What do you think of Jacobs-Jenkins use of comedy to get his audiences to think about tough issues? Explain

Step 1: Check out the link on the syllabus to the show and determine when you will attend.
Important: check under “Required Performances” on Blackboard and read any information
posted there BEFORE you attend the show.
Step 2: Attend the show! Sit, listen, and allow yourself to WATCH the play. The play is
meant to be experienced, so let yourself do just that. Remember: cell phones must be
turned off once you enter the theater! Be sure to get a program, as you will need the
information listed in order to complete this assignment. Save your ticket as well (turn in
with your paper—along with the program).
Step 3: During intermission or after the show, draw pictures, make notes within your
program, or TALK about the show with a friend — whatever it takes to keep your
impressions fresh in your mind.
Step 4: WRITE a double-spaced, 2-3 page response to the performance (use the questions
below as a guide). Spelling, grammar, and presentation count.
“Because, it’s like, ‘Well what makes me a black
[playwright]?’ I mean, I guess, it’s that I’m black, but
then, it’s like, why isn’t Sam Shepard a white
playwright?” Jacobs-Jenkins asks. “It just feels like it’s
qualifying something, and I don’t know why or what it’s
qualifying exactly.” Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins, playwright

“An Octoroon” is performed now in the same way that it was written in the mid-nineteenth
century: as a melodrama. Melodrama (a play with music) has broad characters, clear moral
tones and plays “over the top”—especially to modern audiences.

Jacobs-Jenkins (the playwright) uses comedy to talk about subjects that audiences—both
black and white—find reprehensible: slavery, bigotry, racism. In the following link, Jacobs-
Jenkins is interviewed about his use of comedy. Listen to this clip and respond:


What do you think of Jacobs-Jenkins use of comedy to get his audiences to think about
tough issues? How did you see him use comedy in “An Octoroon”? What if Jacob-Jenkins
had chosen to show these issues in a less comedic, broad way? Above all, comment on
HOW Jacob-Jenkins chose to deal with these topics of race.

Whenever possible, use direct examples from the play.
Please be careful not to provide me with a synopsis of the play or a
step-by-step description of your physical experience, i.e., how you
got there, where you parked, etc. I want you to reflect on your
emotional and intellectual response to the experience. You do not need to
be a sound designer or a theater director to tell me what you saw and what
effect it had on you. Trust your instincts and back up your thoughts with
examples from the performance.
DEVELOPMENT (15): ____________
• Details are sufficient to make the analysis both vivid and unique
for the reader
UNITY AND FOCUS (15): ___________
• Essay has a dominant impression that unifies the portrayal of the
• All details are directly relevant to the dominant impression or
main focus of the essay
PARAGRAPHING (10): ______________
• Introduction and conclusion are present
• Each paragraph in the body of the essay contains only one major
supporting point that is developed fully
• The order and arrangement of the paragraph is logical and
• There are natural and smooth transitions between paragraphs
• Sentences in your paragraphs flow logically from one to another
• Sentences are clearly written and grammatically correct
DISCUSSION (5): ________________
• I am present, prepared and engaged in our class discussion of the
performances (11/20)
TOTAL: /60

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