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Establishing Character Moment / Theatre

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  • The Book of Mormon gives us this glimpse into one of Elder Cunningham's major character arcs during "Hello!":
    Missionary Leader: No, no Elder Cunningham! That's not how we do things around here! You're making things up again!
  • Cyrano de Bergerac
    • Cyrano doesn't even appear until about half-way through Act I, but when he does, not only does he appear from the audience (when the play is performed), but he's yelling at one of the actors to get off the stage because, as we find out shortly afterward, said actor had been hitting on Cyrano's girl. Actually...all of Act I is Cyrano's Establishing Character Moment.
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    • Until Act II Scene III, We have seen Ragueneau as a Plucky Comic Relief character. But at Act II Scene IV, when Cyrano confronts him about the attitude of his friends, the poets, Ragueneau reveals that he knows he is a White Knight about the poet's lifestyle, and he does not care of the consequences of his Conspicuous Consumption as long the poets pay him attention:
    Cyrano (who has been watching, goes toward Ragueneau): Lulled by your voice, did you see how they were stuffing themselves?
    Ragueneau (in a low voice, smiling): Oh, ay! I see well enough, but I never will seem to look, fearing to
    distress them; thus I gain a double pleasure when I recite to them my poems;
    for I leave those poor fellows who have not breakfasted free to eat, even
    while I gratify my own dearest foible, see you?
  • The Merchant of Venice has one of these for almost every single character:
    • The opening scene, when we find out that Antonio is chronically depressed, Salarino and Solanio are Those Two Guys who want to cheer him up, Gratiano is a party animal who constantly goes off on tangents and Bassanio is Antonio's Heterosexual Life-Partner who's blown a lot of money and wants to marry the fair Portia. (Oddly enough, Lorenzo, the other guy in the scene, doesn't really get his character established until later—although he does make a crack about Gratiano never letting him speak, and later on he chastises Launcelot for talking too much, so presumably talkative people get on his nerves.)
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    • Portia and Nerissa's first scene sets Portia's personality up for the rest of the play, besides establishing Nerissa as her best friend and straight woman.
    • Shylock's status as a Jew and a usurer, plus his grudge against Antonio, are set up in his first scene, when he and Antonio argue about the theological implications of usury. Plus, he makes the "pound of flesh" bargain at the end of the scene. The Character Development that turns him into an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain—and leads to his famous "Hath not a Jew eyes?" speech—comes in dribs and drabs.
    • The Prince of Morocco gets his character established as a precursor to his choice of the wrong casket. Arragon's speech also serves this purpose later on, but he's only in one scene...
    • Launcelot. "Certainly my conscience will serve me to run from this Jew, my master!"
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    • Jessica gives a soliloquy letting everyone know that she's Shylock's daughter, that she's ashamed to be his daughter, that she's ashamed of herself for being ashamed, that she's nothing like him, and that she's in love with Lorenzo and wants to marry him and become a Christian.
    • The two scenes in which Lorenzo a) sets up his elopement with Jessica and b) carries it out.
  • The whole of Denmark is celebrating the new king's wedding yet Hamlet is sulking in a corner wearing black because he's still mourning his father.
  • Wicked: Elphaba gets on stage, yells at her classmates, snarks at her sister, her headmistress and Glinda, then immediately protects her sister - despite said sister being very cruel to her.
  • 1776 starts with John Adams ranting loudly about the uselessness of Congress, to Congress, and demanding that they vote for independence RIGHT NOW, while they all tell him to sit down and shut up.
  • The opening scene of Company does this for several of the characters. First, it shows Bobby's popularity and his friendship with the couples. Sarah and Harry's competitive and combative relationship is established as they give him their present. Amy's neurotic nature is shown as she presents him with the present from her and Paul. Joanne's cynical and sarcastic nature is shown when she snarks at the other wives and, when one of them asks Bobby who she is, responds thus:
    Joanne: That is I, miss. I'm very rich and I'm married to him, and I'd introduce him but I forgot his name.
