A drama, or a play, is a piece of writing that is presented almost exclusively through dialogue. Like a short story or novel, it has a setting, characters, plot, and even symbolism. However, the way in which they are presented to the audience is different, because unlike a short story or novel, the play is meant to be performed in front of an audience, not read.
Plays are not written in paragraphs like a novel or short story. Instead, they are written as lines of dialogue in the form of a script. Typically, these scripts are broken down into one or more acts, or major divisions of the play. And each act is then subdivided into a scene, or smaller divisions within the act. Usually a change in setting means there will be a change in either the act or the scene.
Setting and Staging:
In addition to the dialogue, a script will also include stage directions. These notes, which are often in italics or parentheses, help the actors interpret the scene for the audience. In this example, when Rose transitions from singing to speaking directly to Troy, the stage directions tell her to whom she is talking.
Characters and Actors:
Before the dialogue in a script, the playwright will often include a cast of characters. Typically, each character, both major and minor, is listed alongside a brief description of the character's role in the story.
The plot structure of the play doesn't really differ from that in prose. There is an exposition, a rising action, a climax, falling action, and the resolution.
If you watch football on TV, there's the pre-game show, then the actual game, which is divided into four quarters, then the post-game show where the commentators talk about what just happened. The same structure happens in plays. We just use different names for it, but the idea holds true - we like to structure our entertainment into these specific categories. We want stuff before, during, and after.
In a football broadcast, they usually have a pre-game show. Commentators come on the screen and let you know what to expect from the game you're about to watch. Plays that have a prologue do the same thing. The prologue is the opening segment that introduces the rest of the play.
Football games are divided into quarters and, in the same way, plays are divided into acts. Each act is a major section of the play. Acts might be just ten minutes long, or they might be over an hour long.
Going back to our football analogy, within each quarter, there are periods of time where the same players are on the field. When the drive ends, for whatever reason, the teams switch from offense to defense and a mostly new set of players take the field. In a play, we call these scenes. Scenes are the sections that make up the acts. You know when scenes change because the set of characters on stage change or the set might change to indicate that the characters are in a new place. Scenes tell small pieces of the overall story.