Drama & Theater

Katrina Bjornstad

Introduction

Merriam-Webster defines drama as "a composition in verse or prose intended to portray life or character or to tell a story usually involving conflicts and emotions through action and dialogue and typically designed for theatrical performance" (1).
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History

Drama goes back all the way to mankind's earliest civilizations (Cheever 1). Ancient Greece is where drama originated. The Classical Period, 525 BC to 385 BC, is when most of the plays were written. Many of these plays are performed today in modern theater (Cheever 2). As time went on, theatrics became more and more popular and transformed to be part of everyday society. When Christians in the Dark Ages came to power, drama was nearly eradicated. Cheever says "the church that nearly obliterated theater was also responsible for its resurgence; the Christian church began to present the Passion Play, a popular dramatic interpretation of the Resurrection during Easter services." As the Dark Ages declined and the Renaissance began, there was a rejuvenation of art, theater included. Shakespeare began his acting troupe in the Elizabethan era and built one of the most famous playhouses, The Globe. His work in drama has influenced many movies today and many of his plays are still performed today. Before the 17th century, acting was a man's occupation though a few determined women made names for themselves in the 1600s (Cheever 6). Drama evolved as the Romantic and Realist periods came and went (Cheever 8). Music came into theater which made its way to New York and London which is today's most modern type of drama.

Types

There are many types of drama. The most common are tragedy, comedy, and problem play. Tragedy means something different to each era: to the Greeks it symbolized the death of someone noble, in the Elizabethan era it signified the destruction of a character through a tragic flaw, in modern drama it means the downfall of someone who is weak or mean (Burleson 6). Comedy is a lighter type of drama which is why it is enjoyed so much. A play is classified as comedic because "the leading characters overcome the difficulties which temporarily beset them" (Burleson 6). The other common type is problem play. The name gives away the meaning. A problem play discusses and criticizes problems within the political, social, and economic worlds (Burleson 6).
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Format

Today, and even in ancient Greece, plays follow one format: act scene. Plays are usually separated in to acts, the most popular amount of acts in a play is two or five. Then there is a series of scenes that make up the act. The only theatrical performances that do not follow this format are monologues and skits.

Roles

Actors are not the only people involved in a theatrical production. There are many people committed to the outcome of the show. In advanced theater, there is a lot more that goes into the fabrication of the performance. The Board of Directors approve a budget for the production and the Producers set schedules and find facilities to practice in (Rigas 1). Rigas says that "the Artistic Director works closely with Producers to hold auditions and cast the show, block scenes and rehearse the cast and crew until opening night" (1). If the production is a musical, then a Musical Director and Choreographer is hired and work with the actors to learn music and dances. Teams are assembled to create backdrops and run light and sound for different scenes. The Costume Director concoct outfits and makeup for the actors.

Light and Sound

The lighting and sound determine whether a production is good or not. Pilbrow says "Lighting, sound and special effects are integral aspects of any production..." (1). The lighting can set the mood of the scene by having different colored lights or by having bright or dim lights. High budget productions usually have many lights in different places like on the stage or in the back of the facility where the performance takes place and is controlled by a board (Bliss 1). Low budget productions may just have stage lights and a spotlight in the back. Sound is a very big part of a production; there is no point in having a show if no one can hear. Microphones are usually attached to speakers in the production.
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Influence

"Theatre movements around the world have reflected social changes and often influenced them" Kolkata says (1). Popular theatrical productions such as "Hair" and "The Crucible" have affected social changes in America. They both created political havoc with their outlandish scenes ("The Art and Science of Theater" 2). Not only has theater affected society, but society has influenced theater. Many plays were written about societal events.

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