman, Front Row Special on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, BBC Four) as it told the tales of Buffy Summers and her collective of friends as they try to maintain normal lives while battling the vampires, demons and forces of darkness that are attracted to the Hellmouth that resides underneath their town. A concept originally explored in Whedon’s script for the 1992 film of the same name, it wasn’t until the television series that Whedon’s writing revolutionised a genre through transforming the depiction of women in television by empowering their gender representation. At the same time originating the structure of a season-long story arc (M.Felipe, Mythology: Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Impact, 2009, .boxofficeprophets.com) , these are just two of the many ways in which Buffy changed television drama.

This essay intends to explore the ways in which Buffy’s legacy has influenced television since its departure. This exploration will be broken down into three sections: the changes ‘Buffy’ introduced, the television dramas that emerged from the show’s legacy and a look at today’s offerings from the small screen. Foreseeing what may be uncovered, I personally predict that Buffy’s legacy has been more structural to today’s television, with no equivalent being present in today’s schedules.

 

NOTE: Referencing to be amended in a later draft.

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Ideas for Essay: Sondheim Musicals – Company & Merrily We Roll Along

Stephen Sondheim

Who is Stephen Sondheim?

Stephen Sondheim is the most influential composer and lyricist to have an effect on the form of the musical to date. Having written the lyrics for West Side Story at the beginning of his career, Sondheim has gone on to develop the most intricate and meaningful musicals through his collaborations with Hal Prince, James Lapine and many others. His musicals have not always been commercial hits (see Sweeney Todd and Merrily We Roll Along), but they have made a gigantic impact on the ‘musical’ . Having been mentored by Oscar Hammerstein, Sondheim’s musicals gave meaning to the form, showing the complexity and issues that can be dealt with in a musical without sugar coating any of the issues he tackles, whilst always bringing something new to the form with each musical he has written.

Why do I want to explore Sondheim?

Why wouldn’t I want to explore Sondheim?! The man is a god in the theatre industry. He has revolutionised the musical.

Viewpoints that could be taken:

Historian, Theatregoer, Journalist, Actor, Director, Set Designer, Producer, Lyricist, Composer

Resources

Books:

Finishing the Hat and Look, I Made a Hat.

These books are written by Sondheim, in them he explains and explores his shows and lyrics.

Art Isn’t Easy: The Theater Of Stephen Sondheim

Sondheim on Music: Minor Details and Major Decisions [Hardcover]

Stephen Sondheim: A Life

Articles/ Website:

The Guardian: Sondheim Articles

Time Out: Stephen Sondheim: Interview

The Paris review: Stephen Sondheim, The Art of the Musical

Academy of Achievement: Sondheim Interview

The Guardian: Stephen Sondheim: A life in music

Stage & Screen Online: Stephen Sondheim – In Conversation 

Videos:

Documentary: Six By Sondheim

9th December 2013 – HBO

Six by Sondheim is an HBO television documentary which pays tribute to Broadway composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim. The film was directed and co-produced by James Lapine, based on an idea by Frank Rich and “centers on the backstory of six great Sondheim songs.”

Doumentary: Stephen Sondheim: The South Bank Show (2010)

Original air date: 25 April 2010

Stephen Sondheim is interviewed at home in Manhattan, for The South Bank Show Revisited on the eve of his 80th birthday.

Stephen Sondheim Interview

Stephen Sondheim talks about his early life and creative process with reference to his many award winning Broadway shows.

Documentary: South Bank Show – Sweeney Todd – Original London Cast (1980)

Theatre Talk 

Another channel link

Good Youtube Channel for actor interviews

A Conversation with Stephen Sondheim

Into the Woods – MTI Conversation Piece with Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine

Merrily We Roll Along

What is ‘Merrily We Roll’ Along About?

Lasting only 52 previews and 16 performances upon its first staging, Merrily We Roll Along was probably the biggest commercial ‘flop’ that personally affected Sondheim. A tale of three friends and their path of success and failure through life and their chosen careers, the musical folds out in reverse, leaving the audience on a high through the character’s innocence and naivety displayed in the last scene featuring the song ‘Our Time’. A cautionary tale form Sondheim, when originally staged, it came to the point where the actors had to wear T-shirts so that audiences knew who they were playing and the time-frame it was set. With the libretto reworked after it closed, this musical’s most recent revival on the West End last year garnered the most five star reviews for any West End musical in history.

