Elements of Drama: Characters
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Unit 7: Drama
Elements of Drama
Drama, instead of telling us the whole of a man’s life, must place him in such a situation, tie such a knot, that when it is untied, the whole man is visible. —Leo Tolstoy
What is drama? • A drama is a piece of literature that is written to be performed.
How is drama different from other literary genres? • Drama, unlike other types of literature, is meant to be spoken, acted out, and given movement.
Who are your favorite dramatists? • • • • • • • •
William Shakespeare August Wilson Lorraine Hansberry Arthur Miller Paul Zindel Neil Simon Tennessee Williams J. M. Barrie
What are the purposes of drama? • Drama can – entertain viewers – teach viewers about the human condition or experience – help viewers learn about themselves and others – teach viewers to be sympathetic – allow viewers to explore other visions of the world
Dramatic Forms • A play is a type of drama written for the stage. • The playwright includes details about props, sets, and how the actors should move onstage. • Unlike a piece of fiction, a written script is not the final work. • A director and actors use the written script to make the story come alive onstage.
Dramatic Forms • Dramas are not always performed onstage. • Screenplays and television scripts are dramas written to be acted out on film and later shown to an audience on screen. • Screenplays and TV scripts include the same instructions regarding production that play scripts do.
Types of Drama • Most modern Western theater descends from the theatrical productions of the ancient Greeks. • The three main categories of drama are – Greek tragedy, – comedy, and – straight drama.
Greek Tragedy • An ancient Greek tragedy usually contains a heroic protagonist, or main character. • This character experiences a struggle, often with the gods. • He or she is ultimately brought down by a tragic flaw within himself or herself.
Comedy • The term comedy refers to any lighthearted or humorous literary work. • The plot of a comedy often involves a series of mishaps and funny situations. • Comedies typically have happy endings.
Straight Drama • Most modern plays can be classified as straight dramas. • Straight dramas are characterized by – realistic characters – and situations in which viewers can see themselves.
• Straight dramas may include elements of comedy and tragedy, but not in extremes.
Theatre is simply what cannot be expressed by any other means; a complexity of words, movements, gestures that convey a vision of the world inexpressible in any other way. —Eugene Ionesco
Why do you think theater is able to communicate thoughts and ideas that “cannot be expressed by any other means”?
Elements of Drama • A drama, in its simplest form, is a story like any other piece of fiction. • However, drama is different because it contains theatrical elements. • Theatrical elements allow a story to be performed and brought to life.
Elements of Drama: Plot • The plot of a drama introduces its central conflict, or struggle. • The plot develops the conflict through rising action and resolves it after the climax.
Elements of Drama: Characters • The characters are the individuals who take part in the action of a drama. • The characters in the drama are collectively referred to as its cast.
Elements of Drama: Characters • The protagonist is the most important character in a drama. • The antagonist engages in a conflict with the protagonist.
Elements of Drama: Characters • The protagonist – is motivated by a goal, need, or desire – has strengths such as courage, cleverness, wisdom, or kindness – typically uses these strengths to overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of his or her goal
Elements of Drama: Characters • The antagonist – is also motivated by a goal, need, or desire: to frustrate, challenge, hurt, or destroy the protagonist – has strengths such as cleverness, determination, and knowledge of the opponent’s weaknesses – uses these strengths to stop the protagonist from achieving his or her goal
Elements of Drama: Characters • Some dramas, like The Phantom Tollbooth, have quite a few characters. • A graphic organizer can help you keep track of characters and the details you learn about them. • Go to the next slide to practice filling out a Character Chart.
Complete the chart below for one of the characters in The Phantom Tollbooth or another selection in this unit. Character: Traits Appearance Actions Speech Thoughts/ Feelings
Details from Story
What Details Reveal
Elements of Drama: Dialogue • In a drama, plot is mostly revealed through physical action and dialogue. • Dialogue is the conversations between the characters in a drama. • Dialogue helps the audience to learn about the personalities of the characters. • A monologue is a speech given by just one character.
Elements of Drama: Dialogue • What do you learn about Lucy in the monologue below? LUCY. …It’s true. I’m a crabby person. I’m a very crabby person, and everybody knows it. I’ve been spreading crabbiness wherever I go. I’m a supercrab. It’s a wonder anyone will still talk to me. It’s a wonder I have any friends at all—[she looks at the figures on the paper] or even associates. I’ve done nothing but make life miserable for everyone. I’ve done nothing but breed unhappiness and resentment. Where did I go wrong? How could I be so selfish? How could… —from “Do You Think I’m Crabby?” by Clark Gesner
Elements of Drama: Script • A script is a drama’s actual text. – It includes character names, settings, stage directions, and dialogue.
• Stage directions indicate how characters should speak their lines. • Stage directions also include notes about music, lighting, and set design.
Elements of Drama: Script • Read the excerpt from “In the Fog” below. FADE IN: Exterior. Night. At first we can only see fog drifting across a dark scene devoid of detail. Then to weird minor music, the camera dollies in slowly so that out of the fog there emerges toward us a white roadside signpost with a number of white painted signboards pointing to right and to left. The camera continues to dolly in until it has in closeup the state route marker fastened below the signs on the post. The marker is a Pennsylvania State Route—marked characteristically “PENNA-30.” Now, a light as from a far headlight sweeps the signs. —from In the Fog, by Milton Geiger
• How do the stage directions help to set the mood, or atmosphere, of the drama?
Elements of Drama: Script • Stage directions also tell actors how they should move on stage. • Stage directions usually refer to this grid: Up Right
Elements of Drama: Script • Acts are the major divisions of a script. • Acts are made up of scenes—shorter sections that mark changes in time and place.
PROGRAM ACT I Scene 1 Scene 2 Scene 3
Elements of Drama: Set • The scenery of a drama is called the set. • The set includes the – – – –
setting of each scene stage design lighting props (movable objects used by the characters)
• The playwright includes notes about the set in the script. • The director interprets the playwright’s notes.
SUMMARY: Elements of Drama • Drama is different from fiction because it is meant to be performed. • The theatrical elements of a drama, such as set, costumes, and lighting, help actors and directors bring it to life onstage. • Drama is always changing—each performance of a script breathes new life into it.