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The Elements of Drama: Theme, Plot, Characters, Dialog, and More

Drama is a composition of prose or poetry that is transformed into a performance on stage. The story
progresses through interactions between its characters and ends with a message for the audience. What
are the different elements of drama? How are they related to each other? How do they affect the quality
and thereby the popularity of a play? Read on to find out.

 Manali Oak  Last Updated: Jun 3, 2018

The six Aristotelian elements of drama are, plot ,

character , thought , diction, spectacle , and song . Out of these, the first two are the most important
ones according to Aristotle.

Drama can be defined as a dramatic work that actors present on stage. A story is dramatized, which
means the characters and events in the story are brought to life through a stage performance by actors
who play roles of the characters in the story and act through its events, taking the story forward. In
enacting the roles, actors portray the character's emotions and personalities. The story progresses
through verbal and non-verbal interactions between the characters, and the presentation is suitably
supplemented by audio and visual effects.

Through the characters involved, the story has a message to give. It forms the central theme of the play
around which the plot is built. While some consider music and visuals as separate elements, others
prefer to club them under staging which can be regarded as an independent element of drama. Lighting,
sound effects, costumes, makeup, gestures or body language given to characters, the stage setup, and
the props used can together be considered as symbols that are elements of drama. What dictates most
other dramatic elements is the setting; that is the time period and location in which the story takes
place. This Buzzle article introduces you to the elements of drama and their importance.

Theme

The theme of a play refers to its central idea. It can either be clearly stated through dialog or action, or
can be inferred after watching the entire performance. The theme is the philosophy that forms the base
of the story or a moral lesson that the characters learn. It is the message that the play gives to the
audience. For example, the theme of a play could be of how greed leads to one's destroyal, or how the
wrong use of authority ultimately results in the end of power. The theme of a play could be blind love or
the strength of selfless love and sacrifise, or true friendship. For example, the play

Romeo and Juliet, is based on a brutal and overpowering romantic love between Romeo and Juliet that
forces them to go to extremes, finally leading them to self-destruction.

Plot

The order of events occurring in a play make its plot. Essentially, the plot is the story that the play
narrates. The entertainment value of a play depends largely on the sequence of events in the story. The
connection between the events and the characters in them form an integral part of the plot. What the
characters do, how they interact, the course of their lives as narrated by the story, and what happens to
them in the end, constitutes the plot. A struggle between two individuals, the relation between them, a
struggle with self, a dilemma, or any form of conflict of one character with himself or another character
in the play, goes into forming the story's plot. The story unfolds through a series of incidents that share a
cause-and-effect relationship. Generally, a story begins with exposing the past or background of the main
and other characters, and the point of conflict, then proceeds to giving the central theme or climax. Then
come the consequences of the climax and the play ends with a conclusion.

Characters

The characters that form a part of the story are interwoven with the plot of the drama. Each

character in a play has a personality of its own and a set of principles and beliefs. Actors in the play have
the responsibility of bringing the characters to life. The main character in the play who the audience
identifies with, is the protagonist. He/she represents the theme of the play. The character that the
protagonist conflicts with, is the antagonist or villain. While some characters play an active role
throughout the story, some are only meant to take the story forward and some others appear only in
certain parts of the story and may or may not have a significant role in it. Sometimes, these characters
are of help in making the audiences focus on the play's theme or main characters. The way in which the
characters are portrayed and developed is known as characterization. Here is a list of

characters in Romeo and Juliet .

Dialog

The story of a play is taken forward by means of dialogs. The story is narrated to the audiences through
the interaction between the play's characters, which is in the form of dialogs. The contents of the dialogs
and the quality of their delivery have a major role to play in the impact that the play has on the
audiences. It is through the dialogs between characters that the story can be understood. They are
important in revealing the personalities of the characters. The words used, the accent, tone, pattern of
speech, and even the pauses in speech, say a lot about the character and help reveal not just his
personality, but also his social status, past, and family background as given by the play. Monologues and
soliloquies that are speeches given to oneself or to other characters help put forward points that would
have been difficult to express through dialogs. "What's in a name? That which we call a rose By any other
name would smell as sweet" from Romeo and Juliet in which Juliet tells Romeo of the insignificance of
names or "To be, or not to be", a soliloquy from

Hamlet are some of the greatest lines in literature.

Setting

The time and place where a story is set is one of its important parts. The era or time in which the
incidents in the play take place, influence the characters in their appearance and personalities. The time
setting may affect the central theme of the play, the issues raised (if any), the conflict, and the
interactions between the characters. The historical and social context of the play is also defined by the
time and place where it is set. The time period and the location in which the story is set, affect the play's
staging. Costumes and makeup, the backgrounds and the furniture used, the visuals (colors and kind of
lighting), and the sound are among the important elements of a play that dictate how the story is
translated into a stage performance. The Merchant of Venice has been set in the 16th century Venice.
Romeo and Juliet has been set in the era between 1300 and 1600, perhaps the Renaissance period which
is the 14th and 15th centuries.

Performance

It is another important element of drama, as the impact that a story has on the audiences is largely
affected by the performances of the actors. When a written play is transformed into a stage
performance, the actors cast for different roles, the way they portray the characters assigned to them,
and the way their performances are directed are some important factors that determine the play's
impact. Whether an actor's appearance (includes what he wears and how he carries himself on stage)
suits the role he is playing, and how well he portrays the character's personality are determinants of how
well the play would be taken by the audiences. Different actors may play the same roles in different
renditions of a play. A particular actor/actress in a certain role may be more or less accepted and
appreciated than another actor in the same role. As different actors are cast for different roles, their
roles are more or less appreciated depending on their performances. The stage performances of a play's
characters, especially those in lead roles, directly affect the success and popularity of a play.

