See The Action. See The Motivation. [on Merely A Thought Monday]

“It’s discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.” ~ Noel Coward

Lately, I’ve been rereading books on playwriting. Put them on the stove, boil them down and you will have a fine reduction of action and motivation. The actions a character takes. The reason a character takes them. A playwright’s tool box is filled with words but a playwright’s creation is a sequence of motivated actions.

Tom McK told me that plays are about one moment. A moment of choice. A moment of revelation. A moment of truth. A moment of reckoning. All of the actions of the play lead to the moment. And the world will never be the same.

I began rereading my dusty old playwriting books because of the impeachment trial. I feel as if I am witness to an ancient Greek drama. Power falls. Courage fails. Morals collapse. Act One: the temple is sacked. The actions and motivations for the assault could not be more clear. Naked sedition. Act Two: the trial. The ideals of the temple are gutted. Blind justice is made a mockery as nearly half of the jurists fail in their courage, choosing personal gain over public good. They defend sedition. They kneel to it. Their actions and motivations could not be more clear.

Like every Hallmark movie, the end of this play was known before the actors took the stage. We watched the play to confirm what we already knew.

Doug had a saying: health was a measure of the distance between who-you-say-you-are and who-you-know-yourself-to-be. The shorter the distance, the healthier the person. By Doug’s account, the actions and motivations of the 43 jurors who protected sedition could not be more clear. Despite what they say. Despite what they proclaim. The distance between who-they-say-they-are and who-they-know-themselves-to-be is vast. They are unhealthy. Shiny suits that are rotten to their core.

The climax of the play. The one moment. The realization. Just as in a horror movie, the recognition that the person in the passenger seat is the murderer. All of the actions of the play lead to this one moment, this single recognition: their defense of sedition is not aberrant to this jury’s character. It is their norm. Their fall from grace, their collapse of principle, happened long before their vote to acquit.

Action. Motivation. Expressed through character.

“Character,” Tom McK taught, “is how you do what you do.” This is who they are. It is a matter of character. Their actions and motivations could not be more clear. And the world will never be the same.

read Kerri’s blog post about WORDS & DEEDS