Theater terms

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  1. Exposition
    The opening portion of a narrative or drama in which the scene is set, the protagonist is introduced, and the author discloses, and other background information necessary for the audience to understand the events that are to follow
  2. Foreshadowing
    The technique of arranging events and information in such a way that later events are prepared for beforehand, whether through specific words, images, or actions
  3. Double plot/Subplot
    A second story r plotline that is complete and interesting in its own right, often doubling or inverting the main plot
  4. Conflict
    The central struggle between two or more forces. Conflict generally occurs when some person or thing prevents the protagonist from achieving his or her goal
  5. Crisis
    The point when crucial action, decision, or realization must be made, often marking a turning point or reversal of the protagonist’s fortunes
  6. Climax
    The moment of greatest intensity, which almost inevitably occurs toward the end of the work. The climax often takes the form of a decisive confrontation between the protagonist and the antagonist
  7. Resolution
    The final part of a narrative, the concluding action or actions that follow the climax
  8. Unities
    Unity of time, place, and action, the 3 formal qualities recommended by Renaissance critics to give theatrical plot cohesion and integrity. According to this theory a play should depict the causes and effects of a single action unfolding in one day in one place
  9. Soliloquy
    In drama, a speech, by a character alone onstage in which he or she utters his or her thoughts aloud
  10. Aside
    A speech that a character addresses directly to the audience, unheard by the other characters on stage, as when the villain in melodrama chortles: Heh! Heh! Now she’s in my power!
  11. Stage business
    Nonverbal action that engages the attention of an audience
  12. Tragedy
    A play that portrays a serious conflict between human beings and some superior overwhelming force. It ends sorrowfully and disastrously, an outcome that seems inevitable
  13. Comedy
    A literary work aimed at amusing an audience. In traditional comedy, the protagonist often faces obstacles and complications that threaten disaster but are overturned at the last moment to produce a happy ending
  14. High comedy
    A comic genre evoking, thoughtful laughter from an audience in response to the play’s depiction of the folly, pretense, and hypocrisy of human behavior
  15. Satiric Comedy
    a genre using derisive humor to ridicule human weakness and folly or attack political injustices and incompetence. Satiric comedy often focuses on ridiculing overly serious characters that resist the festive mood of comedy.
  16. Romantic comedy
    A form of comic drama in which the plot focuses on one or more pairs of young lovers who overcome difficulties to achieve a happy ending (usually marriage)
  17. Low comedy
    A comic style arousing laughter through jokes, slapstick antics, sight gags, boisterous clowning and vulgar humor
  18. Burlesque
    A broadly humorous parody or travesty of another play or kind of play
  19. Farce
    A broadly humorous play whose action is usually fast-moving and improbable
  20. Slapstick comedy
    A kind of farce. Featuring pratfalls, pie-throwing, fisticuffs, and other violent action, it takes its name form a circus clown prop-a bat with two boards that loudly clap when one clown swats another
  21. Skene
    the canvas or wooden stage building in which actors changed masks and costumes when changing roles. Its facade with double center doors and possibly two side doors, served as the setting for action taking place before a palace, temple, cave, or other interior space
  22. Orchestra
    “The place for dancing”; a circular, level performance space at the base of a horseshoe-shaped amphitheater, where twelve, then later (in Sophocles’ plays) fifteen masked young male chorus members sang and dances the odes interspersed between dramatic episodes in a play (Today the term orchestra refers to the ground-floor seats in a theater or concert hall
  23. Deus ex Machina
    (Latin for “god out of the machine”) Originally, the phrase referred to the Greek playwrights’ frequent use of a god, mechanically lowered to the stage from the Skene roof to resolve the human conflict. Today, Deus ex machine refers to any forced or improbable device used to resolve a plot
  24. Masks
    (Latin=personae) Classical Greek theater masks covered an actor’s entire head. Large recognizable masks allowed far-away spectators to distinguish the conventional characters of tragedy and comedy
  25. Cothurni
    High thick-soled elevator boots worn by tragic actors in late classical times to make them appear taller than ordinary men. (Earlier, in the fifth-century classical Athenian theater, actors wore soft shoes or boots or went barefoot
  26. Hamartia
    (Greek for error) An offense committed in ignorance of some material fact; a great mistake made as a result of an error by a morally good person.
  27. Tragic flaw
    A fatal weakness or moral flaw in the protagonist that brings him or her to a bad end. Sometimes offered as an alternative understanding of hamartia, in contrast to the idea that the tragic hero’s catastrophe is caused by an error in judgment
  28. Hubris
    overweening pride, outrageous behavior, or the insolence that leads to ruin, the antithesis of moderation or rectitude
  29. Peripeteia
    (Anglicized as peripety; Greek for sudden change) A reversal of fortune, a sudden change of circumstances affecting the protagonist. According to Aristotle, the play’s peripety occurs when a certain result is expected and instead its opposite effect is produced. In a tragedy, the reversal takes the protagonist from good fortune to catastrophe
  30. Recognition
    In tragic plotting, the moment of recognition occurs when ignorance gives way to knowledge, illusion to disillusion
  31. Katharsis/Catharsis
    (Often translated from Greek as purgation or purification.) The feeling of emotional release or calm the spectator feels at the end of tragedy. The term is drawn from Aristotle’s definition of tragedy, relating to the final cause or purpose of tragic art. Some feel that through catharsis, drama taught the audience compassion for the vulnerabilities of other and schooled it in justice and other civic virtues
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Theater terms
theater terms
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