Drama Ministry

Deconstructing Drama

"I loved your skit last week!”

Heavy sigh. What is it about that word that gives me the willies? Skit and sketch are not that different in the dictionary. It's that skit conjures images of sweaty preteens forced by camp counselors, on the spur of the moment, to develop and perform something funny with no rehearsal and parts for 13 people. A sketch sounds like it was written and rehearsed. After all, Carol Burnett had a sketch comedy show, not a skit comedy show.

So, what makes a script more sketch than skit? What follows are the criteria our experts use to develop and analyze scripts. These are the tools you need to make a script leap from the page to the stage.

Drama Is Conflict

In both drama and comedy you are looking for trouble. People who have no problems are boring onstage because no one can relate to them.

Conflict does not mean a huge fight. Take a look at The Personal Trainer. Paul and Emily are lovely people wanting better lives. At the sketch's conclusion is Emily an angry, scorned woman? Nope. And Paul isn't the bad guy, either. Rather, the conflict is an unseen pressure driving their lives. Can we relate to that? You bet.

Paul and Emily don't know how much conflict Trainer is causing in their relationship. But the audience knows. Whether the characters are aware of it or not, the actors and director need to know what and where the conflict is. Conflict is what drives a script to its climax and conclusion. 

There Has to Be a Want 

Conflict comes when people want different things. The more a character wants something, the more interesting it will be. In Signing the Papers, we find two people in a heated argument. The conflict is apparent, so the power of the scene is in the characters' "wants."

Read the scene with the idea that Christa and Matt want to get divorced. Irritating, isn't it? You can see that conversation at the mall.

Read it again and this time, imagine that they want to stay married to each other. Hmm. It stirs up a lot of emotions for the actors. But wait, you're just getting started!

Go one more level. What if each character wanted the other to love him/her? Read it with Christa desperate for Matt's heart and Matt wanting to tell Christa he loves her. Now that's powerful and much more interesting to the audience.

Characters need a "want" even in comedy. For a good laugh, go to our online library and read Truth, Justice and the Comics. This is a light comedy, but the characters want something big: the truth. Without characters wanting something, the audience misses a valuable connection point. 

To be effective in directing or performing, you need to analyze a sketch for these elements. Knowing the inner workings of a script will help you define the characters and develop successful blocking.

By deconstructing the script and rebuilding it during rehearsal, you make the performance appear as effortless as if you'd thrown it together Saturday night. Come to think of it, "I loved your skit" is the highest compliment we can receive.



As you prepare a script for rehearsal, ask these questions: 

  1. What is the conflict? How does the conflict relate to each character?
  2. What are the characters' wants? What are the wants of the overall script?
  3. How are the wants and the conflict revealed in the dialogue? In the movement?



A worship sketch is a form of drama that has certain mechanics. A good sketch needs to...

Be short. Sketches are 4-8 minutes, tops. Longer than that and it's almost a one-act play.

Have a small cast. To adequately develop characters in four minutes, you need to hear from all of them. Have as many extras as you want, but more than four lead characters in a sketch and you won't have time to get to know them. 

Have a strong opening. In a sketch there is not time for a lot of exposition. In the first two lines, we need to know what the conflict is. The first line needs to grab the audience since there is not time for them to warm up to themes.

Have an ending. Even an open-ended sketch (one that leaves the preaching to the sermon) needs an ending – a closing that helps the audience release from the characters. 

Posted in: Directing


Alice S. Bass


Alice Bass is Author Development Manager with HigherLife Development Services. She is also an actress, writer and creative consultant living in Florida, and can currently be seen with the Epcot Acting Company at Walt Disney World. She has performed in professional theaters across the US. She is a graduate of Rollins College.

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