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Arts Toolkit

Arts Toolkit: Drama

Drama Glossary

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B

C

D

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G

H

I

J

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M

N

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For Primary Teachers:
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Download and print 51 drama terms appropriate for primary students (PDF format):
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A

accent: manner of speaking or pronunciation, as in a foreign accent; also means the emphasis or stress placed on a particular syllable or word.

acoustics: the quality of a room in respect to transmission of sound.

act: a major unit or division of a play.

acting: use of face, body, and voice to portray character.

acting style: a particular manner of acting which reflects cultural and historical influences.

action: the movement or development of the plot or story in a play; the sense of forward movement created by the sense of time and/or the physical and psychological motivations of characters.

actor: a performer who assumes the role of a character in a play, film, or television show; a female actor may also be called an actress.

ad-lib: to improvise lines that are not part of the written script; also refers to the improvised line.

aesthetic distance: the physical or psychological separation of the audience from the action of a play, needed to maintain the artistic illusion of the play.

aesthetics: branch of philosophy that studies the arts and, especially, the principles of beauty.

allegory: a dramatic work in which there is a one-to-one correspondence between the literal meaning and the underlying, or allegorical, meaning of the work. An example is the medieval play Everyman, in which the protagonist Everyman stands for all people.

amphitheater: a type of stage with an oval or round structure with no roof and with tiers of seating rising from the center.

analysis: in responding to dramatic art, the process of examining how the elements of drama—literary, technical, and performance—are used.

ancient: theater of ancient and lineage-based cultures, such as Near Eastern, African, European, and Native American, centered on religious ritual, ceremony, and storytelling.

antagonist: the opponent or adversary of the hero or main character of a drama; one who opposes and actively competes with another character in a play, most often with the protagonist.

antihero: a protagonist who does not have the heroic qualities of the traditional protagonist. Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller is an example.

apron: the area between the front curtain and the edge of the stage.

arena stage: a type of stage without a frame or arch separating the stage from the auditorium, in which the audience surrounds the stage area; see theater-in-the-round.

articulation: the clarity or distinction of speech.

artistic choices: selections made by theater artists about the situation, action, direction, and design in order to convey meaning.

audience: the people who watch the performance; those for whom the performance is intended.

audition: a tryout for a part in a drama; also, the act of trying out.

auditorium: the part of the theater in which the audience sits; also called the house.

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B

backdrop: a flat surface the width of the stage, hung upstage of the acting area, upon which scenery is usually painted.

backing: flats or drops behind scenery openings, such as doors and windows of the set, to mask the backstage area.

backstage: the area behind or beyond the stage that includes dressing rooms and wings.

bard: a person who composed and recited heroic or epic poems; William Shakespeare is referred to as “The Bard.”

batten: a long piece of wood or pipe from which scenery, lights, and curtains are suspended.

black box: a one-room theater, without a proscenium arch; interior is painted black, including walls, floor, and ceiling, and any drapes are also black.

blackout: a lighting cue where all stage lights go off simultaneously.

blocking: the path formed by the actor’s movement on stage, usually determined by the director with assistance from the actor and often written down in a script using commonly accepted theatrical symbols.

body alignment: physiologically correct posture and use of the body to ensure the maximum capacity and efficiency of breathing and movement.

book: the script of a play.

borders: short curtains hung at intervals above the acting area to hide lighting and flown scenery from the audience.

box office: an enclosed area, usually found in or adjoining the lobby of a theater, where tickets are sold; how well or poorly a production performs “at the box office” indicates a monetary measure of the success of ticket sales.

box set: a set with three walls and a ceiling, leaving the fourth wall to be imagined by the actors. The box set represents a real room with doors and windows that work.

breakaway: a prop that is specifically made to break at a certain point in a play.

breath control: proper use of the lungs and diaphragm muscle for maximum capacity and efficiency of breath for speaking.

Bunraku: (also Banraku) traditional Japanese puppet theater. Each puppet is about one meter tall and is manipulated by up to three people, with each person responsible for a different part of the puppet. Their efforts make the puppets appear alive despite the fact that the puppeteers are visible on the stage. Bunraku plays are accompanied by the music of traditional Japanese instruments.

burlesque: a form of low comedy that mocks a broad topic.

