Dramatic conventions are the specific actions and techniques used by the actor, writer or director to create the desired dramatic effect/style. A dramatic convention is a set of rules which both the audience and the actors are familiar with and which act as a useful way to quickly identify the nature of the action or the character.

All forms of theater have dramatic conventions, some of which may be unique to that particular form, such as the poses used by actors in the Japanese Kabuki Theater to create a character, or the stock character of a black-clad, moustache twirling villain in early film melodrama series. It may also include an unforeseen facet of the performance required by the technical limitations or artistic nature of the production and accepted by the audience as part of the suspension of disbelief.

Shakespeare’s Dramatic Convention

For example, Shakespeare’s dramatic convention is that a character can move downstairs to deliver a solo that cannot be heard by other characters on stage, nor are characters in a musical surprised by another character bursting into song. Another example would be how the audience accepts the passage of time during a play, or how music plays during a romantic scene.

Dramatic conventions may be categorized into groups such as rehearsal, technical or theater. The rehearsal conventions may include hot seats, a role on the wall and still images. Technical conventions may include lighting, dialogue, monologue, set-up, costuming and entrances/exits. Theatrical conventions may include split focus, flashback/flashforward, narration, soliloquity, and spoken thought.

Suspension of Disbelief Concept

The traditional concept of the suspension of disbelief as proposed by Coleridge is not about suspending disbelief in the reality of fictional characters or events but the suspension of disbelief in the supernatural. This can be demonstrated in the way the reader suspends his disbelief in ghosts rather than the non-fictionality of the ghosts in a story. According to Coleridge’s theory, suspension of disbelief is an essential ingredient for any kind of storytelling.

If you’d like more information about Dramatic Convention, contact us. We offer acting classes for kids, teens and young adults.