  • The musical version of Heathers quickly establishes all the main characters (except J.D., who turns up a couple scenes later) in its opening number "Beautiful." It establishes Kurt and Ram as Jerk Jocks, Martha as a Butt-Monkey (but a lovable one who is a "sucker for a happy ending"), Heather Chandler as a "mythic bitch", Heather Duke as the Butt-Monkey of her own Girl Posse, Heather McNamara as the nicest of the trio, and Veronica as the wry, observant outsider who just wants to fit in.
    • J.D. gets his, too: sitting quietly on the outskirts with a book, making a snarky, semi-flirty comment to Veronica, but otherwise minding his own business, until Kurt and Ram start harassing him.
    Ram: Hey, Kurt, didn't this cafeteria have a "no fags allowed" rule?
    J.D.: Yeah, but they seem to have an open-door policy on assholes, don't they?
    Kurt: ...Hold his arms.
    (Ram attempts to do just that, but J.D. beats the crap out of them both single-handed)
  • Hamilton has an excellent one for Aaron Burr that perfectly encapsulates his cautious, noncommittal personality from his very first line.
    Hamilton: Pardon me. Are you Aaron Burr, sir?
    Burr: That depends. Who's asking?
  • The Takarazuka version of Roméo et Juliette, de la Haine à l'Amour establishes the quarreling characters of Tybalt, Mercutio, and Benvolio all within 3 seconds, with Tybalt spitting on Benvolio as he holds his hand out for a shake, Mercutio rushing infuriated to his friend's defense, and Benvolio holding Mercutio back. Meanwhile, Romeo is introduced with a dazed smile and smelling a flower.
  • Dear Evan Hansen:
    • Evan: The first lines of the play is his letter to himself, where he types that today will be an amazing day because he is being himself. But as soon as he finishes typing that, he ends up rambling on all the minor details to being recognized, as well as recounting a failed encounter with someone he loves. He is socially awkward and wants to connect with other people.
    • Heidi: She tries to give Evan the enthusiasm to start his school year happily, but all Evan can elicit is Flat Joy. Her song that occurs afterwards, "Anybody Have a Map?", highlights the amount of effort she puts into connecting with Evan, and her desperation when her actions fail.
    • Connor: At his breakfast, he claims that he doesn't feel like going to school, and is revealed to have smoked drugs. His interactions with the rest of his family show that he has a severely strained relationship with them.
    • Cynthia: In her part in the song "Anybody Have a Map?", she sings about how her lifestyle, like cooking for Larry, Connor and Zoe, is increasingly difficult, and always complicated.
    • Larry: When Cynthia asks Larry to convince Connor to go to school, he only tells Connor to do so, in a nonchalant manner. Cynthia then chides him on his lack of effort to persuade Connor, believing that he is busy on his email. He then responds that Connor cannot listen to him. Two things are established; he is emotionally distant from his family, and he is more dedicated to his work.
    • Zoe: She ends up swearing back at Connor, when Connor swore at her because she assumed he was definitely high. Not only is she a typical high school student, it's clear she despises her brother, and his attitude.
    • Alana: She meets Evan and asks him how his summer was. Before Evan can reply, she interrupts with her having done so many extracurricular activities. The script directions state that before she encounters Evan, she puts on a fake smile. Not only is she wanting to help her community in any way possible, she is also shy like Evan, but conceals that with cheeriness.
    • Jared: His first line is a joke to Evan regarding his broken arm, believing it to be Evan having A Date with Rosie Palms. Just like Alana, the script reveals another crucial detail: he enters with a "practiced swagger" that "only the deeply insecure" can use. He is not only a Deadpan Snarker and a complete joker, but he is someone who attempts to solve every problem with humor.
  • Frank Wildhorn's 'Wonderland', does this for pretty much every main character. But possibly the most obvious example is the introduction of the Mad Hatter, which is not so much a scene as a musical number that's upbeat and catchy and makes the Hatter seem benevolent at first listen...but if you listen closely to the lyrics, the song shows a much more sinister side to the Hatter ("Shut up and toe the line"; "There is nothing I won't do/There is nothing too taboo/I will lie, I will cheat, I will track you down and then hit delete"; "All you have to do is submit/And if you don't, my friend, well then in the end, there'll be nothing left to defend."; "I'm the best worst case for the choice you face."; "The right kind of wrong.", etc).