Can a play be without acts or scenes?

It is certainly possible for a play to be without acts or scenes. Samuel Beckett's play, Breath, lasts only thirty-five seconds. However, this is usually described as a one-act or one-scene play. If all time on stage is described as an act or a scene, then a play without any acts or scenes would not exist. However, if one uses the words to refer only to the divisions within a play, then there plenty of plays without acts or scenes.

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The answer to this question is a matter of semantics. It is clearly possible for a play to be without divisions. Classical tragedies are typically divided into five acts, with each act containing a number of scenes, occasionally only one, typically about four, sometimes ten or even more. It is therefore common for one of Shakespeare's plays to contain more than twenty divisions between individual scenes. On the other hand, one-act plays are fairly common, particularly in the twentieth century. A one-act play may contain no scene divisions. In this case, it is a single sequence of action from beginning to end, with no breaks. Susan Glaspell's play, Trifles, is an example of this style of drama.

However, a one-act play still has one act. The shortest play in the theatrical canon is Samuel Beckett's Breath, which contains no dialogue and lasts about thirty-five seconds. Although this is much shorter than Trifles, it still has one act. Some playwrights, such as Tennessee Williams, prefer the word "scene," since it denotes a shorter division. A play which might run to three acts can, instead, have twelve scenes. Adopting this terminology, one might call Breath a one-scene play.

One might, therefore, argue that to say a play has no acts and no scenes is to say that it occupies no time on stage at all, which means that it does not exist. Others might say that this is pedantic, and to say that a play has no acts or scenes is merely to describe it as an undivided whole.

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