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Acting skills

The use of voice, movement, improvisation, and characterization.


The events within the play that move the plot along.


An idea of what is beautiful or artistic; a set of criteria for judging something beautiful or artistic.


The use of all of the articulators (lips, teeth, tongue, soft and hard palettes, larynx, and glottis) to deliver speech or language clearly.


A tryout for a theatrical role.


The arrangement of design elements and actors to create visual stability on stage.


An actor's traffic pattern on stage.

Breath support

The use of the diaphragm to breath correctly.

Bunraku puppetry

A traditional Japanese form of puppet theatre featuring large puppets that are operated by puppeteers onstage while the narrative is recited offstage. The puppets have heads, hands, and feet of wood attached to a bodiless cloth costume.


Movements that mime or make use of props, costumes, and make-up to strengthen the personality of the character the actor is portraying.


A person, animal, or thing in a scene, story, or play.

Character arc

The status of the character as it unfolds throughout the story, the storyline, or a series of episodes. The characters begin the story with a certain viewpoint; in response to events in the story, their viewpoints change.

Character development

Creating from a text a character that uses tactics to overcome obstacles to achieve objectives; portraying this character by choosing and sustaining throughout the performance physical actions, vocal qualities, and believable emotions.


A struggle between two or more opposing forces, events, ideas, or characters in a scene or play.


The clothing an actor wears to create a character.

Creative dramatics

A dramatic enactment (led by the teacher) of a story, setting, and/or characters. (This is an experiential, process-based activity, not a performance for an audience. The teacher may assume a role.)


A signal for a performer or technician to perform an action or say a line; 2. a signal from a side-coach to perform an action or say a line.


A purposeful plan, based on an overall concept, for the spectacle of a play. (See also design concept.)

Design concept

The overall visual theme of a combined theatrical design in which features such as lights, sets, costumes, make-up, props, and sound work together to tell the story. A design concept is a visual way of expressing how the technical elements will illuminate the central theme of the play.


A conversation between two characters in a theatrical performance.

Diaphragmatic breathing

The use of the diaphragm muscle to support the breath.


The choice and use of words.


A literary composition (a play) intended for a performance before an audience.

Dramatic structure

The composition of a theatrical work, including a play, scene, or improvisation, that includes:

   —   Exposition: The background information included in the beginning of the play that introduces characters, actions, setting, and so on.
   —   Inciting incident: An action that occurs that sets the conflict of the play in motion.
   —   Rising action: The intensification and the complication of the inciting event.
   —   Conflict: The central struggle of the play, either within a character or plot.
   —   Climax: The moment in the play when all conflict comes to a central and high point.
   —   Falling action: The actions that occur after the climax, heading towards resolution.
   —   Resolution/dènouement: The ending action that resolves or concludes the conflicts within the play.

Elements of theatre

Setting, character, conflict, dialogue, plot, and theme.


The deliberate omission of something; the omission of a letter or syllable between two words, sometimes marked with an apostrophe; used a great deal in the works of Shakespeare.

Elizabethan (Shakespearean) cosmology

The study of the belief system, current in the time of Shakespeare, according to which the physical universe was a totality of phenomena in time and space.


A group of actors who work together cooperatively and responsibly to achieve the group's goal by means of problem solving and creativity.


Saying the vowels and consonants correctly.


Something that happens at a certain place and time.


The way a character says words to convey meaning and emotion.

Facial expression

Movements of the face that show feelings or ideas.


the intended point of interest on stage.


A type or category of theatrical work that is defined by a particular style, form, or set of characteristics and is often associated with a specific historical period or culture.


The movement of a body part (arm, leg, hand, etc.) to communicate.

Given circumstance

In the text of a play, the information the playwright gives concerning character, setting, and relationships.


An unrhymed form of Japanese verse that consists of three lines, the first containing five syllables, the second containing seven syllables, and the third containing five syllables.


A spontaneous performance during which the actors establish a story (including objectives, setting, characters, and relationships) with minimal preparation.

Improvisational blocking

Refusing, denying, ignoring, rejecting an offering.

Improvisational theatre

A structured, yet non-scripted, scene or play.


The use of high and low sounds in speech to convey meaning and emotion.


A classical form of traditional Japanese theater, dating back to 1603. The kanji characters, from left to right, mean sing, dance, and skill. Kabuki is sometimes translated as "the art of singing and dancing." Kabuki theater is also known for the stylization of its drama and for the elaborate make-up worn by its performers.


1. The placement of an object or person on the stage from upstage to downstage; 2. the vertical height of an actor or set piece as measured from the stage floor.


The use of a variety of instruments to illuminate both the actors and sets on stage.

Locomotor movement

Movement that travels through space.


Cosmetics applied to the face and body to enhance character.


The Maori culture is a rich and varied one, and includes traditional and contemporary arts. These traditional arts include carving, weaving, kapa haka (group performance), whaikorero (oratory) and moko (tattoo), and are practiced throughout the country. Maori is an oral culture rich with stories and legends. They are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand (Aotearoa).


