Drama is a term generally used to refer to a literary form involving parts written for actors to perform. Dramas can be performed in a variety of media: live performance, film, or television. "Closet dramas" are works written in the same form as plays (with dialogue, scenes, and "stage directions"), but meant to be read rather than staged; examples include the plays of Seneca, Manfred by George Gordon Byron, and Prometheus Unbound by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Other dramatic literature may not resemble plays at all, such as the Imaginary Conversations of Walter Savage Landor.

Drama is a Greek word meaning `action', drawn from the Greek verb dran, `to do'. Greek tragedians applied it to the plays they wrote; Euripides is portrayed in the Acharnians of Aristophanes crying out, "Oimoi ta dramata!" (Oh no what's become of my plays).


The problem with the term

There are many forms of drama. It may be helpful to imagine drama as an umbrella, with all of its subforms underneath it.

Theater is one of these forms. It is the act of drama, a dramatization, if you will. Theater requires an audience that is engaged by the action. This requires the audience to willingly suspend its disbelief (to allow itself to believe that what is happening on stage is real, and to forget about the fact that it is not real).

Drama, it could be said, is a tool that can be used in many different ways; it has a unique ability to allow us to play, allowing us to be another person or in a situation that we would not normally encounter such as, being a general in a war. This is what makes Drama a great way of teaching,learning, and growing as a person.

Drama has a holistic way of teaching people. Whether it be in a play or by partaking in a role-play situation, we learn through interactions with others--this allows participants to not only learn facts as they would from a book or in a classroom, but to enter the world of another person, to be allowed to explore how they feel about this situation or person, whether it be a war-torn town or the wolf in the Three Little Pigs. Every interaction with another character or situation gives a greater understanding of what is happening around us.

In a drama session with primary children on the subject of homelessness, the class was asked to enter its own classroom, but to imagine that it was a back lane where a homeless person lived. The class was given pieces of newspaper and was asked to place the newspaper so as to represent objects, such as a telephone, television, cat, and so forth. Through the drama, the children began to feel the isolation of this character, even though he never existed. The class added to the drama by giving each object a story, thereby creating a background for this person; the children worked together, respecting other ideas and not feeling pressured, the outcome being that they thought more about how hard it must be to live alone. They broadened their own perceptions of the world. This all occurred within the safety of the classroom, the group, and the drama.

Drama has many uses in today's world. It is already used by therapists, and is being introduced more into schools as an alternative to just reading facts from a book.

Greek drama

The three types of drama composed in the city of Athens were tragedy, comedy, and satyr plays. The origins of Athenian tragedy and comedy are far from clear. We must understand that drama began for the Greeks as a part of religious ritual.

The chorus seems to have originated first, with a leader, singing a song about some legendary hero; in later years the leader, rather than singing about the hero, began to impersonate him. Spoken dialogue between several actors was added, and the result was "tragedy" in the Greek form. The very first prize for tragedy went to Thespis in 534 BC.

The importance of Playing

If you look at a small child when they are playing they are enthralled with their own world, and through their actions, thoughts and the way they play they learn about themselves, others, and the world around them. Play allows them to act out new situations, try out new ways of doing things and by doing so learn. When people grow up the idea of play becomes less important, entering into the imagination becomes more difficult and the idea of play can go out of the window all together. However this is where Drama has the unique and undeniable ability to help others learn and grow as individuals, as it allows them to play. Through playing we can once again try out situations, whether it be for a job interview by live action role-playing (aka. LARP), or just to think about new ideas, we can also gain confidence in ourselves and learn to trust others. Playing allows us to imagine, and to use our imagination to our advantage. Playing is also an important part in therapy, again entering the imagination and allowing ourselves to pretend and to think of things in other ways, which is why Drama therapy is such a good form of treatment for people who have had severe emotional, and psychological problems.

Play and Drama are synonymous; even actors were originally called players, since they act out plays (as in, to play the role).

Drama as a tool for education

There are many forms of Educational drama these all share one common goal, to create awareness or an understanding of an idea, or issue.The following is a few examples of the main forms in which drama is used as a tool for education.

