Every Character Has an Ache
Engage your audience by tending to your character's interior world.
Theater, at its best, is a form of hypnosis.
It has the capacity to heal trauma. It has the capacity to change lives. We go to the theater, and we suspend disbelief for a few hours, we let down our guard just a little bit... and we allow a story to carry us.
First things first, as playwrights, world-building is what we do. Whether it's a jam-packed political thriller or a small intimate character study, whatever realm you may conjure, the audience will follow you so long as they know the rules of the card game.
But following is not the same as falling.
You don't just want your audience to have fun at the theater, you want them to fall in love with the whole experience and to carry it home with them.
But people don't fall in love with plot. They fall in love with people. So, tending to the character's interior world is essential for catharsis-building.
Touch the heart, and the listener's entire emotional core opens up to the truths of the story.
If you want your audience to care, you have to let them in. I can look at a protagonist -- say a fisherman -- someone who is very different from myself and say, ya know what, I may not know the first thing about fishing... but I recognize that ache, I recognize the longing, I recognize that far off look in your eyes... you remind me of me.
Now imagine for a moment that the fisherman is not the protagonist but a non-speaking role. Is her pain any less important? No.
And we, as writers have the capacity to tell "her" story too, even though she never speaks in words. There are just some predicaments in life that are undeniably universal.
Give every single character in your story something to ache for. It's as simple as that.
PREVIOUS ARTICLES BY AUDREY CEFALY
52 Vocabulary Words for Playwrights
A collection of weird and unusual words for the things we do as playwrights.
10 Things Playwrights Wish Their Actors Understood
A love letter
To Speak or Not to Speak?
4 Ways to Create Indelible Non-Speaking Roles for the Stage
21 Things I Know About Playwriting
I wrote my first play twenty years ago. I wrote my second play one year later. Here are 21 things I learned in the year between the two.
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Audrey Cefaly's plays (Alabaster, Maytag Virgin, The Gulf, The Last Wide Open, Trouble) have garnered the Lammy Award, the Calicchio Prize, the Edgerton, and a Pulitzer nomination. Her works have been produced at Signature Theatre, Cincinnati Playhouse, Barter Theatre, Merrimack Rep, Florida Studio, Florida Rep, Gulfshore Playhouse, and countless others. Cefaly is a Dramatist Guild Foundation "Traveling Master," an Arena Stage playwright cohort, and a recipient of the Walter E. Dakin Fellowship from the Sewanee Writers Conference. She is published by Concord Theatricals.