Stories come in many varieties and a fine way to take one in is through theater.
The Hale Theater, a community theater in West Valley City, put on Tarzan, a show set in the jungles of Africa. It was wonderfully staged with talented actors, beautiful costumes, and amazing use of the stage in this theater-in-the-round. But what stood out was its adherence to the components of a well-crafted story, especially in terms of character development.
The main characters are both animal and human. Tarzan is separated from his parents at the same time a gorilla family loses a baby to a leopard and we are immediately drawn in. In the agony of her loss, Kala, the mother gorilla, adopts the young human infant. Her husband, Kerchak, is opposed and eventually bans the human. Kala leaves the family to help the young boy survive. When the adult Tarzan saves the apes from a leopard attack, Kerchak allows him back.
There is so much internal character conflict. Kala is torn between her husband and adopted son. The boy Tarzan wonders why he is so different than his gorilla siblings. Kerchak remembers humans that slaughtered his family when he was young. His need to protect the clan comes at the price of losing his wife.
Then enters Jane. An enthusiastic observer of Africa, she is with her father, a university professor studying ape behavior. Tarzan is intrigued by these humans, more like him than the family he grew up with. Jane teaches him language and he shows her the wonders of the jungle. The two become smitten with each other.
With Jane comes the gun-toting Clayton, the kind of human Kerchak fears. It is Clayton’s desire to capture several gorillas and take them home and exhibit them for profit.
(Spoilers ahead.) As Jane and her father are set to return to England, Tarzan is in conflict. He loves his ape family yet feels a connection with these humans. He decides to go with Jane, but not before Clayton tricks him into revealing the whereabouts of the gorilla family he has kept hidden. Clayton decides displaying the ape-man Tarzan would be a better prize and generate higher revenue. He kills Kerchak in an attempt to capture Tarzan and is overpowered by him. Tarzan sees the ugly side of humans and chooses not to leave Africa. Jane, torn between the love of her father and Tarzan decides to stay with him.
The stakes are high for multiple characters and the plot turns on the choices they make. This is classic story telling at its best.
(This article also posted at http://utahchildrenswriters.blogspot.com)