Writing in Stereo

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WiS 4A Notes

April 9th, 2010

The original Writing in Stereo was published online back in the late 1980's.  Its purpose was to apply creative radio dramatics to all aspects of the teaching of high school English.  Each lesson included a lesson plan and notes.  I'm sharing these with you here.

 Notes (IV.A)

This lesson may be the best way to introduce planting and tagging because the dialogue has been written to be spoken. Plants and tags are all that is missing. As an ironic example we'll adapt William Gibson's The Miracle Worker to our medium where seeing is not necessary. Here's the opening of the climactic pump scene as it appears in the published text.3

"(ANNIE has pulled HELEN downstairs again by one hand, the pitcher in her other hand, down the porch steps, and across the yard to the pump. She puts HELEN'S hand on the pump handle, grimly.)

ANNIE. All right. Pump. (Helen touches her cheek, waits uncertainly.) No, she's not here. Pump!

(She forces HELEN'S hand to work the handle, then lets go. And HELEN obeys. She pumps till the water comes, then ANNIE puts the pitcher in her other hand and guides it under the spout, and the water tumbling half into and half around the pitcher douses HELEN'S hand. ANNIE takes over the handle to keep water coming, and does automatically what she had done so many times before, spells into HELENS' free palm)

Water. W, a, t, e, r. Water. It has a--name--

(And now the miracle happens. HELEN drops the pitcher on the slab under the spout, it shatters. She stands transfixed. ANNIE freezes on the pump handle: there is a change in the sundown light, and with it a change in HELEN'S face, some light coming into it we have never seen there, some struggle in the depths behind it; and her lips tremble, trying to remember something the muscles around them once knew, till at last it finds its way out, painfully, a baby sound buried under the debris of years of dumbness.)

HELEN. Wah. Wah."

On the computer word processor, we add a little dialogue:

"ANNIE: Come along out here, my Creature. You're going to fill this pitcher. Out on the porch. That's it. (SOUND of struggling on porch floor.) (EFFORT) No use complaining. The pump's right over here in the yard. Here we are. Now (EFFORT) let's put your hands on the pump handle. All right. Pump. Stroking your face, are you. No, she's not here. Pump! (SOUND of pumping.) That's it. You're doing fine. The water will come soon. (SOUND of water spilling out over objects) There it is! I'll spell it into your hand. Water. W, a, t, e, r. Water. It has a--name--... Oh, my, it's spilling all over everything. (PAUSE) (SOUND of pitcher smashing on floor) What's the matter, Helen? Are you all right? (Muttering to herself:) What am I doing? ... Helen! Are you trying to speak? (PAUSE)

HELEN: Wah. Wah."

3 The Miracle Worker: Copyright 1956, 1957 by William Gibson; copyright 1959, 1960 by Tamarack Productions, Ltd. and George S. Klein and Lew Garel as trustees under three separate deeds of trust.