DRAMA: A DEFINITIONAL SPECTRUM


The whole business of literature is art and creativity – creative works of imagination. In a very simple sense, literature can best be defined as a work of creative imagination. This is because, it involves putting together works that are born out of human imagination, created to entertain, educate and inform.
Furthermore, these creative works of imagination – literature – is subdivided into different forms scientifically. Scientifically because the process of dividing it involves a careful study and observation of its peculiar characteristics and attributes.

When the works of art are put together in a form of language that exhibits a natural flow of speech and grammatical structure ordered in paragraphs, rather than a rhythmic structure it is given the name Prose. When the works of art are put together in a verse form and uses aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language in concise expression, it is given the name Poetry. Also, when works of art are put together to be acted out with words and expression and directions given to the characters it is given the name Drama.

More so, the definition of literature is also extended to include the very large corpus of oral traditions that were or are artistically put together to entertain educate and inform during the precolonial and even in the post-colonial Nigeria. These include the folklore, folk song, folktales, work/war songs, proverbs, wise-saying, divination texts, et cetera.

In fact, since sculpturing is also ‘a work of creative imagination’ and ‘style’, it follows therefore that sculptures constitute literature, though not ‘letter’ related.

The above, forms the genres of literature: Prose, Poetry and Drama. For this series, we will pay attention to Drama

DRAMA:
Drama is taken form the Greek word δρμα, which is translated to mean action. However, this is a much later development. The original and the most often preferred name was ‘Play’ translated from the Latin version, Ludus – just as its creator was a ‘play-maker’ rather than a ‘dramatist’ and the building was a ‘play-house’ rather than a ‘theatre’ The name, ‘Drama’, came mostly into use after the emergence of the William Shakespeare’s works.

Professionally, drama is defined as a fictional creation designed with pre-arranged dialogue and directions meant to be acted upon a stage. This definition presupposes the fact that drama is meant to be acted, that what the characters are to say and what directions that they are to follow are designed by the playwright. With this, the definition of drama, can also be extended in the modern period to include radio productions, like the AKBC’s ‘Curtains Up’ and television productions like what is produced by the Nigerian film industry, Nollywood. Drama media could be books, theatre, Compact Discs or Digital Versatile Disc, Stage, radio mobile vans Etc.

Further, for you to properly understand drama, you have to understand the much-used name, theatre and the relationship it has with the word, drama.
Theatre is taken from the Greek word Theatron Which means a ‘place for viewing’. It is a place set aside for entertainment. In the traditional Greek society and in most African societies, the word theatre could be used extensively to refer to open spaces agreed upon by the community for entertainment. In the modern sense, theatre could refer to a building with a stage and audience seating for performances.

Drama as Performance and Drama as Literature
Drama as stated above is originally designed to be acted on a stage and is an action created for entertainment. Nonetheless, in the last five hundred years, drama has been hosted on different media, including books and is now listed as a subject of study in institutions under the title Literature. However, the key difference between drama, as performing art and as a subject of study is in its objective.

1.    As a performing art, drama is fashioned into an event, defined in space and in time.
2.    As a performing art, how the actors interpret roles shapes the audience sense of the dramatic character.
3.    The drama on stage is also bound by the temporal exigencies of the performance.  The process of performance is irreversible, moments or scenes cannot be recovered when acted out. You cannot flip over the pages to re-read it again.
4.    Drama as a performing at is confronted by the natural realities of the theatre, like: choice of actors or actresses, money spent, and the very tedious task of appropriately transforming the rich diction into action.
5.    As literature, drama is seen in the sense of letters and therefore as an academic work.

6.    As a performing art, drama is as old as man. As literature, it was only in the 16th century that drama actions where preserved in a text. With the invention of the printing machine in the modern period, drama texts were printed and distributed in the public and later slated as a subject of study in schools.

Idiongo Ebong

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