T.I.E. (Theatre in education). This is the typical image of drama, seen highly throughout the 1960s to 1990s. Usually performed for youth groups, or schools by a drama group this form of theatre was usually a devised piece which used abstract ideas to communicate a message, it follows in the tradition of plays seen throughout history such as morality plays like Everyman. This form of theatre could also be compared to commedia del arte, and other such travelling forms of theatre.

Pantomime. These stories follow in the tradition of fables and folk tales, usually there is a lesson learned, and with some help from the audience the hero/heroine saves the day. This kind of play uses stock characters seen in masque and again commedia del arte, these characters include the villain(doctore) the clown/servant(Arlechino/Harlequin/buttons) the lovers etc. These plays usually have an emphasis on moral dilemnas, and good always triumphs over evil, this kind of play is also very entertaining making it a very effective way of reaching many people.

D.I.E. (Drama in Education). Unlike Theatre in education, D.I.E. is based more upon workshops, and the group creating their own scenarios, ideas and even subject matter through the use of Drama and Drama workshops. Sometimes this kind of work may lead to the creation of a play, or a piece of T.I.E or some other kind of means to show a result from the work. Drama in Education utilises skills used across the spectrum of dramatic activity, everything from teacher in role to normal theatrical conventions of audience and spectator. D.I.E is usually run in youth clubs, schools, community centres etc. D.I.E. involves a high amount of participation by the group, and is therefore aimed for smaller groups of individuals.


A workshop is a situation where a group are allowed to explore and think about an issue, a book, a thought, a play, anything. Within drama terms it is an active situation with a lot of learning and experiencing. Drama workshops have many different styles and approaches much like any group activity, this style and approach is determined by the group's willingness to participate, the frame and distance that they are from the drama is usually the holding form for the session, in the example shown through teacher in role we see the group are "framed" as social workers and because of their role in the drama they are at a very close distance, if the group were older at age 14-17 say then they would be less likely to enter into the drama and a more suitable frame would have to be chosen. For example instead of social workers they could become reporters, which would allow them to remain at the spectator end of the drama and give them chance to reflect on the conditions surrounding events. However this does not mean that the group always have to have a frame, they can remain themselves and still participate in the drama, allowing them to think about how they feel about the situation. In this case the group may enter the drama as themselves and how they would act in a situation, or explore being characters in a situation and what is making them act the way they are, comparing them to situations that they could imagine being in. The important thing about drama workshops is to allow the group to play, and through playing learn.

The difference between drama and theatre

In the field of theatrical performance and dramatic expression, there is a tendency to use the terms "drama" and "theater" synonomously. The terms are problematic and can be open to confusing usage. Stictly speaking, however, the terms refer to different qualities or aspects of dramatic expression. Note this following quote from Bernie Warren:

Most people tend to equate drama with theater. However, there are subtle but important differences between the two. Theater is a collective art. Theater requires many people — actors, writers, designers, technicians, etc. — all working together in a period of rehearsal and creative exploration towards a common goal. Whatever the benefits experienced by participants along the way, theater is evaluated by how well the performance communicates to its audience.
Drama is an individual pursuit undertaken within a social context. Defined by human action and interaction, drama is primarily concerned with what happens to participants while they are engaged in activity. It is an extension of children’s play and, like that play, is often free and spontaneous. Drama has no fixed end product, no right or wrong way of doing. As a result, its effects, unlike theater performances, are often unique and unrepeatable. Above all, dramatic experience is a very human activity— one that reaffirms “I exist. My life has meaning.”
(Bernie Warren with Tim Dunne, Drama Games. Captus Press, 1989, p.2)

Drama (or dramatization) could also be a prose or verse composition telling a story which shows life or character through conflict and emotions. It is usually performed by actors and actresses in a theatrical setting, but can also refer to pre-recorded television programs or opera.

In sum, "drama" is a generic term for creative play and imaginative taking on of a role, whereas, theatre "requires" an audience and sometimes the technicalities of performance for an audience.

With theatre we are concerned with individuals, with drama we are concerned with the individuality of the individuals.

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