Talking about drama

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 October, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 October, 2002, 12:00am

Drama is an important part of the school curriculum, or should be. Many schools have drama festivals while some give students the chance to write their own scripts. It's a lot of fun, isn't it? Some readers may have studied plays by William Shakespeare or may have attended a performance at a local theatre. Whatever your experience is with drama, no doubt it is one of the more pleasing experiences you've had.

Drama represents an attempt to make sense of our lives by acting out experiences or ideas. It is a form of creative expression which goes back many thousands of years and which can be seen in many different cultures. Modern western drama owes its beginnings to Greek theatre, which goes back at least 3,000 years.

'Rules' for drama performances keep changing. Western drama now incorporates many aspects of drama from other cultures, including mime, dance, puppetry, music and an absence of sets and traditional structures.

Did you know that many years ago only male actors were allowed to perform? They did all the female parts which would have been quite funny to watch.

Like poetry, drama has its own special language. Here are some common drama terms and their meanings.

- Action or plot: the story of the play

- Cast: the actors chosen to play the characters in the play

- Set: how the stage has been arranged for a particular scene in the play. It includes the placement of furniture and props, walls, stairs and windows

- Stage directions: special instructions in the script as to how a line should be read or what the actor should be doing as he/she says the line

- Stage manager: the backstage person who is responsible for making sure all stage arrangements are in place, including the correct placement of props before a performance

- Act: this is the main division of a play, like a chapter in a novel

- Scene: a subdivision of an act in which all the action takes place in the one location and over a continuous period of time

- Props: all the items required on stage such as furniture, a glass, a newspaper or a rug

- Director: the person in charge of the play who makes all the decisions about how the actors should play their parts

- Rehearsal: the practice before the play is performed in front of an audience

- Playwright: the person who wrote the play

- Script: the written form of the play

- Costumes: the special clothes worn by the actors

- Comedy: a play that is mainly entertaining and aims to make the audience laugh

- Tragedy: a sad play in which at least one character suffers misfortune and/or death

- Melodrama: a play in which tragedy is exaggerated so much it is funny

When we are writing a review, the following expressions may be helpful:

We say that the characters are depicted in a very comic/tragic manner.

We say the playwright creates suspense by doing something.

We say the performance was superb.

We say that the plot was thought-provoking.

To find out more useful expressions, read film and play reviews either in the South China Morning Post or on the Internet. This will help you become familiar with the terminology, enhancing your written and spoken English.