How Well Do You Know These Drama Class Words?


By: Olivia Cantor

7 Min Quiz

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

Did you take drama classes back in high school or college? Were you forced into it by friends, or did you really want to discover your "inner talents" in drama? Well, whatever the reason, this quiz might be a happy jog down memory lane. And since the world is a stage, let's act out our knowledge and see if we can still recall some of these terms we encountered back then.

It's easier than you think, promise! Why? Because many of these words are actually not so exclusive anymore to drama class. If you have continuously nurtured your love for drama, then chances are you are one keen theater junkie or pop culture junkie right now, watching many kinds of films and TV programs, and also listening to many musical theater show tunes, plus of course watching stage plays here and there. So that familiarity with many drama class words will still be there, for sure.

But if you have not pursued such a path, then actually, some basic knowledge would be rekindled upon watching today's film and TV offerings. Many of these drama class terms have also crossed over to that side of global culture. And since it's pop culture, then it's definitely very pervasive and present in one's entertainment choices.

So, let's try this, okay? Open the curtains, fix the spotlight, and here's looking at you, drama school person!

What do you call the written text where you could read all the drama, elements and all?

A script is basically the copy of the play’s story where all the elements of drama are written out, the characters are identified with their actions and their dialogues, and all the technical directions are also written in. It’s basically the text that everyone follows in the stage production, so it’s essential for everyone involved to have a copy of it.


This person does the main writing of the stage play. Can you guess who?

If it’s a film or a TV production, you can find a scriptwriter or screenwriter behind the stories filmed or shot. If it’s a stage play we’re talking about, the person who penned it is called a playwright.


This character is the “hero” of the tale. What’s the term?

A protagonist, popularly known as the hero of the story, is the main character of the play, the one who has the biggest character development throughout the story. The point of view of the story is usually seen through the eyes of the protagonist, as he or she is the central character of the narrative.


This character is the “villain” of the tale. Can you pick the right word for it?

An antagonist is usually the counterpart of the protagonist in a story, but they are not necessarily bad. In most plays, the character development of the antagonist is pretty much as important as the development of the protagonist, because their characterization should also be dimensional to be believable and compelling.


If characters are in a state of disagreement or opposition, what does that produce?

Conflict means there’s an existing state of tension in the scene, which usually happens between two characters, like when a protagonist and antagonist meet up and have confrontations. But there are different kinds of conflict, and it could also be an inner or internal conflict wherein a character is emotionally or psychologically torn between their thoughts or actions, as they are in conflict with their own selves.


When performers need to know their location onstage, what do they need to master?

In the staging of a play, it’s essential to know where an actor should stand, sit, face and look during specific moments in the production. This constitutes the practice of blocking wherein the director will place them in those specific locations, and actors need to memorize where they ought to be.


When the actors pause to imitate a frozen picture or painting onstage, what is that called?

Some directors like executing a tableau in certain scenes of their play, wherein the actors will literally freeze as if their picture is being taken. But some indie art film directors also use this technique on film, like what Gus Van Sant did in certain scenes in the movie “My Own Private Idaho.”


What do actors in a stage play enact?

Actors show their performances via the roles they portray in a play. While some actors only have one major role in a stage play, some actors can also play multiple roles in the same play, depending on the casting or the story of the play.


The series of actions or events that happen in a play is collectively called what?

A plot is fundamentally concerned with all the sequential actions that happen in a narrative; therefore each of these actions is construed as a plot point. The plotting happens to create conflict and tension within the narrative and to flesh out the drama of the story.


This refers to the actual physical space where the play is being staged. What’s it called?

When you step on the set, that means you’re occupying the physical space where the stage play is going to happen. Part of the set is usually constructed from scratch, depending on the production design of the play, and there are plays with movable sets or changing sets, such as the impressive rotating sets of “Les Misérables” or the interchanging “Phantom of the Opera” sets on Broadway.


A character does what he does because of this. What’s the term?

A character always has to have some kind of motivation that will explain why they do the things they do, or why they behave that way, too. Motivation is often connected to the intention or the goal of the character in the narrative, and it is also tied up to some element in the character’s backstory as well.