 

Articles:

InDepth InterView: Maria Friedman Talks MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG From Stage To Screen; Plus, Sondheim Comments!

Time Out: Stephen Sondheim: ‘any tune is a hit if you play it enough’

The Telegraph: Still cutting it at 80: Stephen Sondheim interview

The Independent: Stephen Sondheim: An audience with a theatre legend

Digital Theatre: Merrily We Roll Along interviews

The Guardian: Maria Friedman: ‘We made Stephen Sondheim cry’

Indie Wire: Maria Friedman Talks Directing Merrily We Roll Along

Broadway.com: Mark Umbers on Daring to Be ‘Vile’ as Franklin in the London Revival of Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along

Side by Side with Sondheim (Long Interview, Multiple Topics)

The Guardian: Sondheim and the art of revival: how a show that first flops becomes a hit

Videos:

Six by Sondheim: Opening Doors

2013 West End Revival: The Blob

Broadway.com: Encores! 2012 Coverage

Interesting for Actor P.O.V

Merrily We Roll Along – West End Trailer (Extended Version)

Good for Creative Process


Company

What is ‘Company’ About?

“Company is a musical comedy based on a book by George Furth with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The original production was nominated for a record-setting fourteen Tony Awards and won six.

Originally titled Threes, its plot revolves around Bobby (a single man unable to commit fully to a steady relationship, let alone marriage), the five married couples who are his best friends, and his three girlfriends.Unlike most book musicals, which follow a clearly delineated plot, Company is a concept musical ( a show where the metaphor or statement is more important than the narrative)composed of short vignettes, presented in no particular chronological order, linked by a celebration for Bobby’s 35th birthday.

Company was among the first musicals to deal with adult themes and relationships. As Sondheim puts it, “Broadway theater has been for many years supported by upper-middle-class people with upper-middle-class problems. These people really want to escape that world when they go to the theatre, and then here we are with Company talking about how we’re going to bring it right back in their faces.”” (Wikipedia)

Why this musical?

One of the first musicals that introduced me to the work of Sondheim, I think its intelligent wit, humour and emotional depth that is slowly revealed is why I would want to explore this musical. One of Sondheim’s first collaborations where he wrote both the lyrics and music, I think it is one of his works where even though the comments he are making seem prominent and exposed, there is so much more he is saying which you have to read into.

Articles

The Guardian: Stephen Sondheim working on a ‘gay’ version of Company

The Telegraph: Stephen Sondheim’s ‘Company’: Can it work in the 21st Century?

Comments on the 2011 Revival in Southwark

NPR: Stephen Colbert: In Good ‘Company’ On Broadway

ASCAP: A Conversation with Stephen Sondheim(2007)

Videos

Clip: What did I just do?

Use if chosen for essay

Documentary: Company: Making of the Original Cast Recording

Show: Elaine Stritch At Liberty (2002)

Contains memories of staging Company

Stephen Sondheim on Company

An interview from BBC with Sondheim and Sam Mendes

Sondheim teaches ‘Not Getting Married’ from Company

Stephen Sondheim teaches students from the Guildhall School

Company starring Neil Patrick Harris 2011

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Ideas for Essay: Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Buffy - Season 2 PromoWhat was ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’?

‘Into every generation there is a chosen one”… Wait, why am I explaining the plot of ‘Buffy’?! It is all in the title; there is no further explanations needed!  Created by Joss Whedon, ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ ran for seven seasons (1997-2003), breaking new ground in television along the way. From transforming the depiction of women in television (by empowering their gender representation) to originating the structure of a season-long story arc, ‘Buffy’ is the show that changed it all.  Depicting what a television show could achieve, Whedon’s series is still remembered today for its complex characters, witty dialogue, metaphors filed elements and form-changing definitive episodes (see ‘Hush’, ‘The Body’ and ‘Once More with Feeling‘).

