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MEG-17: American Drama

MEG-17: American Drama

IGNOU Solved Assignment Solution for 2023-24

If you are looking for MEG-17 IGNOU Solved Assignment solution for the subject American Drama, you have come to the right place. MEG-17 solution on this page applies to 2023-24 session students studying in MEG, PGDAML courses of IGNOU.

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Assignment Code: MEG-17/TMA/2023-24

Course Code: MEG-17

Assignment Name: American Drama

Year: 2023-24

Verification Status: Verified by Professor

Q1) What do you understand by Experimental Theatre?

Ans) Experimental theatre is a dynamic and innovative form of theatrical expression that pushes the boundaries of traditional dramatic conventions. It is a diverse and multifaceted genre that challenges established norms in performance, narrative structure, and audience engagement.

Experimental theatre defies easy categorization because it encompasses a wide range of styles, techniques, and artistic philosophies. At its core, it seeks to disrupt conventional storytelling and performance methods, often prioritizing the exploration of ideas, emotions, and sensations over linear narratives. While it can be traced back to various movements throughout history, such as the Dadaists and Surrealists in the early 20th century, experimental theatre truly gained momentum in the mid-20th century with the emergence of influential figures like Samuel Beckett, Antonin Artaud, and Jerzy Grotowski.

One hallmark of experimental theatre is its emphasis on the non-linear and fragmented narrative structure. Plays in this genre often lack a traditional beginning, middle, and end. Instead, they may present a series of disjointed scenes, monologues, or visual spectacles that challenge the audience's preconceived notions of storytelling. Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" is a prime example of this approach, where two characters endlessly wait for someone who never arrives, highlighting the futility and absurdity of human existence.

Experimental theatre also frequently incorporates unconventional staging and performance techniques. Antonin Artaud, known for his "Theatre of Cruelty," advocated for a visceral and sensory theatrical experience that aimed to awaken primal emotions in the audience. This involved the use of striking visuals, physicality, and a rejection of traditional dialogue-driven narratives. Jerzy Grotowski, on the other hand, focused on the actor's physicality and presence, often stripping away elaborate sets and costumes to create a more intimate connection between performer and spectator.

In addition to non-traditional narrative and staging, experimental theatre often explores unconventional themes and subject matter. It may delve into taboo topics, challenge societal norms, or address complex philosophical and existential questions. This willingness to confront uncomfortable or controversial themes allows experimental theatre to serve as a platform for social commentary and introspection.

Moreover, experimental theatre often blurs the line between audience and performer. Interactive and immersive elements are frequently incorporated, encouraging audience members to engage actively with the performance. This can range from participatory theatre where the audience becomes an integral part of the show to performances that unfold in unconventional spaces, breaking down the traditional fourth wall between actors and spectators.

Contemporary experimental theatre continues to evolve and adapt to the ever-changing cultural and technological landscape. With advancements in technology, digital and virtual reality elements have become increasingly integrated into experimental productions, expanding the possibilities for audience engagement and storytelling.

Q2) Attempt a critical note on ‘Musical’ and ‘Farce’ as forms of American Drama.

Ans) Musical and farce are two distinctive forms of American drama, each with its unique characteristics and impact on the theatrical landscape. Both have played significant roles in shaping American theatre, but they differ vastly in their approaches, themes, and modes of storytelling.

Musical Theatre:

Musical theatre is a quintessentially American genre that has left an indelible mark on the world of entertainment. It combines drama, music, dance, and often intricate stage design to create a multidimensional theatrical experience. Musicals have a rich history in the United States, dating back to the 19th century with works like "The Black Crook “and "Show Boat". However, it was in the 20th century that musical theatre truly blossomed, with groundbreaking shows.

One of the defining features of musical theatre is its use of song and dance to advance the narrative and develop characters. These elements can enhance emotional depth, create memorable moments, and offer a unique form of storytelling not found in other dramatic forms. While musicals often feature lighthearted, romantic, or comedic themes, they are also capable of addressing weighty issues, such as social injustice ("Les Misérables") or the American immigrant experience.

Musicals have played a vital role in reflecting and critiquing American society throughout history. They have tackled topics like race relations ("South Pacific"), political corruption ("Chicago"), and the pursuit of the American Dream ("A Chorus Line"). However, critics argue that some musicals can fall into the trap of superficiality, prioritizing spectacle over substance. The prevalence of formulaic "jukebox musicals," which rely on pre-existing popular songs rather than original scores, has also led to concerns about artistic integrity within the genre.


