Definitions

drama'turgic

Drama

[drah-muh, dram-uh]
Drama is the specific mode of fiction represented in performance. The term comes from a Greek word meaning "action" (Classical Greek: δράμα, dráma), which is derived from "to do" (Classical Greek: δράω, dráō). The enactment of drama in theatre, performed by actors on a stage before an audience, presupposes collaborative modes of production and a collective form of reception. The structure of dramatic texts, unlike other forms of literature, is directly influenced by this collaborative production and collective reception.

The two masks associated with drama represent the traditional generic division between comedy and tragedy. They are symbols of the ancient Greek Muses, Thalia and Melpomene. Thalia was the Muse of comedy (the laughing face), while Melpomene was the Muse of tragedy (the weeping face).

The use of "drama" in the narrow sense to designate a specific type of play dates from the 19th century. Drama in this sense refers to a play that is neither a comedy nor a tragedy--for example, Zola's Thérèse Raquin (1873) or Chekhov's Ivanov (1887). It is this narrow sense that the film and television industry and film studies adopted to describe "drama" as a genre within their respective media. "Radio drama" has been used in both senses--originally transmitted in a live performance, it has also been used to describe the more high-brow and serious end of the dramatic output of radio.

Drama is often combined with music and dance: the drama in opera is sung throughout; musicals include spoken dialogue and songs; and some forms of drama have regular musical accompaniment (melodrama and Japanese , for example). In certain periods of history (the ancient Roman and modern Romantic) dramas have been written to be read rather than performed. In improvisation, the drama does not pre-exist the moment of performance; performers devise a dramatic script spontaneously before an audience.

History of Western drama

Classical Athenian drama

Western drama originates in classical Greece. The theatrical culture of the city-state of Athens produced three genres of drama: tragedy, comedy, and the satyr play. Their origins remain obscure, though by the 5th century BCE they were institutionalised in competitions held as part of festivities celebrating the god Dionysus. Historians know the names of many ancient Greek dramatists, not least Thespis, who is credited with the innovation of an actor ("hypokrites") who speaks (rather than sings) and impersonates a character (rather than speaking in his own person), while interacting with the chorus and its leader ("coryphaeus"), who were a traditional part of the performance of non-dramatic poetry (dithyrambic, lyric and epic). Only a small fraction of the work of five dramatists, however, has survived to this day: we have a small number of complete texts by the tragedians Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, and the comic writers Aristophanes and, from the late 4th century, Menander. Aeschylus' historical tragedy The Persians is the oldest surviving drama, although when it won first prize at the City Dionysia competition in 472 BCE, he had been writing plays for more than 25 years. The competition ("agon") for tragedies may have begun as early as 534 BCE; official records ("didaskaliai") begin from 501 BCE, when the satyr play was introduced. Tragic dramatists were required to present a tetralogy of plays (though the individual works were not necessarily connected by story or theme), which usually consisted of three tragedies and one satyr play (though exceptions were made, as with Euripides' Alcestis in 438 BCE). Comedy was officially recognised with a prize in the competition from 487-486 BCE. Five comic dramatists competed at the City Dionysia (though during the Peloponnesian War this may have been reduced to three), each offering a single comedy. Ancient Greek comedy is traditionally divided between "old comedy" (5th century BCE), "middle comedy" (4th century BCE) and "new comedy" (late 4th century to 2nd BCE).

Medieval

In the Middle Ages, drama in the vernacular languages of Europe may have emerged from religious enactments of the liturgy. Mystery plays were presented on the porch of the cathedrals or by strolling players on feast days. Miracle and mystery plays (such as Everyman) later evolved into more elaborate forms of drama, such as was seen on the Elizabethan stages.

Elizabethan and Jacobean

One of the great flowerings of drama in England occurred in the 16th and 17th centuries. Many of these plays were written in verse, particularly iambic pentameter. In addition to Shakespeare, such authors as Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Middleton, and Ben Jonson were prominent playwrights during this period. As in the medieval period, historical plays celebrated the lives of past kings, enhancing the image of the Tudor monarchy. Authors of this period drew some of their storylines from Greek mythology and Roman mythology or from the plays of eminent Roman playwrights such as Plautus and Terence.

Other Cultural Forms

Indian

Indian drama is traced back to certain dramatic episodes described in the Rigveda. The dramas dealt with human concerns as well as the gods. The earliest theoretical account of Indian drama is Bharata Muni's Natya Shastra that may be as old as the 3rd century BC. Drama was patronized by the kings as well as village assemblies. Famous early playwrights include Bhasa and Kalidasa.

