acting melodramatic

"Helpful Hints & So Much More"

welcome to melodrama  helpful hints


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.

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.

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 or in our Resources page.

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.

Acting Melodramatic

Always Remember That Melodrama is Essentially a Theatre of Emotions

A gesture here, an inflection there. “Over the Top” facial and physical expressions that you might typify as sensational, sentimental or thrilling is what audiences expect to see at an old west style melodrama. The acting style brings an exuberance of emotions rather than the more realistic motivations we normally experience in life. And it's fun.

In Melodrama every character, every action, every predicament needs to stay true to their character. The good guys are really good, and the villain is really bad … that's just how it is. Happy endings are the rule and the villain always gets what he deserves in the end. Conflict, misadventure and desperation are resolved at the very last moment, unexpected revelations, unexpected twists or turns are all ingredients of the successful melodrama.

On stage ... the results of small actions taken are not necessarily recognized, but the consequences are foreshadowed to increase the tension inherent in the play. It is not telegraphed but set up so that there is some sense of expectation of what might occur. The decisions that characters ‘might take' and 'might not' take are presented as possible alternatives and the audience can envision.

As a result, when things do not go as might be expected, the audience is moved into a state of wondering of what might happen next. The actors knowing what is actually going to happen can help push the limits of audience frustration and take them where they never thought they would go and it can be a lot of goof family friendly fun.

Exaggerated Melodramatic Emotions

Since the plot lines in melodramas are pretty much "black and white" ... Villain versus Hero ... Evil versus Good, the emotions are also very easy to determine and extreme. Here is how to express them on stage.

Anger - The actor's hands are both shoulder high … eyebrows are pushed toward each other with the actor's face in a grimace … hands in tight fists.

Fear - The actor's face is turned to the right side… eyes wide … with the right hand to the mouth, fingers curled under touching the top of the palm. Optionally both hands can come to the cheeks with the fingers extended.

Grief or Sorrow - The actor's shoulders rounded … head down and hands cupping the face. Shoulders rise up and down … with a sobbing noise.

Love (Male) - The actor's chest is held high with his right hand crossing the chest and resting over the heart - opening out to the right and his loved one.

Love (Female) - The actor's chest is held high with her head cocked a bit to one side the opposite leg goes out with foot pointed … hands under the chin … fingers entwined and bent at the first and second knuckles, hands then go out towards her beloved with a broad beaming smile on her face.

Villainous Scheming - One eyebrow up, the other down, a grimace on the face and hands rubbing together, if it is a really good plan, the fingers twiddle.

Villainous Sneaking - Shoulders hunched over, one arm raised to cover the nose on down, eyes free to shift around the room, legs bent on the cross of the stage. If you have one … twirl your black cape or duster as you enter the scene.

Feeling Overwhelmed - Chin up bringing the face to look up, one arm dropped limp to the side, the other hand open with palm towards the audience on the top of the forehead. But don't be overwhelmed ... purchase a Melodrama today! You will be so glad that you did.

Always remember that Melodrama is an audience participation style of entertainment and your villain may want to memorize several dozen snappy “come backs” to the inevitable heckler's remark. A list of these “Heckler Comebacks” is available in Hero and Villain's Website's FREE DOWNLOADS PAGE. Go ahead and visit that page and explore all of the great resources available ... We know you really want to!

A Few Heroic and Villainous Quotes

"Nature abhors a hero. For one thing, he violates the law of conservation of energy. For another, how can it be the survival of the fittest when the fittest keeps putting himself in situations where he is most likely to be creamed?"
- Solomon Short

"You've got to love the villain if you have to play him. You've got to find something that you can live within yourself if you're going to play the villain in a play on stage."
- Jim Dale

"The same energy of character which renders a man a daring villain would have rendered him useful in society had that society been well organized."
- Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

"In the old days villains had moustaches and kicked the dog. Audiences are smarter today. They don't want their villain to be thrown at them with green limelight on his face. They want an ordinary human being with failings."
- Alfred Hitchcock

"A villain must be a thing of power, handled with delicacy and grace. He must be wicked enough to excite our aversion, strong enough to arouse our fear, human enough to awaken some transient gleam of sympathy. We must triumph in his downfall, yet not barbarously nor with contempt, and the close of his career must be in harmony with all its previous development."
- Agnes Repplier

"When it comes to the point, really bad men are just as rare as really good ones."
- George Bernard Shaw