Although considered as a part of the staging, factors such as music and visuals can be discussed
separately as the elements of drama.

Music

This element includes the use of sounds and rhythm in dialogs as well as music compositions that are
used in the plays. The background score, the songs, and the sound effects used should complement the
situation and the characters in it. The right kind of sound effects or music, if placed at the right points in
the story, act as a great supplement to the high and low points in the play. The music and the lyrics
should go well with the play's theme. If the scenes are accompanied by pieces of music, they become
more effective on the audiences.

Visual Element

While the dialog and music are the audible aspects of drama, the visual element deals with the scenes,
costumes, and special effects used in it. The visual element of drama, also known as the spectacle,
renders a visual appeal to the stage setup. The costumes and makeup must suit the characters. Besides,
it is important for the scenes to be dramatic enough to hold the audiences to their seats. The special
effects used in a play should accentuate the portion or character of the story that is being highlighted.

Apart from these elements, the structure of the story, a clever use of symbolism and contrast, and the
overall stagecraft are some of the other important elements of drama.
The structure of the story comprises the way in which it is dramatized. How well the actors play their
roles and the story's framework constitute the structure of drama. Direction is an essential constituent of
a play. A well-directed story is more effective. Stagecraft defines how the play is presented to the
audiences. The use and organization of stage properties and the overall setting of a play are a part of
stagecraft, which is a key element of drama.

Symbols are often used to give hints of the future events in the story. They complement the other
elements of a scene and make it more effective. The use of contrasts adds to the dramatic element of a
play. It could be in the form of contrasting colors, contrasting backdrops, an interval of silence followed
by that of activity and noise, or a change in the pace of the story.

The dramatization of a story cannot be called successful unless the audiences receive it well. It may
improve through constructive criticism or due to improvisations introduced by the actors. And a
generous appreciation from the audiences encourages everyone involved in the making of a play, to
continue doing good work.

how

How to Write a Play Review

Co-authored by wikiHow Staff | Reader-Approved

The performance of a play is a live experience, so it can be an exciting but difficult task to review. You
have to be both the spectator, taking in and enjoying the performance, and a critic, analyzing the
production. But with the right preparation and structure, you can create a well-written play review.

Part One of Two:

Preparing to Write the Review

Understand the purpose of a play review. A play review is a subjective and educated response to a piece
of theater. The reviewer should have a strong background in theatre so their opinion is informed and
credible. Though this is not a requirement for writing a good play review. [1]

The review should also give potential audience members a sense of the play. It should let readers know if
spending their hard-earned money on a ticket to the production will be money well spent.

Noting that you thought the play was “good” or “bad” will not create a strong play review. Instead, you
should be specific in your critique and have a thoughtful analysis of the production. Your opinion on the
play should be supported by a discussion of the production elements and how they worked together as a
whole.
The review should also describe the situation or plot of the play without giving too information to the
reader. Avoid spoiling any plot twists or turns for potential audience members in your review.

Look at the traditional structure of a play review. The standard play review contains five paragraphs.
There are other approaches you can use, such as comparing two plays in one review or writing longer
reviews for one play. But traditionally, a play review will analyze several elements of the production in
five paragraphs, including: [2]

Paragraph 1: Your introductory paragraph should describe what you saw on stage. You should also give
context for the play, such as the playwright or composer of the play and where the play is being staged.

Paragraph 2: Briefly summarize the plot of the play.

Paragraph 3: Discuss the acting and directing. React to the performers playing the characters in the play.

Paragraph 4: Describe the design elements of the production, such as the lighting, sound, costumes,
make up, and set and props.

Paragraph 5: React to the play as a whole. Would you recommend the play to potential audience
members? You can also include a recommendation, like a star rating or a thumbs up/thumbs down.

Read and analyze review examples. Do a google search of local plays in your city that have reviews
online. Pick up a newspaper and check the Arts & Culture section for play reviews. You can also access
example reviews online. [3]

[4] Read the review(s) and ask yourself: [5]

How does the reviewer structure her review? Does the review follow the traditional structure, with an
introduction in paragraph 1, a plot summary in paragraph 2, a discussion of acting and directing in
paragraph 3, a discussion of the production elements in paragraph 4, and an overall critique in paragraph
5?

Compare two reviews of the same play. How do the reviews compare and contrast? Are they structured
differently or have different critiques of the play?

Is the reviewer overly critical of the play? Does their analysis seem well supported by scenes in the play,
or a discussion of design elements of the play?

How does the reviewer wrap up the review? Is there a recommendation at the end of the article, such as
a star rating or a thumbs up/thumbs down?

Read the play you are going to review, if possible. If you are reviewing a popular play, like “Hamlet” or
“The Little Shop of Horrors”, you should be able to find a hard copy of the play. Newer or more obscure
plays may be harder to find in hard copy. Reading the play will help you get familiar with the subject
matter and how it appears on the page before you see the production live.

Note the stage directions, the setting notes, and the line breaks or pauses in the dialogue.
Pick out any problematic points in the play that you might want to watch for during the production. For
example, if you’re going to see Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, you may make a note of ways the director might
stage the pivotal Ophelia drowning scene. Or if you are going to a musical like “The Little Shop of
Horrors”, you might note how the director will transition from the song numbers to the dialogue in the
production.

Your instructor may also ask you to pay particular attention to certain elements, like the lighting or the
costumes, so make sure you are prepared to recognize them.

