Dramatic social dynamics

Unlike real life, theatre always involves an additional and unseen presence — the audience. Unlike the characters in a play, the audience is always present. That is, it is possible to have moments in a performance when there are no actors on stage, but there are no moments in a performance when there is no audience.

Which means that unlike a social group in real life, in which N people can form (as we discussed yesterday) at most 2^N – N – 1 possible social sub-groups, the N characters in a theatrical performance can form up to 2^N subgroups.

This is because we must also include the cases where a single character is on-stage, as well as the case where there are no actors on-stage. If the play is properly written and performed, such moments of “nothingness” can be filled with drama and meaning.

This allows us to describe the sequential moments of a play in terms of these shifting subgroups. For example, consider the following sequence of events:

Anne and Bob walk on-stage and she declares her undying love for him. Bob goes happily off-stage, while Anne remains and does a monologue bemoaning her doubts about the relationship. Carl joins Anne on-stage and she declares her undying love for him. Anne and Carl go off-stage together. After a pause, Bob comes on-stage and delivers a monologue extolling the wonders of true love. Carl joins him, and the two friends excitedly tell one another that they have each just met the woman of their dreams.

If we denote Anne, Bob and Carl as the respective bits of a three bit binary number, then, for example, Anne on stage alone is denoted by 100, Anne and Bob together is denoted by 110, and an empty stage is denoted by 000.

The above scenario can therefore be described by the sequence:110,100,101,000,010,011.

If we represent each binary number by the corresponding base-10 digit (so, for example, “110” represents 4 + 2 + 0, or 6), then our dramatic scenario can be summarized as: 645023.

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