I knew a woman named Hannah Brekke who had two passions: opera and WWE wrestling.
When I tell people that their eyes glaze over.
You can almost hear the gears in their heads grind in distress as they try to mesh the ideas of opera and wrestling.
But if they knew Hannah they might understand how seamless these passions actually were. She was a war-bride from a place in Germany where opera is not considered as highbrow as it is here.
There what we consider high-culture is simply the pop-music of the 17th and 18th century and is as familiar to people on the street as broadway tunes are to people here.
But what about WWE Wrestling?
Well, when you think about it, there isn’t much difference between the gods tossing thunderbolts across Valhalla and The Rock tossing his opponents across the canvas.
They are both about spectacle and that is what drove Hannah’s twin passions. She loved spectacle and intuitively understood that both art forms, though spoken in different dialects, addressed the same aspect of the human spirit.
Spectacle is drama on steroids. It is about the things that shock our lives like jealousy, deceit, lust and greed - writ very large. It is morality or political tales told in bold terms so there is no mistaking the message.
For writers, the fun thing about spectacle is that the structure is so blazingly evident that it is unmistakable and that is what I wanted to write about today, the structure that is common to all almost all drama whether it be opera or what takes place within the confines of the squared circle of WWE Wrestling.
Just for fun, let’s review the basic elements of dramatic structure through the lens of Friday Night Smackdown on FOX.
Exposition or Introduction
Lilian Garcia will introduce the combatants and establish The Face (the protagonist), The Heel (the antagonist) and The Grudge (the conflict).
For anyone unfamiliar with wrestling or for that matter high theater, The Face is a crowd favorite. He or she is usually a moral character who follows the rules and stresses hard work and playing fair to achieve one’s dreams. The Heel on the other hand, lies, cheats and achieves success by breaking the rules.
The Grudge is something far beyond what brings The Face and The Heel into the ring, it is a stand-in for everything that grinds down the human spirit.
It is what makes the crowd howl.
The wrestlers enter the arena and begin working the grudge by taunting the audience and each other.
The Climactic Crisis
The fight itself. The intensity rises, the crowd roars as it is driven over the contours of its emotional landscape.
The fight unravels, often with a final moment of uncertainty.
No fight is complete until The Heel appears to be winning, usually by doing something dirty like using a concealed object (that is not concealed from the audience), but The Face will almost always overcome the rule-breaking action of his opponent.
Dénouement, resolution, or catastrophe
The Face triumphs or loses spectacularly.
Depending on who the victor is, The Heel or The Face will then swear revenge and promise to return, thus setting up The Grudge for the next match.
This week’s writing challenge: write a spectacle. Follow the basic dramatic structure to tell a simple tale. Try not to over-think this. A spectacle can be as banal as an argument between Snooki and a bartender or as simple as an Aesop's Fable.
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