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C

cabaret: a show produced in a small space with limited seating, such as a restaurant or nightclub.

callback: a second audition.

cast: the group of people selected to portray characters in a drama.

catharsis: the feeling of release felt by the audience at the end of a tragedy; the audience experiences catharsis, or is set free from the emotional hold of the action, after experiencing strong emotions and sharing in the protagonist’s troubles.

catwalk: a narrow bridge above the house and the grid, near the ceiling, that provides access to stage scenery, rigging, and lighting units.

center stage: the area in the center or middle of the stage.

ceremony: a formal observance or solemn rite.

character: a person portrayed in a drama, novel, or other artistic piece.

characterization: how an actor uses body, voice, and thought to develop and portray a character.

choreography: the movement of actors and dancers to music in a play.

chorus: a group of performers who sing, dance, or recite in unison; in Greek drama, the chorus was the group of performers who sang and danced between episodes, narrated off-stage action, and commented on events.

classic: popularly, any play written before the present century that has stood the test of time.

classical drama: formally, the drama of ancient Greece and Rome (800 BCE-400 AD); plays of the classical period instruct and perfect humans and present the universal ideal of beauty through logic, order, reason, and moderation. Tragedy was born during this period; the Greek Sophocles is one playwright of the period.

climax: the point of greatest intensity in a series or progression of events in a play, often forming the turning point of the plot and leading to some kind of resolution.

cold reading: an audition in which the actor is asked to read from the script without any preparation; intended to give the director a better sense of the actor’s potential and range.

collaboration: when artists work jointly together on an endeavor; a performance is an artistic collaboration because it relies on the work of a team of people.

comedy: a play that treats characters and situations in a humorous way. In Shakespeare’s time, a comedy was any play with a happy ending that typically told the story of a likable character’s rise to fortune. In ancient Greece, comedies dealt almost exclusively with contemporary figures and problems. Low comedy is physical rather than intellectual comedy; high comedy is more sophisticated, emphasizing verbal wit more than physical action.

comic relief: a break in the tension of a tragedy provided by a comic character, a comic episode, or even a comic line.

commedia dell’ arte: a type of theater that originated in northern Italy and France and relied on stock characters with which the audience was familiar.

community theater: organizations of amateurs who produce and perform plays in a particular region or community.

company: everyone associated with a production.

complication: a factor, condition, and/or element that adds difficulty to the plot or conflict in a play.

concentration: the actor’s focus, also called centering; focusing on the work at hand, being in character, or being in the moment.

conflict: the internal or external struggle between opposing forces, ideas, or interests that creates dramatic tension.

contrast: dynamic use of opposites, such as movement/stillness, sound/silence, and light/darkness.

copyright: ownership and rights to control all aspects of reproducing a work.

costumes: clothing and accessories worn by actors to portray character and period.

criteria: the standards on which an evaluation or judgment is based.

critic: a specialist in the evaluation and judgment of literary and artistic works, usually working in the media.

critique: evaluation or judgment.

cue: the words or action at which an actor is expected to deliver a line or perform another action. Also, a signal from the stage manager to the cast, stage crew, props manager, or lighting technician that a predetermined action—an entrance, sound effect, change in the set or lighting—is required.

cue sheet: a list of cues for the technicians.

culture: the customs, beliefs, arts, and way of life of a specific group of people.

curtain: the main drape, usually made of cloth, used to separate the stage from the auditorium.

curtain call: the appearance of the cast at the end of a play to receive applause from the audience.

cut: to stop action; delete.

cyclorama: a fabric drop hung from a curved or segmented batten, or a curved wall at the back of the stage, upon which light can be cast to create effects (cyc for short).