Farce, on the other hand, is a comedic form of American drama that thrives on absurdity, physical humour, and exaggerated characters. It often involves mistaken identities, misunderstandings, and chaotic situations that spiral out of control. Farce has a long history in American theatre, with notable examples like George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's "You Can't Take It with You" and Michael Frayn's "Noises Off".

The hallmark of farce is its relentless pursuit of laughter. It often relies on quick wit, slapstick humour, and over-the-top performances to generate comedic effects. Farces frequently take place in confined or chaotic settings, such as a single room or a backstage area, where characters' actions and reactions create comic mayhem.

Farce has been celebrated for its ability to provide escapism and pure entertainment. In times of crisis or social unrest, farcical comedies have offered audiences a reprieve from the complexities of the real world. However, some critics argue that farce can be seen as shallow and lacking depth compared to other forms of drama. Its reliance on caricatures and absurd situations may lead to a sense of predictability and repetitiveness, potentially limiting its artistic scope.

Q3) Discuss William Dean Howell’s ‘Self Sacrifice’ as a Farce.

Ans) "Self-Sacrifice" is a one-act farce written by William Dean Howells, an American novelist, playwright, and literary critic who was a prominent figure in late 19th and early 20th-century American literature. While Howells is more commonly known for his novels and realist fiction, "Self-Sacrifice" showcases his talent for humour and satire in the realm of farce. In this critical analysis, we will explore the elements that make "Self-Sacrifice" a farce and discuss its comedic and satirical aspects.

Exaggeration and Absurdity:

One of the hallmarks of farce is the use of exaggeration and absurdity to create humour. In "Self-Sacrifice," Howells employs these elements to full effect. The play centres around the character of Mr. Richards, who is convinced that he must make a great self-sacrifice to save his marriage. This self-sacrifice, as he sees it, involves giving up the last piece of apple pie, which he believes his wife secretly desires. The absurdity lies in the fact that such a trivial and inconsequential matter becomes the focal point of the plot. The exaggerated importance placed on the apple pie is a classic farcical device that highlights the absurdity of human behaviour.

Mistaken Identity:

Another common trope in farce is mistaken identity or confusion, and "Self-Sacrifice" is no exception. Mr. Richards becomes convinced that his wife is unhappy because of his failure to sacrifice the last piece of apple pie. However, his wife, Mrs. Richards, is completely unaware of this belief and has no such desire for the pie. This disconnects between their perceptions creates a comedic misunderstanding that drives the plot forward. The mistaken identity adds layers of humour as Mr. Richards' actions become increasingly absurd in his quest to fulfil his perceived duty.

Physical Comedy:

Physical comedy is a key component of farce, and "Self-Sacrifice" incorporates it through Mr. Richards' antics. As he attempts to carry out his self-sacrificial act, he engages in exaggerated physical gestures and facial expressions. For example, his struggle to cut the pie into equal halves and his attempts to hide the pie from his wife lead to slapstick moments that elicit laughter from the audience. Howells uses these physical comedic elements to heighten the absurdity of the situation and emphasize the farcical nature of the play.

Social Satire:

While farce is primarily concerned with generating laughter, it often contains an element of social satire. In "Self-Sacrifice," Howells subtly satirizes the idea of self-sacrifice within the context of marriage. Mr. Richards' belief that he must sacrifice the pie to save his marriage highlights the sometimes irrational and misguided efforts people make to please their partners. Howells may be commenting on the absurdity of assigning such significance to minor gestures in the name of love and self-sacrifice.

Quick Pacing:

Farces are known for their quick pacing and rapid-fire dialogue, and "Self-Sacrifice" adheres to this tradition. The play unfolds swiftly, with Mr. Richards' actions and decisions escalating in absurdity at a brisk pace. This rapid progression of events keeps the audience engaged and enhances the comedic timing, a crucial element in farce.

Q4) Discuss ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ as a Marxist play.

Ans) "A Raisin in the Sun" by Lorraine Hansberry is a powerful American drama that can be analysed through a Marxist lens, focusing on its exploration of economic disparities, social class, and the American Dream. While the play is primarily a domestic drama centred around the struggles of the Younger family, it also provides a lens through which to examine the broader socio-economic issues faced by African Americans in the mid-20th century.

