Theatre Terms

image of question markHere you'll find over 1000 definitions of theatrical terms, from Aside, Beam Angle, and Camlock, to Upstaging, VU Meter, and Wagon.  Fully searchable, our glossary is helpful for technical staff, directors, actors, producers, or anyone wanting to better understand the inner workings of theatre.

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Term Definition Link
COMEDY A play, varying over the centuries in its characteristics, but generally light and humorous, with a happy ending. Comedy is more thoughtful than farce, more realistic in character and situation.
COMEDY OF CHARACTER A comedy that relies on character study for its chief interest, as opposed to slapstick, farce or other stylistic approaches.
COMEDY OF HUMORS A realistic, satiric comedy in which the dramatic action evolves from a single dominant trait in the character of each person satirized. 17th & 18th centuries.
COMEDY OF MANNERS A comedy that is gay, witty, sophisticated, and usually set against a background of aristocratic or well-to-do society. The terms "comedy of manners," "drawing-room comedy" and "high comedy" are often interchangeable.
COMEDY-DRAMA A play somewhat heavier than comedy, but with a happy ending.
DRAWING-ROOM COMEDY A light, sophisticated comedy typically set in a drawing room with characters drawn from polite (upper-class) society.
MASKS OF COMEDY AND TRAGEDY The masks represent two of the nine Greek muses. Comedy is represented by Melpomene [mel-po-men-ee] and tragedy by Thalia [thay-lee-a]. In Greek mythology, the nine muses were goddesses of the arts and sciences, and were daughters of Zeus, the king of the gods, and Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory. Melpomene, the goddess of tragedy, is usually shown holding a tragic mask, the club of Hercules and a wreath of vine leaves. Thalia, the muse of comedy, is depicted holding a comic mask, a shepherd's crook, and a wreath of ivy. The muses were worshiped throughout ancient Greece.
MUSICAL COMEDY A type of theatre that entails a light comedy plot, dances, songs, spoken dialogue. The term is American, and the style came to prominence after 1914, and has never died out.
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