Get a sense of the context of the production. You don’t want to do too much research around the
production as it may influence your viewing experience. But you should have a sense of the context of
the production; which theater company is putting it on, who is directing the play, and what liberties, if
any, have they taken with the original content. [6]

For example, you may be seeing a version of “Hamlet” that is set in contemporary times and integrates
technology in the production. Or you may be seeing a production of “The Little Shop of Horrors” that is
set in a record store, rather than a theater. This setting change will change the context of the play, and
you should then note how the setting choice is used in the production in your review.

Score

0/0

Part 1 Quiz

What should you include in Paragraph 1 of a standard play review?

Your reaction to the play as a whole.

Nope! You should include this information in Paragraph 5. In this paragraph, you should also include
whether you recommend that others view the play. You can also give a star rating or a thumbs
up/thumbs down for an easy visual. Guess again!

Background information.

Correct! In Paragraph 1, you should provide any necessary content, such as the playwright or composer
of the play and where the play is being staged. This is an introductory paragraph that provides basic
details and sets the tone of the review and should answer the basic questions of who, what, when,
where, why, and how.

Read on for another quiz question.

A summary of the play's plot.

Not quite! You should include this information in Paragraph 2. Keep in mind that while you need to
describe the plot, you don't want to give away any important information, such as plot twists, that would
ruin the performance for potential viewers. Try to keep the summary to a few lines regarding the main
characters and the setting. Try again...

The play's design elements.

Try again! You should include this information in Paragraph 4. Discuss the lighting, sound, costumes,
makeup, set, and props. This can include quality, professionalism, and attention to detail. Note how
these elements interact together to affect the mood and context of the play. Choose another answer!

The acting and directing.

Not exactly! You should include this information in Paragraph 3. Include your reaction to the way the
performers chose to portray their characters. You should also include how you feel about the director's
interpretation of the play and characters. However, make sure you use full names while writing your
review!

Choose another answer!

Part Two of Two:

Writing the Review

Look at the play’s program. Try to get to the theater or production setting 15 minutes before show time.
Flip through the play’s program. Look for a director’s note and the cast biographies. You should also
check if there are any understudy replacements for the production, especially if the show is promoting
itself based on the popularity of a certain performer. [7]

Note if there are any write ups in the program about a directorial choice, like setting “Hamlet” in
contemporary times. There may also be notes on the lighting or the sound design.

Don't: judge the premise of the play based on your personal tastes. Your readers can decide for
themselves whether it appeals to them.

Do: consider the goals behind production decisions and be prepared to evaluate whether the play
achieves them.

Don't: make your personal opinion the main feature.

Do: state your opinion honestly, grounded in specific points.

Don't: write an exciting hook that has nothing to do with the rest of your review.
Do: take risks with bold statements or an unusual opening.

Don't: discuss an actor's personal appearance or insult to the point of cruelty.

Do: describe misguided or failed performances honestly.

9 How to Write a Play Review

Co-authored by wikiHow Staff | Reader-Approved

The performance of a play is a live experience, so it can be an exciting but difficult task to review. You
have to be both the spectator, taking in and enjoying the performance, and a critic, analyzing the
production. But with the right preparation and structure, you can create a well-written play review.

Part One of Two:

Preparing to Write the Review

Understand the purpose of a play review. A play review is a subjective and educated response to a piece
of theater. The reviewer should have a strong background in theatre so their opinion is informed and
credible. Though this is not a requirement for writing a good play review. [1]

The review should also give potential audience members a sense of the play. It should let readers know if
spending their hard-earned money on a ticket to the production will be money well spent.

Noting that you thought the play was “good” or “bad” will not create a strong play review. Instead, you
should be specific in your critique and have a thoughtful analysis of the production. Your opinion on the
play should be supported by a discussion of the production elements and how they worked together as a
whole.

The review should also describe the situation or plot of the play without giving too information to the
reader. Avoid spoiling any plot twists or turns for potential audience members in your review.

Look at the traditional structure of a play review. The standard play review contains five paragraphs.
There are other approaches you can use, such as comparing two plays in one review or writing longer
reviews for one play. But traditionally, a play review will analyze several elements of the production in
five paragraphs, including: [2]

Paragraph 1: Your introductory paragraph should describe what you saw on stage. You should also give
context for the play, such as the playwright or composer of the play and where the play is being staged.
Paragraph 2: Briefly summarize the plot of the play.

Paragraph 3: Discuss the acting and directing. React to the performers playing the characters in the play.

Paragraph 4: Describe the design elements of the production, such as the lighting, sound, costumes,
make up, and set and props.

Paragraph 5: React to the play as a whole. Would you recommend the play to potential audience
members? You can also include a recommendation, like a star rating or a thumbs up/thumbs down.

Read and analyze review examples. Do a google search of local plays in your city that have reviews
online. Pick up a newspaper and check the Arts & Culture section for play reviews. You can also access
example reviews online. [3]

[4] Read the review(s) and ask yourself: [5]

How does the reviewer structure her review? Does the review follow the traditional structure, with an
introduction in paragraph 1, a plot summary in paragraph 2, a discussion of acting and directing in
paragraph 3, a discussion of the production elements in paragraph 4, and an overall critique in paragraph
5?

Compare two reviews of the same play. How do the reviews compare and contrast? Are they structured
differently or have different critiques of the play?

Is the reviewer overly critical of the play? Does their analysis seem well supported by scenes in the play,
or a discussion of design elements of the play?

How does the reviewer wrap up the review? Is there a recommendation at the end of the article, such as
a star rating or a thumbs up/thumbs down?

