- In-story example: In Martin McDonagh's fabulously chilling and inventive play The Pillowman, the protagonist's parents imprison and torture his brother Michael and allow the protagonist to overhear just so that the protagonist will become a darkly brilliant writer.
- The Pillowman was actually written by McDonagh as a response to people who kept complaining that all he wrote were dark, disturbing plays. Talk about Reverse Psychology...
- It's wildly debatable, but some scholars have linked William Shakespeare's play Hamlet to the death of his son Hamnet shortly before the play was written. Including Harold Bloom.
- It's faintly possible that Shakespeare chose to rewrite the already incredibly well-known Hamlet story (Kyd's Hamlet was still being played in theatres at that point) due to the similarity of the character's name to his son's, but Shakespeare wrote his Hamlet three years after Hamnet died.
- The story already existed, but may have excited Shakespeare's interest after his son's death, especially given its father-son themes. Also, the two names were interchangeable: documents record the same man calling himself "Hamlet" and "Hamnet" in different documents. Bill Bryson says this passage from King John was also inspired by Hamnet:Grief fills the room up of my absent child,
Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me,
Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words,
Remembers me of all his gracious parts,
Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form;
Then have I reason to be fond of grief.
Fare you well: had you such a loss as I,
I could give better comfort than you do.
I will not keep this form upon my head,
[Tearing off her head-dress.]
When there is such disorder in my wit.
O Lord! my boy, my Arthur, my fair son!
My life, my joy, my food, my all the world!
My widow-comfort, and my sorrows' cure!
- Mild example: Cirque du Soleil was still a relative upstart when it developed Mystère, their first non-touring show and thus the first to be staged in a more conventional theater space. Writer-director Franco Dragone was so spent by the experience that by the time it was finished he had decided the next show would be sadder and darker in its tone and story, with a title referring to life going on despite strife and woe. That show, Alegría, is still the most beloved Cirque tour to date.
- Sarah Kane cultivated an infamous reputation in the late-90s British theater scene for her dark, nightmarish themes in her work, pioneering the "In Yer Face" subgenre of plays. Her fifth, and final, play, 4:48 Psychosis is a long monologue, containing no character names or stage directions, about a mental breakdown. In reality, she was battling depression and committed suicide before 4:48 Psychosis premiered. The play was named after the time she would wake up each morning.
- A lot of Tim Rice's post-Evita stuff exemplifies this trope due to his affair and subsequent break-up with Elaine Paige. It gets absolutely everywhere in Chess, even into the Villain Song.''How could he do what he's done to those two most wonderful girls? - "Yes, I love you both."
- However, things went further downhill in the 90s, which makes the lyrics for the Disney shows that he did subvert the Parental Bonus trope by making the adults squirm in their seats at theatre: Home sounds far more like someone trapped in an unhappy marriage, while Aida where songs like Elaborate Lives and A Step Too Far are overflowing with an air of sadness and regret (although this also applied to the source material).
- Henrik Ibsen went through a harsh one in the late 1850s. In 1859, he hit Rock Bottom and was found dead drunk in a ditch somewhere, only to be collected by fellow poet Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, who tended to him. He managed to hold on for four more years, but then he left Norway for good, and resided in Italy for many years. If you read his plays from 1860 and onwards, you will find Ibsen more and more snarky and cynical, and also self-deprecating. When he returned to Norwayn as a celebrated playwright, he made sure nobody got close to him.
- There is a notable hole in his production between 1858, when he wrote The Warriors at Helgeland and 1862, when he published The Comedy of Love. The latter play is considerably more snarky than the former. I also deconstructs the viking ideal, which was played straight in the earlier play. From this moment on, Ibsen deconstructed his tropes more than ever.
- An In-universe example in the musical adaption of Fun Home, Regular!Allison briefly suffers one before the song "Edges of the World". She gets better though and ends up finishing her book on a happier term.
- Daniel Day-Lewis collapsed on-stage while playing the title role in Hamlet in 1989 and has never acted live again. He has said that he actually hallucinated the ghost of his own father.
Creator Breakdown / Theatre