Overview of a YC project

The ultimate goal of every YC project is to answer The Three Guiding Questions:

  1. Why am I remembered in history?
  2. What hardships did I face, and how did I overcome them?
  3. How did different social views,  political views, or cultural views affect my life – and how did I affect those issues?

In your YC project you won’t actually answer these questions directly.  Instead, you’ll tell a few carefully selected and carefully written stories about your character’s life.  As the audience listens to your stories, they will discover why you’re remembered, what hardships you faced, and what issues were important in your lifetime.

A YC monologue can run anywhere from 5-15 minutes, depending on how big or small you want this project to be.  A typical YC project has 6 parts:

  • an introduction: a few sentences read by someone else to set the stage
  • the opening:  your first sentences that grab the audience’s attention
  • the body/stories: 5-12 minutes about your character
  • a closing: a few sentences that wrap up your presentation
  • question & answer in character: a few minutes
  • question & answer as the student scholar/researcher: a few minutes

Think about the Eleanor Roosevelt performance and see if you can remember hearing each of these parts:

  1. The Introduction/setting is a few sentences that someone else reads just before you walk onstage.   The introduction will explain how and why you’re speaking to the audience:  you may pretend that your monologue is an interview with the press after winning an award, a lecture you’re giving  in a classroom, or a chat you’re having with your grandchildren.  The introduction briefly sets the stage for your performance by mentioning at least a year and a location, so the audience can imagine entering the studio of a famous pianist in 1927 or sitting near a bubbling fountain in ancient Rome.  Often the last line of the introduction is “Please welcome Mr. _____  ______” or “Here she comes now!”  Although this is the first thing your audience will hear, it will probably be the very last thing you write for your project, so don’t worry about it much at the outset.   The next three sections make up your monologue, which should run anywhere from 5 minutes to 15 minutes long.
  2. The Opening is the first few sentences that you say as you begin your performance.  You’ll try to find an opening that grabs the audience’s attention and creates curiosity.  You might quote a controversial statement from/about your character (“The newspapers say I’m unsinkable but really I’m….”) or jump right in to the middle of a story (“There I was, face to face with a pirate, wondering if I’d survive to tell my story…”).  The strongest openings have the audience on the edges of their seats wanting to hear more about the character.  Avoid beginning your performance by saying, “my name is ____ and  I was born on ___ date” (If you hear that, does it make you curious? Does it make you eager to hear more?).  Again, although the opening is at the beginning of your performance, you might not decide how to open your performance until the rest of your monologue is already written.  Give yourself time to learn all about your character before you try to find the right opening.
  3. Three Stories/The Body:  This is the biggest section of your monologue and the first part you’ll write.  A typical YC project will tell about 3 stories/vignettes about a character.  Some students will have more (or fewer) than 3 stories.  For some characters, the monologue may be more like a string of events rather than 3 distinct stories.   There are many ways to organize this part of your project, but the end result will always be the same: as you tell your stories, your audience should learn why you’re remembered in history, discover what hardships you faced, and understand the issues that were important in your lifetime. To begin writing your stories, don’t start out with your character’s birth or childhood.  Instead, select one of the most interesting, challenging, or exciting moments in his/her life and write that story!  After you’ve written all the stories in the body of your monologue, you’ll be able to decide how old your character will be in your presentation.  You may end up telling your stories just moments before your character dies, or your character might have 20 more years of life beyond what you cover in your monologue, but you might not know “how old you are” until all your stories are written.
  4. The Closing: After you’ve told your character’s story, you’ll need a few sentences to transition out of your stories or wrap up the conversation you’re having with the audience, so that you don’t just say, “well… um… that’s all.”  The strongest closings find a way to reinforce why your character should be remembered in history.   At the end of the closing you’ll ask the audience if anyone has questions for you.  Parts 2-4 of the YC project (the opening, the body & the closing) make up your complete monologue and should run for between 5 – 15 minutes.  The absolute maximum monologue length is 15 minutes, which works out to about 3 typed pages of written material, or approximately 1600 words.
  5. Questions & Answers in Character:  Your audience will have a chance to ask you questions while you’re still performing in character.  You’ll want to know  details about your character and his/her time period that you didn’t include in your monologue so you can try to give eloquent answers rather than answering with a short yes/no/I don’t know.  Depending on the performance venue you may be able to spend 10 minutes answering questions or you might only have time to respond to one or two questions.
  6. Q & A Out of Character:  In the final part of your performance you’ll quickly switch out of character by removing a hat, turning around, or something similar.  Then you’ll introduce your real-life self and invite the audience to ask you questions about your project.  Audiences often ask why you chose your character, how your character died, or questions about your research process.   At the end of this section you should thank your audience and then relax and enjoy your applause!

As you work on your YC project, make a timeline for your character.  Your timeline can be made from a few pieces of paper taped together, a box of index cards organized by date, a digital file you create, a computer program such as Time Toast or KnightLab, or anything else you can dream up. It doesn’t have to be fancy or even tidy, but it should have notes on any interesting information you discover as you research your character and his/her period in history.  You’ll use these details later as you write stories, search for openings or closings, and review information for answering questions.  Things you should include on your timeline and other research notes:

  • Dates of birth, marriage, death
  • Places you’ve lived with dates
  • Major events that happened in your life such as war or natural disasters
  • Political leaders in your region
  • Significant inventions or discoveries during your lifetime
  • Names of parents, siblings, husband/wife, children
  • Friends or important people you’ve met
  • Clothing your character might have worn
  • Interesting quotes from/about your character

Finally, you should keep a bibliography (list) of all the sources you used in your research including URL’s of websites you used, museums you called, etc.  Again, this doesn’t have to be written up in any particular format, but you’ll want a good list that you can go back to, just in case you realize in March that you need something  you read in January, or when you want to go back and research further the answer to a great audience question.

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    S. as Julius Caesar

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