Economic Struggles:

One of the central themes in "A Raisin in the Sun" is the economic struggles of the Younger family. They live in a cramped, run-down apartment in a poverty-stricken neighbourhood on the south side of Chicago. The family's limited financial resources serve as a constant source of tension and conflict. This economic hardship can be seen as a reflection of the broader economic disparities faced by African Americans during the time the play is set.

Desire for Economic Betterment:

The Younger family's desire to improve their economic situation is a driving force in the play. Walter Lee Younger, the patriarch of the family, is obsessed with the idea of using the insurance money from his father's death to invest in a liquor store, which he believes will provide a pathway to financial success. This desire for economic betterment reflects the American Dream—a belief that hard work and financial success are attainable for all. However, in the context of Marxist analysis, it also represents the way capitalism can lead individuals to view economic success as the goal, often at the expense of other values.

Conflict Over Money:

The conflict within the Younger family over the insurance money is emblematic of larger class struggles. Walter Lee's desire to invest in a liquor store is driven by his belief that it will provide him with a sense of agency and financial independence. However, his mother, Lena, has different plans for the money. She wants to buy a house in a predominantly white neighbourhood, believing that home ownership is a symbol of social progress and stability. This clash of interests within the family reflects the broader tension between individual economic aspirations and collective advancement.

Housing Segregation:

The issue of housing segregation is another aspect of the play that can be examined from a Marxist perspective. The Younger family's desire to move to a better neighbourhood is met with resistance from the white residents of the area who fear the encroachment of African American families. This reflects the systemic racism and economic inequality that characterized many American cities during the mid-20th century. Housing discrimination and segregation were tools used to maintain economic and social hierarchies.

Collective Struggle:

In the end, "A Raisin in the Sun" presents a message of hope and unity within the African American community. The Younger family's decision to move into the white neighbourhood is a symbol of their determination to challenge systemic racism and achieve social and economic progress collectively. This reflects a Marxist ideal of collective action against economic and social injustice.

Q5) What is Absurd Theatre? Elucidate with some example.

Ans) Absurd theatre is a genre of drama that emerged in the mid-20th century, characterized by its rejection of conventional plot structures and its exploration of the irrational, meaningless, and absurd aspects of human existence. Pioneered by playwrights like Samuel Beckett and Eugène Ionesco, absurd theatre often features disjointed dialogue, absurd situations, and characters grappling with the futility of life. It seeks to challenge traditional dramatic conventions and provoke existential contemplation, highlighting the senselessness of the human condition. Prominent works in this genre include Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" and Ionesco's "The Bald Soprano," offering audiences a thought-provoking and unconventional theatrical experience.

"A Raisin in the Sun" is a seminal American play written by Lorraine Hansberry in 1959. It is not a farce; instead, it is a groundbreaking drama that addresses issues of race, class, and the American Dream in the context of African American experiences in mid-20th-century America.

The play revolves around the Younger family, who live in a cramped apartment on the south side of Chicago. The central conflict arises when they receive a $10,000 insurance check following the death of the family patriarch. The family members have divergent dreams for the money, reflecting their individual aspirations and values.

Walter Lee Younger, the head of the family, aspires to invest the money in a liquor store, believing that financial success will grant him the respect and opportunity he craves. His sister, Beneatha, aims to use the funds for her medical school education, emphasizing her desire for self-improvement and independence. Lena, the family matriarch, intends to buy a house in a predominantly white neighbourhood, symbolizing her dream of a better life and a safer environment for her family.

Hansberry's play engages with the Marxist perspective by addressing socio-economic disparities, the struggle for upward mobility, and the systemic barriers faced by African Americans. The Younger family's cramped living conditions and financial struggles serve as a microcosm of the broader racial and economic inequalities present in American society at the time.

The play also highlights the tension between individual aspirations and collective progress. Walter Lee's desire to invest in the liquor store represents the pursuit of individual economic advancement, which can be seen as a reflection of the capitalist system's emphasis on personal success. Lena's dream of buying a house in a white neighbourhood, on the other hand, symbolizes her desire for racial integration and the breaking down of systemic barriers.

Furthermore, "A Raisin in the Sun" addresses the issue of housing segregation and the challenges African Americans faced when attempting to move into predominantly white neighbourhoods. The Younger family's decision to move and the subsequent conflict with the white neighbourhood’s residents underscore the broader themes of racial discrimination and the quest for social justice.

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