The Power of Plays: Acknowledging the Devastations of the Past While Appreciating the Power of the Present

Plays are a form of literature that are much more personal than books. They allow the audience to connect, understand, and acknowledge each character’s vulnerability. The nature of plays is especially vital in Lynn Nottage’s play Ruined because of the sensitive content she writes about. Nottage writes the play based on the stories of multiple women who were victims of sexual abuse during war times. These women spoke about their experiences in a truly raw manner, which mirrors the intimate nature of performing a play. Furthermore, acting these stories out brings each story to life. Although each performance may be overwhelming because of how harrowing these women’s experiences were, they also empower these women because they bring awareness to their stories. Their voices are being heard. Nottage emphasizes that she “did not want to focus solely on the damage but also the hope when writing this play.” This wide range of emotions Nottage uses in her writing is something that only a play could portray effectively.

Further, through the use of stage directions and scene descriptions, Nottage can give more context, on top of the already vivid dialogue, that the play readers and audience need to get a complete understanding of the complexity of these stories. Meaning, though the dialogue between each character is incredibly strong and moving, without the supportive text like stage directions, the readers of the script’s (who eventually will be the ones acting out each detail of the script to the audience) perception of the world around these characters would be skewed. The context outside of the dialogue helps the audience comprehend where each character came from and gauge the surrounding war’s severity.

Ruined is so moving because it is a play that fosters a deep connection between each character and the audience. It allows each member of the audience to sympathize with the characters’ traumas and appreciate their strength and the power behind their words. If Ruined were formatted as a book, these brave women’s stories would not be as vivid and vulnerable. 

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