Act (theater)

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In drama, an act or elevator is a main section of the plot, the end of which is marked by the falling of the curtain . In some older German pieces, the term act is literally translated as action ; in others it is referred to as the elevator , from the opening of the curtain at the beginning of each act.

In French classical music there were very precise, downright pedantic ideas about the type and number of acts ( rule drama ) for which antiquity was invoked.

Sometimes the structure in acts (which corresponds to the logic of the plot) and the structure in pictures (according to the locations of the plot) are confused or mixed up because the curtain closes after each act or picture. According to the rules of French classical music, an act should only take place in one place and time. In larger pieces, each act contains several pictures, and each picture usually contains several scenes . In drama since the 20th century, the division into acts has mostly been abandoned and replaced by considerations as to whether and where a break is appropriate.

Number of acts

The one-act plays are from interludes between the acts of larger pieces in the 17th and 18th centuries. Century originated. In the 18th / 19th In the 19th century, several one-act dramas were performed on the same evening, or a combination of one-act drama and one-act ballet, etc.

Simple, little involved acts can be performed in one or two acts. Most common since the 18th century, however, are the three-act and five-act divisions.

Three acts

If the dramatic plot is divided into three sub-sections, namely the information about the prerequisites ( exposure ), the escalation of the conflicts to the climax ( development ) and the solution ( comedy ) or the catastrophe ( tragedy ), the division into three acts obvious.

However, since the development is by far the richer part in relation to the two other acts, which contain exposition and solution, and often cannot be compressed into one act, it breaks down again into three parts in the larger pieces, making the whole of five Files exists.

Four acts

The division into four acts is less common, especially in the 19th century. More than five acts are also rare. If the material is of such size is that the author thinks he can not put him in five acts, he hangs a pre- or injury ( Prologue , Epilogue to).

Five acts

Classical and neoclassical plays and operas have been characterized by five acts since the 17th century. The structure of the drama in five acts goes back to the poetics of Horace and does not apply entirely to the ancient Greek theater. The comedies of the Roman poets Plautus and Terence , however, all have five acts.

Gustav Freytag structures the five acts as follows:

  1. Exposure
  2. Increasing action with an exciting moment
  3. Climax and peripetia
  4. Falling action with a retarding moment
  5. catastrophe

Dramaturgy of an act

At the end of an act there is a standstill (called an intermediate act), which should allow the viewer time to become aware of the impression received and to put himself in the right mood for the following. Apart from this, in larger dramas external circumstances such as reconstruction on the scene make it necessary for such points of rest to occur. Sometimes each act in the piece has its own title.

The name Zwischenakt probably derives from the fact that earlier (especially in the English folk theaters ) other actors performed small interludes or dances during the breaks, which were later replaced by musical productions in modern theater (see Entracte , interlude ).

One of the main demands of drama is that the acts are not made arbitrarily or merely with consideration of externalities, but are dictated by inner necessity. Each individual act is supposed to form a kind of whole for itself, but at the same time also form a member that only forms a living organism in conjunction with other members, that is, with the other acts. So although each act in and of itself is supposed to give the viewer a certain amount of satisfaction, it should not weaken its tension on the further development, but rather increase it.

Individual evidence