"Company" - Examining Social Attitudes and Stereotypes
Procedures for Teachers

INTRODUCTORY ACTIVITIES:

Time Allotment: 30 minutes

1. Distribute the Anticipation Guide and review the directions. Provide the students with five to seven minutes to complete the activity.

2. Facilitate a class discussion using the statements from the Anticipation Guide. Explain that the musical’s focus is on the relationships between men and women and the stereotypes, both positive and negative, that are sometimes perpetuated about marriage.

3. Distribute the Gathering Points of View Handout and use it to introduce the class to the main characters in “COMPANY.” Be sure to provide basic background, including:

  • Bobby/Robert is a confirmed bachelor celebrating his 35th birthday.
  • His best friends are five couples, all with different relationships and problems. Those couples are:
    • Sarah and Harry
    • Susan and Peter
    • Jenny and David
    • Amy and Paul
    • Joanne and Larry
  • Three girlfriends, April, Marta, and Kathy, are all profiled as well. Three very different women, but all with important ideas about relationships.

LEARNING ACTIVITIES:

Time Allotment: Two class periods

1. Introduce “COMPANY” by explaining to the students that they will be viewing a musical that is a series of short scenes that show the interaction between husbands and wives as well as the role of Bobby in each couple’s life. Explain that the lyrics of the songs are extremely important in teaching viewers about the relationships and also are a social commentary on the state of marriage.

2. Direct the students back to the Gathering Points of View Handout. Watch the first act of the musical (through the number “Getting Married Today”) and then give the students 10 to15 minutes to work in pairs or small groups to complete the handout. Encourage them to share ideas with one another as they complete the assignment.

3. Discuss the Gathering Points of View Handout by asking the students to share their ideas. Focus first on the attitudes and opinions of the characters in the play. From there, direct the discussion to reflect on how even though the musical is more than 25 years old, the themes are still relevant. Finally, focus on society’s view of marriage and whether or not the students believe the attitudes in the musical are a reflection of society’s attitudes today.

4. Explain that in Act II, the main character, Bobby, starts to change his views about marriage. Direct the students to use the back of the handout to make notes about what they believe causes Bobby’s change of heart. View Act II.

5. Facilitate a discussion about how Bobby’s attitude changed in Act II. Utilize discussion questions such as:

  • What effect did Bobby’s girlfriends have on his attitude?
  • In “Side by Side by Side/What Would We Do Without You,” what does Bobby learn about the role he plays in the lives of the other couples?
  • Despite some of their negative attitudes about marriage, what do Bobby’s friends wish for him?
  • When Bobby’s friends tell him to blow out the candles and make a wish and “want something,” what do you think they are asking him to do?
  • How does Bobby change by the end of the musical? Think back to “Being Alive” and examine how Bobby’s attitude has changed and what role his friends have played in this transformation.

CULMINATING ACTIVITIES:

Time Allotment: One class period

1. In “COMPANY” the lyrics of the songs deliver much of the story and develop the characters in great detail. Have the students pair up and assign each pair a song from the musical. Have the students carefully review the lyrics of the song and think about the character(s) performing it.

2. On paper, have the students answer the following questions about each song:

  • How true do you think the lyrics of this song are? Why?
  • Do you think these lyrics are an accurate representation of the attitudes people have about marriage? Why?
  • In what way does this song develop the character(s) in the story?
  • How does this song advance the plot of the story?
  • What conflicts (if any) are brought to light by this song?
  • In what ways (if any) does this song contribute to Bobby’s change in attitude?

3. When each group has answered the questions above, provide the pairs with two to three minutes to share their ideas with classmates. This will allow all groups to present their brief character study and provide a number of points of view about how Bobby ultimately comes to have a change of heart at the end of the musical.

4. After all the groups have discussed the significance of their song with the class, go back to the statements in the Anticipation Guide and have a short discussion about what opinions have been changed based on what was seen in the story. Encourage the students to talk about how the ideas and messages of the musical are timeless.

EXTENSION ACTIVITIES:

1. Discuss the staging of the musical in terms of how the lighting and costumes contribute to the mood and help to tell the story. Talk about the significance of having the musical instruments be a part of each character’s responsibility within the production. Have the students explore how each vignette could really be a story or production on its own.

2. Have the students work in pairs and select one couple from the story. Using the information provided in the musical, create a biography for each couple. Write individual biographies for the man and woman and share these with one another.

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