Act IV (Monday) Discussion Questions

Note: Page references are to the hardcover edition.

Many jobs exist in the theater other than acting and several are mentioned in JOL. What are some of these roles and what are their responsibilities? What sort of knowledge/background would you need to do these jobs?

For example: A Lighting director would know about electricity and electrical work as well as where to place the lights to make each scene look good. A Props Master is responsible literally for the props on set, such as swords, furniture, food, decorative items and such. Costumer or costume designer, producer, writer, music director, set designer, vocal coach are also among the career paths one might pursue if one wanted to work in theater but did not wish to become an actor.

p.215 Elizabeth feels a very personal connection to the character of Nina in The Seagull. What Nina says in the play, Elizabeth believes in real life. What fictional characters do you feel like and why?

p.215-16 THIS IS THE DRAMATIC TURNING POINT OF THE NARRATIVE. Elizabeth learns that what she thought she wanted earlier in the story, she no longer desires. What was once attractive and romantic has lost its appeal – she realizes that it would never feel satisfying. She also discovers that what she imagined she couldn’t ever endure or overcome (the loss of her feelings for Kurt and finding loving feelings for another, Ben), she does. Can you get over a broken heart? How?

p.218 There’s a lesson about the glamour of celebrity in Ditta’s speech about actors on stage looking great, but offstage they are often very ordinary looking and possibly living ordinary lives as well. Which celebrities look radically different out of makeup, hair and fancy clothes? Who looks kind of the same? Why are we attracted to glamorous people?

p.220 A description of how the craft of acting is learned through observing, absorbing and mimicking people’s actions. Elizabeth feels, in part, guilty for observing and absorbing Ditta’s story for her own use as an actor. Do all artists do this? Is it ethical?

p.221 Ditta describes how she had found and then lost love (her WW II airman died before they were wed), yet she is grateful for the sad but beautiful experience. Have you ever had a bad or painful experience that led to beautiful memories and personal growth?

p. 224-225 Ditta speaks kindly about bad boy Kurt, saying that he was abandoned by his wife, his first and only love just a few months ago. His response is to hurt anyone who shows love for him. He is trying not to fall in love because he’s afraid to get hurt again. How are Kurt and Aunt Harriet alike?

p.227 “We say the same words, but they don’t mean the same thing,” Elizabeth to Kurt. How does that still ring true today? Hint: texting, social media

p.229 References to small town America, particularly Jordon, Virginia. The concept that folks who lack experience or exposure to people who are different then they are think differently about the world. How do we become more open and accepting of others and their differences?

p.233 Huntley’s “the show must always go on” speech about an actor’s responsibilities to the theater, the play and the audience. Do you really want an actor’s life? Actors are always competing with each other and their actor friends, for roles, for opportunities that can make or break a career. Would you sacrifice your friends and family for a role?

p.237 William Blake reference. Connect with the world through your words. Who is your favorite author, poet, playwright? Why?

p.239 Art is about transformation. It transforms the lives of the actors but also those of the audience. What music, movies, plays, visual art speaks to you personally and why?

p.240 Mixing up feelings you have about an experience with how you feel about a person. Elizabeth realizes she seriously wants to work in the theater and it served to make Kurt more attractive to her, because he was already successful. Have you ever experienced this? Where later you realized you didn’t want to be WITH someone, you wanted to BE them.

p.245-246 Response to romantic disappointment is often wanting to get away and forget, especially first love. There is a loss of emotional innocence when a first relationship doesn’t work out as you imagined it would. The same is true for the fantasy of the theater; it’s hard work and often disappointing. Ben offers Elizabeth wise words: “Nothing’s ever all one way.” What other experiences are never just one way. Hint: friendship, family relationships, school.

p.251-252 New stars show up each week for the next show. This scene demonstrates how ephemeral relationships are in the theater – so intimate and exciting for brief periods of time – replaced quickly by others. Did someone you were close to ever move away? How did your relationship with them change?

p.255 The final scene in which Valborg makes Elizabeth the offer of a lifetime. What is your dream? What/Whom might help you fulfill it?

p.255 The story ends suddenly. Is it a good ending? Why?

Slang Terms

The Knight story’s punch line (p. 231) uses the word “Dog,” as in a dog of a day.
Peanut Gallery
Filthy Lucre
Sappy Crack
Auld Lang Syne


Magnificent (p.212)
Complacently (p.212)
Diaphragm (p.213)
Scudded (p.213)
Sternness (p.214)
Anesthetized (p.214)
Atrocious (p.216)
Psyche knot (p.216)
Snatches (p.218)
Inadvertently (p.219)
Hollyhock (p.219)
Gaudy (p.220)
Quarrel (p.221)
Dote (p.2230
Antagonism (p.224)
Entrechats (ballet term) (p.226)
Melodramatic (p.227)
Diffidence (p.228)
Noble, adj. (p.229)
Jostled (p.230)
Joisted (p.230)
Admonished (p.231)
Draggled (p.231)
Steed (p.231)
Gruffly (p.231)
Delusions of Grandeur (p.235)
Oafs (p.236)
Stoic (p.236)
Legitimate (p.236)
Compassionate (p.238)
Dispassionate (p.238)
Muddled (p.239)
Exhaltation (p.239)
Consternation (p.240)
Sardonic (p.240)
Leprosy (p.241)
Warily (p.241)
Grotesque (p.242)
Solace (p.243)
Asbestos (p.244)
Indiscriminate (p.247)
Infinite (p.247)
Verandah (p.248)
Pompously (p.252)
Protégé (p.254)
Deux Ex machina (p.255)