Welcome to the LiCOR guide to drama. This module has been divided into the three units listed below. If you are visiting this module for the first time, we recommend you proceed through each of these units in numerical order. Otherwise, feel free to follow your own itinerary.
1. Speeches, in written form and with a view on how they can be performed.
2. Stage directions and action, with an eye to how movement interacts with speech.
3. Genre, with a focus on how speeches and action are framed in different ways by different genres and media, in different times and places.
What is drama?
Simply put, drama is a written form that in some way or other involves performance. To read, say, a theatrical play or a manuscript for an episode of a TV show is therefore fundamentally different from reading a novel or a poem. A piece of dramatic text has a double identity: it is something that can be read, understood and interpreted as a piece of writing, but its purpose is almost invariably for it to be performed. When we read and write about drama we must keep this double identity in mind.
This means that when we ‘read’ drama, we might be analyzing a piece of writing (which is designed to be performed); a recorded performance of play, or a film, or an episode of a TV show (which are all based on written scripts) – or sometimes we will look at both writing and action, in order to compare one with the other. Recorded drama and written drama, then, are very different (yet intimately related) forms, that we need to approach in different ways to make sense of them.
This video acts as an introduction to drama, and describes the main elements of drama that we will study in this module. Subtitles are available (click on “settings” to access them).
In drama, on the theatre stage, on film or on TV, it can be said that speech, action, and their framing are all parts of a dynamic whole, difficult to break down into its constituent parts. Yet, that is what we must do in this module.
Before you move on to look at speeches, stage directions and genres in more detail, it may be useful to look at this key to theatrical vocabulary.
If you prefer to study the units in numerical order, please click the link in the lower right-hand corner.