Throwback Thursday: Fences Performance Critique

Throwback Thursday, where, essentially I post old writing samples, essays and short stories that I dig up from my pile of hoarded papers and school assignments or from the depths of my computer. So everyone can see how my writing has changed/improved over the years.

Fences by August Wilson premiered in 1985. The play was adapted into a movie in 2016, with Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reprising their roles, of Troy and Rose respectively, from the 2010 revival of the play on Broadway. The movie adaptation highlights the way Troy is a tragic figure, rather than a merely a sympathetic one. Based on the written play, Troy is a character who has faced a difficult life and perpetuates this in his family life, cheating on his wife and holding his son back from his dreams. Washington’s portrayal highlights the sympathy you could have for Troy more consistently than the play allows, making it a story not only of the way oppression eventually beats a man down, but the way you build a life despite of it. The play leaves it to the audience to decide if Troy can be forgiven or not, determine for themselves if he has truly gone to heaven. However, the movie uses lightening as well as physical cues throughout, to lead us to the interpretation that Troy has gone to heaven, and is ultimately a tragic character, rather than merely a sympathetic but unforgivable one. The film version ultimately gives the ambiguous ending of the play, whether or not Troy could ultimately be forgiven by his family, a definitive interpretation that he would be forgiven, that his faults did not make him irredeemable.

Systematic oppression has put Troy in his position, and though he tries his best, he falls short of living the life he intends. The way in which Troy tries but fails to measure up is clearer in the film, going beyond the stage-directions, which do not indicate Troy is showing emotion his words aren’t conveying. The film shows more humor and kindness in Troy then his stern words alone suggest in the play. Just through reading the play, it is possible to interpret Troy has someone who has lived up to society’s expectation of him, being cruel to his son, and cheating on his wife. The ways in which you can sympathize with him only emerging in specific instances. This is brought out more fully with Washington’s portrayal of the character, shifting the interpretation of Troy’s character and ultimate fate from ambiguous to solidly tragic and forgiven.

Specifically, Troy’s vulnerabilities are clearer in Washington’s portrayal, with soft, sad smiles where the play had no written direction other than stern words – highlighting the way he wasn’t only criticizing Cory, but protecting the only way he knew how. The physicality of Washington’s portrayal of Troy (referring to his facial expressions and tone of voice) leads viewers to a more sympathetic and understanding view of Troy than readers of the script may walk away with. The tone of voice Washington uses in key scenes differs from the tone you would expect from the play-script itself. In his speech to Cory where Troy is lecturing Cory “Who says I have to like you,” (Wilson 37) he is smiling and affectionate, almost joking with his son, there is humor as well as a lecture, rather than just the stern lecture of sacrifice it is in its written form. This interpretation of the play in the movie is further expressed by Cory’s reaction to singing the song with Raynell in the end of the film. While the play never lets us know directly whether Cory himself has forgiven his father for his faults, thus furthering the allowance of the readers to make their own conclusions of his character, the film has Cory crying as he sings, as he takes his mother’s rant about the good and bad parts of his father to heart; Cory accepts Troy as a flawed man, but a man who tried his best nonetheless, and leads the audience to this same interpretation.

Besides physicality, the other major way the film leads to the interpretation of Troy as a tragic character is lightning, most significantly, the lightning in the last scene. Troy’s brother Gabriel believes himself to be the archangel Gabriel, who is the messenger of God, and calls out for St. Peter to open the gates of heaven to let Troy in. The stage directions of the play indicate that the stage lights blackout after Gabriel blows his trumpet and the gates of heaven open to him, but it is ambiguous whether this means Troy has gone to heaven, or it is only a manifestation of Gabriel’s delusion, and could be played either way. The movie has bright gold across the sky, as the clouds part and open up, as the family stares up for several long seconds. The movie ends on golden light streaming through the tree into the backyard, rather than going straight to black after the sound of the trumpet. The end of the movie clearly lets you see that Troy has been forgiven in the eyes of God, rather than leaving it a possible manifestation of Gabriel’s mind.

Personally, my preferred interpretation of the play is to see Troy as a tragic figure, to see him as flawed but sympathetic, rather than irredeemable for his poor choices. Because he is flawed in a lot of ways, but he is human, and no human being has ever not made a mistake, including huge life-changing ones like his affair which results in Raynell. It is far easier to vilify someone, than to forgive them; it is easier to write someone off rather than look deeper into what lead to mistakes being made. Some of Troy’s choices were entirely on him, but others seem almost inevitable. He is harsh on Cory not because he doesn’t love him, but because systematic oppression has beaten his dreams out of him, and he can’t fix that for Cory, so he wants him not to be hurt by the battles Troy was never able to win. You can understand Troy’s behaviors, and forgive them, without excusing them. Troy’s motto seems to be “you gotta take the crookeds with the straights” (Wilson 94) and that is the interpretation of Troy’s character that the film leaves us with, which seems the honest interpretation. You forgive, because it is harder than anger, you take the good and the bad parts of life, and you make the best of the situations you have no power over, because you have power over yourself.

Works Cited

Washington, Denzel, director. Fences. Paramount Pictures, 2016.

