SAC Theatre ArtsIstate the obvious: every story needs a protagonist. The corollary to that statement is every protagonist needs an antagonist. There would be boring stories all around without these elements. Imagine a story beginning and ending with, “A boy rides a bike. The End.” We need more! So we say, “A boy rides a bike, tears streaming down his face and his shirt torn to shreds while the school bully races behind him with a bloody nose.” Yes! Now there is history. A before-and-after picture wells up in our mind and a story unfolds. In Big Love, there is definite history amongst the characters but there is no clear-cut protagonist. There are people with good intentions and bad intentions, so it might be habit that we label those with good intentions as the protagonist.

I argue this is not the case with Big Love and the play’s hero is not a person. Instead, it is an idea.

I was unfamiliar with the idea that the protagonist does not have to be a person before reading Big Love. After reading the script, studying my lines for my character and watching my cast mates bring their characters to life, it occurred to me that none of the story’s characters are the heroes or heroines. I inferred then that the true protagonist of the play had to be the Institution of Marriage.

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It might be a stretch, an exercise of thought, but perhaps I think this is true because I have set the play in my mind against the backdrop of modern
society and its views on marriage. I found several articles illustrating the idea that fewer people have been getting married within the last 10-20 years. Meanwhile, there are individuals worldwide who fight for that right. In our society, the values of marriage do not quite line up with the values of the individuals like they used to, so in our world the idea of marriage struggles to stay afloat.

In Big Love, marriage is a tool for some; it is an escape to a greater fantasy for others; it is also a platform for true connection for those leftover. However, at the beginning of the play marriage is a force. It is constricted to a contract that the Brides are obligated to fulfill. This contract, complimenting the protagonist as an idea, could be the antagonist then. So marriage fights vicariously through the characters, using their own individual beliefs as its weapons of destruction, to loosen the bonds and break free. What we see at the plays finale isn’t the typical happy ending. In truth we don’t know what will become of the characters, but we might realize that Marriage did prevail amidst the chaos and wickedness, reminding those with desires pure and true that it is here to stay.

Do you think it’s possible for a story to have a protagonist that isn’t a living, breathing individual? If so, do you know of any movies, plays, etc. that might display this? If you’ve seen SACTA’s production of Big Love, do you agree with that the idea of marriage is the protagonist? If not, who would you say is the protagonist?

Let me hear your story,

Danny Gonzalez

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Cruise by the Big Love Page for a slideshow of

this production from Spring Semester 2014!