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D

dénouement: the solution, clarification, and/or unraveling of the plot of a play.

description: in responding to dramatic art, the process of telling what was seen and heard during the performance.

designers: persons responsible for planning visual and sound aspects of a production, including costumes, set, props, lights, makeup, and sound.

deus ex machina: literally, “god from the machine”; refers to the character in classical Greek tragedy who entered the play from the heavens at the end of the drama to resolve or explain the conflict; in modern drama, refers to any arbitrary means of plot resolution.

development: progression of the plot or conflict in a play.

dialect: a nonstandard way of speaking; may be related to region, class, trade, etc.

dialogue: spoken conversation used by two or more characters to express thoughts, feelings, and actions.

diction: selection and pronunciation of words; clarity of speech.

director: the person who is responsible for the overall interpretation of a dramatic work, bringing all the elements together to create a unified production.

discovery: a revelation; something that is suddenly revealed about a character or situation in a play.

domestic drama: a style of drama characterized by a domestic setting and a protagonist who is a common man.

downstage: the area of the stage closest to the audience.

drama: the art of composing, writing, acting, or producing plays; a literary composition intended to portray life or character or enact a story, usually involving conflicts and emotions exhibited through action and dialogue, designed for theatrical performance.

dramatic media: means of enacting stories by way of stage, film, television, radio, or computer discs.

dramatic play: spontaneous dramatic enactment, often done by children pretending or imitating while playing.

dramaturg: person who assists the director by researching the context of a play, including the historical periods and biographical information about the playwright; person who assists the playwright with clarifying and revising the script in progress.

dress rehearsal: a rehearsal, usually the last one before performances begin, in which all lighting, costumes, makeup, set changes, props, sound effects, and special effects are used.

dresser: crew person assigned to help with quick changes of costume and general maintenance of costumes.

drop: a large cloth (often painted) used for creating a scene or picture background on stage.

duet: in acting, when two people perform on stage.

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E

electronic media: means of communication characterized by the use of technology; e.g., radio, television, computers (virtual reality).

elements of drama: The elements of drama, by which dramatic works can be analyzed and evaluated, can be categorized into three major areas: literary elements, technical elements, and performance elements.

  • literary elements include story line (plot), character, story organization (beginning, middle, end), plot structures (rising action, turning point, falling action), conflict, suspense, theme, language, style, dialogue, monologue.
  • technical elements include scenery (set), costumes, props, lights, sound, music, makeup.
  • performance elements include acting (e.g., character motivation and analysis, empathy), speaking (breath control, vocal expression and inflection, projection, speaking style, diction), and nonverbal expression (gestures, body alignment, facial expression, character blocking, movement).

empathy: the capacity to relate to the feelings of another.

ensemble: the dynamic interaction and harmonious blending of the efforts of the many artists involved in the dramatic activity of theatrical production.

entrance: stage direction indicating the act of entering the play area during a performance.

environment: physical surroundings that establish place, time, and atmosphere/mood; the physical conditions that reflect and affect the emotions, thoughts, and actions of characters.

epilogue: a summary speech delivered at the end of a play that explains or comments on the action.

evaluate: to judge a play or performance.

exit: stage direction; to leave the stage.

exposition: the part of a play that introduces the theme, chief characters, and current circumstances.

expression: physical and vocal aspects used by an actor to convey mood, feeling, or personality.

extemporaneous: composed or performed with little or no previous preparation; similar to impromptu.

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F

falling action: the series of events following the climax.

farce: an extreme form of comedy that depends on quick tempo and flawless timing and is characterized by improbable events and farfetched coincidences; from the French meaning “to stuff.”

flashback: in a nonlinear plot, to go back in time to a previous event; a flashforward would move the action into the future.

flat: a wooden frame, usually covered with painted cloth, used to create walls or separations on stage.

fly: to raise, lower, or hoist scenery to or from the flies onto the stage.

fly crew: stagehands to raise and lower flown scenery and draperies.

fly gallery: an area against one of the backstage walls where the fly rope and pulley system are operated.

focus: in lighting, the adjustment of the size and shape of a stage light and/or the direction in which it is aimed; in acting, the act of concentrating or staying in character.

foil: one who by strong contrast underscores the distinctive characteristics of another and, sometimes, prevents someone or something from being successful.

folktale: any story or tale passed on traditionally.

foreshadowing: an indication beforehand of something that is about to happen.

fourth wall: the invisible wall of a set through which the audience sees the action of the play.

