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Intro to Drama Terms
Terms in this set (53)
A unit or division of a play, each of which is composed of one or more scenes. Originally, Greek plays were continuous and the introduction of divisions was a later development.
The movement or development of the plot, or story in a play.
Lighting, costumes, sets or other elements that make-up the production's sense of beauty and style.
The area of the stage extending beyond the proscenium.
The area of a play's action in "theaters in the round," in which the audience sits surrounding the stage.
Sometimes referred to as breaking the proscenium or breaking the fourth wall, the term refers to a speech or comment made by an actor directly to the audience about the action of the play or another character. The audience is to understand that this comment is not heard or noticed by the other characters in the play.
The process of determining the placement or location of actors on stage and planning their relative movement in a scene.
the culmination of a play's falling action, which in turn follows the climax or the crisis of a drama: e.g., In Macbeth, the catastrophe occurs in the penultimate (second to last) scene in which Macbeth dies.
the emotional effect a tragic drama has on its audience; the release of intense emotion from a character in the play.
a figure in a literary work.
have the three-dimensional complexity of real people; change (whether for better or for worse) in response to circumstance and experience.
characterized by a single detail or quality; do not change significantly over the course of a work no matter what action takes place.
a character in a drama or fiction that represents a type and that is recognizable as belonging to a certain genre: e.g., the "prince charming" in a fairy tale, or the scheming villain in a melodrama.
Manipulation of time in the work. Playwrights choose significant events to dramatize and then structure them, linking to characters' emotional events.
the point of greatest tension or emotional intensity in a plot. In drama, the climax follows the rising action and precedes the falling action.
Often deriving their satirical or humorous nature from topical subjects, comedy is not as "ageless" as tragedies.
a humorous scene or passage inserted into an otherwise serious work. Comic relief is intended to provide an emotional outlet and change of pace for the audience as well as to create a contrast that further emphasizes the seriousness of the work: e.g., the boisterous character Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet.
Clothing and accessories worn by an actor in to signify period and portray character. While we often emphasize scenery and effects in today's theatre, costume can often be more important to an actor's creation of a role. In early theatre, scenery was eschewed in favor of costume.
From the French word for "unknotting," a term that both refers to the events following the climax of a plot and implies some ingenious resolution of the dramatic conflict and explanation of the mysteries or misunderstandings of that plot.
Deus Ex Machina
from the Latin for "god from a machine," a phrase referring specifically to the intervention of a nonhuman force to resolve a seemingly unresolvable conflict in a literary work. It also refers more generally to improbable or artificial resolutions of conflicts, such as those provided by unbelievable coincidences or unexpected strokes of good luck.
Passages of speech between characters in a play.
Stage direction: the front of the stage, or that portion of the stage closest to the audience.
This is a summary speech, delivered at the end of the play, which explains or comments upon the action. Neither epilogues nor prologues are used much in today's theatre.
the portion of the plot that follows the climax or the crisis and that leads to or culminates in the catastrophe.
Popular comedy in which horseplay and bodily assault figure largely in contrived and often improbable situations.
in literature, the character who is presented as a contrast to a second character to point to or show to advantage some aspect of the second character: e.g. Dr. Watson to Sherlock Holmes.
an inherent defect of character, or the error guilt, or sin, of the tragic hero in a literary work: e.g. Othello's jealousy or Hamlet's irresolution.
The entire theatre beyond the front of the stage
in classical Greek ethical and religious thought, overweening presumption suggesting impious disregard of the limits governing human action in an orderly universe. It is the sin to which the great and gifted are most susceptible, and in Greek tragedy it is usually the hero's tragic flaw. (Plainspoken: thinking you are capable of more than reason dictates.)
Refers to a short dramatic sketch in early English drama. The short, light pieces would be performed between the acts of more serious plays.
a contradiction or incongruity between appearance or expectation and reality. The disparity may be manifested in a variety of ways, including:
occurs when a character or speaker says or does something that has different meanings from what he or she thinks it means, though the audience and other characters understand the full implications of the speech or action: e.g., Oedipus curses the murderer of Laius, not realizing that he is himself the murderer and so is cursing himself.
occurs when a situation turns out differently from what one would normally expect-though often the twist is oddly appropriate.
when a speaker or narrator says one thing while meaning the opposite.
Lighting reinforces the playwright's text: In A Midsummer Night's Dream, Puck has the line, "And yonder shines Aurora's harbinger," meaning the dawn. The lighting designer can reinforce this by providing the first rays of dawn. Directors and lighting technicians must balance visibility concerns with creating the appropriate mood for the play. German director named Max Reinhardt once said "The art of lighting the stage consists of putting light where you want it and taking it away from where you don't want it."
Originally referred to popular plays in the late 18th and 19th centuries featuring incidental music. Generally involved gothic settings in which virtue triumphed over vice. In the modern sense, the term refers to any piece in which emotions are exaggerated.
Long speech by a single actor. Similar to soliloquy. The speech is generally made by the actor as if speaking to himself and is revealing of his or her thoughts or feelings.
Introductory speech or poem that introduced the play and explained or commented on the action which was to take place. Together with the epilogue, which closed the play, prologues were used extensively in Restoration theatre, but have fallen into disuse in modern drama.
an object used on stage or on screen by actors during a performance or screen production. In practical terms, a prop is considered to be anything movable or portable on a stage or a set, distinct from the actors, scenery, costumes, and electrical equipment. Can be symbolic.
Play in which sarcasm, irony and ridicule are used expose or attack folly or pretension in government or society.
The word scene, as used in modern theatre, denotes a unit of dramatic action in which conflict occurs.
The surroundings on stage, visible to the audience, in which the action of a play develops.
Passage of narrative spoken by a single actor in which his or her thoughts are revealed to the audience.
Sound effects were originally produced backstage by members of the crew. In modern theatre, this may still take place, but effects are more often produced through a sound system consisting of a tape deck or compact disc player, a control board, amplifier and strategically placed speakers. Silence is a type of sound effect.
Indications in a script for entrances and exits, and for movement in relation to the set within a particular scene.
Secondary plot, or story-line, in a play.
Use of symbolic pieces of scenery to represent more than their mere physical characteristics; for instance, using a saddle to represent a horse, or a chair to represent an entire room. As a discrete movement in the theatre, symbolism was a reaction in opposition to realism.
Play dealing in an elevated poetic style with events which depict man as the victim of destiny, yet superior to it. In the modern sense, fate or destiny has come to be replaced by character flaw, moral weakness or social pressure.
A form of tragedy which, while it has an unhappy ending, contains certain elements of comedy and the remote possibility of a happy ending.
a character trait in a tragic hero or heroine that brings about his or her downfall.
how fully the characters and actions in a work of fiction conform to our sense of reality. To say that a work has a high degree of verisimilitude means that the work is very realistic and believable--it is "true to life."
Stage direction referring to the back of the stage, or that part furthest from the audience. Originated from the fact that stages were originally raked at an upward angle from the front to the back of the stage.
Flats or drapes placed at each side of the stage, either facing or obliquely towards the audience. Used to mask the sides of the stage that are not a part of the set from the audience. Also refers to the areas masked by these flats or drapes or to the as well as all areas to the side of the stage not visible to the audience, as in "the actor waiting in the wings."
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