Let’s Talk About Themes
Our last conversation centered on how an idea for a play germinates.
Now that you have an idea you’ll need to develop it into a theme, which is best
stated in one sentence.
All plays have a theme or premise. Consider the themes for Romeo and Juliet: Love Conquers All or Great Love Defies Even Death. Despite the rift between their parents, a family feud that continued in the next generation, our star-crossed lovers fell in love and married, hoping to run away from the strife of their noble families and find happiness elsewhere.
In Macbeth, one theme that comes to mind is Ruthless Ambition Leads to One’s Own Destruction. A chance prophecy from a coven of witches practicing their craft in the woods predicts that Macbeth will have a series of promotions, culminating in him becoming king. From that moment on, the wheels of a ruthless ambition are set in motion. By the time, MacBeth is king, he has left of a trail of dead bodies behind. A murderer, he can hardly recognize himself. His relentless desire to defy the law reminds me of another fictitious character, Victor Frankenstein. His desire to defy the laws of nature by creating human life in his laboratory leads to his death at the hands of his own monstrous creation.
Another one of my favorite stories that have been adapted as a play is Oliver! Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens story about a child who was orphaned after his mother gave birth to him in a workhouse. He suffers abuse and neglect at the hands of all who are supposed to take care of him. Luckily for him, by the end of the story, he is adopted by his noble uncle. Oliver! was the first Broadway play I attended as a child. The workhouse set was a collage of items that spoke of poverty. Hanging above the set was the word, love. The ingredient Oliver had been missing all of his life. It seemed as if he was to follow in the footsteps of the Artful Dodger by picking pockets for a living. However, by the end, his uncle adopts him, providing the boy with monetary support, an education and affection. Love rescued Oliver from a life of crime and all of the pitfalls that a life of crime entails.