Steven, that’s my take on theme:
Theme = Meaning. Specifically Emotional Meaning. We should *feel* a story’s themes as much as connect with them intellectually. When C.C. Baxter quits his job in The Apartment and in so doing tells his boss Sheldrake, “I’ve decided to become a mensch. A human being,” we feel good about Baxter who has turned away from soul-sucking corporate mentality to embrace his inner mensch. When Michael says at the end of Tootsie, “I was a better man as a woman than I was as a man,” we resonate emotionally with him as he apologizes to Julie *and* has an epiphany which has led him to grow beyond his sexist behaviors throughout Act I. When Red utters his final words in Shawshank — “I hope” — we feel good because he’s grown to embrace that which he denigrated earlier *and* he and Andy are going to be together in Mexico.
“What do we want a script reader to feel when they finish our script” is a great question to ask. Yes, engage them intellectually, but it’s emotion which will drive their assessment of our stories.