Feedback on the Cosi Sac task task 2010

First of all let me congratulate you year 12 on a generally sound effort on this task. There are however some things you need to work on in preparation for unit 4 and the examination so I would like to offer a discussion about the task and explore some things you can do better.
First of all let’s take a close look at the topic. This is the first step you need to make and many of you needed to do it much better than you did.
Cosi shows us that the theatre has the power to transform lives’. Discuss
  • Cosi – refers to Cosi by Lewis Nowra – remember to use the conventions of inverted commas or underlining the title of the text. I use italics here as I am using electronic text.
  • ‘shows’ is a word you could have explored much more. As a verb (doing word) it means demonstrate, illustrate, but there is more if you look harder. Go to Dictionary .com and type it in and see what you get. Take a look at the image produced from the visual thesaurus. All of a sudden you have a whole host of new words to help you define just what this means – establish, exhibit, presents, asserts, evidences etc. (be sure you know or understand the meaning of a word before you try using it in test conditions though)
  • show.gif
  • ‘Us’ – straightforward this is the audience – but we also need to be mindful of the reader since we have the privilege as readers to be fully aware of the text construction via the stage directions. We know more specific details that the audience watching the play being performed. So in discussing this play be sure you select the right term of audience or reader.
  • ‘Theatre’ is not simply a stage or a building. Nor is it simply performing a play. It involves acting, entertaining, role playing, portrayal of something illusionary as if it is real. (oops…did the penny drop here? Isn’t illusion and reality one of the themes in this text?)
  • ‘Power’ – is a word that must be defined clearly since there are so many types of power that you need to show which aspect of power is being discussed. Once again the thesaurus is a useful tool – but a dictionary should get you started. Look at the word power, then look up the words in that entry. If you like online links humour me now and go to thesaurus.com and type in power. Look at what you get! Now click on the visual thesaurus link and see what happens when you click ‘ability’. (Unless you subscribe your play on this site will be limited – I am investigating school access to this.) Alternatively, type ‘ability’ into the thesaurus. So ‘power’ can be alternatively written analysed or defined as ‘ ability or influence, it can enable, incite, entice, cause or empower’.
  • power.gif
  • ‘Transform’ essentially means change completely. Once again an investigation into the meaning of the word via a dictionary gets us thinking. It is used as a verb – a doing word – in this topic so let’s focus on alternative verbs or verb phrases. We get alter, metamorphose, mold, renew, revamp, revolutionise. If on the other hand we accept ‘transform’ is less ‘complete’ and is more about ‘causing to make different ‘ we could then consider verbs like influence, or regenerate.
  • ‘Lives’ would refer to the life of the characters and the audience for whom Nowra is writing. This is because it is so generalised. If it was just about the characters or you were only expected to refer to characters the topic would have suggested this by stating ‘character’s lives’. Some students clearly reflected on the motivation Nowra had for writing the play – the impact of his experiences directing a play with mentally ill patients when he was 21. We know it had an impact – he says so and we have the play Cosi as a reflection of that time in his life. It is also appropriate to consider that every text has a specific purpose in impacting on an audience – so in this case the drama (theatre) written by Nowra is intended to leave some kind of lasting impression (transformation) on the audience. Good essays will have taken into account that this is about lives in addition to those of the characters. The characters established by Nowra experience theatre by performing in it – they experience varying degrees of change (transformation) as a result of this and this provides an illustration of the power of theatre for the audience.
  • Some consideration of the meaning of ‘life’ (lives) is also needed. Consider its quality and value – our growth and development needs to be taken into account when discussing the impact on ‘lives’ that theatre has. It is about human spirit, essence, sparkle, vigor, vitality, edurance, development as people, beliefs, attitudes, self confidence, moral values etc.
Taking the time to consider the various meanings and uses of the key words in a topic is a vital step to then coming up with a response to it.
The instruction – Discuss.
This means simply to write about – in detail it means you need to poke and prod the topic from a number of different angles not just one. This is where the idea of questioning the question will help.
  • What aspects of the text is this exploring?
  • What is it saying about the text? Is this true? All the time? If not in what ways might it be seen differently? (this is considering the ways in which the text is open to different interpretations)
  • Change your lenses…look at the topic from the point of view of the audience watching the play, the individual characters in the play(yes each one of them), the reader of the printed text, the author…
  • Ok – now some of what you come up with is not going to be as deep, profound or as significant as others. Some ideas can be effectively grouped. The trick for you is knowing you cannot write about everything and therefore choosing the best ideas to include.