Read the play you are going to review, if possible. If you are reviewing a popular play, like “Hamlet” or
“The Little Shop of Horrors”, you should be able to find a hard copy of the play. Newer or more obscure
plays may be harder to find in hard copy. Reading the play will help you get familiar with the subject
matter and how it appears on the page before you see the production live.

Note the stage directions, the setting notes, and the line breaks or pauses in the dialogue.

Pick out any problematic points in the play that you might want to watch for during the production. For
example, if you’re going to see Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, you may make a note of ways the director might
stage the pivotal Ophelia drowning scene. Or if you are going to a musical like “The Little Shop of
Horrors”, you might note how the director will transition from the song numbers to the dialogue in the
production.

Your instructor may also ask you to pay particular attention to certain elements, like the lighting or the
costumes, so make sure you are prepared to recognize them.
Get a sense of the context of the production. You don’t want to do too much research around the
production as it may influence your viewing experience. But you should have a sense of the context of
the production; which theater company is putting it on, who is directing the play, and what liberties, if
any, have they taken with the original content. [6]

For example, you may be seeing a version of “Hamlet” that is set in contemporary times and integrates
technology in the production. Or you may be seeing a production of “The Little Shop of Horrors” that is
set in a record store, rather than a theater. This setting change will change the context of the play, and
you should then note how the setting choice is used in the production in your review.

Score

0/0

Part 1 Quiz

What should you include in Paragraph 1 of a standard play review?

Your reaction to the play as a whole.

Nope! You should include this information in Paragraph 5. In this paragraph, you should also include
whether you recommend that others view the play. You can also give a star rating or a thumbs
up/thumbs down for an easy visual. Guess again!

Background information.

Correct! In Paragraph 1, you should provide any necessary content, such as the playwright or composer
of the play and where the play is being staged. This is an introductory paragraph that provides basic
details and sets the tone of the review and should answer the basic questions of who, what, when,
where, why, and how.

Read on for another quiz question.

A summary of the play's plot.

Not quite! You should include this information in Paragraph 2. Keep in mind that while you need to
describe the plot, you don't want to give away any important information, such as plot twists, that would
ruin the performance for potential viewers. Try to keep the summary to a few lines regarding the main
characters and the setting. Try again...

The play's design elements.

Try again! You should include this information in Paragraph 4. Discuss the lighting, sound, costumes,
makeup, set, and props. This can include quality, professionalism, and attention to detail. Note how
these elements interact together to affect the mood and context of the play. Choose another answer!

The acting and directing.


Not exactly! You should include this information in Paragraph 3. Include your reaction to the way the
performers chose to portray their characters. You should also include how you feel about the director's
interpretation of the play and characters. However, make sure you use full names while writing your
review!

Choose another answer!

Part Two of Two:

Writing the Review

Look at the play’s program. Try to get to the theater or production setting 15 minutes before show time.
Flip through the play’s program. Look for a director’s note and the cast biographies. You should also
check if there are any understudy replacements for the production, especially if the show is promoting
itself based on the popularity of a certain performer. [7]

Note if there are any write ups in the program about a directorial choice, like setting “Hamlet” in
contemporary times. There may also be notes on the lighting or the sound design.

Take notes during the show. Its important to write down any striking details during the production. But
try not to bury your head in your notebook during the entire production. You may miss certain details or
a key moment. Use the intermission, which usually happens between acts in a play, to take more
detailed notes. Consider:

[8]

The set design. Look at design elements like lighting, sound, costumes, makeup, and props.

The acting and directing of the production. If a certain casting choice seems important, write it down. If a
line of dialogue strikes you, make a note of it. Look at the way the actors say their dialogue and move
around the stage. Are they serious, comedic, formal? Do they use modern slang or speech, even though
the play was originally set in an older time period?

Any “special effects” used, such as special lighting, sound or technology. Note if the production also uses
audience participation to keep the audience engaged.

Right after the performance, you should jot down any concluding notes, including your initial
impressions of the production and how successful or unsuccessful you think the production was.

Write a rough draft of the review right after you have seen the production. The longer you wait, the less
you’ll remember your experience of the play. Remember your role as a critic is to describe, analyze, and
judge. In your review, you will need to: [9]

Describe what you saw in detail and make the reader see what you see. Be specific and thorough in your
descriptions.
Analyze what you think the director or designer was trying to achieve. Why do you think they designed
the movements, lights, sounds effects, and costumes a certain way? What do you think they were trying
to make the audience feel or think?

Judge how effective the play was as a whole. Don’t be afraid to give an honest opinion of the production
but be sure you can back up your critique in the body of your review (paragraphs 2-4).

Create a strong hook or line

Create a strong hook or line to open the review. You may start with a summary of the play if it is a re-
staging of a production your audience is familiar with. [10]

For example, in this review of “The Little Shop of Horrors”, the reviewer begins with the line: “This Fringe
classic pops up most years, with songs such as ‘Somewhere That’s Green’ and ‘Don’t Feed The Plants’
bringing the house down.” [11]

This opening line works because it allows the reader to dive right in. In one line, the reviewer has
introduced the play, noted the play is a “classic” and told the reader it is a popular musical.

You can also start with a hook that challenges the audience’s expectations of a familiar production. For
example, in this review of “The Little Shop of Horrors”, the reviewer begins with the line: “Not many
musicals will issue you with a sing-a-long book with the lyrics to chorus numbers so you can join in, but
this interactive production of The Little Shop of Horrors has a few surprises in store.” [12]

This hook works because it tells you that the play is a unique take on a classic production and is
interactive.

Don't: write an exciting hook that has nothing to do with the rest of your review.

Do: take risks with bold statements or an unusual opening.

