What Are the Different Types of Theater Arts?

Drama, musical performance, and dance are just a few of the many types of theater arts. Musical theater, for example, uses a combination of elements to create a dynamic performance. The creation and performance of these arts frequently rely on the work of many professionals who are rarely seen on stage, in addition to the principal actors, singers, or dancers.

Drama is one of the most well-known forms of theater, and it consists of actors performing plays or improvised material. Drama has evolved from religious or ceremonial activities to become a fundamental form of entertainment, storytelling, and education in many cultures. The revival of plays written thousands of years ago, as well as works written contemporary playwrights, are examples of modern dramatic performance. Improvisational theater is distinct from classical drama in that the actors make up the story, characters, and lines as they go along, frequently for comic effect.

Another important genre in theater arts is live music performance, such as singing or playing instruments in front of an audience. Because the singer often tries to engage the audience in the story or meaning of the song, vocal performance often includes elements of acting as well as technical performance. When bands, choirs, orchestras, and solo musicians perform their work for an audience’s enjoyment, they are engaging in theatrical arts. Improvised variations on a stated musical theme are a common staple of performance in this realm of theater arts, especially in music styles such as jazz.

Dance is another popular form of theater that allows performers to express themselves through their bodies. From re-enactments of famous choreographed ballets to highly competitive ballroom dance tournaments, dance performance takes many forms. Individual solo dance routines or collaborative dances involving several or even dozens of dancers sharing the stage at the same time are examples of dance performances.

To create multi-dimensional performances, many forms of theatrical performance draw on these three major traditions. For example, modern musical theater usually includes an acted story as well as songs and dances. Acting and singing are usually combined in opera; some operas have all of the action sung and acted out at the same time, while others have separate periods of song and spoken dialogue.

A large portion of the work that goes into creating a theatrical performance is done artists and craftspeople who are not present during the live performance. Set designers, for example, create the backdrops and locations for a theater performance, but it is the finished set, not the designer, that is visible on stage. Lighting and sound professionals, meanwhile, make theater arts performances both visible and audible, but they usually work offstage in hidden locations. While designers, technicians, and stagehands may not receive the same level of public recognition as onstage performers, their contributions are just as important to nearly every type of theatrical production.