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Subject specific vocabulary

The following subject specific vocabulary provides definitions of key terms used in our A-level Drama and Theatre 7262 specification. Your students should be familiar with and gain understanding of all these terms.

Acoustics

The quality of the sound produced in a venue and influenced by its size and shape.

Antagonist

A character in a play whose function is to oppose or block the main character (or protagonist).

Archetype

A perfect example of a certain type of character.

Atmosphere

Used interchangeably with ‘mood’ and signifying the mood or ambience of a scene.

Auditorium

The space where the audience sits or stands when listening to or watching a performance.

Black box theatre

A small studio space where the ‘stage’ area is defined by black drapes or ‘black legs’.

Blocking

The precise planning of how the actors will move about the stage.

Box set

A naturalistic set, depicting a room created with three continuous walls with working doors and windows; the ‘fourth wall’ is the division between the actors and the audience.

Business

A piece of action or interplay between characters that is not scripted but added usually to create a comic effect.

Cartoon style

An exaggerated style of playing; a performance style usually found in comedies or melodrama.

Catalyst

An agent for change.

Catharsis

A purgation of emotions; in Greek tragedy, specifically the purging of pity and fear.

13

What makes a character behave as they do.

Chorus

A group of actors, performing in unison who mediate between the action and the audience.

Climax

The highest point of a drama after which the action falls away into the resolution.

Collaborators

In artistic terms, a couple or group of people who work together on a piece of art, drama or literature.

Colour palette

In design terms a range of colours used in a production for costume and/or set.

Commedia dell’arte

A traditional Italian comic style which includes slapstick humour and stock characters that emerged in the 16th century.

Conventions

Traditional ways of doing things.

Creative adaptation

A piece of drama that is created out of an existing piece of art and/or literature.

Design concept

Usually a director’s vision of a play in production which includes all staging elements.

Design fundamentals

The basic principles behind design techniques.

Dialectical theatre

A play conducted through or based on a debate between two opposing viewpoints.

Diegetic sound

Sounds that emanate from the action on stage.

Distressed

Set or costume items that are deliberately ‘aged’ to look worn.

Ekkeklema

Classical Greek theatre technology whereby a wheeled platform can be used on stage to display, for example, a dead body.

Ensemble

A group of performers (and/or designers), who work together on a piece of drama in the capacity of ‘equals’.

Epic theatre

Political drama; episodic in nature, aimed at communicating a message to the audience.

Expressionism

An art form which explores the world through a subjective vision with no attempt to achieve realism.

Farce

A comedic genre involving ludicrous situations which become increasingly ludicrous as the play proceeds; often includes slapstick routines.

Fourth wall

The imaginary ‘wall’ between actors and audience in proscenium arch style theatre.

Gait

The manner in which a character walks.

Genre

A particular ‘species’ of drama, for example, tragedy, comedy, farce.

Gestic acting

A performance style which embodies a social attitude.

Gobos

Metal cut-out shapes placed into a lantern to project a shape, pattern or image on stage.

Hubris

In Greek tragedy, the ‘pride’ of the protagonist.

Improvise

To create drama spontaneously with no reference to a script.

Lazzi (plural of lazzo)

Set pieces of comic business in commedia works; often including acrobatics.

Malcontent

A discontented character who has a grudge against an individual or society.

Mood

The dominant emotional tone or temper of a scene on stage.

Naturalism

A type of drama with its origins in the 19th century which presented characters as being formed by heredity or environment.

Pace

The speed at which lines are spoken or movement is made.

Pitch

Refers to the exact height and depth of a sound.

Political theatre

Drama with a political stance or message.

Promenade theatre

Where the audience follow the actors around the theatrical setting.

Proscenium arch

The arch that frames the opening between the stage and the audience.

Protagonist

The ‘first actor’ in Greek classical drama; the main character in a work of literature.

Realism

The faithful representation of life in drama and other literature.

Revolve

A large circular area of the stage that may be rotated as part of the action or to reveal new settings.

Stage directions

The playwright’s description of characters, settings or costumes as well as indication of exits and entrances and suggestions for the delivery of some lines or reactions to unfolding events.

Stage machinery

Any machinery installed to facilitate set changes or ‘flying’ of characters.

Stance

The way in which a character stands.

Stasima

The Odes delivered by the Chorus in Greek tragedy.

Stichomythia

The rapid exchange of dialogue, derived from Greek tragedy.

Stock character

A character who is immediately recognisable as a stereotype, for example, the Old Miser, the Young Lover.

Subtext

The meaning behind the lines.

Symbolism

A theatrical movement in which concrete symbols represent aspects of a character’s inner life or personality.

Theatre in the round

A theatre configuration in which the stage is surrounded by the audience with aisles to allow for entrances and exits of the actors.

Total theatre

A term applied to drama in which all facets of production and performance are included; offering a ‘total’ effect, both visual and auditory for the audience.

Transition

The moment of cross-over between one scene and another.

Transposition

A relocation in time or locale of the action of a play.

Venue

Where the piece is performed.

Workshops

Rehearsals in preparation for performance or performances that are produced in less than full performance conditions.

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