Don't: discuss an actor's personal appearance or insult to the point of cruelty.

Do: describe misguided or failed performances honestly.

9 How to Write a Play Review

Co-authored by wikiHow Staff | Reader-Approved


The performance of a play is a live experience, so it can be an exciting but difficult task to review. You
have to be both the spectator, taking in and enjoying the performance, and a critic, analyzing the
production. But with the right preparation and structure, you can create a well-written play review.

Part One of Two:

Preparing to Write the Review

Understand the purpose of a play review. A play review is a subjective and educated response to a piece
of theater. The reviewer should have a strong background in theatre so their opinion is informed and
credible. Though this is not a requirement for writing a good play review. [1]

The review should also give potential audience members a sense of the play. It should let readers know if
spending their hard-earned money on a ticket to the production will be money well spent.

Noting that you thought the play was “good” or “bad” will not create a strong play review. Instead, you
should be specific in your critique and have a thoughtful analysis of the production. Your opinion on the
play should be supported by a discussion of the production elements and how they worked together as a
whole.

The review should also describe the situation or plot of the play without giving too information to the
reader. Avoid spoiling any plot twists or turns for potential audience members in your review.

Look at the traditional structure of a play review. The standard play review contains five paragraphs.
There are other approaches you can use, such as comparing two plays in one review or writing longer
reviews for one play. But traditionally, a play review will analyze several elements of the production in
five paragraphs, including: [2]

Paragraph 1: Your introductory paragraph should describe what you saw on stage. You should also give
context for the play, such as the playwright or composer of the play and where the play is being staged.

Paragraph 2: Briefly summarize the plot of the play.

Paragraph 3: Discuss the acting and directing. React to the performers playing the characters in the play.

Paragraph 4: Describe the design elements of the production, such as the lighting, sound, costumes,
make up, and set and props.

Paragraph 5: React to the play as a whole. Would you recommend the play to potential audience
members? You can also include a recommendation, like a star rating or a thumbs up/thumbs down.

Read and analyze review examples. Do a google search of local plays in your city that have reviews
online. Pick up a newspaper and check the Arts & Culture section for play reviews. You can also access
example reviews online. [3]

[4] Read the review(s) and ask yourself: [5]


How does the reviewer structure her review? Does the review follow the traditional structure, with an
introduction in paragraph 1, a plot summary in paragraph 2, a discussion of acting and directing in
paragraph 3, a discussion of the production elements in paragraph 4, and an overall critique in paragraph
5?

Compare two reviews of the same play. How do the reviews compare and contrast? Are they structured
differently or have different critiques of the play?

Is the reviewer overly critical of the play? Does their analysis seem well supported by scenes in the play,
or a discussion of design elements of the play?

How does the reviewer wrap up the review? Is there a recommendation at the end of the article, such as
a star rating or a thumbs up/thumbs down?

Read the play you are going to review, if possible. If you are reviewing a popular play, like “Hamlet” or
“The Little Shop of Horrors”, you should be able to find a hard copy of the play. Newer or more obscure
plays may be harder to find in hard copy. Reading the play will help you get familiar with the subject
matter and how it appears on the page before you see the production live.

Note the stage directions, the setting notes, and the line breaks or pauses in the dialogue.

Pick out any problematic points in the play that you might want to watch for during the production. For
example, if you’re going to see Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, you may make a note of ways the director might
stage the pivotal Ophelia drowning scene. Or if you are going to a musical like “The Little Shop of
Horrors”, you might note how the director will transition from the song numbers to the dialogue in the
production.

Your instructor may also ask you to pay particular attention to certain elements, like the lighting or the
costumes, so make sure you are prepared to recognize them.

Get a sense of the context of the production. You don’t want to do too much research around the
production as it may influence your viewing experience. But you should have a sense of the context of
the production; which theater company is putting it on, who is directing the play, and what liberties, if
any, have they taken with the original content. [6]

For example, you may be seeing a version of “Hamlet” that is set in contemporary times and integrates
technology in the production. Or you may be seeing a production of “The Little Shop of Horrors” that is
set in a record store, rather than a theater. This setting change will change the context of the play, and
you should then note how the setting choice is used in the production in your review.

Score

0/0

Part 1 Quiz
What should you include in Paragraph 1 of a standard play review?

Your reaction to the play as a whole.

Nope! You should include this information in Paragraph 5. In this paragraph, you should also include
whether you recommend that others view the play. You can also give a star rating or a thumbs
up/thumbs down for an easy visual. Guess again!

Background information.

Correct! In Paragraph 1, you should provide any necessary content, such as the playwright or composer
of the play and where the play is being staged. This is an introductory paragraph that provides basic
details and sets the tone of the review and should answer the basic questions of who, what, when,
where, why, and how.

Read on for another quiz question.

A summary of the play's plot.

Not quite! You should include this information in Paragraph 2. Keep in mind that while you need to
describe the plot, you don't want to give away any important information, such as plot twists, that would
ruin the performance for potential viewers. Try to keep the summary to a few lines regarding the main
characters and the setting. Try again...

The play's design elements.

Try again! You should include this information in Paragraph 4. Discuss the lighting, sound, costumes,
makeup, set, and props. This can include quality, professionalism, and attention to detail. Note how
these elements interact together to affect the mood and context of the play. Choose another answer!

The acting and directing.

Not exactly! You should include this information in Paragraph 3. Include your reaction to the way the
performers chose to portray their characters. You should also include how you feel about the director's
interpretation of the play and characters. However, make sure you use full names while writing your
review!

Choose another answer!