Freytag’s Pyramid: a triangular diagram that shows how a plot or story line progresses.

front of house: box office and lobby of a theater.

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G

genre: a category of literary or dramatic composition; drama is a literary genre. Drama is further divided into tragedy, comedy, farce, and melodrama, and these genres, in turn, can be subdivided.

gesture: any movement of the actor’s head, shoulder, arm, hand, leg, or foot to convey meaning.

greasepaint: slang term for theatrical makeup; originally referred to greasy, oil-based makeup that replaced powder in the 1860s.

green room: a waiting area offstage to be used by actors.

grid: a metal framework above the stage from which lighting instruments and flown scenery are hung.

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H

hand props: properties such as tools, weapons, or luggage that are carried on stage by an individual actor.

harlequin: one of the stock characters that originated from commedia dell’ arte; originally a sharp-witted servant, the character became a simpleton or jester; best recognized by his suit of diamond-patterned fabric in contrasting colors.

house: the seating area of a theater as well as the audience itself.

house lights: the lights that illuminate the auditorium before and after a performance and during intermission.

house manager: person in charge of everything that happens in the front of the house.

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I

imaging: a technique which allows students to slow down and focus individually on an issue. The students, sitting quietly with eyes closed, allow pictures to form in their minds. These images may be motivated by bits of narration, music, sounds, smells, etc.

imitate: to copy or mimic the actions, appearance, mannerisms, or speech of others.

improvisation: the spontaneous use of movement and speech to create a character or object in a particular situation; acting done without a script.

inflection: change in pitch or loudness of the voice.

interaction: the action or relationship among two or more characters.

intermission: a brief break between acts, in which the house lights come on and the audience may leave their seats.

interpretation: the determination of meaning in a literary work; in responding to dramatic art, the process of identifying the point, ideas, or themes in the play and how the plot relates to the major idea or theme. In a dramatic production, the director, and perhaps others, will decide how to interpret the play for the audience.

irony: an implied discrepancy between what is said and what is meant. There are several forms of irony. Verbal irony is when a writer or speaker says one thing and means something else (often the opposite of what is said). When the audience perceives something that a character does not know, that is dramatic irony. Situational irony can be described as a discrepancy between expected results and the actual results.

isolation: control of isolated body parts; the ability to control or move one part of the body independently of the rest.

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J

judgment: in responding to dramatic art, the process of evaluating the play and performance.

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K

Kabuki: the popular theater of Japan which developed out of Noh theater in the 17th century. In Kabuki theater, actors use exaggerated and stylized makeup, costumes, gestures, speech, and special effects to portray traditional character roles and story lines.

kinesthetic: resulting from the sensation of bodily position, presence, or movement.

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L

language: in drama, the particular manner of verbal expression, the diction or style of writing, or the speech or phrasing that suggests a class or profession or type of character.

legend: an unverifiable story popularly accepted as historical and handed down by tradition from earlier times.

leitmotiv: in music, a recurring musical theme that accompanies a character or situation; in drama, then, the repetition of a word or phrase or image (from the German meaning “leading motive”).

light cue sheet: the lighting technician’s guide for all dimmer readings and settings at act or scene openings; also called a cue sheet.

lighting: the placement, intensity, and color of lights to help communicate environment, mood, or feeling.

lines: the dialogue of a play; the words actors say in performance.

listening: paying attention to what is being said.

literary devices: word patterns or combinations used to elicit a certain audience response; e.g., symbolism, foreshadowing.

load in: to place the set on the stage.

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M

makeup: costumes, wigs, and body paint used to transform an actor into a character.

mannerism: a peculiarity of speech or behavior.

mask: headdress used to cover the face and enable the wearer to portray a particular character or animal. Also, to mask a set is to use flats or drapes to block the sightlines of the audience so they cannot see behind the set.

