In the first act of the theatrical production (ironically and comically produced for TV), the proverbial starting gun is spotted on a table, as this dialogue ensues… Miss Machbeth: Don’t touch that. It’s a gun. Aren’t you going to move it? Sal: Why would I? Miss Machbeth: But you know what Chekhov said. Sal: Chekhov? Miss Machbeth: He said that if a gun is onstage in the first act, it needs to go off later in the play.
The playwright Anton Chekhov once wrote that, ‘If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.’ The idea is that every element in a story should be necessary, with irrelevant elements removed, lest they distract the audience, and ‘make false promises’ by never coming into play. However, such promises are semi-assumed with one’s mis/perceptions – a form of self-deceit?
How much of Chekhov’s principle should be followed? To what extent is an object or person featured needed, say for ambience, if at all? If this rule is followed thoroughly, all plays, films and such will be incredibly minimal in props, with such settings helping to focus on the message? Or will they distract further, with the audience’s mind filling in details? What is just enough to add? Just as it is tricky in terms of words when writing a story, even more so a play, with three-dimensional characters and backdrops.
What Chekhov proposed was a purposeful portrayal of causes for effects, for streamlining a story. Yet, in reality, there are many background details in life that seem inconsequential, though they might bear consequences much later, or theatrically, offstage. With or without intended significance, the audience will tend to allude symbolism anyway. Applying to our real lives, what are the details outlining it, in terms of people, issues and things? How have they been exerting influence in our lives? Should they be better utilised? Is it time to rearrange or replace them? Karmically speaking, with interconnections between one and all, every detail has its cause and effect, however subtle.
The gun did go off, not in the second act, but the last. Turned out that the sponsor is the Chekhov Guns & Ammo Company, with the tagline – ‘You’re gonna fire it.’ So, it was a must to shoot! Perhaps this is satire on gun control issues and their commercialisation. Not that all existing guns will definitely be fired to murderous or suicidal effect, if there are no guns lying around in any act of our lives, there should be no guns fired. Of course, it can be argued that there can be guns hidden instead, that we become victims of. If so, should we hide guns too? That too is an act, appearing in an act of our lives. Are you gonna fire yours – eventually? Or will it backfire via accident? Or?
How To (Increase &) Decrease Gun Violence