Created By: laughingacademy on August 30, 2010 Last Edited By: laughingacademy on August 30, 2010
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Proscenium Reveal

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The device which makes it clear that the scene we're watching is a part of a show within the show or simulation. Examples could include a director calling "Cut!"; a line flub or dialogue prompt; the sudden appearance of a camera or sound crew; or a pan, zoom or cut that reveals the action is occurring in a theatre, a soundstage, a classroom, or on location.

A Proscenium Reveal may end a Fake Action Prologue or the Kobayashi Maru. In a Music Video, it can indicate that we've been been On a Soundstage All Along.

When done accidentally In-Universe, it often means the hero just ruined the shot.

Not to be confused with Breaking the Fourth Wall, in which the characters acknowledge their fictional status and/or the existence of the audience (i.e., you).

Note: Proscenium reveals can be mind screws for the audience, especially if they occur late in the proceedings. (David Lynch, I'm looking at you.) When citing such cases, consider tagging for spoilers.

Examples

Film -- Live Action
  • The dismantling of Buster Keaton's "bedroom" in "The Playhouse."
  • In the original Fame, one of the main characters is monologuing about his mother. It looks like an interview, until he flubs a line and we realize it's an audition.
  • Zig-Zagged in the climax of Blazing Saddles, where the action is somehow "real" even though it's shown to be happening on a Hollywood soundstage -- and eventually most of the backlot -- during the climactic Battle Royale With Cheese.
  • The cartoon short starring Roger Rabbit and Baby Herman at the start of Who Framed Roger Rabbit is cut short by a human director calling "Cut!" This is followed by shots establishing that the animated characters are working on a live-action soundstage, thus setting up the concept of humans and toons living in the same world.
  • The entrance of Admiral Kirk in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan ends the Trope Namer for the Kobayashi Maru.
  • Meryl Streep flubbing a line during The Oner that opens Postcards From The Edge.
  • The cry of "That's a wrap!" and the applause following Laura Dern's "death scene" in the David Lynch film Inland Empire.
  • In the Club Silencio sequence of David Lynch's Mulholland Dr., Rebekah Del Rio collapses during her performance of "Llorando" yet we continue to hear her singing, which causes Betty and Rita (and the viewers) to realize she had been lipsyncing.
  • X-Men: The Last Stand opens with an action-packed scene in burning city ruins, but it is revealed to be just a Danger Room simulation after the Fastball Special.

Animated Film
  • The first scene of Bolt ends with Penny picking up Bolt and walking away from their vanquished foes -- to a trailer with Bolt's name on the door. As they step inside, a bell rings, and the film crew wander into shot and start striking the set, while the dead bodies get up and walk away.
  • The instructor critiquing a monster's performance in the training simulation that opens Monsters, Inc..

Television
  • The Supernatural episode "Hollywood Babylon" opens with two terrified twenty-somethings, Wendy and Brody, in the woods. Brody runs away; Wendy calls for her friends, hears a noise, turns toward the camera, and screams -- unconvincingly, at a tennis ball stuck on top of a movie camera. "Cut!" calls the director. "Wendy" is actually Tara Benchley, the lead actress of Hell Hazers 2.

Theater
  • In Kiss Me Kate, just before the overture reaches its final chords the conductor cuts it off and asks, "Is that all right, Mr. Graham?" Fred enters and says, "Yes, the cut's good, leave it in."
  • Noises Off opens with a housekeeper walking on stage and nattering into the phone. Then as she's walking off, she says "I take the sardines... I leave the sardines..." and an off-stage director's voice says "You take the sardines, and you leave the newspaper." This reveals that what you're actually watching is a rehearsal of a Play Within a Play.
Community Feedback Replies: 30
  • August 10, 2010
    Narsil
    The stage play Noises Off opens with a housekeeper walking on stage and nattering into the phone. Then as she's walking off, she says "I take the sardines... I leave the sardines..." and an off-stage director's voice says "You take the sardines, and you leave the newspaper." This reveals that what you're actually watching is a rehearsal of a Play Within A Play.
  • August 10, 2010
    RainyDayNinja
    When done In Universe, the hero just ruined the shot.
  • August 10, 2010
    pure.Wasted
  • August 10, 2010
    laughingacademy
  • August 10, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    The first series of Extras starts like this, showing the production Andy's working on as real for a few minutes, usualy with him present as an (guess what?) extra before the title card.
  • August 10, 2010
    RedWren
    • The first scene of Bolt is the filming of the eponymous character's TV show.
  • August 10, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    The opening scene of Monsters Inc, which turns out to be a training simulation.
  • August 10, 2010
    LeeM
    The animated opening sequence of Who Framed Roger Rabbit ends with a reveal of the live-action director who's shooting Roger and Baby Herman's picture, thus setting up the concept of humans and toons living in the same world.
  • August 10, 2010
    OmarKarindu
  • August 10, 2010
    PaulA
    Related to On A Soundstage All Along, which is when a music video ends in a Proscenium Reveal.
  • August 11, 2010
    callsignecho
    In the original Fame, one of the main characters is monologing about his mother. It looks like an interview, until he flubs a line and we realize it's an audition.
  • August 12, 2010
    laughingacademy
    Omar Karindu, I don't think the first one counts because the fact that "Austin" is played by Tom Cruise and "Dr. Evil" is Kevin Spacey are big clues to the audience that we're watching an in-universe movie about Austin Powers.