When two actors are talking onstage, what do they deliver?

Dialogue is what you will hear when two performers talk to each other onstage, but it also serves deeper purposes in drama. Not only is dialogue a function of the character but it also reveals important details and information needed in moving the narrative forward.


These are the things and objects used within a play. What are they called?

"Props" is the collective term for all the movable and immovable objects placed onstage, as they are needed in the scene. You can use the singular form prop to refer to one item, as the term is actually a shortened form of “property.” The term is used not solely in theater but also in film and TV productions.


When an actor has a really, really long line that it sounds like a speech already, what is he or she delivering?

Monologues are delivered by one actor, and they could actually be part of the dialogue in a scene. Because it tends to be very long, most times it sounds like a speech already, and other characters can react to it after the delivery.


When actors act out the elements of the story without using words, what is that called?

Simply put, pantomime is a performance wherein an actor will act out the story or narrative through the extensive physical use of their body or with the assistance of props, and no word of dialogue is uttered. However, the origins of the pantomime are not that simple, as this kind of performance came out of a different type of theatrical staging in earlier times.


A play can be divided into several sections called what?

A play is subdivided into acts, which are similar to book chapters. There are one-act plays, which can be as short as 10 minutes or as long as an hour. A full-length play usually has two acts that could last for more than one and a half hours, but it may also have more, like three or even five acts, with Shakespeare being an example.


It’s the break taken halfway through the play. What’s it called?

An intermission is that moment when the staging of a play is halted, usually after the first act, and the play is “paused” so people can take a break. An intermission can last for as short as 5 minutes or as long as 15 minutes, depending on the theater company staging the play.


When the three walls are there to give the fictional boundary, what is broken if you want to cross over to the realistic boundary?

The fourth wall is technically the suggested invisible wall that divides the stage and the audience, wherein the concept is that the audience is watching the reality of the play unfold behind this wall, but the performers can’t see past or beyond this wall. When a character or actor suddenly talks or addresses the audience and acknowledges their presence, then this is the concept known as “breaking the fourth wall,” which Deadpool does in his Marvel movies.


It’s a list of the actors and who they’re portraying. What is its official term?

The dramatis personae is what you call the main list of actors and their roles, so you will have a guide as to who is portraying what in a specific staging. This is usually part of the script, written in the beginning, and it is also sometimes provided in the playbill or programme that viewers can avail of in the venue.


A signal of any kind, in any part or technical aspect of the play or its staging, is called what?

A cue is the general term for any kind of signal given in any part of the play’s preparation and staging. For example, actors can have cues or signals as to when they will speak a certain line, and the technical director can also have their own cues to wait for, before changing lights or moving props.


It’s a kind of play that doesn’t really end on a happy note. What’s it called?

The ancient Greeks were masters in fleshing out two basic frameworks of storytelling, the comedy and the tragedy, and this is universally understood as the “official icon” of the theater where you see two faces that have opposite happy/sad facial expressions. Tragedies often have dark themes and even darker characters.


What you see on the wall-like far end of the stage is called what?

A backdrop is that expanse of surface you see at the back of the set, wherein some scenery is painted on, which will suit the set and setting of the play. In some big theatrical productions, they also change backdrops whenever there are set changes, so it can be flexible like that as well.


This term means the conflict of the story suddenly gets resolved, no questions asked! What’s the term?

"Deus ex machina" literally translates to “god from the machine” because, in ancient Greek theater, an actor portraying the role of a Greek god or goddess will suddenly be rolled down onstage, riding a mechanical platform, wherein the deity will then stop the conflict happening and resolve the drama instantaneously. So it’s obvious that the conflict was resolved outside of the plot’s logic, and it’s somehow an accepted device to conclude the story. However, in modern times, the deus ex machina technique is not widely used because it produces loopholes that will make the storytelling rather vague at the end, which will leave audiences shortchanged as it appears like a copout ending.


When a line is spoken but it’s not part of the script, what is that called?