Essay Introductions – these must do more than simply restate the topic exactly as it is written. You need to come up with a response that demonstrates a depth and breadth of thinking in response to the key ideas raised by the prompt.
  • Involving oneself in theatre gives us the opportunity to adopt a new persona, and the possibility to grow and change through the process. Louis Nowra’s Cosi demonstrates this through the play within the play as some of the characters undergo a range of changes in their personal lives from the experience of being involved in the performance of Mozart’s opera ‘Cosi fan Tutte’. Theatre also provides a place for audiences to observe and reflect on themselves as they engage in the events taking place on stage thus giving participation in theatre as a member of the audience or reader of a play the opportunity to reflect and reconsider aspects of their own lives. Nowra’s exploration of love and fidelity through ‘Cosi’ is enduring in this way. Nowra presents himself as someone who has had a profound life changing experience through theatre in the fact that he wrote this text illustrating how his own social values altered through a similar real life experience in theatre. Readers in particular are privy to this insight. However, while the experience of being involved in theatre has the potential to create a metamorphosis it can only do so if the participant is open to change.

The above introduction indicate 4 areas of discussion –
1. Theatre can change the lives as witnessed by changes in characters.
2. Theatre can be life changing for audiences if they take on board central themes and ideas in the text – if they are moved by it
3. Theatre has been life changing for Nowra
4. Theatre will only be life changing if we are open to that change
We could also add that while potentially transforming some change is only momentary or short term, while other change may be far more significant or important – but…I cannot write about everything so I would try and include this idea as a qualifier along the way.

Body paragraphs

Be very wary of statements like
‘the characters all undergo changes in Cosi’. This is poor in a number of ways – it is
1. General
2. Groups all characters as the same – puts them all in one basket (they are all quite individual and different)
3. Declares they all change – when they do not
4. Does not qualify what is said to allow for the fact that texts are open to interpretation
It is really important to write specific topic sentences that make use of the ideas and concepts in the topic.
· Metatheatre is central to Cosi and it is through metatheatre that some of the characters undergo change which is profound. Lewis is the character that best illustrates this because….
· Nowra found inspiration for writing Cosi through his own metamorphosis that took place when he directed the play….with mentally ill patients at the age of 21.
· The central theme of love and fidelity and just what that means is one of key ideas Nowra presents to the viewing and reading audience.
· Significantly some characters in Cosi stay just the same as they were after their experiences of engagement in opera.
Linking sentences – you must return to or link what has been said to the key ideas in the topic.
  • Try not to be predictable – ‘This illustrates that theatre has the power to transform lives’. Be specific to what you have written and what is to come.
  • ‘Engagement in the opera has allowed some of the patients to establish new directions in their lives. In contrast to this for some others, they remain stuck. ‘
  • The penultimate sentence links to the prompt, the last one leads into the next paragraph.

Conclusions:

Many of you are simply restating (repeating) your topic sentences. This is not the most useful way to conclude. You must go back to the topic, and make an assertion about it in terms of the audience and the author. A good conlusion will provide an independent statement of interpretation (not one taken directly from the prompt or a text study guide) that has been illustrated by examples within the body of the essay.
  • While Cosi can be seen to demonstrate that getting oneself involved in the theatre has the potential to create significant change in life, it also has the potential to do this for the audience watching or reading the play. It is important to note however, that such transformation may be short term, even temporary as we are reminded in our return to reality through Lewis’ fourth wall speech. The author has challenged us to reassess key values of love and fidelity but is also realistic in acknowledging that profound change may well take more than the simple experience of participating in theatre. There is nothing illusionary about complete and permanent life changes.

Some things you can do to improve your responses o text

1. Think more before you write a response.
2. Know the text in much more detail. It became obvious some of you do not know enough details of the text –did you complete all of the set tasks? Were you able to hand up a nice complete package of completed class and homework tasks and perhaps even evidence of some additional reading? Do you have a page of significant quotes?
3. Build your vocabulary, especially metalanguage terms. Learn to alter the way a word is written depending on if you are using it as a noun, verb, adjective or adverb.
4. Practice writing sentences that imitate good ones from sample responses. (There will be some online in time for work on the next text)
5. Learn to recognise statements that are generalisations and avoid using them. Use qualifying statements instead.
6. Identify and recognise your own errors in grammar and spelling. Learn to manage these.
7. Practice writing essays – even now. If you put in the effort – your teacher will no doubt be prepared to give you feedback.
8. Read study guides and sample essays. Be critical of what is written – you do not have to agree with them – there is no ‘right’ interpretation – only a well discussed and supported one. By doing this you see how others use complex vocabulary and deal with complex ideas as well as support an interpretation of a text.
9. Plan to write the expected 1000 words. Do not restrict yourself to 3 body paragraphs – there IS NO PORMULA for the number of paragraphs.