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A monodrama is a theatrical performance that involves one actor. It is similar to a dramatic monologue in that the audience witnesses the thoughts and actions of a single character. Rather than invite some type of interaction between the character and his audience, a monodrama follows a character's internal development over a period of time. This type of performance can be found in musical theatre, opera, and plays.
The typical length for a one-person show is one act or setting. The audience catches a glimpse into the psyche and life of a single character, but does not get to see that character interact with others. Some parallels to the genre exist in movie and television scripts, where single characters are seen contemplating their lives and decisions. In the typical solo play, the character's experience may involve the resolution of a conflict, may show development of the character, or may be used to explore a theme the author wishes to convey to the audience.
As a genre, the monodrama was first developed in England during the Victorian age. It evolved out of the idea of showing how one character can be explored through a series of self-imposed developments and actions, rather than through interactions with other characters. In these types of dramatic pieces, the character is often dealing with the results of his own actions and reflecting certain attitudes, perceptions, and thoughts. These pieces can also explore a character's thoughts on potential future actions, which may serve as a point of climax or resolution to the play's central theme.
Since only one character is explored in a monodrama, the audience witnesses only one performer on stage. There may be limited use of props and visual set elements, as one of the performance's intended effects is to bring the audience inside the mind of the character. The single character and generally sparsely-designed sets create a stronger focus and more intimate experience on that character, even though the character is not often addressing the audience directly.
Monologues differ from a monodrama in that the character and performer speak to the audience. While a monologue is also performed by only one actor, it is generally clear that the actor is speaking to someone besides himself. In addition, a monologue does not necessarily place the character in a single setting, evoke a theme, or develop the character's psyche. In addition, monologues are often part of a larger performance.
Besides being presented as a spoken, dramatic piece, a monodrama can also be performed as an opera or musical. These forms still feature one character, but use musical scores and songs to communicate the fictional being's thoughts and story. While the performer is portraying the character, the dialogue presented in the one-person show may mention or describe characters that the audience does not get to see.