    However, I'll accept Blazing Saddles.
  • August 13, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    A couple of Twilight Zone episodes had this, particularly one where a man's life turned out to be a movie without him realizing it.
  • August 14, 2010
    FalconPain
    The opening scene of Postcards From The Edge is filmed as The Oner, as the female protagonist has a long walk followed by a dramatic argument with a man. Until she flubs a line, and both break character.
  • August 14, 2010
    Stratadrake
  • August 14, 2010
    randomsurfer
    The opening scene of Tropic Thunder is a Full Metal Jacketesque Vietnam battle, which we then learn is a scene from "Tropic Thunder" being filmed.
  • August 17, 2010
    Jordan
    Anthony Schaffer's play Whodunnit starts out seeming like an Agatha Christie pastiche/parody as the actual play, but then it turns out that it is a play-within-a-play and all of the characters are actors (who are generally very different from their roles).
  • August 19, 2010
    laughingacademy
    Red Wren, can you please describe the precise moment it becomes clear we're watching a TV show being filmed?
  • August 19, 2010
    PaulA
    Penny picks up Bolt and walks away from their vanquished foes -- to a trailer with Bolt's name on the door. As they step inside, a bell rings, and the film crew wander into shot and start striking the set, while the dead bodies get up and walk away.
  • August 22, 2010
    Syera
    • Used in an episode of The Twilight Zone. The "actor" is just as surprised to find out it's all just a movie as the audience.
  • August 22, 2010
    bbofun
    In Anthony Shaffer's play Whodunnit?, the entire first act is a typical, if somewhat satirical, Agatha Christie-style mystery, ending with the murder of a leading character. In Act II, we learn it's all a play, and the actor playing the dead man has actually been killed.
  • August 22, 2010
    zanbolt
    A version of this trope was planned to be the original twist at the end of Expose, an episode of Lost. The Show Within A Show involving secret agents posing as strippers would have been presented as real, up until the end when the director yells "Cut!" This was changed because Nikki and Paulo proved so unpopular that spreading their story over more than one episode would have pissed the audience off.
  • August 23, 2010
    Evo
    Once in a while on Family Guy, Stewie and Brian will talk as if they're on a TV show.
  • August 24, 2010
    Prfnoff
    In Kiss Me Kate, just before the overture reaches its final chords, the conductor cuts it off and asks, "Is that all right, Mr. Graham?" Fred enters and says, "Yes, the cut's good, leave it in."
  • August 27, 2010
    bbofun
    A) Sorry I doubled up on the Whodunnit example- I can't believe I didn't see the first one.

    B) Some examples are already falling into Breakingthe Fourth Wall territory, notably the Family Guy one. A good test is if the reveal completely changes the nature of the rest of the show from what it was. if things go back, I don't think it's this trope.
  • August 27, 2010
    randomsurfer
    On more than one occasion in Quantum Leap Sam leapt into a strange situation, only to discover that he was an actor in a play/on a soundstage.
  • August 30, 2010
    Geargrinder
    [[Film/X-men The third X-men movie]] probably qualifies. It opens with an action-packed scene in some burning city ruins, but it is revealed to be just a simulation after the Fastball Special is through.
  • August 30, 2010
    laughingacademy
    Geargrinder, it's been too long since I've seen the third X-Men film -- please state exactly how we find out they're in the Danger Room? Does the action freeze, a door appear, someone talks to the fighters over a P.A.?
  • August 30, 2010
    berr
    Keep in mind that is a subtrope, though: Danger Room Cold Open is named for the X-men example.

    I guess Danger Room Cold Open and On A Soundstage All Along are both subtropes of this trope.
  • August 30, 2010
    PaulA
    They're not precisely subtropes, although they are related. If a movie starts with the X-Men in an action-packed fight, and then Professor X says "That's it for training today" and it turns out it was just a training exercise, the whole opening is a Danger Room Cold Open, and Professor X saying "That's it for training today" is the Proscenium Reveal.
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