Walter Mencken 7 p.m., Dec. 10
An element to be aware of and pay attention to in a play is character arc.
The character arc refers to the changing views and opinions of characters as they progress through the play.
Character arc is different from character development. Character development is something the writer and the actor do. Character arc is the result of character development.
An example would be Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. Over the course of the show, she goes from a cockney flower peddler to a proper lady; or as Henry Higgins puts it, “A consort battleship.”
The arc covers all the episodes in between those two points. The peak of the arc is the point where the character reaches the end of her initial trajectory and begins a new one. For Eliza, that might be going to the horse race or perhaps later, going to the ball.
When we first meet a character, she is usually dissatisfied in some way and missing a key personality component.
As conflict enters the story, often times the character is forced to develop that missing aspect.
As an audience, we love to see this process. We are enthralled as Eliza transforms from a dirty, loud, obnoxious, gutter snipe to a beautiful, well spoken, proper lady.
Next time you go to a show, take note of where the characters begin the show and where they end up. You may even get carried away and try to debate their arc past the end of the show.