The Wrong Direction

Theatre readers and literary managers constantly complain about the stage directions in new plays sent to them for reading. there are too many of them.

Perhaps it’s the influence of Samuel French, who publish plays heavy with stage directions. But these are intended for amateurs who lack experience or confidence.

Some don’ts:-

  • Professional actors won’t stand still just because you haven’t told them to move. Trust them to do what comes naturally.
  • Directors don’t need your help blocking the play. If you have directions like ‘X moves downstage left’. cut it.
  • Don’t choreograph fights. That’s the Fight Director’s job. He will also know whether the actors are right or left handed.
  • Don’t state the obvious. If X says ‘have a seat’, Y will sit down. It doesn’t need a stage direction.

Some do’s:-

  • Stick to what’s essential. I read a play in which a character picked up the post and put it on a table, where they lay unopened and unmentioned for the rest of the play.
  • See some recently written plays and read the scripts to see what came from the writer and what from the performance team – but not the acting edition. Some companies sell discounted scripts as an alternative to the glossy programme.

What, then, are good stage directions? That’s for another blog.