We rely on stereotypes a bit too much in the theatre to provide a crafted, but logistical, shorthand for wringing out the emotion from our audiences.  How easy is it to invoke the Angel and the Badge to provoke push-button reactions?  We must always be wary before invoking the Cross and the Gun.


Elements of evil are easy to identity but harder to write.  True Evil lives in good people, great parents and sterling children — and to bring out those dark elements on stage for the public revelation is the duty of every Playwright everywhere.

The awful of us is easily the most convenient crutch we use to sculpt the context of our characters — but no person is ever always evil — and so finding the ways to transmit goodness in darkness, without being obvious about it, is another hardy task that solely belongs in the Playwright’s hands.

As your plays construct you — stay away from caricature and archetype — because in the wrong hands, those common totems of human civilization will die in live performance. It takes a mature, experienced, and deft hand to bring True Life to the stereotype.

The amateur author is then left with the constitutional seeds to grow only complex characters who are fatally flawed and who lie when it is not in their best interest and who do good deeds that actually serve a higher purpose than their narrow lives.

Complexity requires uniqueness and that can, in turn, lead to the effective incongruity of spirit that drives each of us on stage and off — but few new Playwrights try to bring that brittle human condition of contradiction successfully to the stage and that fatal flaw in craftsmanship only buries desire and talent in the deep, darker, water of ordinary ideas and middling expectations.

2 Comments

  1. In the soap opera EastEnders, there is a character who seems to be a wholly Good person but who has just those little bits of Evil — coming out when things just aren’t going his way. Fascinating character.