Why do I want to explore the TV Show?

‘Buffy’ was my childhood. There is no other statement that could describe this more accurately as from the age of about 8 or 9 up to when the show ended, all I remember was my life was a world full of ‘Buffy’ (and Britney). I don’t think any television series has ever made such an impact on me as this one had (Well there is ‘Mary Poppins’, but that is a book, film and musical!). If I cover ‘Buffy’, I would like to delve into its impact on television today, while also exploring further the complexities of it’s construction, to see exactly how it changed the form of television.

Viewpoints that could be taken:

Feminist, Historian, Bigamist, Religeous POVs.

Resources

Books:

Undead TV: Essays on Buffy the Vampire Slayer 

Why Buffy Matters: The Art of Buffy the Vampire Slayer

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and Philosophy: Fear and Trembling in Sunnydale

Reading the “Vampire Slayer”: The New, Updated, Unofficial Guide to ‘Buffy’ and ‘Angel’

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – The Making of a Slayer

Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Fan Phenomena)

Articles/ Website:

Pop-verse: The legend of Buffy

A personal exploration of Buffy, that expands on the Front Row show

Bitch Magazine: The Buffy Effect (1999)

Exploring Buffy as “a tale of cleavage and marketing”

The Telegraph: Buffy effect: violence against strong women more acceptable to TV viewers (31 Aug 2012)

Viewers find sexual violence on TV less offensive if scenes feature a strong female character, even if she is portrayed as a victim, a study has found.

Huffington Post: The Buffy Effect (28/05/2013)

Huffington Post: Sex And Violence On TV Shows ‘Doesn’t Affect How We See Women, But Weak Female Characters Do’ (30/08/2012)

Sparknotes: The Mind Hut – 15 Years after Buffy: She Influenced Pop Culture. A Lot. (August 8, 2012)

 When TV Became Art: What We Owe to Buffy (Thursday, Dec 17, 2009)

States Buffy gave us long story arcs, breaking away from singular episodes.

New York Magazine: When TV Became Art (Published Dec 4, 2009)

Box Office Prophets – Mythology: Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Impact (October 30th, 2009)

States about how Buffy developed the idea of a season-long story arc.

What Culture: Buffy The Vampire Slayer: 15 Iconic Moments That Defined the Series (October 10, 2012)

Influenced by opinion, lists chosen moments that defined the series.These seem more narrative-based.

Slate.com:Is Sexual Violence on TV OK if the Heroine Is Tough?  (No Date)

Refers back to ‘There Buffy Effect’, described in earlier articles.

TV Flashback: Buffy The Vampire Slayer (OCT 7, 2013)

“Because It’s Wrong”: Limitations of Female Empowerment in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Nov 2009)

Interesting essay, good site for comparisons to other shows.

From the Valley to the Hellmouth: “Buffy”’s Transition from Film to Television (No Date)

Brief, another good site though.

‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ – the TV Series

BBC Description

THE COSMOLOGY OF SERIALIZED TELEVISION

Briefly mentions Buffy’s ‘failures’ compared to ‘Veronica Mars’

Other:

BBC Radio 4: Front Row Special on Buffy the Vampire Slayer (First broadcast: Thursday 26 December 2013)

Videos:

5×16 – The Body – Anya’s Speech

Buffy Cast and Crew discussion

Buffy Reunion at Paleyfest 2008

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Ideas for Essay: Hair

HairWhat is ‘Hair’?

Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical is a rock musical with a book and lyrics by James Rado and Gerome Ragni and music by Galt MacDermot. A product of the hippie counterculture and sexual revolution of the 1960s, several of its songs became anthems of the anti-Vietnam War peace movement. The musical’s profanity, its depiction of the use of illegal drugs, its treatment of sexuality, its irreverence for the American flag, and its nude scene caused much comment and controversy. The musical broke new ground in musical theatre by defining the genre of “rock musical”, using a racially integrated cast, and inviting the audience onstage for a “Be-In” finale.” (Wikipedia)

Summary of the plot

“Hair tells the story of the “tribe”, a group of politically active, long-haired hippies of the “Age of Aquarius” living a bohemian life in New York City and fighting against conscription into the Vietnam War. Claude, his good friend Berger, their roommate Sheila and their friends struggle to balance their young lives, loves and the sexual revolution with their rebellion against the war and their conservative parents and society. Ultimately, Claude must decide whether to resist the draft as his friends have done, or to succumb to the pressures of his parents (and conservative America) to serve in Vietnam, compromising his pacifistic principles and risking his life.”(Wikipedia)

Would I want explore this musical?

