Literacy in Drama
Accent Accents are used to highlight where a character is from, this can be National (e.g. Irish accent) or a more specific local colloquialism (Geordie, Scouse, Cornish etc.)
Acting Skills Skills used by an actor to portray a certain type of character or emotions
Antagonist A main character who is opposed to, struggles against, or competes with another. Iago is the antagonist to Othello. Mrs Lyons is the antagonist to Mrs Johnstone. The old woman/witch is the Antagonist to Hansel and Gretel.
Atmosphere The atmosphere of a performance is closely linked with everyday feelings such as pity, anger, desire or frustration. It is the ambience or mood created by the actors/lighting/ sound in a play.
Audience Interaction When the actor Breaks the fourth wall between the stage and audience and talks directly to them. Sometimes Audience members are invited to be part of the performance (e.g. In a Pantomime)
Audience Response How the audience react to the play as a whole, certain moments in the play or to specific characters.
Black Box Theatre A simple performance space, usually a large square room with black walls and a flat floor. It is an intimate space and can be easily adapted to suit many performance styles. The seating is not in a fixed position.
Body Language Links closely with facial expression to communicate to the audience how a character feels, non-verbally.
Character A person in a play or devised performance which the actor must interpret or portray for an audience to understand the story
Characterisation How the actor uses his/her acting skills to show their class/age/gender/ status as well as their emotions and opinions.
Choreography Dance movement that is planned and rehearsed
Climax The moment that the play has been building up to. Sometimes the Climax is also leaves the audience on a cliff-hanger.
Costume designer The person who designs the costumes for a performance. The costume department of a theatre is often called the wardrobe.
Delivery of Lines How an actor says their words to get their point across. They need to consider Tone of Voice, Intonation, Speed, and Volume.
Direct Address When a character breaks the fourth wall and talks to the audience. Commonly seen in pantomimes or Melodrama.
Director A director is in charge of the artistic elements of a production. A director will have the initial creative idea (‘concept’) for a production, will work with the actors in rehearsal, and will collaborate with designers and the technical team to realise this idea in performance.
Dramatic Intentions What you aim to achieve as a group and as an individual. For example, in a play about World War 1, you intend to show the audience the impact of the loss of life on a small community like Bodmin.
Dramatic Irony When the audience know more about the action than one or more of the characters in the play. E.g. Romeo and Juliet – the Audience know that Juliet is sleeping deeply, Romeo does not and so kills himself, making it a tragic ending.
Dress Rehearsal A full run through of the piece with no stops, using all props, costumes, lights and sound, that will be used in the performance itself. It is exact.
Duologue Two actors on stage performing together.
End-On Staging The most traditional stage type, where the audience are separated from the actors by an imaginary 4th Wall.
Ensemble an approach to acting that aims for a unified effect achieved by all members of a cast working together on behalf of the play, rather than emphasizing individual performances.
Eye Contact You can make eye contact with your audience when speaking a monologue or in a scene with other actors. You can hold their gaze or avoid eye contact too. It makes the connection between the characters more believable.
Facial Expression The actor uses facial expressions to show how a character feels, or wants to be seen to feel. Facial expressions should change throughout scenes as the mood or opinion changes, and is a skill that must be sustained the whole time the actor is on stage – even when not speaking.
Flying Set that comes down from above the stage ie. It ‘Flies in’
Fourth Wall The imaginary wall that separates the actor from the audience. If the actor directly addresses the audience, they are “breaking the fourth wall”
Gait The way someone walks (eg. stiffly, with a bounce, cautiously)
Given Circumstance What the actor already knows about the character, as it is mentioned somewhere in the script. E.g. we know that Eddie Lyons is a middle class Liverpudlian. We know that Hansel likes to read and Gretel likes to invent things.
Genre The type of performance or text (Romance, Thriller, Comedy etc.)
Gesture A movement of the arm/hand that usually indicates a command (Stop, move etc.)
Gobo A thin metal filter that goes in front of a light and casts a shadow onto the surface where the light is facing. (it can create a shape eg. A door, a star)
Historical context The background of the play, particularly when the play is set. This should help the actor with their choices of how to respond to certain people or situations. E.G. we know ‘Blood Brothers’ is set during a time of high unemployment and severe differences in class in Liverpool.
Idiosyncrasy A habit, verbal or physical that is unique to the individual. (Cracking knuckles, a stammer, clicking a pen lid are all examples of this.)
Improvisation Making a performance up on the spot with little or no information.
Intensity How intense the lights are relates to whether they are very bright or dim
Interpretation Each actor must decide how the character is to be portrayed, and a director must decide what they want to achieve with a script. All theatrical roles have to interpret their discipline.
Intonation The way a person uses pitch and emphasis when speaking. Talking to young people usually depends on varied intonation, as opposed to being monotone. (eg. Using expression or a different tone of voice)
Juxtaposition If you juxtapose two contrasting objects, characters, images, or ideas, you place them together or describe them together, so that the differences between them are emphasized. An example of juxtaposition could be in a WW1 play where a fight scene in the trenches is juxtaposed with women laughing together at home in the ammunition factories.
Levels levels are used in terms of actual set, and the actual position of the actors (Standing, sitting, lying down). Levels often help represent power, status and hierarchy.
Lighting designer The lighting designer is responsible for designing the lighting states and, if required, special lighting effects for a performance. The final design will result in a lighting plot which is a list of the lighting states and their cues.
Live Music Use of a band or singing in a performance, which is not recorded.
