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A scenario is a synoptical collage of an event or series of actions and events. In the Commedia dell'arte
Commedia dell'arte
Commedia dell'arte is a form of theatre characterized by masked "types" which began in Italy in the 16th century, and was responsible for the advent of the actress and improvised performances based on sketches or scenarios. The closest translation of the name is "comedy of craft"; it is shortened...

it was an outline of entrances, exits, and action describing the plot of a play that was literally pinned to the back of the scenery. It is also known as canovaccio
A canovaccio is a vague plot outline used by commedia dell'arte players. It consisted only of a list of acts and scenes; the details were left to the improvisation of the actors. Actors in the commedia dell'Arte thus had to be endowed with an inventive mind since the success of the play depended...

or "that which is pinned to the canvas" of which the scenery was constructed.

Surviving scenarios from the Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 contain little other than character names, brief descriptions of action, and references to specific lazzi
Lazzi is an improvised comic dialogue or action commonly used in the Commedia dell'arte. Most English-speaking troupes use the Italian plural "lazzi" as the singular and "lazzis" for the plural....

 with no further explanation. It is believed that a scenario forms the basis of a fully improvisational performance
Improvisational theatre
Improvisational theatre takes many forms. It is best known as improv or impro, which is often comedic, and sometimes poignant or dramatic. In this popular, often topical art form improvisational actors/improvisers use improvisational acting techniques to perform spontaneously...

 though it is also likely that they were simple reminders of the plot for those members of the cast who were literate. Modern commedia troupes most often make use of a script with varying degrees of additional improvisation.

In the creation of an opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

 or ballet
Ballet is a type of performance dance, that originated in the Italian Renaissance courts of the 15th century, and which was further developed in France and Russia as a concert dance form. The early portions preceded the invention of the proscenium stage and were presented in large chambers with...

, a scenario is often developed initially to indicate how the original source, if any, is to be adapted and to summarize the aspects of character, staging, plot, etc. that can be expanded later in a fully developed libretto
A libretto is the text used in an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata, or musical. The term "libretto" is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as mass, requiem, and sacred cantata, or even the story line of a...

, or script. This sketch can be helpful in "pitching" the idea to a prospective producer
Theatrical producer
A theatrical producer is the person ultimately responsible for overseeing all aspects of mounting a theatre production. The independent producer will usually be the originator and finder of the script and starts the whole process...

, director or composer
A composer is a person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition, for interpretation and performance, or through direct manipulation of sonic material through electronic media...


Other Uses

The term scenario is also used for an account or synopsis of a projected course of action, events or situations. Scenario development is used in policy planning, organisational development
Organization development
Organization development is a new term which means a conceptual, organization-wide effort to increase an organization's effectiveness and viability...

 and generally, when organisations wish to test strategies against uncertain future developments.

Scenarios are widely used by organisations of all types to understand different ways that future events might unfold. Scenario planning
Scenario planning
Scenario planning, also called scenario thinking or scenario analysis, is a strategic planning method that some organizations use to make flexible long-term plans. It is in large part an adaptation and generalization of classic methods used by military intelligence.The original method was that a...

 or scenario analysis
Scenario analysis
Scenario analysis is a process of analyzing possible future events by considering alternative possible outcomes . Thus, the scenario analysis, which is a main method of projections, does not try to show one exact picture of the future. Instead, it presents consciously several alternative future...

 is a complex business process related to futures studies.

In this sense, scenarios should not be used to speculate on what has happened in the past. According to the Forecasting Dictionary, a scenario is “a story about what happened in the future”. Vivid scenarios distort people's perceptions of the likelihood of the events they describe. Scenarios can therefore be used to overcome resistance to unpopular forecasts. Gregory and Duran (2001) examine principles for the use of scenarios in gaining acceptance of forecasts.

In root cause analysis the scenario is the story of how an event played out. For example, 1) The initial conditions that amount to an accident waiting to happen 2) What disturbed the set-up to get an event into progress 3) The additional developments that occurred to result in the final situation, 4) The final situation