Part Two of Two:

Writing the Review

Look at the play’s program. Try to get to the theater or production setting 15 minutes before show time.
Flip through the play’s program. Look for a director’s note and the cast biographies. You should also
check if there are any understudy replacements for the production, especially if the show is promoting
itself based on the popularity of a certain performer. [7]
Note if there are any write ups in the program about a directorial choice, like setting “Hamlet” in
contemporary times. There may also be notes on the lighting or the sound design.

Take notes during the show. Its important to write down any striking details during the production. But
try not to bury your head in your notebook during the entire production. You may miss certain details or
a key moment. Use the intermission, which usually happens between acts in a play, to take more
detailed notes. Consider:

[8]

The set design. Look at design elements like lighting, sound, costumes, makeup, and props.

The acting and directing of the production. If a certain casting choice seems important, write it down. If a
line of dialogue strikes you, make a note of it. Look at the way the actors say their dialogue and move
around the stage. Are they serious, comedic, formal? Do they use modern slang or speech, even though
the play was originally set in an older time period?

Any “special effects” used, such as special lighting, sound or technology. Note if the production also uses
audience participation to keep the audience engaged.

Right after the performance, you should jot down any concluding notes, including your initial
impressions of the production and how successful or unsuccessful you think the production was.

Write a rough draft of the review right after you have seen the production. The longer you wait, the less
you’ll remember your experience of the play. Remember your role as a critic is to describe, analyze, and
judge. In your review, you will need to: [9]

Describe what you saw in detail and make the reader see what you see. Be specific and thorough in your
descriptions.

Analyze what you think the director or designer was trying to achieve. Why do you think they designed
the movements, lights, sounds effects, and costumes a certain way? What do you think they were trying
to make the audience feel or think?

Judge how effective the play was as a whole. Don’t be afraid to give an honest opinion of the production
but be sure you can back up your critique in the body of your review (paragraphs 2-4).

Create a strong hook or line to open the review. You may start with a summary of the play if it is a re-
staging of a production your audience is familiar with. [10]

For example, in this review of “The Little Shop of Horrors”, the reviewer begins with the line: “This Fringe
classic pops up most years, with songs such as ‘Somewhere That’s Green’ and ‘Don’t Feed The Plants’
bringing the house down.” [11]

This opening line works because it allows the reader to dive right in. In one line, the reviewer has
introduced the play, noted the play is a “classic” and told the reader it is a popular musical.
You can also start with a hook that challenges the audience’s expectations of a familiar production. For
example, in this review of “The Little Shop of Horrors”, the reviewer begins with the line: “Not many
musicals will issue you with a sing-a-long book with the lyrics to chorus numbers so you can join in, but
this interactive production of The Little Shop of Horrors has a few surprises in store.” [12]

This hook works because it tells you that the play is a unique take on a classic production and is
interactive.

Answer who, what, where, and when in paragraph 1. The introductory paragraph should cover basic
information about the play, including:

The full title of the play.

Where did you see the show? Name the theater or setting where you saw the play.

When did you see the show? Maybe it was opening night, or the last week of the show’s run. Be specific
about the exact date you saw the show.

Who wrote the show? Who directed the show? Name the playwright, the director, and the name of the
production company.

If the show is a restaging of an existing play, such as “The Little Shop of Horrors” or “Hamlet”, you should
note this in your introduction. If the show is a new or original production, you should also note this.

Discuss the plot in paragraph 2. Briefly summarize the plot of the play, including the setting, the main
characters, and the story arc of the characters. Try to keep the summary to one or two lines. You should
give the reader just enough information to get a general sense of the play’s plot. [13]

For example, you may summarize the plot of “The Little Shop of Horrors” with: “The Little Shop of
Horrors is such an entertaining musical because of its hilarious plot involving a plant which grows to an
incredible size and the romantic love story of Seymour and Audrey.” [14]

Talk about the acting and directing in paragraph 3. React to the performers playing the characters in the
play. Use their real names and their character names. Write about the acting based on questions such as:
[15]

Were the performers believable? Did their relationships or chemistry with the other characters seem
natural and appropriate? Did the performers stay in character throughout the play?

Did the performers have a vocal quality (volume and articulation) that fit the context of the play? Did
their body movements and gestures stay true to the character they were playing?

Were the performers engaging and interesting to watch? If so, why did you find them engaging?

For example, in your review of “The Little Shop of Horrors” you may note: “The main credits of this
production go to the lead roles Cath Snowball (as Audrey) and Chris Rushmere York as Seymour who
created a really tangible but very shy and coy chemistry.” [16
Don't: discuss an actor's personal appearance or insult to the point of cruelty.

Do: describe misguided or failed performances honestly.

9 How to Write a Play Review

Co-authored by wikiHow Staff | Reader-Approved

The performance of a play is a live experience, so it can be an exciting but difficult task to review. You
have to be both the spectator, taking in and enjoying the performance, and a critic, analyzing the
production. But with the right preparation and structure, you can create a well-written play review.

Part One of Two:

Preparing to Write the Review

Understand the purpose of a play review. A play review is a subjective and educated response to a piece
of theater. The reviewer should have a strong background in theatre so their opinion is informed and
credible. Though this is not a requirement for writing a good play review. [1]

The review should also give potential audience members a sense of the play. It should let readers know if
spending their hard-earned money on a ticket to the production will be money well spent.

Noting that you thought the play was “good” or “bad” will not create a strong play review. Instead, you
should be specific in your critique and have a thoughtful analysis of the production. Your opinion on the
play should be supported by a discussion of the production elements and how they worked together as a
whole.

The review should also describe the situation or plot of the play without giving too information to the
reader. Avoid spoiling any plot twists or turns for potential audience members in your review.