I’m unsure whether I want to pursue ‘Hair’ for this essay as there is so much background research to look into for this.  Having seen the revival multiple times, both when it was revived in 2009 on Broadway and when it transferred to the West End in 2010, it is an understatement to say this is a unique musical, as it is so much more. Although both an experience and a life-changing event, I will probably not cover Hair it means too much personally, while also being probably a too large subject matter. It is stated on ideas as it may have helped to cover the subject in preparation for my dissertation(which will revolve around how  revivals affect the growth of theatre as a form).

Viewpoints that could be taken:

Hippies, Actor, Journalist from the 60s, Teenager today, theatregoer.

Resources

Books:

Hair: The Story Of the Show That Defined a Generation by Eric Grode

On my bookshelf: Includes images, reviews, profiles, history of the musical, profiles. May be bias as it is an official companion.

Articles/ Website:

http://www.hairthemusical.com/musical.html

Musical is briefly looked into on this website.

Possible:

Interview Gavin Creel if additional information needed.

Videos:

HAIR (Broadway) – “Hair” [LIVE @ The 2009 Tony Awards]

Use as example if chosen as final idea

“Hair,” with playwright/lyricist James Rado, composer Galt MacDermot, and actor Gavin Creel

Indepth discussion on the musical.

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Ideas for Essay: The Last Five Years

The Last Five YearsWhat is ‘The Last Five Years’?

‘The Last Five Years’ is a musical written by Jason Robert Brown, inspired by his failed marriage to Theresa O’Neill.

“(The Last Five Years) premiered at Chicago’s Northlight Theatre in 2001 and was then produced Off-Broadway in March 2002. Since then it has had numerous productions both in the United States and internationally.

The story explores a five-year relationship between Jamie Wellerstein, a rising novelist, and Cathy Hyatt, a struggling actress. The show uses a form of storytelling in which Cathy’s story is told in reverse chronological order (beginning the show at the end of the marriage), and Jamie’s is told in chronological order (starting just after the couple have first met). The characters do not directly interact except for a wedding song in the middle as their timelines intersect.” (Wikipedia)

Why would I want explore this musical?

One of my favourite musicals, it is the music and the lyrics of this show that make this show so moving, the staging takes a back seat. The way in which Brown climaxes songs and creates an atmosphere of ‘here and now; is transcendent. The structure of Brown’s lyrics and the supporting music allows the listener to physically feel his characters’ emotions through diction and expression, with the source material’s structure influencing the way it has to be performed. There hasn’t been another musical that has affected me in this way, where I would describe the technique as a ‘colloquialism’ of lyrics. Furthermore, I believe this musical captured the evolution of the musical in the decade that had past and the next few years that were on the horizon. Jonathan Larson’s ‘Rent’ had opened in 1994 and brought with it the resurgence of contemporary music styles being blended with the form of the musical. Following this, musicals such as ‘Blood Brothers’ and ‘Little Shop Of Horror’s’ and ‘Aida’ emerged. A new age of musical theatre had begun and the style in which the music was written was changing. Staged in the wake of 9/11, ‘The Last Five Years’ seemed to be overlooked, yet its lyrics in the show’s number “Goodbye Until Tomorrow’ captured the changing city of New York and its theatre industry perfectly:

“I stand on a precipice
I struggle to keep my balance
I open myself
I open myself one stitch at a time

Finally yes!
Finally now!
Finally something takes me away
Finally free!
Finally he can cut through these strings
And open my wings!”

