For anyone new to drama, or who perhaps just fancy reading a different take on it, here is a little delve into what drama is, why we love it and how it works.
Drama, in Greek, means “to do”, which comes from the word “action”. That’s pretty appropriate, right? When we think of drama the first thing we think of (apart from maybe some disastrous relationships, or a day in the life of a toddler) is a play; the actors acting it, the people who wrote it, the production team who runs it. The study of drama includes all these things, from the writing to the acting through to the directing, stage management, lighting, and speech and movement.
Humans have always held a strong place in their hearts for drama, from the very early days of sitting around campfires telling stories that get passed down from generation to generation - and before that, when language wasn’t written but painted. People have been recording their stories for thousands of years, as the cave painting at Lascaux and many other sites across the world show us. As language developed, oral storytelling and theatre followed, then came the written word, and finally that revolutionary item - the printing press. This allowed stories to be read by anyone who could read, making them even more accessible to the wider world. Radio came next, which allowed stories to be heard by millions, and then cinema and television brought drama to an even wider audience. In recent years, the explosion of the internet has allowed absolutely anyone with a smidgen of talent (and, sadly all too often, those without any at all) to be a storyteller. Even computers and gaming tell a story, and they allow the player to interact and shape the storyline.
When we read a story, watch a film, or see a play, we are sharing the journey with the characters. We live through them vicariously; we take joy in their triumphs and shed tears when they fail. A protagonist in a story stands for us, the watcher, and if it is a good story then we will have no idea what happens next and will be excitedly waiting to see what develops. This is very like the journey we all undertake through life, and like life every good story has a beginning a middle and an end. Stories can take us away from our boring, humdrum lives and whisk us into exotic worlds where we can imagine that we are different; happier, richer - or they can just take us to a world that is more exciting. Drama is important for the human psyche. It is an escape.
David Mamet sums it up well:
“People have tried for centuries to use drama to change people’s lives, to influence, to comment, to express themselves. It doesn’t work. It might be nice if it worked for those things, but it doesn’t. The only thing the dramatic is good for is telling a story.”
…and let’s face it, that’s all we need.