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helpful hints for MAKING MELODRAMAS

Here's a short page of helpful hints for Directors and Actors of modern Melodramas


Some of the characteristics of authentic melodrama include: That villainy is always distinct from honesty; virtue always overcomes vice and be sure that there is a happy ending. A few big productions numbers with singing and dancing make audiences want to come back again.

There is always a hero wearing a white hat of one sort or another. There is always a villain and his black hat. And there is always a heroine in need of rescue. Melodramas are typically fast moving and emphasize the agony that the hero or heroine goes through before good can triumph over evil. Other stereotypical characters include the sheriff, the villain's sidekick, and comical friends who share insurmountable odds with the hero or the heroine.

The virtuous hero or vivacious heroine is hounded by a villain and then rescued from a series of life-threatening events as an episodic story unfolds.

Plot devices like disguise, abduction, concealed identity, and fortunate coincidence are often used just to keep the audience guessing what will come next. Characters such as friends of the hero or heroine provide comic relief and, of course, help out with the singing and dancing. Melodramas are perfect for ad-libs and improvisation and incorporating a fair amount of each keep the productions fresh each and every night.

Each scene typically ends with a climax and often the villain looks like he will succeed in his nefarious plot. Look for plenty of fist fights and shoot 'em-ups in these thrilling tales of passion and greed and goodness and villainy. The audience will boo the villain and cheer the hero and are even encouraged to grab a foam "rock" or two (or popcorn or what have you) that have been scattered around the audience and hurl, toss or lob them at the villain as he displays his larceny on stage. You might want to remind your audiences to "Please avoid lobbing the foam "rocks" at your beautiful heroine or your stalwart hero and only throw the foam "rocks" that you provide". Real rocks tossed on stage tend to keep actors from returning for their next performance. In essence, Melodrama is a theatre of heightened emotions, where exaggerated expressions and actions are expected to convey the sentiments of the characters. The emphasis is on creating a sense of excitement, sentimentality, or thrill rather than portraying realism. This theatrical style requires the characters to stay true to their roles, with the good guys being exceptionally good and the villains being exceptionally bad. Happy endings are a must, and justice is served to the villain in the end. The play's tension is increased by foreshadowing the consequences of actions without telegraphing them to the audience. The audience is led to anticipate what might happen, and unexpected twists and turns keep them engaged. The characters' decisions and their possible alternatives are presented to the audience, creating a sense of anticipation and wonder. The actors can manipulate the audience's emotions and push them to the limits of frustration, taking them on a journey of excitement and fun. Melodrama is a great form of family entertainment, and it brings communities together through its ability to create an enjoyable and engaging theatrical experience.

Melodies Make the Melodrama

The "melo" in melo-dramas comes from the melody used to highlight and underscore the productions. From "honky-tonk" or "rag time" pianos to authentic cowboy guitar music, just about any live music on stage will do to help you stay true to old western style melodrama. We also recommend that you have a sound effects "Wizard" or "Lackey" to provide live sound effects for each rip-roaring performance.Image

Components of Successful Melodramas

Many of the elements that make up modern melodramas come from ancient theatre traditions. For example, Audience's vocalization, for example, is a long-held custom each year in the re-enactment of the story of Esther. The audience is encouraged to boo and hiss and shake noisemakers when the evil villain Haman's name is even mentioned and cheering always accompanies the mention of either of the heroes Esther and Mordecai.

Although some of the elements of American Melodrama have their roots in old world theatre ... as a genre ... we feel safe in saying that old west style Melodrama is unique and should be considered an American art form ... such as Jazz or Baseball.

Across America ... theatres, playhouses, schools and communities keep Melodrama alive and audiences love to attend these productions. Here are a few suggestions to make your melodrama even more successful whether you write your own, purchase one from or from one of the many prolific producers of modern melodramas that you will find referenced on our Melodrama Scripts page.


On this resources page both Directors & Actors will helpful find links to PDF documents that you can download for free to make your Melodramatic experiences even more enjoyable for your venue, your cast, and most importantly your audiences. Do those other publishers give you resources like this for you? We think not! But don't get us started ... just enjoy the resources an melodramas we bring you and should you need anything else, you know how to find us.

Several Cue Card Signs
Emotions Checklist
Famous Advice
Famous Last Words
Medicine Show
Personality Predictions
A Plethora of Put Downs 1
A Few More Put Downs

Wild West Mercantile
Gentleman's Emporium 

Quick Reminders for Really Successful Melodramas

Bring in your villain (or villains) early ... so the audience can participate.

Foam "rocks" or "bricks" can be used to throw at the villain instead of popcorn.

Two act melodramas are the norm and work well even for melodrama dinner theatres.

 Each act needs roughly 45 minutes of script (about 90 minutes in total) worth of dialogue & singing.

 It is very common to include some musical interlude (called an "olio") during intermission.

 The bigger the cast ... the larger your audiences. Families love to attend and cheer or boo relatives.

 Some playhouses double-cast roles and add many extras to increase community involvement.

 Corny jokes can only go so far ... a well written clever script is the foundation of a good production.

 Don't underestimate the intelligence of your audiences. Treat them to a professional production.

 And if you can afford it ... use quality props and authentic wardrobe to pack the audience.

 Just as with any play ... consider a one room multi-part set to avoid scene changes.

 Keep things simple and allow the actors to have fun with ad-libs making it a new play every night!

 It often comes down to which hat you wear! Spend time on great costumes and you will not regret it.