Make-up Make up can be used to age a person, or to show their social status. Special effects make up can create wounds, scarring or birthmarks. Make-up design is often part of the Costume Designers role.
Masking An actor is not visible to the audience because of another actor or some set.
Motivation In performance, a reason for a character to move, speak, act (a purpose)
Mood The mood of the play will set the atmosphere for the audience. Comical, (light) horror (Dark), romantic (light and hazy)etc.
Monologue A speech made by one actor. It can be directly addressed to the audience (breaking the fourth wall) or spoken to another character on stage.
Movement The general fluidity or stiffness with which a character or characters move on stage.
Multi-role When an actor plays more than one character in a stylised piece of theatre. Often used for comical effect.
Music Music can be used as an underscore or sound-effect and can be live or recorded. It helps set atmosphere or pace.
Naturalism the most believable performances are as truthful as possible, often taking on the actor’s own experiences to create something ‘real’. Performances are in real time.
Non-Naturalism When an actor uses multi-role, or exaggerates. Performances can be abstract and may interact with an audience.
Off-text Improvisation an improvisation where information and characters are given from a piece of text but the scene itself is completely original.
On-text Improvisation an improvisation where information and characters are given from a piece of text, and the scene already exists, but is improvised (not learned) to help develop character.
Pace How quickly the piece of theatre moves, and how quickly an actor responds to the line before.
Pause A silence where the audience can really appreciate how the characters are feeling. There is more said when nothing is being said.
Performer A performer is an actor or entertainer who realises a role or performance in front of an audience.
Pitch How high or low an actor’s voice is, to convey age, gender, excitement etc.
Physical Skills How an actor uses their physical traits to show age, gender, health, emotions etc., without the use of verbal communication.
Playwright This is the name given to the person who writes the play.
Proscenium Arch The Physical arch that frames a stage
Protagonist The central character in a play’s narrative, sometimes referred to as the hero or heroine.
Props/Properties An object that is used on stage by an actor in a performance. Generally something movable or portable (a phone or letter for example)
Projection (1) The strength of speech or singing whereby the voice is used clearly and loudly
Projection (2) Images or video footage that is transferred to a wall or screen within a performance. It may be used as a vessel to communicate dates, times and locations, or as part of the play itself
Promenade Where the audience stand and walk about the performance space, rather than sit and observe, and where the action is happening amongst them.
Posture The position of a person, sitting or standing. Examples include straight, upright posture, or stooped posture.
Puppet designer The person who designs the puppets for a performance. Q
Recorded Music Often a familiar piece of music to create links for the audience, establishing mood and context
Revolve A mechanically controlled platform which is rotated to speed up the changing of a scene.
Set designer The set designer is responsible for the design of the set for a performance. They will work closely with the director and other designers so that there is unity between all the designs and the needs of the performance.
Social Context Understanding what life was like for people during a particular time or setting, to give characters depth
Soliloquy A type of monologue where the character reveals their true feelings to themselves or to the audience (direct address) Usually not heard by other characters onstage.
Sound designer The sound designer is responsible for designing the sound required for a performance. This may include underscoring, intro and outro music as well as specific effects. The final design will result in a sound plot which is a list of the sounds required and their cues.
Sound Effect Usually a recorded sound that can set the scene (e.g. birds chirping) or move the story along by prompting characters’ to react. (e.g. a doorbell)
Spatial Awareness Knowing where other characters or important bits of set are on stage and how space can affect the characters relationship with them.
Stage manager The Stage Manager is in charge of all aspects of backstage, including the backstage crew. They will oversee everything that happens backstage before, during and after a performance. During the rehearsal period, the Stage Manager and their team will make sure that all props are found or made, scene changes are rehearsed and smooth, and all other aspects of backstage are prepared. They are also in charge of the rehearsal schedule.
Stage Directions Given in a script, a playwright may give clear instructions of what each character should be doing at that time. Directors and actors may add their own Stage Directions to a script (in pencil!)
Stage Positioning Stages are typically split into sections which makes it easier for the actor and director communicate where they should be moving to. These include Downstage, Upstage, Stage Left, Stage Right and Centre Stage.
Structure The general shape of the plot and order of the scenes
Style The way the character or play is acted (Naturally, exaggerated, melodramatic, etc)
Sub-text The message that is being portrayed beyond the lines that are spoken; understanding when a character might be lying or communicating something different to another character / the audience.
Technician Somebody who controls aspects of the performance other than the actor such as operating the sound or lights. A person who works backstage either setting up technical equipment such as microphones or rigging lights before a production or operating technical equipment during a performance.
Theatre in the Round When the audience is on all sides of the stage. The actor must remember to change positions frequently to communicate effectively with the audience.
Theatre manager This person is responsible for and manages the front-of- house team who deal with the audience during the performance.
Thrust Stage Part of the stage that comes out from the main stage and has audience members on three sides.
Traverse A catwalk style stage, where audiences are on two parallel sides of the stage.
Tone of Voice The way in which a line is delivered to convey a specific meaning or mood. E.g. to say something with cheek or with sarcasm
Underscore Music used underneath a scene to help build the atmosphere.
Understudy An actor who studies another’s role so that they can take over when needed.
Vocal Skills All of the acting choices used to deliver a spoken line (pace, volume, tone etc)
Volume The loudness or quietness of a speech, which must always be heard by an audience but also matches their emotions
Wings Curtains at the side of a performance space used as an entrance and to conceal props and scenery from the audience