An adlib could be a line or any kind of utterance performed by an actor in a stage play, but it’s not originally part of the written script. Actors usually do this kind of line improvisation when they tend to forget some lines or to support fellow actors who may have skipped a line or two, or uttered the wrong line. So it’s not a totally bad thing to do sometimes, but it's still best to avoid it.


When dance movements are also planned, what is that called?

The choreography is the studied plan of movement that actors need to execute in tune with the music, meaning it’s the dance moves they need to learn and execute properly. It’s similar to blocking because you also plan where you will dance and what kind of dance moves you need to do in specific parts of the music and the play.


When a scene departs from the present and then shows events that happened in the past, what is that called?

There are dramatic points wherein one has to revisit events that happened in the past, and it can be shown via the flashback. Technical elements such as lighting, music, and costume could help differentiate a flashback scene from a scene that happens in the present, and this technique is also used in film and TV productions.


When inner thoughts suddenly get vocalized, what is that technique called?

A soliloquy is usually delivered alone by an actor in a scene, wherein he or she will suddenly speak what’s on their minds at the current moment. The difference with soliloquy and monologue is that a monologue could be part of a dialogue so someone else could be there, whereas a soliloquy is always delivered alone by a character.


What do you call the area where performers can take a break from performing?

Before actors enter the main stage, they remain on the backstage where they wait for their cue to enter, or where they also head to after their time on the stage is temporarily done. The backstage area tends to be chaotic at times, because the technical people are also there, doing their businesses while waiting for a scene to finish so they can change sets or get and add props and stuff.


It’s the periodic preparation needed before staging the play. What’s it called?

Every element in a stage play needs to undergo a kind of rehearsal so that things will go smoothly when the play is being staged for the public already. Aside from the periodically scheduled rehearsals done by the directors and actors, there is also the technical rehearsal where the technical aspects of the production are fine-tuned, such as lighting changes, special effects, and music. The dress rehearsal happens right before opening night, wherein all the actors and technical people will rehearse with their full costumes and pushing to performance levels as if they’re already performing for the public.


When the drama happens in the middle and your audience is encircling you, what do you call that kind of staging?

The theater-in-the-round approach is where the scene happens in the middle of a circular kind of performance area, and the audience is around this area. In essence, actors need to be blocked in such a way that viewers would be able to see the performances clearly, and this will be the “creative problem” to be handled by the director.


When you change from one status to another during a play, what is that called?

A transition is when the scenes change from one to the other, which involves not only the actors shifting from cue to cue but also the sets or props that need to be hauled out of the stage and hauled in for the next scene, and so on. Transitions need to be fast and smooth, and if possible unnoticeable, so that the audience will not release their hold of the emotional flow that the narrative is unfolding.


What do you call the farthest area of the stage, away from the audience?

Technically, the upstage area is that area far back there, away from the audience. But upstage could also pertain to the act of overacting, wherein an actor will perform loudly or be flashy in their movements to draw attention to themselves so that the audience will focus on them instead of the other actors onstage.


When you’re also concerned with the audio set-up where a dramatic performance will be held, what will you look into?

Acoustics refers to the performance area’s capacity regarding sound quality, meaning whether the place is good enough to have voices, sounds and music heard clearly in the space. This is crucial in drama performances because there will be some staging where microphones will not be utilized, such as in small intimate dramatic performances.


Stereotypical roles in dramatic performances are collectively known as what?

Stock characters are like the archetypal or stereotypical characterizations that are often portrayed in many dramatic productions, even in films and TV productions. While so many stock characters from ancient Greek theater still thrive today such as the damsel in distress, the sidekick, everyman, and roles like that, modern times have also produced many newer stock characters that we often see in performances such as the dark lord, the femme fatale, the Southern belle, and many more.


When the dramatic staging is over, what action characterizes its end?

The curtain call is when the performance onstage is all over, and the house lights all turn on while the curtain gets pulled to the sides to reveal everyone in the cast, standing onstage. This is when they will do their final bow, and this is the time that the audience would applaud their performance.


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