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A flash drama is a short play as short as several seconds and up to 10 minutes in length. While it lends itself to a variety of forms, it does have several common elements, including limited characters, location, and technical design. While its short format resembles a sketch or a skit, a flash drama has several delineating factors that make it a genre of its own. This type of stage play is also popular with schools and community groups.
This style takes many different forms. It may last one minute or 10, and cast size and subject matter range just as widely. Because of its short format, however, it usually occurs in a single place and time. However, blocking and lighting may be used to imply jumps in time or between locations.
The set is either non-existent or minimal, so the production relies on dialogue, blocking, and acting to establish the world of the play. Since a flash drama provides a low or no-budget option for theatrical production, technical elements like sound, lighting, and video are also typically limited. The format doesn't have any set parameters for how dependent or how tech-heavy a show can be.
A flash drama differs from a sketch, or skit. Sketches usually involve broadly drawn characters with stock or archetypal qualities tackling a specific problem or situation with success only occurring through a deus ex machina, a last-minute twist out of his or her control. Characters don't typically go through a journey or change in a sketch, while a well-written flash drama presents people with unique and specific qualities and very strong wants. The main character has obstacles that he or she must overcome to achieve his or her goals, and, whether the protagonist succeeds or not, he or she is typically changed in some way by the events. Short dramas as such must be written concisely and carefully to include all necessary elements in a small amount of time.
Schools and community theaters frequently present a series of several flash dramas in one evening because they offer a larger variety of roles and situations. A large-cast, two-act show may require double casting and not take advantage of the full talent pool, while a flash drama series gives ample opportunity for small groups of students or artists to collaborate. A short play also takes significantly less time to mount, with rehearsals lasting as little as one or two sessions for very quick pieces. Longer shows generally take several weeks or months to rehearse. This schedule makes it easier for students and artists with other obligations to participate in a production.