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How would you use "Tempo" and "Timing" to the greatest effect within a drama?Hi. I am...

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chendie | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted January 28, 2009 at 2:06 PM via web

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How would you use "Tempo" and "Timing" to the greatest effect within a drama?

Hi. I am doing drama this year and I don't quite understand what the question is about or what it means. I would appreciate some help. thank you!

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kmieciakp | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted January 28, 2009 at 8:37 PM (Answer #1)

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Tempo is the steady pace that moves and grounds the drama and timing is how the elements of the drama struggle to fit themselves into that pace.  Some settle right into the tempo(engineers, monotone professors, Mondays, a leaky faucet, stale relationships); some rush it; some drag it or themselves just behind.  Some complement the tempo; sychopating themselves by nature or guile, they move in their own time.  still others don't fit in.  The level of tension between timing and tempo fills the space with energy and personality. Think of Pink Floyd's "Money" or the opening scene of "Ironman," the rolling and bobbing tempo, against the timing--the dialogue, background, movement, volume strain to time themselves to the tempo and create order, tension fills the space until the dramatic moment explodes into its dramatic personality. 

One of the best examples of a personality born from the timing variations within the constraints of steady tempo emerges in Henry V's delivery of his response to the Dauphin's present of tennis balls. 

For your viewing pleasure, I've attached all three video clips.

Hope this helps,


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playsthething | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

Posted January 28, 2009 at 11:11 PM (Answer #2)

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They are also terms used by directors and actors when communicating about pace, a very important element in any play production.  Tempo refers to the rate of speed that a scene follows.  Most comedies have a faster tempo than a tragedy.  A tragedy requires a slower tempo, for the gravity of the events or words.  A comedy requires a faster tempo, to keep the laughs rolling.  Timing refers to when you do a particular thing.  You may have heard the expression, "it's all in the timing".   In the production of the play, that refers to the timing of different actions.  For example, in a door-slamming farce, the timing of entrances and exits must be perfectly timed for maximum effect.

Whenever I am unhappy with a show (whether it's under my own direction or somewhere else), it's almost always about the pace.  It either is moving too slowly to sustain my interest and energy, or it is moving too quickly to allow me to connect with the characters or the moment, or the timing is off, causing moments to fall flat.

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