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Thread: Stage directions in the play

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Stage directions in the play

    Hello,
    I am new on this forum and I have few questions about play script-writing. I am not sure if it is normal or not but the whole play is in my head and I can clearly see my characters talking and moving but again it all happens in my head only. I know the whole play but it gets complicated when I start writing. However I am aware of the fact that transferring this from my head on to the paper is an art called script-writing. So my questions are

    1: How much should I give stage directions?
    2: Can I add inner feelings of the characters on the script?

    I will be grateful, if you kindly share your tips and tricks that can help me finishing my play.

    Thank you so much for your time and looking forward to hearing from you soon.

    Regards,
    John

  2. #2
    Write. Write. Writey Write Write. mrsmig's Avatar
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    Speaking as a professional actress with 30+ years in the business, I can advise you that providing extensive stage directions and emotional "coaching" for the actors is going to be a waste of your time.

    That's not to say you can't do it. Lord knows, George Bernard Shaw wrote voluminous (and very entertaining) stage directions. But ultimately, the staging of the play is going to be driven by the set design, and that's not something that's going to be under your control. The director and set designer are going to have their own vision for the show, and that's going to be limited by the restrictions of the venue where your play is produced. If the direction and design team is being super-collaborative, they might let you have some input (if you're included as part of the process, which is entirely up to the producer), but that's all.

    Likewise with providing "inner feelings" for the actors portraying your characters. First, you shouldn't have to "explain" how a character is feeling if your script clearly portrays the characters' intentions and motives. Second, there has to be some leeway for interpretation. Actors aren't wind-up dolls; they're going to have their own feelings about the way a line should be read, and to stifle that is to stifle the creativity that should flow during rehearsal.

    I suggest you read some recently-published plays to get an idea about what's appropriate to include in your script.
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  3. #3
    practical experience, FTW Tsu Dho Nimh's Avatar
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    As an amateur who dealt with high school dramatics ... minimize the stage directions unless you need to set something up for the scene or the actor needs to do something contrary to the way people usually act. The pros ^^^ don't need it, and it confuses the heck out of the amateurs.

    Such as "Fred puts the pistol under the cushion and exits" and "Sophia grabs the cushion to throw at Bob, the pistol flies across the room, hits the wall, discharges and kills Tom." (this lets the prop people know they need flying pistols and a gunshot when they are reading scripts to pick a play)

    A direction like "increasingly frustrated" cues the actor to start slow and ramp it up. But they'll figure it out in rehearsals, which is not where they polish your vision of the play, but create their own bits of business to create their own vision of it.

  4. #4
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    First of all Thank you so much for your quick reply. I feel so satisfied joining this forum because people like you are ready to share their best experiences with amateur writers like me. May be it is because of your work experience or your skills but you have literally identified my main weakness in my writing style. Just like you said, whenever I start writing I spend too much time explaining the ''emotions'' of my characters. Personally speaking I enjoy doing that mainly because I am an emotional person by nature, which I have now understood is complete waste of time in a script. But yes I have got what you meant. Once again Thank you so much for your time and for your invaluable suggestions.

    Best Regards,
    John

  5. #5
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrsmig View Post
    Speaking as a professional actress with 30+ years in the business, I can advise you that providing extensive stage directions and emotional "coaching" for the actors is going to be a waste of your time.

    That's not to say you can't do it. Lord knows, George Bernard Shaw wrote voluminous (and very entertaining) stage directions. But ultimately, the staging of the play is going to be driven by the set design, and that's not something that's going to be under your control. The director and set designer are going to have their own vision for the show, and that's going to be limited by the restrictions of the venue where your play is produced. If the direction and design team is being super-collaborative, they might let you have some input (if you're included as part of the process, which is entirely up to the producer), but that's all.

    Likewise with providing "inner feelings" for the actors portraying your characters. First, you shouldn't have to "explain" how a character is feeling if your script clearly portrays the characters' intentions and motives. Second, there has to be some leeway for interpretation. Actors aren't wind-up dolls; they're going to have their own feelings about the way a line should be read, and to stifle that is to stifle the creativity that should flow during rehearsal.

    I suggest you read some recently-published plays to get an idea about what's appropriate to include in your script.
    First of all Thank you so much for your quick reply. I feel so satisfied joining this forum because people like you are ready to share their best experiences with amateur writers like me. May be it is because of your work experience or your skills but you have literally identified my main weakness in my writing style. Just like you said, whenever I start writing I spend too much time explaining the ''emotions'' of my characters. Personally speaking I enjoy doing that mainly because I am an emotional person by nature, which I have now understood is complete waste of time in a script. But yes I have got what you meant. Once again Thank you so much for your time and for your invaluable suggestions.

    Best Regards,
    John

  6. #6
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Quote Originally Posted by johnalia View Post
    First of all Thank you so much for your quick reply. I feel so satisfied joining this forum because people like you are ready to share their best experiences with amateur writers like me. May be it is because of your work experience or your skills but you have literally identified my main weakness in my writing style. Just like you said, whenever I start writing I spend too much time explaining the ''emotions'' of my characters. Personally speaking I enjoy doing that mainly because I am an emotional person by nature, which I have now understood is complete waste of time in a script. But yes I have got what you meant. Once again Thank you so much for your time and for your invaluable suggestions.

    Best Regards,
    John
    Big Thanks to you ''Tsu''. So glad that you have explained in such detail. Definitely I will keep in mind your suggestion and looking forward to hearing from you in future too.

    Best Regards,
    John

  7. #7
    Write. Write. Writey Write Write. mrsmig's Avatar
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    Glad to be of help, johnalia. I see you're brand-spankin' new here (and struggling a bit with the "Reply With Quote" option, as so many new members do). May I suggest you head over to the New Members subforum and introduce yourself? You'll get a proper welcome and a bunch of helpful links that will help you navigate this very large and complex forum.
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  8. #8
    Stand in the Place Where You Live KTC's Avatar
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    I have ten plays under my belt, now. Less is more. You want to give the director the opportunity to add their creative stamp. You want the actors to create the characters. You want the director and actors to create the business that happens on stage. The script will tell them how to perform it more than any stage directions you give. And no inner emotions, etc. A play is a collaborative effort. The creation of it is fulfilled through through the director and actors. You give them the words... and then the creation process continues.
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  9. #9
    practical experience, FTW
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    I find that, as a playwright, putting stage directions -- how the character feels, etc. -- helps ME. I'm the author and if the actor does not like it, tough. It is possible your character does things in such a way that is quite unknown to the actor.
    And don't worry -- actors are quite capable of ignoring what the script says!
    You could always put 'em in when you write the script and take 'em out of the final draft.

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