Look at the traditional structure of a play review. The standard play review contains five paragraphs.
There are other approaches you can use, such as comparing two plays in one review or writing longer
reviews for one play. But traditionally, a play review will analyze several elements of the production in
five paragraphs, including: [2]

Paragraph 1: Your introductory paragraph should describe what you saw on stage. You should also give
context for the play, such as the playwright or composer of the play and where the play is being staged.

Paragraph 2: Briefly summarize the plot of the play.

Paragraph 3: Discuss the acting and directing. React to the performers playing the characters in the play.

Paragraph 4: Describe the design elements of the production, such as the lighting, sound, costumes,
make up, and set and props.
Paragraph 5: React to the play as a whole. Would you recommend the play to potential audience
members? You can also include a recommendation, like a star rating or a thumbs up/thumbs down.

Read and analyze review examples. Do a google search of local plays in your city that have reviews
online. Pick up a newspaper and check the Arts & Culture section for play reviews. You can also access
example reviews online. [3]

[4] Read the review(s) and ask yourself: [5]

How does the reviewer structure her review? Does the review follow the traditional structure, with an
introduction in paragraph 1, a plot summary in paragraph 2, a discussion of acting and directing in
paragraph 3, a discussion of the production elements in paragraph 4, and an overall critique in paragraph
5?

Compare two reviews of the same play. How do the reviews compare and contrast? Are they structured
differently or have different critiques of the play?

Is the reviewer overly critical of the play? Does their analysis seem well supported by scenes in the play,
or a discussion of design elements of the play?

How does the reviewer wrap up the review? Is there a recommendation at the end of the article, such as
a star rating or a thumbs up/thumbs down?

Read the play you are going to review, if possible. If you are reviewing a popular play, like “Hamlet” or
“The Little Shop of Horrors”, you should be able to find a hard copy of the play. Newer or more obscure
plays may be harder to find in hard copy. Reading the play will help you get familiar with the subject
matter and how it appears on the page before you see the production live.

Note the stage directions, the setting notes, and the line breaks or pauses in the dialogue.

Pick out any problematic points in the play that you might want to watch for during the production. For
example, if you’re going to see Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, you may make a note of ways the director might
stage the pivotal Ophelia drowning scene. Or if you are going to a musical like “The Little Shop of
Horrors”, you might note how the director will transition from the song numbers to the dialogue in the
production.

Your instructor may also ask you to pay particular attention to certain elements, like the lighting or the
costumes, so make sure you are prepared to recognize them.

Get a sense of the context of the production. You don’t want to do too much research around the
production as it may influence your viewing experience. But you should have a sense of the context of
the production; which theater company is putting it on, who is directing the play, and what liberties, if
any, have they taken with the original content. [6]

For example, you may be seeing a version of “Hamlet” that is set in contemporary times and integrates
technology in the production. Or you may be seeing a production of “The Little Shop of Horrors” that is
set in a record store, rather than a theater. This setting change will change the context of the play, and
you should then note how the setting choice is used in the production in your review.

Score

0/0

Part 1 Quiz

What should you include in Paragraph 1 of a standard play review?

Your reaction to the play as a whole.

Nope! You should include this information in Paragraph 5. In this paragraph, you should also include
whether you recommend that others view the play. You can also give a star rating or a thumbs
up/thumbs down for an easy visual. Guess again!

Background information.

Correct! In Paragraph 1, you should provide any necessary content, such as the playwright or composer
of the play and where the play is being staged. This is an introductory paragraph that provides basic
details and sets the tone of the review and should answer the basic questions of who, what, when,
where, why, and how.

Read on for another quiz question.

A summary of the play's plot.

Not quite! You should include this information in Paragraph 2. Keep in mind that while you need to
describe the plot, you don't want to give away any important information, such as plot twists, that would
ruin the performance for potential viewers. Try to keep the summary to a few lines regarding the main
characters and the setting. Try again...

The play's design elements.

Try again! You should include this information in Paragraph 4. Discuss the lighting, sound, costumes,
makeup, set, and props. This can include quality, professionalism, and attention to detail. Note how
these elements interact together to affect the mood and context of the play. Choose another answer!

The acting and directing.

Not exactly! You should include this information in Paragraph 3. Include your reaction to the way the
performers chose to portray their characters. You should also include how you feel about the director's
interpretation of the play and characters. However, make sure you use full names while writing your
review!

Choose another answer!


Part Two of Two:

Writing the Review

Look at the play’s program. Try to get to the theater or production setting 15 minutes before show time.
Flip through the play’s program. Look for a director’s note and the cast biographies. You should also
check if there are any understudy replacements for the production, especially if the show is promoting
itself based on the popularity of a certain performer. [7]

Note if there are any write ups in the program about a directorial choice, like setting “Hamlet” in
contemporary times. There may also be notes on the lighting or the sound design.

Take notes during the show. Its important to write down any striking details during the production. But
try not to bury your head in your notebook during the entire production. You may miss certain details or
a key moment. Use the intermission, which usually happens between acts in a play, to take more
detailed notes. Consider:

[8]

The set design. Look at design elements like lighting, sound, costumes, makeup, and props.

The acting and directing of the production. If a certain casting choice seems important, write it down. If a
line of dialogue strikes you, make a note of it. Look at the way the actors say their dialogue and move
around the stage. Are they serious, comedic, formal? Do they use modern slang or speech, even though
the play was originally set in an older time period?

Any “special effects” used, such as special lighting, sound or technology. Note if the production also uses
audience participation to keep the audience engaged.

Right after the performance, you should jot down any concluding notes, including your initial
impressions of the production and how successful or unsuccessful you think the production was.

