School Theatre as an Example of Discourse Community

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Everyone has successfully been able to join a discourse community. School clubs, sports teams, teachers, a job, a group of friends, or even a family can be classified into two words discourse community. According to James Paul Gee, “a discourse is a sort of identity kit which comes complete with the appropriate costume and instructions.” In other words, discourse communities have something in common, it is an idea of language and genre as a way of sharing and holding shared expectations, participation, and expression. According to swales they must fit within the six defining characteristics of a discourse community. I used to never even think of myself as being in a discourse community. I had never even known about the use of the word before this classroom. However, by using the six characteristics I was able to fit myself into several discourses: national honor society, golf team, my job chipotle, theatre, each of my classes, and my own family. I have decided to focus on theatre to break down into the six characteristics, according to Swales.

The first characteristic being each discourse has a broadly agreed set of public goals. For theatre specifically, the goal is to put on a good show for the audience. The crew rehearse and actors do research in order to portray a character and understand the connections between other characters and the storyline, techies memorizes light and music cues, the ensemble memorizes blocking for objects or when a filler is needed. In my case for when rehearsing for the role of Ms. Bingley I transformed into a different persona, someone who was rich and pompous. In other cases, when being a part of the ensemble you had to make up a character to help stay in character and remember every single movement of objects, and actors to maintain a smooth show. Everything the crew does down to acting, techies, backstage, or ensemble work is to make sure when the audience leaves, they leave happy.

Secondly, the communities must have mechanisms of communication among its members. The communication being anything verbally transmitted or written between people in order to transmit some kind of information important to reaching the goal. In theatre we had everyday face to face interactions with each in rehearsal in which we talked about opening, important dates, fundraising, and receiving feedback. We could take snips of video from backstage to watch back later and realizes any mistakes or changes we might want to do to take it to the next level. We the students also had reminders, social media platforms, group chats, face to face interactions outside of rehearsal. We were able to relay information about the performance. Because when in a discourse communication is fundamental within all the communities not just theatre in order to coordinate everything into motion.

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Third characteristic – each community must be able to use its mechanisms of communication primarily to provide information and feedback. At the end of each rehearsal whether it be opened dress rehearsal, a full run rehearsal, or the first rehearsal of the show the director will gather the entire crew to the stage and give out the director notes. For example, he or she could say to one of the actors to project and enunciate more or the people watching from the back of the house won’t be able to understand a word being said. We also receive feedback when performing; we can tell if the point of line was crossed to the audience if they laugh, or gasp both are telling signs of everything going well. At the end of act one we can hear the cheers and clapping coming from the audience. As well as during the curtain bow we feel and see the appreciation of each character and member as we take the final moment on stage and leave. Theatre also tends to receive awards during competition such as when the wolf pack play house went to TTA and performed Mr. Hanson’s own rendition of Alice and Wonderland which they won best supporting actor, best ensemble, and third place overall only a few points away from being second place. Each note, clap, cheer, and trophy pushes us to do better each and every single time.

Then comes genres which each discourse uses and possess to further its aims. Genres being mainly being written. Theatre is well known for its distinct usage of different genres of writing. The theatre is always using different genre of writing for advertising the production. Some examples include play posters which are hung around publicly to get the word out about performance dates. One of the most vital aspects of writing in the theatre community are the scripts. Any type of production needs a script. It is what the actors memorize their lines, and the entire crew’s way of blocking and the bases for the director’s imagination. The scripts help the crew to be able to get off book when the time is needed. It also helps the directors interpret the script in order to express the meaning of the show and the actors to interpret a character.

Along with its distinct genres theatre also has distinct words other known as lexis, which only drama kids would understand. Theatre vocabulary has so many different meanings and purposes. Some of the most important words in theatre being stage spaces which take time during the blocking period one of the most complex time consuming moments of rehearsals. The director will tell actors where to move with these unique words “stage right” or “stage left”, “downstage” and ‘upstage” all which are retrospect to the actor’s point of view. Some other basic lingo used to command an action is “lights” or “line”. However, the lexi isn’t confined to just movements or command there are words that go hand in hand with superstitions with the theatre community. Such as “break a leg” and the name that shouldn’t ever be said in proximity of a theatre or else the show will be left in shambles – “Macbeth”. All these words become second hand to any drama kid.

The old-timers are the ones with more experience because they know the language, genres and knowledge of the subject; whereas the newcomers do not have any experience, any knowledge, nor any language or genres. In theatre, the level of members goes from Director, stage manager, actors, ensemble, and crew such as techies, costumes and makeup, and settings. Newcomers learn as day pass by and then become experts and as the new year comes the cycle repeats itself. One thing about the member of theatre is that it’s like a family and no matter how small of a part or how big you play everyone matters. Because at the end of the day without one or the other the show would fall apart. “A discourse has threshold levels of members with a suitable degree of relevant content and discoursal expertise”, according to Swales.

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