Like me, many of you have been involved in drama for many years, perhaps all of your lives. But I thought I would offer a succinct description for those new to drama, or those who want a new perspective on what drama is.
What is Drama?
The study of Drama involves exploring the practical elements of theatre-making including such skills and practices as: acting, writing, directing, lighting, stage management, speech and movement. Drama also refers to the action of a play, and the art of writing and producing plays. In Greek, the word “Drama” literally means “to do”, which comes from the word for ‘Action’.
Why Do We Love Drama?
Human beings love drama because stories and storytelling are essential to human culture. It is personal, communal and universal. We find examples of dramatic storytelling throughout society, culture and history. The Cave Paintings at Lascaux demonstrate our ancestors had a need to record and tell their stories to others. Before language evolved (before stories could be told orally) they were told through paintings. With developments in language evolved oral storytelling and theatre. Written language and eventually the invention of the printing press allowed stories to be read by anyone. Radio allowed stories to be broadcast to millions. Cinema and television became ways to unite visual and verbal storytelling. The Internet, with Blogging and YouTube, has made anyone a potential storyteller. Computer and console gaming are all ways that the user can interact and take an active part in a story themselves.
Story is journey. The hero, protagonist or central character undertakes a quest and changes as a result of the journey. The hero does not always win the day, but it is not the winning but the journey that fascinates us.
We share the journey with the protagonist. They stand in for us and we experience their journey vicariously. We also have a journey as we travel through our lives. Like a good story: we also have a beginning, middle and an end from which “no traveller returns”. In our own story, like that of the hero, we have no idea of what will happen next. The same shared sense of suspense keeps us interested until the end. If the reader, the viewer or the audience member gets ahead of the story, they begin to lose interest.
As David Mamet succinctly suggested, “People have tried for centuries to use drama to change people’s lives, to influence, to comment, to express themselves. It doesn’t work. It might be nice if it worked for those things, but it doesn’t. The only thing the dramatic for is good for is telling a story.”
Mark is a professional acting coach based in Glasgow, he runs ACS – Acting Coach Scotland.