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Theatre (Commonwealth English and widespread usage among theatre professionals in the U.S.) or theater (American English) is that branch of the performing arts concerned with acting out stories in front of an audience using combinations of speech, gesture, music, dance, sound and spectacle — indeed any one or more elements of the other performing arts. In addition to the standard narrative dialogue style, theatre takes such forms as opera, ballet, mime, kabuki, classical Indian dance, Chinese opera, mummers' plays, and pantomime. The word 'theatre' is also used for the building in which works and plays are performed.


Overview of theatre

"Drama" is that branch of theatre in which speech, either from written text (plays or "dramatic literature ") or improvised, is paramount. "Musical theatre" is a form of theatre combining music, songs, dance routines, and spoken dialogue. However theatre is more than just what one sees on stage. Theatre involves an entire world behind the scenes that creates the costumes and sets and ligting to make the overall effect intresting. There is a particularly long tradition of political theatre, intended to educate audiences on contemporary issues and encourage social change. Various creeds, Catholicism for instance, have built upon the entertainment value of theatre and created (for example) passion plays, mystery plays and morality plays.

There is an enormous variety of philosophies, artistic processes, and theatrical approaches to creating plays and drama. Some are connected to political or spiritual ideologies, and some are based on purely "artistic" concerns. Some processes focus on story, some on theatre as an event, some on theatre as a catalyst for social change. According to Aristotle's seminal theatrical critique Poetics, there are six elements necessary for theatre. They are Plot, Character, Idea, Language, Song, and Spectacle. The 17th-century Spanish writer Lope de Vega wrote that for theatre one needs "three boards, two actors, and one passion". Others notable for their contribution to theatrical philosophy are Konstantin Stanislavski, Antonin Artaud, Bertolt Brecht, Orson Welles, Peter Brook, Jerzy Grotowski.

The most recognizable figures in theatre are the playwrights and actors, but theatre is a highly collaborative endeavor. Plays are usually produced by a production team that commonly includes a director, scenic or set designer, lighting designer, costume designer, sound designer , dramaturg, stage manager, and production manager. The artistic staff are assisted by technical theatre personnel who handle the creation and execution of the production.

Genre of theatre

There are a variety of genre that writers, producers and directors can employ in theatre to suit a variety of tastes. This is an incomplete and exclusively eurocentric list:

"Musical theater" A theatrical genre in which the primary means of performance is through singing and music.

"Domestic drama " Drama in which the focus is on the everyday domestic lives of people and their relationships in the community that they live in.

"Pantomime" A form of musical drama in which elements of dance, puppetry, slapstick and melodrama are combined to produce an entertaining and comic theatrical experience, often designed for children.

"Farce" A comic dramatic piece that uses highly improbable situations, stereotyped characters, extravagant exaggeration, and violent horseplay.

"Comedy" Comes from the Greek word komos which means celebration, revel or merrymaking. It does not necessarily mean funny, but more focuses on a problem that leads to some form of catastrophe which in the end has a happy and joyful outcome.

"Romantic comedy" A medley of clever scheming, calculated coincidence, and wondrous discovery, all of which contribute ultimately to making the events answer precisely to the hero's or heroine's wishes, with the focus on love.

"Comedy of situation" A comedy that grows out of a character's attempt to solve a problem created by a situation. The attempt is often bumbling but ends up happily.

"Comedy of manners" Witty, cerebral form of dramatic comedy that depicts and often satirises the manners and affectations of a contemporary society. A comedy of manners is concerned with social usage and the question of whether or not characters meet certain social standards.

"Commedia dell'arte" Very physical form of comedy which was created and originally performed in Italy. Commedia uses a series of stock characters and a list of events to improvise an entire play.

"Musical comedy" Comedy enacted through music, singing and dance.

"Black comedy" Comedy that tests the boundaries of good taste and moral acceptability by juxtaposing morbid or ghastly elements with comical ones

"Melodrama" Originally, a sentimental drama with musical underscoring. Often with an unlikely plot that concerns the suffering of the good at the hands of the villains but ends happily with good triumphant. Featuring stock characters such as the noble hero, the long-suffering heroine, and the cold-blooded villain

"Tragedy" A drama that treats in a serious and dignified style the sorrowful or terrible events encountered or caused by a heroic individual.

"Tragi-comedy" A drama that has a bitter/sweet quality, containing elements of tragedy and comedy.

"Fantasy" The creation of a unique landscape on a which a hero goes on a quest to find something that will defeat the powers of evil. Along the way, this hero meets a variety of weird and fantastic characters.

"Morality play" A morality play is an allegory in which the characters are abstractions of moral ideas.

"Monologue" A dramatic monologue is any speech of some duration addressed by a character to a second person. A soliloquy is a type of monologue in which a character directly addresses an audience or speaks his thoughts aloud while alone or while the other actors keep silent.

"Physical theatre" Theatrical performance in which the primary means of communication is the body, through dance, mime, puppetry and movement, rather than the spoken word.

"Opera" Theatre which may include small amounts of dialogue but is almost always completely sung.

"Rock opera" Same style as opera, except that the musical form is rock music

"Theatre of the Absurd" Term coined by Martin Esslin, theatre in which characters are engaged in an absurd, that is meaningless, activity or life. Related to existentialism.

It is important to note that not only is this list incomplete, but none of the genre listed are actually mutually exclusive. The richness of live theatre today is such that its practitioners can borrow from all of these elements and more, and present something that is a multi-disciplinary melange of pretty much everything.

Other topics

Theatre venues and styles

Awards in theatre

See also

External links

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