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The word drama has three general uses in English (and in Afrikaans), namely (a) to refer to a specific work of dramatic or theatrical art, as the equivalent of a play (a drama = a play ), (b) as a collective term for a whole body of work written for the theatre (e.g. English drama, Afrikaans drama or Xhosa drama), or to refer to any situation in which there is "dramatic" conflict (e.g in "There was drama in court when the witness testified..").

It is in these terms that the concepts of Drama Studies (and Drama Departments and Literature Departments at school and university) originally evolved over the century and plied their trade.

In recent times it has become usage to utilize the term in its narrower literary sense when referring to the body of written and printed plays, texts, or playtexts.

However, in this interpretation a drama is not seen as a general equivalent for theatre (toneel or teater in Afrikaans), or for what has more recently become known as Performance or the Theatrical Event. Thus, in more recent writing , the phrase "English drama in South Africa" would normally refer to the texts (written, printed) of plays written in English in South Africa, not necessarily to the performance of such plays or English works by non South African playwrights in the country. (The latter would be possibly be considered under the rubric "English Theatre in South Africa").

However this distinction is quite arbitrary, and not really consistently applied, even today. Vide for example the books by Martin Orkin (Drama and the South African State, 1991) and Loren Kruger (The Drama of South Africa]], 1999), where Orkin for the most part does restrict himself to the printed texts, but Kruger most certainly does not (in a way thus suggesting she is playing with the built in ambiguity of the word, as outlined above). In contrast see for example Temple Hauptfleisch and Ian Steadman (South African Theatre: Four Plays and an Introduction, 1984), David Coplan (In Township Tonight! South Africa's Black City Music and Theatre, 1985), Robert Kavanagh (Theatre and Cultural Struggle in South Africa, 1985), Temple Hauptfleisch (Theatre and Society in South Africa, 1999) In all these cases written and printed texts, as well as unscripted or unpublished performances are discussed.

See also Theatre, Play, Text, Performance.


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