This show was not a commercial success, yet ‘The Last Five Years’ has gained a cult-like following through its cast recording, influencing the professional’s of today’s theatre industry. However, although Brown’s style has influenced songwriting in musicals today, it did not bring anything new to the structure of the musical. Offering a contemporary twist to game-changers in storytelling, using ideas such as telling its narrative in reverse (as introduced by Sondheim’s ‘Merilly We Roll Along‘), this musical may not have enough written about it to cover within the essay.

Resources

Articles:

NY Times: The Strange Pull of a Simple Love Story
Explores the public’s relationship with The Last Five Years

NY Times: He Sings, She Sings: Who’s Right?
2013 Off-Broadway Revival Review

Other NY Times Articles on Jason Robert Brown:

You’ve Got Another Chance, Broadway

Videos:

A Songwriting Master Class with Jason Robert Brown

Interesting insight into how he works and what he advises to aspiring songwriters.

Deleted Song – I Could Be In Love With Someone Like You

Deleted due to the similarities between Robert Brown’s actual divorce.

Sherie Rene Scott – “Goodbye Until Tomorrow’

Use if chosen for presentation.

Show People With Paul Wontorek: Sherie Rene Scott

Interview, small snippets of Last Five Years

THE GRAHAM SHOW Ep. 3, Part 3: Sherie Rene Scott, “Fan Mail & Advice”

Interesting look into Sherie’s intro to the business and Last Five Years.

Off-Broadway Revival – Sitzprobe Preview – Goodbye Until Tomorrow

To be used as a preview if using this musical as the essay subject matter. This video is part of a promotional series.

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Review: Master of the Poster

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Having established Britain’s first Graphic Design undergraduate course at the London College of Communication between 1957-1977, it seems fitting that a selection of forty posters from Tom Eckerley’s illustrious career are currently being exhibited at the university’s Upper Street Gallery to mark a centenary since his birth. Displayed and categorized by the different stages of his career, curators Lawrence Zeegan and Tara Hanrahan have collated a varied selection of posters that exemplify Eckersley’s ability to convey complex messages through “his use of block colour and simple images.”

Taking a modernist approach to the form, Tom Eckersley paved the way for modern graphic design to be viewed as a separate professional practice from commercial art through his contributions to education (see the beginning of this review) as well his iconic designs (produced for organisations such as Transport for London United Nations, Transport for London and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents). Through a world of geometric shapes, stark lines and simple construction, ‘Master of the Poster’ (running January 11-29) attempts to delve into these professional ventures, yet comes up short due to the troubled layout this awkward location enforces.

With students, lecturers and victors rushing through the constantly thriving open space of the Upper Street Gallery on a day-today basis, the ‘hallway-turned-gallery’ would seem like the perfect location for the form of the poster. Unfortunately it is due to the way in which pieces hang within this tunnel-like exhibition that stops visitor’s appreciating each piece in their intended context, with posters having been arranged in clusters, compressed next to one another in the little space provided. Grouped by the different stages of Eckerley’s career, it feels as though curators Zeegan and Hanrahan have chosen to give the viewer a flavour of each era that Eckerley influenced, with a constant simplification occurring while we transition from the objective to the geometric. This coinage of works suffocates each piece, not allowing space for appreciation from the viewer through the vision of the next work within their line of sight.

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Furthermore, with the exhibition’s intent to honor and reflect upon Eckerley’s work ,we question the need for an additional alcove (see above). Housing posters that students and lecturers have produced in response to Eckerley’s work (through letterpress and screen printing), the lack of attached titles, descriptions and authors missing from these works defeat their purpose of reflection, leaving the viewer to decode which elements of Eckerley’s work the creator has responded to.

Although masterpieces when viewed separately, the current exhibition of Tom Eckersley’s work at LCC doesn’t cut the mustard. Due to close quarters and an ambiguous ‘tribute’ area, a viewer will feel rushed and overwhelmed when taking in the pieces of a designer so highly regarded in the industry.

 

Tom Eckersley: Master of the Poster 
Private View: Friday 10 January 2014, 6– 9pm
Exhibition Open: 11 – 29 January 2014, 10am – 5pm (closed on Sundays)
Venue: Upper Street Gallery, London College of Communication, Elephant & Castle, SE1 6SB

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