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How does a playwright use the conventions of a genre to tell a story about a wider social justice issue?

Playwright Charles Fuller used the conventions of a murder mystery – an upright lawyer seeking the truth, hidden motivations, unexpected plot twists, etc. – in A Soldier’s Play in order to tell a wider story about racism in the United States. More recently, writer-director Jordan Peele used the conventions of a psychological horror film to explore racism in Get Out. In the same way, writer-director Adam McKay used the conventions of a political satire to draw attention to climate change in Don’t Look Up.

This activity can be done alone or in a pair or trio.


What issue are you passionate about? It could be a national or global issue, or an issue specific to your community or school. Decide what issue you want to focus on.


Choose a genre that you know well – consider romantic comedy, family sitcom, a road-trip movie, an underdog success story (like a sports team), any genre that you like. Make a list of all the conventions of that genre. What are the common characters, settings, and plot devices of the genre?


Imagine you are a playwright and you’ve been commissioned to write a new play in the genre you’ve chosen, about the issue you feel passionately about. Write a summary of your play: who are the characters? What is the plot? What is the genre, and how will you use the conventions of the genre in your play?

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