The Ramayana and the Mahabharata stories have often been used for plots in Indian drama and this practice continues today.

Chinese

Chinese theatre has a long and complex history. Today it is often called Chinese opera although this normally refers specifically to the popular form known as Beijing Opera; there have been many other forms of theatre in China.

Japanese

Japanese Nō drama is a serious dramatic form that combines drama, music, and dance into a complete aesthetic performance experience. It developed in the 14th and 15th centuries and has its own musical instruments and performance techniques, which were often handed down from father to son. The performers were generally male (for both male and female roles), although female amateurs also perform Nō dramas. Nō drama was supported by the government, and particularly the military, with many military commanders having their own troupes and sometimes performing themselves. It is still performed in Japan today.

Kyōgen is the comic counterpart to Nō drama. It concentrates more on dialogue and less on music, although Nō instrumentalists sometimes appear also in Kyōgen.

Forms of Drama

Opera

Western opera is a dramatic art form, which arose during the Renaissance in an attempt to revive the classical Greek drama tradition in which both music and theatre were combined. Being strongly intertwined with western classical music, the opera has undergone enormous changes in the past four centuries and it is an important form of theatre until this day. Noteworthy is the huge influence of the German 19th century composer Richard Wagner on the opera tradition. In his view, there was no proper balance between music and theatre in the operas of his time, because the music seemed to be more important than the dramatic aspects in these works. To restore the connection with the traditional Greek drama, he entirely renewed the operatic format, and to emphasize the equally importance of music and drama in these new works, he called them "music dramas".

Chinese opera has seen a more conservative development over a somewhat longer period of time.

Pantomime

See Also Non-Artistic Uses below

These stories follow in the tradition of fables and folk tales, usually there is a lesson learned, and with some help from the audience the hero/heroine saves the day. This kind of play uses stock characters seen in masque and again commedia del arte, these characters include the villain (doctore), the clown/servant(Arlechino/Harlequin/buttons), the lovers etc. These plays usually have an emphasis on moral dilemmas, and good always triumphs over evil, this kind of play is also very entertaining making it a very effective way of reaching many people.

Today

Except the sacred classical Indian musical theatre, the usual purpose of drama is as entertainment. However drama can also be used as an educational activity or for therapeutic purposes. It is even used for religious ministry.

It has a unique ability to allow us to play, allowing us to be another person or in a situation that we would not normally encounter such as, being a general in a war. This is what makes drama a useful way of teaching, learning, and growing as a person.

Drama has a holistic way of teaching people. Whether it be in a play or by partaking in a role-play situation, participants learn through interactions with others -- this allows participants to not only learn facts as they would from a book or in a classroom, but to enter the world of another person, to be allowed to explore how they feel about this situation or person, whether it be a war-torn town or the wolf in the Three Little Pigs. Every interaction with another character or situation gives a greater understanding of what is happening around us.

If you look at small children when they are playing, they are enthralled with their own world, and through their actions, thoughts and the way they play they learn about themselves, others, and the world around them. Play allows them to act out new situations, try out new ways of doing things and by doing so learn. (see Nativity Play)

When people grow up, the idea of play becomes less important and entering into the imagination becomes more difficult. However this is where drama has the unique and undeniable ability to help others learn and grow as individuals, as it allows them to play. Through playing we can once again try out situations, whether it be for a job interview by live action role-playing (aka. LARP), or just to think about new ideas, we can also gain confidence in ourselves and learn to trust others.

Role-play can also play an important part in therapy, again entering the imagination and allowing ourselves to pretend and to think of things in other ways. Drama therapy is often considered an effective treatment for people who have had severe emotional and psychological problems, although it is important to note that the evidence to support therapeutic efficacy of Drama therapy is anecdotal rather than scientific.

In the theater, drama is a living, breathing art form. Actors are placed on stage, so that they can breathe life into the characters that have been created by the playwrights. In theater, the two main things to consider are: a) drama is driven by conflict and b) that drama is action. Action can be loosely defined as anything a character does with an objective behind it, whereas conflict can be briefly summarized as a clash between the motives of one or more characters.

Nonartistic Uses

There are many forms of educational drama these all share one common goal, to create awareness or an understanding of an idea or issue. The following is a few examples of the main forms in which drama is used as a tool for education.

