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The elements of a drama | Reading

Let's talk about how to read a play! Dramas are special stories. They're written to be performed aloud, and that means that you read them differently from how you'd read a story or a poem.

Video transcript

- [Instructor] Hello readers. Today let us talk about drama. Enter stage right and let us tread the boards together. Drama, also known as theater or plays, is a specialized kind of story that is meant to be performed. If you've ever seen a movie, a television show or a play, or if you've ever heard a play on the radio or through a podcast, you've experienced the magic of the dramatic arts. Writing a drama is different than writing a poem or story. And that means that reading one is different, too. So I'm gonna show you part of a short drama on the Khan Academy website in order to go through the parts of a play. Okay, so here we have the title of the piece, My Unusual Aunt. But it's followed by something you maybe haven't seen before which is the Cast of Characters. This tells us who's in the play, a 12 year old named Isabella, and her aunt Yasmin. Now these are the characters the actors will be performing in the drama. There may be other people referenced. Like for example in this piece Isabella refers to her Dad being asleep in Scene Two. But he never shows up on stage. A play is decided into scenes, which you can think of like chapters in a book. Scenes are sections of a drama that are separated by time or location. Scene One takes place in the evening outside. Scene Two takes place at Isabella's house some time later. How do we know that? The setting and stage directions. So this italic slanty text here in the brackets tells us where the scene is set in time and space. It says Evening: Isabella is walking her dog Stanley. A bat dives down. The name Isabella is in all capital letters to make sure the actor playing Isabella notices. And from this we know several things. Isabella is in this scene, she's outside, she's walking her dog, and it's nighttime. So if this were a stage play, we'd maybe see a set that looks like Isabella's neighborhood. She's walking the dogs, maybe we'd see a little bit of sidewalk or a fire hydrant. There's more italics in this bit, and it what are called stage directions. An actor wouldn't read this aloud during a performance. Instead, stage directions tell the team putting a drama together what is happening on stage. So a bat dives down. That's gonna be a puppet or a prop operated by a puppeteer or a stage hand. And then we have this line of dialogue spoken by Isabella reacting to the bat. Ugh, since when do we have bats in the neighborhood? C'mon Stanley, let's run home. So characters have lines. The character name indicates which character is speaking. Sometimes you'll have a stage direction just before a line of dialogue, as we can see in Scene Two. And Yasmin points to a giant trunk before she talks, but the actor playing her wouldn't say pointing at giant trunk aloud. That's a physical action the script is asking her to perform. These are the basic components of a stage play. The characters and their descriptions, the way the play is divided into scenes, the stage directions that tell actors and others what to do, and the lines of dialogue that actors have to deliver aloud. These are the building blocks of a play. And now that you know that, you know just enough to be dangerous. Go write a play! Tell it I sent you. You can learn anything, David out.