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Drama and Theater Essay

What is drama? What are the similarities and differences between Greek Drama, Renaissance Drama, Kabuki Drama, and Contemporary Drama? Drama is tension. In the context of a play in a theatre, tension often means that the audience is expecting something to happen between the characters on stage. Will they shoot each other? Will they finally confess their undying love for one another? Drama derived from the Greek verb dran, meaning “ to act” or “to do”, refers to actions or deeds as they are performed in a theatrical setting for the benefit of a body of spectators.

Drama is often combined with music and dance: the drama in opera is sung throughout; musicals include spoken dialogue and songs; and some forms of drama have regular musical accompaniment (Banham, 1998). Drama was the crowning glory of the Athenian Age. This period has been called by different terms. It has been called the Age of Pericles because Pericles was the ruling power in Athens at the time. It has been also called the Athenian Age because Athens became the white-hot literary center of Greece, and it has been called the Golden Age because the drama flourished during this period.

There were three great tragic writers: Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes, the greatest writer of comedy the world has ever produced ( Serrano & Lapid, 1987, p. 26) Drama and Theater The theatre of ancient Greece, or ancient Greek drama, is a theatrical culture that flourished in ancient Greece between c. 550 and c. 220 BCE. It is true that there is much in human nature that loves dramatic presentation, for man loves to imitate other persons. Gestures by a narrator or an orator may be considered dramatic, but these are only disjointed actions; there is a wide step between this and dramatic actions.

The Greeks gave the drama as a literary form to the world. The drama of antiquity is very different from the drama as we now know it. It had dignity, nobility, and power. It had little of the spontaneity and easy naturalness of modern plays. The Greek drama was cut up into situations or episodes, and between these episodes were choral recitations of great length. These choral recitations, though they had beauty and power, slowed the action and interrupted the forward movement of the story. The choruses however, were visually attractive.

The participants, competed with each other in the splendor of their dresses and the excellence of their singing and dancing (Serrano and Lapid, 1987, p. 26-27). Some example of the Greek drama were the Story of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra , by Aeschylus and The story of Oedipus The King by Sophocles (p. 28). Primary in a true appreciation of Renaissance drama is the poetry. The theatre of their day was a poetical one. Rather than being confused by the poetry we find in these plays, we need to understand why the poetical theatre was, and is, superior in expression and more powerful in emotion than a realistic one.

Their stage was “conventional”or poetical while today’s stage is realistic. As an example, in Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens Timon is disgusted with mankind, hating all of the supposedly “decent” people he knows. When confronted by thieves he tells them to go about their work merrily; everyone steals, and he offers examples of thievery: I’ll example you with thievery: The sun’s a thief, and with his great attraction Robs the vast sea; the moon’s an arrant thief, And her pale fire she snatches from the sun; The sea’s a thief, whose liquid surge resolves

The moon into salt tears; the earth’s a thief, That feeds and breeds by a composture stol’n From gen’ral excrement; each things’s a thief. (Timon of Athens 4. 3. 438-45). Kabuki, like other traditional forms of drama in Japan as well as in other cultures around the world, was (and sometimes still is) performed in full-day programs. Rather than attending a single play for 2–5 hours, as one might do in a modern Western-style theater, one would “escape” from the day-to-day world, devoting a full day to entertainment in the theater district.

Though some plays, particularly the historical jidaimono, might go on for an entire day, most plays were shorter and would be arranged, in full or in part, alongside other plays in order to produce a full-day program. This was because it was required in kabuki play to get the audience showing different preference that is in either the history plays or domestic plays like a drama, to enjoy during the full-day program. Contemporary Drama was never very popular after World War I, drama in a realist style continued to dominate the commercial theatre, especially in the United States.

Even there, however, psychological realism seemed to be the goal, and nonrealistic scenic and dramatic devices were employed to achieve this end. The plays of Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams, for instance, use memory scenes, dream sequences, purely symbolic characters, projections, and the like. Even O’Neill’s later works-ostensibly realistic plays such as Long Day’s Journey into Night (produced 1956)-incorporate poetic dialogue and a carefully orchestrated background of sounds to soften the hard-edged realism. Scenery was almost always suggestive rather than realistic.

European drama was not much influenced by psychological realism but was more concerned with plays of ideas, as evidenced in the works of the Italian dramatist Luigi Pirandello, the French playwrights Jean Anouilh and Jean Giraudoux, and the Belgian playwright Michel de Ghelderode. In England in the 1950s John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger (1956) became a rallying point for the postwar “angry young men”; a Vietnam trilogy of the early 1970s, by the American playwright David Rabe, expressed the anger and frustration of many towards the war in Vietnam.

Under he influence of Brecht, many postwar German playwrights wrote documentary dramas that, based on historical incidents, explored the moral obligations of individuals to themselves and to society. An example is The Deputy (1963), by Rolf Hochhuth, which deals with Pope Pius XII’s silence during World War II. The contemporary drama does not purport to be easy; it insists on a greater understanding of all things pertinent to modern humanity and its relationships to religion, societal order, psychology in order to appreciate its message; however, it critically acknowledges that most of us remain ignorant to all the former.

Thus, the drama instructs, irritates, challenges, and begs for intelligence in order to gain from its message. It remains didactic, combined with pleasure, but always wishing to challenge the current notions of authority. References http://www. clt. astate. edu/wnarey/modern_contemporary_drama. htm Banham, Martin, (1998 ed. ). The Cambridge Guide to Theatre. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521434378. Serrano, Josephine and Lapid, Milagros, (1987). English Communication Arts and Skills Through World Literature. Phoenix Publishing House, Inc.


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