Medieval drama: Classical drama ended with the fall of Rome, but drama was reborn during the Medieval period (800-1400 AD), growing out of religious ceremony. Medieval drama instructed in Christian faith, appealed to emotions, and stressed the importance of religion. Morality plays, such as Everyman, are an example.

melodrama: a style of play, which originated in the 19th century, relying heavily on sensationalism and sentimentality. Melodramas tend to feature action more than motivation, stock characters, and a strict view of morality in which good triumphs over evil.

mime: acting without words.

mimicry: the practice of mimicking or imitating.

mirroring: copying the movement and/or expression or look of someone else exactly.

modern/contemporary drama: drama from 1900 to the present that breaks with or redefines the conventions of the past, uses experimental techniques, and/or shows the diversity of society and the blending of cultures.

monologue: a long speech made by one actor; a monologue may be delivered alone or in the presence of others.

mood: the tone or feeling of the play, often engendered by the music, setting, or lighting.

morality play: an allegorical drama, such as Everyman, in which vices and virtues are personified in the battle for the protagonist’s soul. The genre developed in Medieval England.

motivation: the reason or reasons for a character’s behavior; an incentive or inducement for further action for a character.

movement: stage blocking or the movements of the actors onstage during performance; also refers to the action of the play as it moves from event to event.

mummer’s play: an English folk play, performed mostly in rhyme and often with songs or even dances, that depicts the death and resurrection of a folk hero. (A mummer is an actor.) These plays grew up in Medieval times (or even earlier), and many historians believe that this drama is a celebration of the death of the year and its resurrection in the spring. Key characters include a regional hero such as Saint George, a comical quack doctor, adversaries, and a variable number of extras whose main purpose is to ask the audience for money, food, and drink at the end of the performance.

musical: a play in which the story is told through a combination of spoken dialogue and musical numbers.

myths: traditional stories dealing with supernatural beings, ancestors, or heroes.

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N

naturalism: a style of drama that developed in the late 19th century as an attempt to represent real life on stage faithfully and without artifice; the actions of characters tend to be dominated by determinism (societal or environmental forces).

Neo-Classicism: style in music (1720-1827) that reacted to the excesses of the monarchy and returned to order, reason, and clarity; in theater, satire flowered during this period.

Noh: Japanese drama that began as a religious ceremony in the 14th century; plays are highly stylized and depend upon music, lavish costumes, mime, and masks. Traditionally Noh was the theater of the upper classes.

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O

off book: when the actor has memorized his or her lines completely.

on book: a rehearsal with scripts.

oral tradition: passing down customs, stories, and cultural information via spoken rather than written word.

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P

pantomime: acting without words.

parody: a mocking or satirical imitation of a literary or dramatic work.

performance: a presentation of a drama.

personal props: small props that are usually carried in an actor’s costume, such as money or a pen.

personification: the attribution of human qualities to inanimate objects or abstract concepts.

places: the stage command for actors to take their positions at the opening of an act or scene.

playwright: a person who writes a play.

plot: the events of a play or arrangement of action, as opposed to the theme.

plot development: the organization or building of the action in a play.

problem play: generally refers to a play of ideas that explores contemporary social problems. Examples of problem plays are Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and Miller’s Death of a Salesman. Several of Shakespeare’s comedies are termed problem plays because of their confusing tone and ambiguous endings.

producer: the person who puts together a theatrical production, obtaining the financing, hiring the director and other stage personnel, supervising the budget, leasing rights and space, etc.

production: the staging of a dramatic work for presentation to an audience.

projection: how well the voice carries to the audience.

prologue: a speech which introduces a play.

prompt: to give actors their lines as a reminder; the prompter is the one who assists actors in remembering their lines.

props: short for properties; any article, except costume or scenery, used as part of a dramatic production; any moveable object that appears on stage during a performance, from a telephone to a train.

proscenium: a frame or arch separating the stage from the auditorium. The proscenium opening was of particular importance to the Realistic playwrights of the 19th century, such as Ibsen and Shaw, for whom it was a picture frame or an imaginary fourth wall through which the audience experienced the illusion of spying on characters.

protagonist: the main character or hero in a play or other literary work.

publicity: the distribution of information to the public to make the theater and its productions attractive and accessible.

puppetry: the art of creating and manipulating puppets in a theatrical performance. A puppet is a figure (as of a person or animal), generally operated by hand, although there are many kinds of puppets.

