Drama (literally translated as action, from a verbal root meaning "I do") is the branch of theatre in which speech, either from written text (plays), or improvised is paramount. The first theatre, the Theatre of ancient Greece, created the definition of a theatre: an audience in a half-circle watching an elevated stage where actors use props staging plays. Musical theatre is a form of theatre combining music, songs, dance routines, and spoken dialogue. However, theatre is more than just what one sees on stage. Theatre involves an entire world behind the scenes that creates the costumes, sets, and lighting to make the overall effect interesting.
There is a long tradition of political theatre, which aims to educate audiences on contemporary issues and encourage social change. The Catholic church took advantage of the entertainment value of theatre to create passion plays, mystery plays, and morality plays.
An overview of the traditional theatres of India suggests that multiple systems of communication are ordered into hierarchies that vary from theatre to theatre. Abstract masks and song-less mime dominate the Seraikella Chhau of Bihar, while the shifting use of municipal space flavours the grand Ram Lila at Ramnagar in Uttar Pradesh. In the Kuchipudi theatre (Andhra Pradesh) and the Bhagavatamela (Tanjore district, Tamilnadu), elaborate dance and stylised hand gestures prevail. Spectacular headdresses, costumes, and colour-coded makeup distinguish both the Kathakali theatre of Kerala and the Yakshagana of Karnataka.
There are a variety of philosophies, artistic processes, and theatrical approaches to creating plays and drama. Some are connected to political or spiritual ideologies, and some are based on purely "artistic" concerns. Some processes focus on a story, some on theatre as event, and some on theatre as catalyst for social change. According to Aristotle's seminal theatrical critique Poetics, there are six elements necessary for theatre: Plot, Character, Idea, Language, Song, and Spectacle. The 17th-century Spanish writer Lope de Vega wrote that for theatre one needs "three boards, two actors, and one passion". Others notable for their contribution to theatrical philosophy are Konstantin Stanislavski, Antonin Artaud, Bertolt Brecht, Orson Welles, Peter Brook, and Jerzy Grotowski.
The most recognisable figures in theatre are the directors, playwrights, and actors, but theatre is a highly collaborative endeavour. Plays are usually produced by a production team that commonly includes a scenic or set designer, lighting designer, costume designer, sound designer, dramaturg, stage manager, and production manager. The artistic staff is assisted by technical theatre personnel who handle creation and execution of the production.
Some theatre theorists argue that actors should study all of the commonly-taught acting methods to perfect their craft (though many others disagree), such as the Meisner, Stanislavsky, Strasberg, and Hagen acting methods.