Vignette In Performance

Students of drama occasionally come across the need to script and perform one or more vignettes. Sometimes this may be a task given to them by their teacher or even a component in a formal external performance examination. The concept of a vignette in the theatre is relatively simple, yet there is little written on the vignette for a student of theatre to research. This post aims to clarify what constitutes a vignette in performance.

Etymology: Old French, 18th century, diminutive of vigne (vine), meaning “little vine”.

Definitions:,  1) A short scene in a movie or play.  2) A brief evocative description, account or episode. 3) A short piece of …acting that clearly expresses the typical characteristics of something or someone.  4) A short scene or incident.

Origins: The vignette has its origins in many forms, including literature (brief narratives), graphic design (decorative page designs of leafy vines in novels), photography (loss of clarity near the edges of an image), psychology (brief description of an event) and the theatre (short scenes). Vignette has even been used to describe an image that is smaller than the original version.

Style: A series of vignettes presented in quick succession could be a number of small scenes on a single theme, concept or idea. Alternatively, the history of Vaudeville consisted of stage entertainment that typically comprised a number of very different scenes, often referred to as vignettes. Sketch comedy also consists of vignettes, with each small scene representing a different event or situation. A vignette in a school drama performance may have its own character, setting or mood, differentiating it from another vignette that precedes or follows it, yet all vignettes in a sequence could be unified by a single theme.

Key Elements: Keywords from this post that may enable a student of theatre to better understand the term ‘vignette’ in a dramatic context at a glance are:

  • short
  • brief
  • small(er)
  • evocative
  • description(ive)
  • episode
  • incident
  • event
  • situation
  • setting
  • mood
  • character
  • theme
  • concept
  • idea

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