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R

rake: gradual sloping in stage floor height.

reader’s theater: dramatic presentation in which two or more oral readers interpret a characterized script with the aim of stimulating the audience to imaginatively experience the literature.

realism: an attempt in theater to represent everyday life and people as they are or appear to be through careful attention to detail in character motivation, costume, setting, and dialogue. Plays from this period (from 1820 to 1920) seek the truth, find beauty in the commonplace, and focus on the conditions of the working class. Henrik Ibsen is an exemplar of the movement; he influenced others such as George Bernard Shaw and Anton Chekov.

rehearsal: a practice session in which the director works with cast and crew.

Renaissance: period from 1400 to 1600 marked by reconciliation of Christian faith and reason, “rebirth” of the classical ideal, and freedom of thought. Shakespeare wrote during the Renaissance; commedia dell’ arte appeared in Italy and southern France during this period.

rendering: a drawing or pictorial representation of a designer’s ideas or concept for a play’s set or costumes.

resolution: how the problem or conflict in a drama is solved or concluded.

reversal: when an action produces the opposite of what is desired or expected.

review: a critic’s analysis of a performance.

rhetorical devices: language and effects used to impress or persuade the audience.

rhetorical question: a question used for effect, but not necessarily needing to be answered.

rising action: a series of events following the initial incident and leading up to the dramatic climax.

ritual: a prescribed form or ceremony; drama grew out of religious ritual.

role: the character portrayed by an actor in a drama.

role playing: improvising movement and dialogue to put oneself in another’s place in a particular situation, often to examine the person(s) and/or situation(s) being improvised.

Romanticism: in drama, a 19th-century tendency toward overblown staging, grand passions, and larger-than-life characters—in other words, melodrama. Artists, composers, and writers of the Romantic period (1760-1870) revolted against Neo-Classical order/reason; embraced nature, freedom, emotion, and the imagination; and were interested in the exotic, patriotic, primitive, and supernatural.

royalties: monies paid for permission to stage a play.

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S

satire: a play in which sarcasm, irony, and ridicule are used to expose or attack folly or pretension in society.

scenario: an outline of a hypothesized or projected chain of events or plot for a dramatic or literary work.

scene: a small section or portion of a play.

scenery: the theatrical equipment, such as curtains, flats, backdrops, or platforms, used in a dramatic production to communicate environment.

scrim: a drop made of fabric that seems almost opaque when lit from the front but semitransparent when lit from behind.

script: the written dialogue, description, and directions provided by the playwright.

script scoring: the marking of a script for one character, indicating interpretation, pauses, etc.

sensory recall: an acting technique whereby a sight, smell, taste, sound, or feeling is recalled along with its cause and the actor’s reaction to it.

set: the physical surroundings, visible to the audience, in which the action of the play takes place.

set designer: the person who designs the physical surroundings in which the action of the play takes place.

setting: when and where the action of a play takes place.

situation: a combination of circumstances at a given moment.

soliloquy: a speech in which an actor, usually alone on stage, speaks the inner thoughts of his/her character aloud.

sound: the effects an audience hears during a performance to communicate character, context, or environment.

sound devices: in literature, use of repetition and parallel structure, using words or phrases more than once for emphasis.

sound elements: music, sound effects, actors’ voices.

space: a defined area.

speaking style: the mode of expression or delivery of lines.

special effects: visual or sound effects used to enhance a theatrical performance.

spectacle: the scenery, costumes, and special, or visual, effects in a production.

stage business: actions or behavior of an actor on stage used to give information, enhance character, define focus, or establish importance.

stage crew: the personnel who set up and manage the scenery and props for a performance.

stage directions: instructions in the script that tell the actors what to do and where to move on stage; may also provide information about the setting.

stage left: when facing the audience, the area of the stage on the actor’s left (the audience’s right).

stage manager: person in charge of everything that happens backstage.

stage presence: the level of comfort, commitment, and energy an actor appears to have on stage.

stage right: when facing the audience, the area of the stage on the actor’s right (the audience’s left).

staging: another term for blocking; deliberate choices about where the actors stand and how they move on stage to communicate character relationships and plot and to create interesting stage pictures.