Theatre in education (TIE) is the typical image of drama, seen since the 1960s. Usually performed for youth groups, or schools by a drama group this form of theatre was usually a devised piece which used abstract ideas to communicate a message, it follows in the tradition of plays seen throughout history such as morality plays like Everyman. This form of theatre could also be compared to commedia del arte, and other such travelling forms of theatre.

Drama in education

Unlike theatre in education, Drama in Education (DIE) is workshop-based, with groups creating their own scenarios, ideas and even subject matter through the use of drama and drama workshops. Sometimes this kind of work may lead to the creation of a play, or a piece of TIE or some other kind of means to show a result from the work. Verfrumdungsteffekt utilises skills used across the spectrum of dramatic activity, everything from teacher in role to normal theatrical conventions of audience and spectator. DIE is usually run in youth clubs, schools, community centres etc. DIE involves a high amount of participation by the group, and is therefore aimed for smaller groups of individuals.

Workshops

A workshop is a situation where a group is allowed to explore and think about an issue, a book, a thought, a play, anything. Within drama terms it is an active situation with a lot of learning and experiencing. Drama workshops have many different styles and approaches much like any group activity, this style and approach is determined by the group's willingness to participate, the frame and distance that they are from the drama is usually the holding form for the session, in the example shown through teacher in role we see the group are "framed" as social workers and because of their role in the drama they are at a very close distance, if the group were older at age 14-17 say then they would be less likely to enter into the drama and a more suitable frame would have to be chosen. For example, instead of social workers they could become reporters, which would allow them to remain at the spectator end of the drama and give them a chance to reflect on the conditions surrounding events. However, this does not mean that the group always has to have a frame. they can remain themselves and still participate in the drama, allowing them to think about how they feel about the situation. In this case, the group may enter the drama as themselves and how they would act in a situation, or explore being characters in a situation and what is making them act the way they are.

Legal status

UK

Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 does not define a dramatic work except to state that it includes a work of dance or mime. However, it is clear that dramatic work includes the scenario or script for films, plays (written for theatre, cinema, television or radio), and choreographic works.

See also

Notes

Works cited

  • Banham, Martin, ed. 1998. The Cambridge Guide to Theatre. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521434378.
  • Brockett, Oscar G. and Franklin J. Hildy. 2003. History of the Theatre. Ninth edition, International edition. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. ISBN 0205410502.
  • Carlson, Marvin. 1993. Theories of the Theatre: A Historical and Critical Survey from the Greeks to the Present. Expanded ed. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press. ISBN 0801481546.
  • Duchartre, Pierre Louis. 1929. The Italian Comedy. Unabridged republication. New York: Dover, 1966. ISBN 0486216799.
  • Dukore, Bernard F., ed. 1974. Dramatic Theory and Criticism: Greeks to Grotowski. Florence, KY: Heinle & Heinle. ISBN 0030911524.
  • Durant, Will & Ariel Durant. 1963 The Story of Civilization, Volume II: The Life of Greece. 11 vols. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  • Elam, Keir. 1980. The Semiotics of Theatre and Drama. New Accents Ser. London and New York: Methuen. ISBN 0416720609.
  • Gordon, Mel. 1983. Lazzi: The Comic Routines of the Commedia dell'Arte. New York: Performing Arts Journal Publications. ISBN 0933826699.
  • Harsh, Philip Whaley. 1944. A Handbook of Classical Drama. Stanford: Stanford UP; Oxford: Oxford UP.
  • Johnstone, Keith. 1981. Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre Rev. ed. London: Methuen, 2007. ISBN 0713687010.
  • Pfister, Manfred. 1977. The Theory and Analysis of Drama. Trans. John Halliday. European Studies in English Literature Ser. Cambridige: Cambridge University Press, 1988. ISBN 052142383X.
  • Rehm, Rush. 1992. Greek Tragic Theatre. Theatre Production Studies ser. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 0415118948.
  • Spolin, Viola. 1967. Improvisation for the Theater. Third rev. ed Evanston, Il.: Northwestern University Press, 1999. ISBN 081014008X.
  • Taxidou, Olga. 2004. Tragedy, Modernity and Mourning. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP. ISBN 0748619879.
  • Weimann, Robert. 1978. Shakespeare and the Popular Tradition in the Theater: Studies in the Social Dimension of Dramatic Form and Function. Baltimore and London: The John Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0801835062.
  • ---. 2000. Author's Pen and Actor's Voice: Playing and Writing in Shakespeare's Theatre. Ed. Helen Higbee and William West. Cambridge Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521787351.

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