Aristotle's Six Elements of Drama

by Salena Deane

I. Plot

Living with mental illness

is like being forced to act 24/7

in back to back to back matinees

of a low-budget production of my life.

Like a fresh method actor,

I am constantly trying to get a feel for my character’s life,

for what I imagine my character’s life would be like.

As if this character isn’t me and this life is just exposition and not plot.

As if it’s this fictional creation over which I have no control

besides the afterward portrayal of someone else’s imagination.

II. Spectacle

Every day I wake up on a stage, getting out of bed in a room

dressed with bargains and memorabilia:

the room I grew up in feeling like an overused set piece.

A wooden desk: marked by pen and paint graffiti.

A makeshift bookcase: stuffed with Magic Treehouse and Junie B. Jones

alongside prop yearbooks, fictional photo albums, and empty journals.

And the tower rack of CDs: messily and intermittently placed on the shelves

are the albums of popular music artists of the early 2000s era as period markers.

III. Melody

Traveling from stage right wing toward center,

the mainstage features lots of familiar fancy bells and whistles.

With precise blocking and choreo for my scenes in the coffee shop,

I am constantly engaging in dialogue with the ensemble that surrounds me;

the store that’s supposed to be my second home feeling like a deserted island.

My scene partners: uniformed to match; chit chatting, arguing, questioning orders

between service above the hum of the coffee grinder and chime of the card machine.

The countertops: a faint silver, hoard noisemakers, kitchen props, and counterfeit;

all the fixings of a fine establishment clamoring to the point of almost breaking.

The customers: scattered in a less than perfect line in front of the counter.

I do a speed through and run lines with regulars, while others try to test me on my improv.

IV. Diction

Even during intermission, I’m faced with the challenge

of knowing what to say at all times. Backstage in supposed solitude,

the world is on the other side of a screen, taking a peek

like in a behind the scenes tour, to make sure I maintain

the same endearing persona on the internet as I attempt to during my scenes.

At least on the internet, people are a bit more cognizant of the fact that I’m an actor.

We’re all actors: using our voices to recite lines we didn’t write ourselves,

to provoke people we don’t even know, to get attention we think we deserve.

We’re all models: using our bodies and faces to attract the comments

and messages we, who crave human interaction in any form, so long for.

We’re all poets: using our thumbs to type away on tiny screens

the larger texts of our lives into existence for all to read.


V. Characters

As the final act begins, I make my way to the stage left wing

into a replica of my childhood homes’ cluttered living room.

Brown leather couches seat comfortably the 4 people they’ve paid

to play my family. Donning age makeup, we sit conversing with

some primetime reality show or crime drama blaring on the cardboard TV.

The younger sister: a popular young collegiate who keeps to herself,

stays out of the house to escape and ignore the drama from the rest of us.

The mother: an extroverted middle aged woman with a youthful spirit,

trying to navigate her world now that it doesn’t revolve around us.

The father: a silently angry middle aged man with an extremely guarded heart,

uses humor and sarcasm as a way of coping with his struggles.

And the younger brother: the athletic problem child who provides

comic relief but at the same time, dramatic tension since at the end

he’s left scrambling to pick up the broken pieces from our combat scene.


VI. Thought

And then there’s me. Faded to a dark out, a spotlight shines down as I lay

center stage at the end of every performance. Before the final curtain,

when it’s time for my soliloquy, I face the audience one last time

to signal that the show has come to a close.

But my speech never comes. Turns out it’s written in the script

that I just lay there, as both I and the audience await closure.

No neatly folded program to peruse back through.

No last lines to be said.

The lights fade out.

Minimal applause.

No standing ovation.

And then I do it all again.

Salena Deane is an undergraduate English/Creative Writing major at Brandeis University who has been published in her campus' literary magazines Laurel Moon and Ebony Axis. She is currently working on her Senior Honors Thesis in which she will write, compile, and complete her first full-length collection of poems.

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October 2018

© 2020 by The Esthetic Apostle