Wilson, August. Fences. New Mexico Repertory Theatre, 1989.


Throwback Thursday: Much Ado About Nothing Act 3 Scene 4 – 2014 – Valley Girl Rewrite

Throwback Thursday, where, essentially I post old writing samples, essays and short stories that I dig up from my pile of hoarded papers and school assignments or from the depths of my computer. So everyone can see how my writing has changed/improved over the years.

(Enter Hero, Margaret, and Ursula)

Hero:  Ursula, could you, like, wake up, Beatrice? Cuz, like, you know, today’s my wedding day and she needs to, like, help me into my dress. OMG where is she?

Ursula:  Fine.

(Looks in the distance)

(Hero taps her shoulder)

Hero:  Ursula?

Ursula:  Ya?

Hero:  NOW!

Ursula:  Ok, ok. Shish. Like, take a chill pill.

(She exits)

Hero:  Shoo. Ok, Margaret, like, this is, like, my dress. What do you, like, think girl?

Margaret:  I think, like, that looks like one of those, ummm, dresses from Shakespeare’s time. What was that, like, called again?

(Looks in dictionary on phone)

Hero:  Margaret!

Margaret:  Gosh! Girl, I like, already found it. It was like, called a rebato. Ok, so that dress, like, looks like a rebato, ummm… But extra ugly.

Hero:  What?!

Margaret:  Especially on you.

Hero:  Ok, like, what’s your damage and, like, call the fashion police, cuz you girl, have no style.

Margaret:  Pah-lease, girl. You’re the one, like, with no style. Have you, like, not seen the dress?

Hero:  Whatevs, you’re just jealous.

Margaret:  Am not!

(Stamps foot)

Hero:  OMG! This dress is, like, so heavy!

Margaret:  It’ll, like, be heavier soon. You know, with a man on it.

(Covers her ears)

 Hero:  Oh my gosh, no! Like, my virgin ears! Why would you, like, say something like that?

Margaret:  What? Like, we all know it’s true. I mean, like, you are getting married, you know. What did you, like, think was gonna happen?

Hero: OMG! Like, where’s Beatrice?

(“Deleted Scene” Ursula gets Beatrice)

Ursula:  Beatrice, like, wake up girl! Hero, like, needs your help.

Beatrice:  Uh, why?! Like, it’s not my problem she can’t get dressed by herself.

Ursula:  Well, she is, like, getting married and, like, you are her cousin so…, like, go.

Beatrice:  Uh! Fine, whatever. But really, marriage is bor-ing!

(Back to Hero’s room – Enter Beatrice)

Hero:  Hey girl! Like, finally!

Beatrice:  Hey, like, Ursula said you, like, needed something.

Hero:  Ya, but are you, like, sick or something? OMG if you are, like, get away from me! I CANNOT get sick on my wedding day. (Hides behind Ursula)

Beatrice:  Ok… But no, like, probably not. Just, like ummm, a headache or something.

Margaret (to Hero):  Oh, she’s not sick, girl. She’s in love, like, L-O-V-E, love.

Beatrice (to Margaret): Congrats, you can spell.

Hero (to Margaret):  What kind of other, like, love is there?

Beatrice:  Uh, no girls, I’m not in love. And you can’t talk to me like that, Margaret. You work for me, like, remember!

Margaret:  I do remember but, like, you ARE in love. And I also, like, know the cure for your sickness.

Ursula (to the side): Uh, please don’t kill each other; bloods like, so hard to get out.

(Rolls her eyes)

Beatrice (to Margaret):  What?

Margaret:   Like, Benedick. Duh!

Beatrice: OMG, NO!

Hero:  OMG, YES! I, like, totally ship you guys.

(Beatrice evilly stares at Hero)

Hero: Sorry.

Margaret:  Whatever, we all, like, know it’s true, Ms. In Denial.

Beatrice:  Whatevs, and you know what? I do feel sick, but, like, Benedick is not my cure. It’s, like, to get this stupid wedding over with. Sorry, Hero. Come on, let’s just, like, get you ready.   (To the side after looking at the dress: egh, gag me with a spoon.)

(Ursula gets text)

Ursula:  Girls, Don Pedro, Claudio, Benedick, Don John, and, like, ALL the other cute guys in town have come to, like, take you to the church.

Hero:  Oh. My. Gosh, it’s, like, almost time. Come on Margaret, Ursula, Beatrice. Like, we have a wedding to attend.

 (They exit)


Story time!

So, I didn’t write this by myself. I wrote it in 8th grade with a group of three other girls. We have to dress up and perform this in front of the class.

For the project, the teacher essentially assigned each group a scene and an accent and told us to have at it.

So, we rewrote the scene with a modern setting and valley girl vernacular, as stereotypical as we could be. We dressed in all pink and sequins, did outrageous makeup (all bright colors and way too much of it) and everything.

It was fun, we got an A.

But when we were done and had to change back into our uniforms we realized that no one brought make up remover… So me and my best friend had to walk into are next class with bright purple eye shadow smeared all over, smeared all over mascara/eye liner and so much concealer/foundation that didn’t actually match our skin.

Our teacher was so confused and concerned. She thought I had a black eye.