Dramas & Plays

Genre Overview:

Task:

Craft a script or stage play consisting of one or more acts for one or more players that tells a story through a combination of dialogue and movement.

Purposes:

  • To entertain an audience with a story
  • To make an audience think more deeply about an issue or topic
  • To educate the audience about a historical event in an entertaining way

Audiences:

  • Anyone who might be interested in performing your script
  • Anyone who might be interested in reading your script

Characteristics:

  • Plays and dramas are different from regular fiction/ non-fiction story telling in that they rely on speaking and movement to tell a story
  • Dialogue between characters is the primary means of communicating the story to the audience
  • Characters have to ‘think’ out loud via a monologue
  • Movement is used to add drama, humor, action, or other depth to a scene
  • Plays and dramas are formatted just like a script. If you are unfamiliar with the format of a script, check out the mentor texts below for some examples.
  • Plays and dramas are usually either one, three, or five acts, with one and three being the most common length.
    • In one-act plays, the author usually explores one specific moment or setting and time.
      • Different characters may enter or exit the scene, but usually the setting and the time do not change.
      • The total cast of characters is usually limited to 3-5 people, as one act doesn’t give the author time to develop more than a few characters in a story, and the audience needs to know the characters quickly so they can focus on the story.
    • In three-act plays, the author can follow a beginning, middle, end structure.
      • Settings may change both within and between acts, and time might change between acts, though this needs to be clearly communicated to the audience in some way.
      • A slightly larger cast of characters is present, and a few minor characters may exist who only appear in one scene or only have one speaking line. These types of characters are usually used to add humor, convey a message to the audience, or advance the plot in some way.
    • Five-act plays are similar to three-act plays in that the author has more flexibility in time and setting. Five-act plays often contain backstories involving minor characters or multiple plot threads.
      • These plays can also take a longer time to build tension in the story over the first few acts before attempting to resolve things in Acts 4 and 5 (or not resolve them, depending on the genre of the play).
      • Five-act plays can have a larger cast of characters than a one-act or three-act because there is more time to introduce and develop characters in the story.
      • There are also usually a greater number of minor characters, people who may only be present in one scene or only have one speaking line. These types of characters are usually used to add humor, convey a message to the audience, or advance the plot in some way.

Ways to Get Started:

  • Have a story in mind already. It could be useful to write a scene or a short story first in a traditional narrative style, and then consider how to translate that into a play.
  • Plays and dramas are, by nature, character-driven because they rely entirely on dialogue and movement for story-telling. Start by coming up with a few strong characters, and then consider what sort of situations these characters might find themselves in together.
  • Some people find it helpful to write out the dialogue, and then go back and add the movement cues for when characters enter or exit a scene, etc.

Common Ways to Publish:

  • Scripts can be published in many of the same ways as traditional short stories and other literature.
  • Scripts can also be offered to local theater groups or community performers for performance.

Mentor Texts:

  • The KHS Pressby a group of high school students – In this one-act, a high-school newspaper staff fails to see the newsworthy story right under their nose. Notice how the dialogue is used to help develop dramatic irony (For example, Lena’s lines: “Doesn’t Principal Jones live on Crest Street?” “Isn’t his house the only one on Crest Street?”)
  • Fourteen by Alice Gerstenberg – In this one-act drama, a woman hosting a dinner party encounters unforeseen obstacles. This play is a great example of a comedy of errors, and pay special attention to how we uncover the character of Mrs. Pringle.
  • Creak and Shriek by Rob Herzg– A one-act horror play about a creepy birthday gift from a strange aunt. Think about the power the author’s use of sound effects has in creating the tone and mood.
  • Hey Baby Baby by Claudia I. Haas – A one-act play with two characters in which one tries to understand the perspective of the man who harasses her on the street.
  • Actor’s Choice: Scenes for Teens – A curated collection of one-acts and single scenes from longer plays. A good resource to explore how a variety of authors approach a single scene.
  • Rising Seniors by Kitt Lavoie – Two soon-to-be-seniors in high school argue over one’s acceptance to a summer program that the other did not get accepted to. A great way to explore character conflict and interpersonal friendship drama through dialogue.

Other Resources:

  • Coming Soon