The Mound Builders-Play Analysis

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  • Topic: Mississippian culture, Protagonist, Mound
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  • Published : November 18, 2011
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Play Title: The Mound Builders
Year Written: 1975
Author: Lanford Wilson
Character Name: Cynthia Howe
 
A.  Play information:
1A) Historical climate/perspective/influence:
“The Mound Builders” is set in 1975, in Blue Shoals, Illinois. Being set in 1975, this has a large influence on the setting and feel of the play. In 1975, drug use was not uncommon. And in this play, drug use is DEFINITELY not uncommon, with Dan rolling joints throughout the play, asking Delia if she wants to take hits, and Dan talking about how big of a pothead his wife used to be before she got pregnant. Throughout the play we see this reoccurring theme, and it is a vitally key part of the play, as drugs shape the characters (For instance, Dan is under the influence of drugs when he lets it slip to Chad that the property will not be renovated). Examples of the different instances of drug use: (Page 21) (Dan: Begins to roll a joint)

(Page 66)(Dan: Offering the joint) Want a toke?
(Page 64) (Dan begins rolling a joint)
(Page 24) (Dan, regarding the joint.) To Jean) Take it.
Jean: No, I said.
Dan: It’s not tobacco. It won’t kill you.
Jean: Not now, thank you
Dan: Only girl I’ve ever met who’s a bigger drug head than I am, she gets pregnant and goes cold turkey on me. Lanford Wilson had many historical influences and perspectives when he decided to write, “The Mound Builders”, as well as his other scripts. According to an interview with Wilson, conducted by Playbill, he was largely influenced by the works of Charles Dickens, Tennessee Williams, and Brenden Behan. According to Wilson, he saw a production that Brehen was directing and it changed his life. That experience made him pursue writing scripts over acting “…And, one of the really early ones, before I'd written a play, I saw Brendan Behan's The Hostage. Stepping out of character and stepping out of the play and addressing the audience, hadn't even crossed my mind until I saw that play." Wilson’s other major influence in his life, Charles Dickens, was because Wilson said, that through reading Charles Dickens, it made him feel like he had to push the envelope more in his writing. According to Wilson, “I think the biggest one, oddly enough, is [Charles] Dickens," Wilson said in the Sept. 17-21 Playbill On-Line Brief Encounter interview. "He just keeps pushing me because his characters are so far out that he's always a 'nudge' to say, 'Don't be so damn suburban.' “ This influence by Charles Dickens not only inspired Wilson to pursue more bold topics to write about, but it also influenced the way he portrayed his characters, deciding not to make them suburban and safe. We see this choice, for example, in the choices Wilson made to create the character Jean, who is by no means boring and safe. She is divorced, has a history of mental insanity, and proclaims proudly that she participated in bar fights. Through Jean we see that Wilson was NOT afraid to write characters that went beyond the norm, and made the writer think outside the box, something that was somewhat unheard of in 1975.  1B: Playwright information (include how his/her society and experiences influence this play): Lanford Wilson was born on April 13th, 1937 in Lebanon Missouri. His father left when Wilson was only five years old, and his mother was remarried six years later. When he was in high school, he began to take a strong interest in theatre. When he graduated from high school, Wilson decided to move to California to take art classes at San Diego State University and to live with his estranged father. The reunion did not go well, and Wilson moved to Chicago. After working at an advertising agency for a few years, and gaining a love for writing, he decided to move to New York to pursue his love of playwriting. While living in New York, he met a man named Joe Cino, who owned a coffee house, and whom produced small plays at the coffeehouse. He produced Wilson’s first play, which was called, “So Long at the Fair”. By 1969, Wilson...
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