After a short talk about the importance of considering representation and stereotypes — with examples of the aggressive, violent, murderous, raping American GI and the pedophile Japanese photographer characters coming up from student discussions in the past — I finally had my drama class students start discussing the plot and characters of the plays they’re going to write and perform, and they had a blast.
We had some interesting discussions in the small groups, such as the importance of making character sets who could interact as much as possible — and thereby, have a stake in one anothers’ actions in complex and interactive ways, with the Chinese proverb ?간만사 새옹지마 (my internet searches suggest the Hanja form is this:人間?事 塞?之馬) used as an example of the kinds of twists and turns that can make stories complicated and interesting by twisting things to pile even more grief onto characters, then relieve it, and then make that relief the source of yet more grief.
Finally, by the end of the 2 hours we had together this evening, I told them what they were to have done for next class — the basic idea of a plot sketch — and when I had packed up my stuff, and was ready to go, two of the three groups were still sitting the classroom discussing their characters and plot outlines very excitedly, and what’s more, they were doing it in English — in part because one of the three Chinese students in the class ended up in each group, and I think in part just because they’d gotten into that mode, and were so distracted by their excitement that they were quite happy to be discussing in English!
For all I know, one or both of the groups is still talking now, 12 minutes later. And that is a very cool feeling.