Reveal early

Last night we saw the reading of our 2nd year colleague Kirsa Rein’s play ‘My Body Was Made For This’. These staged readings are always an incomplete experience, and I sometimes wonder how useful they are (as opposed to a full-fledged production effort- readings merely concentrate on the words, whereas I feel a play is a whole lot more than just its script) but I feel like we may have received some useful insights just as the audience.

Her play was warm, quiet, touching, funny, beautifully read- but I remained emotionally disconnected from the main character till the very end when I realised a huge revelation about her character. The information had been mentioned in passing halfway through the story but it completely went over my head. Had I know this information about her, I would have been so much more invested in the story, on tenterhooks about her decisions and choices.

What we tend to do in the first drafts are late reveals. We have fun with the buildup, and take our time with it, but that’s because we- as authors, as playwrights- know all the secrets. The audience doesn’t. And we are making them miss out on precious time where they could understand the character on a whole other level and really identify with them- be completely present with them on their journey.

In the process of dramaturgy, as Oliver Mayer mentioned in the talk-back, it’s almost always advised to move the big reveals up as early as possible.

Maybe this is different for plays as opposed to screenplays/movies, where we often wait for the ‘big twist’ or ‘big reveal’ in the third act. But movies are plot-oriented- plays mean the deepening of an experience, of empathizing and accompanying a character on a journey. The more information we have about them, the better we can understand them, and the richer our time in the theatre will be.