Write a rough draft of the review right after you have seen the production. The longer you wait, the less
you’ll remember your experience of the play. Remember your role as a critic is to describe, analyze, and
judge. In your review, you will need to: [9]

Describe what you saw in detail and make the reader see what you see. Be specific and thorough in your
descriptions.

Analyze what you think the director or designer was trying to achieve. Why do you think they designed
the movements, lights, sounds effects, and costumes a certain way? What do you think they were trying
to make the audience feel or think?

Judge how effective the play was as a whole. Don’t be afraid to give an honest opinion of the production
but be sure you can back up your critique in the body of your review (paragraphs 2-4).
Create a strong hook or line to open the review. You may start with a summary of the play if it is a re-
staging of a production your audience is familiar with. [10]

For example, in this review of “The Little Shop of Horrors”, the reviewer begins with the line: “This Fringe
classic pops up most years, with songs such as ‘Somewhere That’s Green’ and ‘Don’t Feed The Plants’
bringing the house down.” [11]

This opening line works because it allows the reader to dive right in. In one line, the reviewer has
introduced the play, noted the play is a “classic” and told the reader it is a popular musical.

You can also start with a hook that challenges the audience’s expectations of a familiar production. For
example, in this review of “The Little Shop of Horrors”, the reviewer begins with the line: “Not many
musicals will issue you with a sing-a-long book with the lyrics to chorus numbers so you can join in, but
this interactive production of The Little Shop of Horrors has a few surprises in store.” [12]

This hook works because it tells you that the play is a unique take on a classic production and is
interactive.

Answer who, what, where, and when in paragraph 1. The introductory paragraph should cover basic
information about the play, including:

The full title of the play.

Where did you see the show? Name the theater or setting where you saw the play.

When did you see the show? Maybe it was opening night, or the last week of the show’s run. Be specific
about the exact date you saw the show.

Who wrote the show? Who directed the show? Name the playwright, the director, and the name of the
production company.

If the show is a restaging of an existing play, such as “The Little Shop of Horrors” or “Hamlet”, you should
note this in your introduction. If the show is a new or original production, you should also note this.

Discuss the plot in paragraph 2. Briefly summarize the plot of the play, including the setting, the main
characters, and the story arc of the characters. Try to keep the summary to one or two lines. You should
give the reader just enough information to get a general sense of the play’s plot. [13]

For example, you may summarize the plot of “The Little Shop of Horrors” with: “The Little Shop of
Horrors is such an entertaining musical because of its hilarious plot involving a plant which grows to an
incredible size and the romantic love story of Seymour and Audrey.” [14]

Talk about the acting and directing in paragraph 3. React to the performers playing the characters in the
play. Use their real names and their character names. Write about the acting based on questions such as:
[15]
Were the performers believable? Did their relationships or chemistry with the other characters seem
natural and appropriate? Did the performers stay in character throughout the play?

Did the performers have a vocal quality (volume and articulation) that fit the context of the play? Did
their body movements and gestures stay true to the character they were playing?

Were the performers engaging and interesting to watch? If so, why did you find them engaging?

For example, in your review of “The Little Shop of Horrors” you may note: “The main credits of this
production go to the lead roles Cath Snowball (as Audrey) and Chris Rushmere York as Seymour who
created a really tangible but very shy and coy chemistry.” [16]

Analyze the design elements of the play in paragraph 4. The design elements are a big part of a
production and should be discussed in detail in your review. Focus your analysis on: [17]

[18]

The set and the props: Did they establish the correct mood for the play? Did they add to the
development of the characters, the plot, and the setting? Were they convincing and well-made?

Did the blocking on stage make sense? Blocking means how the actors are positioned on stage within the
set. Were there any awkward movements by the actors on stage? Did the set help or hinder the
performances?

The lighting: Did the lights convey a mood that fit with the tone of the play? Did they draw attention to
characters or props that seemed important in the play?

The costumes and the make up: Did the costumes and the make up of the performers suit the time
period of the show? Was there a unique approach to the costumes or the make up that affected the
context of the play?

The sound: How did the music, if any, contribute to the show’s mood? Were there sound effects used in
the show, and if so, how did they add to the production? If you are reviewing a musical, you should note
if there was a live orchestra or if the music was pre recorded, and how that affected the tone of the play
overall.

Try to be as detailed as possible in your discussion of the design elements. For example, in a review of
“The Little Shop of Horrors”, you may note: “A quirky directorial decision was to have the props and cast
in grey scale. These performers were caked in grey and black make up to contrast the monstrous green
plant as it ate people alive, growing bigger and bigger as the play went on.” [19]

React to the play as a whole in paragraph 5. Here is where your final critique should be in the review.
Avoid clichéd phrases like “the play was bad” or “the production wasn’t very entertaining.” Instead state
your opinion of the performance as a whole, and show why your response to the play is valid and
significant. The rest of your review should support your overall judgment of the play. [20][21]
Note if the audience seemed attentive and interested throughout the performance. Also point to any
possible adjustments or changes that could have been made to the production to make it stronger or
more engaging.

For example, you may note: “Though the production was clearly taking some creative risks by having all
the performers in greyscale, not bringing in bright green plants for the show-stopping “Something
Green” number felt like a missed opportunity to capitalize on this contrast.”

Leave your reader with a clear sense of your opinion on the play and with more questions than answers
about the play. For example, you may wrap up your review of “The Little Shop of Horrors” with: “This
new production takes some creative risks and emphasizes the singing skills of the performers, who
manage to pull off this tale of love and a monster plant with passion and conviction.”