One act

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The one-act play is a stage play played in a single act . It is therefore mostly of a shorter duration. Full-evening one-act plays like Miss Julie by the Swede August Strindberg are seldom featured in theater programs. The pieces often get by without a major change of scene .


The one-act play is one of the oldest dramatic forms. Even in ancient Greece , short staged appearances developed in the mythical - Dionysian environment, from which dramas were born. Action, time and place are combined here in a classic way.

In Spain these elements appear in popular one-act plays by Lope de Rueda or in interludes by Cervantes . The carnival games by Hans Sachs prove that the one-act play was also very popular in Germany. The form of play only gradually gained acceptance in theaters in the middle of the 18th century. Successful implementations of this genre happened with Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's “Philotas” (1759) or in various Singspiele by the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart . The short form was popular in the ages of the Viennese Classic and Romantic periods . Several one-act plays have found their place in the work of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe . Probably the most famous one-act play in German literature is Heinrich von Kleist's comedy Der zerbrochne Krug .

The one-act play dominates in the drama of literary impressionism . Franz Werfel and Anton Chekhov are among the authors who wrote such pieces .

Modern one-act play

In the 20th century, the one-act play became popular in modern drama. This focuses on the representation of a traceable fragment from a world that has become more complicated. Stage designers are portrayed in their situation or problems for a selected period of life. In modern experimental theater, the one-act play enables scenes of the absurd , discontinuity and all kinds of abstractness.

Today's one-act plays are characterized by an open beginning and an open ending. The dramatists who made use of this form in acting include Samuel Beckett , Bertolt Brecht , Hugo von Hofmannsthal , Arthur Schnitzler , Ferenc Molnár , Günter Grass , the chamber pieces by Jean Tardieu and Thornton Wilder .

One act in musical theater

One-act operas were originally called operettas (diminutive of the word opera = small opera) in the 18th century. These one-act plays were performed by both touring theaters and city theaters as part of mixed programs and colorful evenings. From the middle of the 19th century, the more elegant, larger theaters increasingly began to play full-length works in order to separate themselves more from the traveling stages. Since the one-act act was dropped from the repertoire, only a few pieces from this period are known today, such as B. Bastien and Bastienne by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (probably 1768), Abu Hassan by Karl Maria von Weber (1811), and The Opera Rehearsal by Albert Lortzing (1851).

As a countermovement to this trend, a separate genre of operetta developed in the 19th century , whose works also consisted of one-act plays in the early days. One of its creators was Jacques Offenbach with his Théâtre des Bouffes-Parisiens in Paris. Examples are: The Two Blind Men , Ba-ta-clan , Fortunio's Song , Chief Evening Wind , Tulipatan Island , The Engagement at the Lantern and The Transformed Cat . One-act operettas were also composed by Franz von Suppè , ( Pique Dame , Banditenstreich and Die Schöne Galathée ), Karl Millöcker ( The Dead Guest , The Funny Binder , The Chaste Diana ) and Leo Fall ( Little Brother Fine ).

At the end of the 19th to the middle of the 20th century, new one-act plays were increasingly being created in the opera genre , some of which were performed as full-length works (opera without a break), such as Das Rheingold by Richard Wagner (1869), Salome (1905) and Elektra (1909 ) by Richard Strauss .

Shorter one-act plays are often performed with other works. The combination of the Verismo opera Cavalleria rusticana (1889) by Pietro Mascagni with the two-act Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo is very popular . The three one-act plays Il tabarro , Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi, composed by Giacomo Puccini under the title Ilertrico in 1918, occupy a special position .

Other well-known one-act operas are Duke Bluebeard's Castle by Béla Bartók (1918), L'enfant et les sortilèges (1925) and L'heure espagnole (1911) by Maurice Ravel , Der Mond (1939) and Die Kluge (1943) by Carl Orff , Amahl and the Nocturnal Visitors (1951) and The Telephone (1947) by Gian Carlo Menotti and The Bear (1967) by William Walton .

Folk plays

The one-act act has a tradition spanning decades, not least in the Schwank , in comedy and in folk plays . The programs of the Singspielhallen , which emerged as popular entertainment venues in the second half of the 19th century, often consisted of one-act plays or resembled a colorful evening .

Several Bavarian folk pieces in this form were penned by Ludwig Thoma . Michael Holzinger wrote one-act plays in the Banat dialect .


In the pioneering days of cinema , filmmakers were primarily concerned with the curious visual effect of moving images. In the period after 1910, when the cinema competed with the artistic numbers in the music halls and vaudeville theaters, many “one-act plays” were created in the length of such numbers, which had everyday scenes, spectacular tricks or humorous farces as content. They were technically limited to a film role ( reel ) (cf. act (film) ).

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Wiktionary: One-act  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations