Design and technology
In creating the sensory environment a designer will select and control the following
- Balance: objects, colours and other stage elements can be symmetrical providing an impression of evenness or asymmetrical providing an impression of imbalance or discomfort.
- Contrast: occurs when there is a marked difference between two aspects of drama, for example, use of contrasting light and dark colours in design or contrasting use of comedy and tragedy in a play.
- Pattern: the creation of sequences in design.
Repetition: the selection of elements to be featured in a performance to emphasise as well as surprise especially when creating new associations.
Elements of drama
Drama is created and shaped by the elements of drama:
- atmosphere: the interaction between the audience and the mood of a drama performance.
- character: a person or individual in the drama Flat characters (or two dimensional characters) and Rounded characters (or three dimensional characters).
- dramatic tension: drives the drama and keeps an audience interested.
- language : referring to the use of spoken or written words that communicate ideas, feelings and other associations.
- mood: mood is the emotional impact intended by the playwright, director and/or other members of the creative team.
- movement: see definition.
- relationships: refers to the qualities of the connection between two or more characters or roles.
- role: a performer can present in performance a role that represents an abstract concept, stereotyped figure, or person reduced to a particular dominant trait
- situation: circumstances in which a character/s are presented.
- space: the place where dramatic action is situated.
- symbol: symbolic parts of design add meaning to themes and narrative.
- time: both the time of day, time of the year and time in history or the future.
- voice: see definition.
Improvisation is spontaneous enactment. An extended improvisation is one that is reworked, shaped and refined.
Improvisation will include:
- Situation: the opening of an improvisation.
- Offer: one person offers a time/place/situation/conflict and another accepts the offer.
- Accepting: one person offers a time/place/situation/conflict and another accepts.
- Extending: developing and further exploring an offer.
- Advancing: contributing a new idea that shifts the dramatic action of the improvisation.
- Working with complications: the discipline in improvisation of the actors finding actions to address conflicts and complications.
- Finding a resolution: the challenge of finding a way to cue the audience that the improvisation is coming to an end as the conflict has been resolved as far as is possible.
Signalling a conclusion: the dramatic convention of cuing an audience that the performance is over and that they may applaud what they have seen. This includes finding a natural exit, freezing or constructing a final sentence that naturally ties together both the central conflict and narrative using a “simple sentence” structure.
The aspects of a performer’s body used to construct character or role, make meaning, convey emotional qualities as well as communicate relationships. These include:
- energy: effort and commitment used in the creation of movement and non-verbal communication.
- facial expressions: the shape and adjustment of face.
- gait: the manner in which an actor walks.
- gesture: often involves arm and hand movements such as indicating, waving or beckoning but can include shrugging of the shoulders, winking eyes etc.
- posture: the position of the body and sense of shape to create role and character.
- proxemics: the position of people (and objects) in relation to each other onstage.
- shape: the overall pattern or impression created by the body.
- time: tempo and rhythm of movement.
- weight: the adjustment of movement to create a sense of force.
The story of the play which includes an introduction, a conflict or complication, dramatic action, climax, falling action, denouement and conclusion. A play may feature several narrative threads (events that connect to one another) and some narratives may overlap and interact with one another in the course of a play.
- fragmented time: Breaking up the narrative into parts that shift between pasts, presents and futures.
- leaps of time: shifts in the dramatic action ignoring the logical sequence.
- linear narratives: Narrative from beginning to end.
- non-linear narratives: Disrupted sequence of events in a story, including flashback, flash forward and circular narrative structures.
Spaces of performance
A broad term that identifies the dynamics between actors, performance area and audience.
- Audience and actors interact and relate in spaces of performance: the dynamic relational space between the performance and the audience;
- the physical space of the ‘theatre’ including the auditorium and the stage in particular but also the front of house spaces.
- the fictional, imaginary spaces created by the world of the drama.
- the physical space of the stage with its organisation and scenography of particular stage spaces:
- Promenade stage: a performance in which the action takes place in multiple spaces. The audience may be guided from one performance space to the next (especially if the performance has a particular structure in terms of narrative and time) or be free to explore the various spaces independently (where narrative and time are less important to the performance experience). Medieval theatre often used this structure as well as performances that make use of different qualities of the performance space (for example, garden, building, landscape, water feature).
- Proscenium Arch stage: the proscenium arch frames the stage in traditional theatre spaces such as His Majesty’s in Perth. Also called ‘picture frame’ stage because of its ability to control sightlines and opportunity for presenting elaborate sets.
- Theatre in the round (arena): involves a central performance space with the audience surrounding it.
- Thrust stage: in this performance space, the audience is seated on three sides of the stage. This staging allows a more intimate connection with the audience.
- Traverse stage: this performance space is a rectangular area with the audience seated on the two long sides of the rectangle.
Style in drama refers to the distinctive identifying elements of particular dramatic texts. There are three dimensions of style: historical, performance and personal style.
- Historical style: refers to the distinctive uses of language, approaches to subject matter, themes, characterisation and dramatic action that can be linked to particular times and contexts. For example, Theatre of the Absurd, Theatre of Realism.
- Performance style: refers to the ways of approaching dramatic text in performance – two major performance styles are representational and presentational styles.
- Personal style: the distinctive use of voice, posture, gesture and body that can be associated with a particular actor or director. Style can be observed in performances, direction, design and the application of conventions to dramatic texts.
With the support of good posture and breathing, vocal clarity and flexibility can be achieved through the effective use of:
- articulation: the precision used in the formation of sounds and speech.
- clarity: the accurate formation of sounds with the voice.
- emphasis: the use of particular stresses in the spoken delivery of a sentence to highlight important words or phrases to improve comprehension for a live audience.
- inflection: the variation of the pitch and tone within a sentence to clarify emotional quality and intended meaning within a sentence for a live audience.
- pace: the speed with which a sentence or passage is delivered.
- pause: a planned break in the delivery of a phrase, sentence or passage.
- pitch: refers to the intensity of the vibrations in the voice making it seem higher or lower.
- projection (loudness): the strength or power used when speaking.
- tone: the emotional qualities added to a vocal performance by adjusting the types of sounds produced by the voice. These in particular can help convey a sense of a character’s subtext.