2020 as a five-act play

Years from now we may regale friends with tales of what we did during the crazy year of 2020…

By Morf Morford

Tacoma Daily Index

The year 2020 will be dissected, analyzed, and by many of us, maybe even buried if not abandoned as if it were an entire chapter of our lives to never be brought up or discussed in polite company.

But if we know how to look at it, the year 2020 begins to take on a familiar form; the five act play that we see in virtually every movie, story or television episode.

Here’s what I mean:

Format of a Five Act Structure

Act 1: The Exposition

Here, the audience learns the setting (time/place), characters are developed, and a conflict is introduced.

You ever notice how crucial the first few minutes of a movie are? Or how confusing a movie is if you miss the first couple minutes?

Act 2: Rising Action

The action of this act leads the audience to the climax. It is common for complications to arise, or for the protagonist to encounter obstacles.

This is where we encounter the primary characters and their motivations and intentions.

Act 3: The Climax

This is the turning point of the play. The climax is characterized by the highest amount of suspense.

All resolution depends on what happens as a result of this “tipping-point” in the story.

Act 4: Falling Action

The opposite of Rising Action. In the Falling Action the story is coming to an end, and any unknown details or plot twists are revealed and wrapped up.

Act 5: Denouement or Resolution

This is the final outcome of the drama. Sometimes a moral or lesson is learned or justice is served. We see good triumph, or at least survive. And evil is quenched, though perhaps only temporarily.

So how does 2020 fit in this five-act format?

2020 began slowly and predictably enough. You could picture the opening scene as the “I went to work as I had for years. Little did I know what would happen as the day developed” story line.

Donald Trump was president, the economy was humming along, and like an unsettling musical score in a horror movie, COVID, then known as coronavirus, was beginning to stir in the background.

The first COVID case in the US was diagnosed outside of Seattle in last January. Like many villains, COVID, and its power and repercussions, was not immediately recognized.

Like a master chess player, COVID, much like Darth Vader, or any celluloid antagonist, grew slowly, playing to the weaknesses or neglect of its intended victims, growing stronger and more unstoppable by the day. This is the rising action.

As with many movies, by the time the enemy is recognized, it is nearly too late and the threat is too vast to be dealt with.

Every good story needs a complication or plot twist.

The summer of 2020 ramped up the energy level across America, if not the world.

Racially defined and inspired urban unrest interrupted COVID responses, with a whole new roster of characters, themes and slogans.

From BLM to CHOP, urban conflict consumed our headlines.

<em>Photo by Morf Morford</em>

Photo by Morf Morford

And then there was the slow, unstoppable corrosion of the economy.

Unemployment applications soared; homelessness exploded on our city streets. Mass evictions, like another menacing force, hovered in the background.

The climax of 2020 is of course, election day.

As much as most of us avoid speaking of politics in public, our political choices express our deepest hopes, fears and anxieties.

2020, like every good movie, maintains its suspense after this point.

Yes, “the people have spoken,” on election day, but the election results are not conclusive, or at least not convincing.

The “will of the people” is questioned and undermined continuously. Is the “will of the people” legally binding? Or even to be trusted?

As with many movies, there are references to other, pre-existing stories. In this case, other elections and other stories are drawn on to validate, or invalidate, conclusions.

Public meetings, “hearings” and pronouncements continue, but true to the story line, decline in power and frequency.

The resolutions, of our racial strife, our presidential election, COVID and economic pressures are a bit clearer than they were, though final solutions are uncertain if not still on a distant horizon.

The five-act play version of 2020 won’t end on December 31st, or even January 21st.

The curtain probably won’t drop in one definitive conclusive act, but given the twists and turns of the plot line so far, you never know which new characters, themes or plot complications might emerge.

We are not just watching this five-act play, we are living it. We are observing as we cheer on who we believe to be “the good guys” and booing “the bad guys.” Our heroes and villains define our conversations and we see them – or share them with yard signs, banners and bumper stickers.

2020 is proving to be an exhausting catharsis experience, no matter whose side we are on.

Years from now we might even regale friends and family with tales of what we did during the crazy year of 2020.

Anyone ready for 2020 The Musical?

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