A jointed puppet manipulated from above by strings or wires attached to its limbs.


Rhythm, as given by division into parts of equal duration.

   Iambic: unstressed, stressed = 2 syllables.
   Trochiac: stressed, unstressed = 2 syllables.
   Anapestic: unstressed, unstressed, stressed = 3 syllables.
   Dactylic: stressed, unstressed, unstressed = 3 syllables.
   Spondaic: stressed = every syllable stressed.


To act out movement or portray a character without speaking or using props (totally silent).


A speech (within a play) delivered by a single actor alone on stage.


A physical action used to establish meaning and emotion in order to create a character.

Non-locomotor movement

The movement that is performed "in place" around the axis of the body; non-locomotor movement does not travel through space.

Nursery rhyme

A short song or poem for young children.


A character's wants, needs, and desires.


Something that stands in the way of the character achieving his/her objectives.

Offering (offer)

A suggestion, made verbally or by means of movement, that one actor gives to another in order to initiate or advance an improvisation.


A body position in which the character's face and body can be seen by the audience when the character stands on a proscenium or thrust stage.


The conveying a story by using expressive body and facial movements, but without using speech, props, costumes or sounds (instrumental music can be used as background).


Within a speech, a moment of silence that is used to show meaning and emotion and/or to develop a character.


A structured presentation of a theatrical work in front of an audience.


The use of punctuation, pause, and word- or phrase-emphasis to create meaning and emotion.


A form of writing intended for live performance.


The storyline, including the exposition, inciting incident, rising action, climax, and resolution of a conflict.


The position of the limbs and the carriage of the body as a whole that communicate character.

Process drama

A dynamic method of teaching and learning according to which both the students and the teacher are working in and out of a role. Cecily O'Neill describes process drama being used to explore a problem, situation, theme, or series of related ideas or themes through the use of the artistic medium of unscripted drama.


A structured performance created for and presented to an audience.


The appropriate use of loud and soft sounds to convey meaning and emotion to the entire audience.


The correct way to speak or articulate a word.


Objects used by an actor on stage.


The part of a modern stage in front of the curtain; the foreground.


Non-metered language.


The speed with which words are spoken to convey meaning and emotion.

Readers' theatre

An orchestrated reading that relies primarily on vocal characterization and does not include the elements of visual theatre, such as costuming, sets, or blocking, in the presentation.


The period of time used to prepare a play for performance before an audience.


The fullness of voice created by vocal vibrations.

Saying "yes"

To accept an offer in an improvisation.


A subdivision of a play, characterized by a single situation or unit of dialogue.


The written text of a play, screenplay, or similar work.


The space on a stage and the structures of this space (scenery) that represents the setting of the play and in which the actors perform.


The time, place, and atmosphere in which the scene or play occurs.


The teacher's role as one who comments during an activity to affirm or correct students' performance as they work toward the achievement of objectives, especially in creative dramatics.


The process of using music, audio effects, and reinforcement to enhance the setting and mood.


The place where the actors perform.

Stage geography

The physical areas of the stage labeled center stage, down center, up center, stage right, stage left, up stage left, down stage left, up stage right, and down stage right.

Stage picture

A visual image created by using any combination of set, costume, props, lighting, and character placement.


The importance or lack thereof of a character or object on the stage.


The distinctive characteristics or techniques of an individual artist, group, or period, as seen in a work of theatre.


An implied meaning or unspoken complication that generally runs concurrently with the main plot.


The sustained portrayal of a character—with no noticeable break or lapse—throughout a performance.


The possible ways the character can overcome obstacles.

Technical design

In a production, the plan—based on an overall concept—for costumes, sets, props, lighting, sound, make-up, and special effects.

Text analysis (script)

The examination of the elements of theatre in a text to gain greater understanding of the theme and of the character that the actor portrays.

Theatre etiquette

the appropriate behavior of an audience, performers, or technicians in a variety of settings.

Theatre or theater

1. The place where plays are presented to an audience; 2. the art of creating performances.

Theatre text (script)

Any written text used as a script.


A form of improvisational theatre that uses the format of a competition for dramatic effect. Opposing teams perform scenes based on the audience's suggestions and are rated by the audience or by a panel of judges (who are usually trained improvisers themselves).


The central idea of a play.

Thinking on your feet

Ideas and concepts, formed in an improvisation, that are spontaneous.

Three-dimensional character (round)

A character that is developed emotionally, psychologically, and physically.


A place where a performance is held.


A technique of improvisation that provides a vocabulary for thinking about and acting upon movement and gesture.

Vocal placement

Resonating the voice in different parts of the body, such as the nose, chest, and sinuses.


Vocal qualities that are used to convey meaning and emotion in order to create character.

Whole-body movements

The locomotive and non-locomotive use of the body to communicate character. (See also locomotor movement and non-locomotor movement.)

Word emphasis

The selection of the most important word or words in each phrase or sentence to create meaning, show emotion, and convey character.