stock characters: characters who represent particular personality types or characteristics of human behavior. Stock characters are immediately recognizable and appear throughout the history of theater, beginning with Greek and Roman comedy and elaborated upon in commedia dell’ arte.

story line: the plot or plan of action.

storytelling: the act of telling a story in the oral tradition.

strike: the removal of all stage equipment, including scenery, props, lights, and costumes, from the stage area.

stylization: the shaping of dramatic material, settings, or costumes in a deliberately nonrealistic manner.

suspense: a feeling of uncertainty as to the outcome, used to build interest and excitement on the part of the audience.

symbol: an object or event used in literature to represent something else; often this representation alludes to a deeper meaning. Symbolism is the use of symbolic language, imagery, or color to evoke emotions or ideas.

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T

tableau: a technique in creative drama in which actors create a frozen picture, as if the action were paused; plural is tableaux.

teaser: a horizontal drape at the top of the proscenium arch.

technical rehearsal: a rehearsal at which lighting, scenery, and props are tested to ensure that changes go smoothly.

tempo: the pace of a scene or a play.

tension: the atmosphere created by unresolved, disquieting, or inharmonious situations that human beings feel compelled to address; the state of anxiety the audience feels because of a threat to a character in a play.

text: the basis of dramatic activity and performance; a written script or an agreed-upon structure and content for an improvisation.

theater (or theatre): the imitation/representation of life, performed for other people; the performance of dramatic literature; drama; the milieu of actors and playwrights; the place that is the setting for dramatic performances.

theater games: improvisational exercises structured by the director or teacher to achieve a specific objective, such as breaking down inhibitions or establishing trust.

theater-in-the-round: an acting area or stage that may be viewed from all sides simultaneously.

theme: the basic idea of a play; the idea, point of view, or perception that binds together a work of art.

thrust: a stage that extends into the audience area, with seats on three sides of a peninsula-shaped acting space.

timing: includes setting cues for effects and lighting, synchronizing two or more things that must happen simultaneously, and establishing the pace at which lines will be delivered or the play performed.

tormentors: side pieces such as flats or drapes placed just upstage of the proscenium to adjust the width of the opening.

tragedy: in Greek theater, a play depicting man as a victim of destiny. The characteristics of tragedy have evolved over time to include any serious play in which man is a victim of fate, a character flaw, moral weakness, or social pressure. According to Aristotle, the purpose of tragedy is to arouse pity and fear in the audience and purge them at the play’s conclusion (catharsis).

tragic flaw: the defect in the tragic hero that leads to his or her fall.

tragic hero: the central figure in a tragedy; typically, a tragic hero is a person of basically good character who passes from happiness to misery because of a character flaw or error in judgment.

trap: an opening in the stage floor.

turning point: the climax or high point of a story, when events can go either way.

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U

understudies: actors who are able to play major roles in the event the originally cast actors cannot.

upstage: (noun) the area on stage farthest from the audience, toward the backstage wall.

upstage: (verb) to deliberately draw the audience’s attention away from another actor or actors by overacting, using flashy bits of business, or other means; term originated from an actor purposefully positioning himself upstage of the other actors so that they must turn their backs on the audience to deliver their lines to him.

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V

vaudeville: a form of stage entertainment that includes a variety of acts; was extremely popular in the early 20th century; the term comes from the Valley of Vire in France, known for its music and entertainment in the 15th century.

vocal expression: how an actor uses his or her voice to convey character.

vocal projection: directing the voice out of the body to be heard clearly at a distance.

voice: the combination of vocal qualities an actor uses such as articulation, phrasing, and pronunciation.

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W

well-made play: a 19th-century genre characterized by tight plots and plot twists that are often caused by secrets or the timely arrivals of surprise letters, papers, or characters.

wings: offstage areas to the right and left of the acting/onstage area.

word play: verbal fencing, punning, or mock bickering. Shakespeare’s plays are known for their word play.

workshop: a place for putting together and polishing a play. A workshop production is a work in progress. To workshop a play is to prepare it for performance and present it to a select group of advisers who suggest changes, adjustments, and improvements.

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