How far do/should you go as far as explicitly stating what they are and making sure the audience really gets them? Reason being that I'm already about halfway through my first full-length and I think I may have stated my themes so explicitly that it may almost turn the audience off.
The reason I did it is that...well, the feeling I have is people don't come to plays to analyze them like an English professor, they come to them to just see the play and take it in. Most plays (and literary works in general) that I've read are like geodes. There's a beautiful crystal under the surface, but unless you take the biggest, most heavy-duty sledgehammer of analysis you've got and take a whack, you're not going to get to see it. And you can't do that just by looking at it.
I wanted the play I'm writing to just be a crystal, something the audience could understand easily, but now I don't know if it's going to shine too brightly. So some feedback would be much appreciated.
Once, long ago, I was filling out a grant application and came upon a question something like, "Describe the theme or themes of your plays." I was at a loss, because I always thought I wrote plays, not themes. I asked a colleague who was familiar with most of my plays, and she immediately responded with what she believed from her experience was the major theme that ran through all my plays. It was a fine theme, so I decided to keep it and finished writing the grant application. (I got the grant and several more in later years from the same foundation).
There was a wonderful playwright named Ted Harris who directed me in several of his and other's plays. Once, I heard an audience member say to him after a performance that he picked up on the play's being based on a particular recent event in the news. Well, we had rehearsed for 3 weeks and the event happened the week before the play opened. Ted's reply puzzled me. "Yes, it's based on that." When I questioned him, he said that when anyone tells you what your play is about, always agree. The person will be so pleased at their insight, and you'll have a fan for life. If you correct them, they'll be embarrassed and probably not see any more of your work. However...if someone asks you what your play is about, feel free to tell them. I have followed Ted's advice in the years since. He was a terrific writer/director who died much too young. I miss him, his plays and his great advice.
My advice, should you want to accept it, is not to worry or wonder about the theme of your play. Focus on the characters, situations and conflict.
If I've learned one thing about playwriting, you cannot predict anything. Just write the story you need to tell, is what I think.
As for explaining too much....I'm not going to talk much about this, because for myself, I believe a theatre audience is a smart audience and I love ambiguity, I love when it's not packaged at the end, I love in the first five minutes of the play, not having a clue what's going on...but that might just be me.
poet Robert Frost is famous for that exact behavior. After a poetry reading, if anyone commented about knowing what a particular poem was about, he would always agree and compliment the person. He learned this technique after getting frustrated w/American audiences and moving to England early in his career. Upon returning, a more mature writer, he flourished.
Pretty good advice for a playwright, I would say...
This is a good question and one I was wondering myself. I like themes to be ambiguous in what I watch. I hate when I watch something whether a movie, play, or TV show and the message is too obvious or preachy. Now, every playwright comes from a different place, but I'd just follow Paddy's advice and write whay you want to write, worry about the rest later.
I prefer to know beforehand what the theme and proposition are, and if I find them intriguing, that's when I want to watch and see how they get resolved in the plot by the various characters. In other words, if I don't know what the play is about (proposition), I don't have an incentive to go see it unless a)it is starring a favorite actor or author b)I have free tickets and nothing better to do.
Speaking of themes do you work w/any particular themes in your work even if its not intentional? I think depending on our individual lives and circumstances we may write about certain aspecs of them more so because they're important to us and what we know.
Francisco F. wrote: Speaking of themes do you work w/any particular themes in your work even if its not intentional? I think depending on our individual lives and circumstances we may write about certain aspecs of them more so because they're important to us and what we know.
My most recent play was intended to only have one potent theme, but ended up having maybe five.