Posted by: boromax | March 2, 2020

New Wrinkles Journal #16

Stage Directions.

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It is important to know where you are when you are on stage.

When you prepare for a show, the Director will be telling you exactly where you are expected to be at all times. This is generally called “blocking.”

The Director will probably use stage location language to tell you where she/he wants you to be, and you should know how to take notes using appropriate abbreviations for those stage locations.

Here is a basic map of stage locations:

NW_stage-location-map

[There are a few extra notes about this image at the end of the article.]

The first thing you need to know, then, is how to describe your location on stage.

Downstage is closer to the audience; upstage is farther away from the audience.

“Stage Right” and “Stage Left” are described from the Actor’s point of view (facing the audience).

When the Director tells you to Enter Up Stage Right, you will come on to the stage from the wing farthest away from the audience and from the audience’s left.  You might make a note of this direction with an abbreviation something like “EnUSR.”

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Every moment on stage matters; i.e., as each line is being spoken or sung, and even in the silences. Each player must know where they are, where they have come from, and where they are going. And they must shape their bodies, their faces, and their voices to match the mood of each spoken/sung word and every silence.

Whether they are speaking, listening, or reacting, their movements must be well practiced.

For the most part, the players will keep their bodies, faces, and voices turned toward the audience as much as possible.  This is called being “open.”  Occasionally, the mood of the scene will call for players to be “closed,” which means they will be turned away from the audience, which is  generally a total no-no.

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Mostly, the actors want to remain “open” so that the audience can see and hear them properly.  In a traditional play, the actors will be playing to “the fourth wall.”  That is where the audience is.  The idea is to give the audience the feeling that they are looking in on the action, as if the audience is not even there.

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With New Wrinkles, we often come crashing through the fourth wall to engage the audience more directly.

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For every scene (or song), the Director will instruct us as to when, how, and from where he wants us to enter, where he wants each player to be while on stage, what to do while we are there, when to move to another location, which way to face, who to engage with, and when/how to exit.

While we are on stage there are several things for us to keep in mind.

  • Share the stage. Unless you are meant to be featured somehow; and even then consider who else is on stage with you.
  • Give and take. As a scene progresses, various players may be featured. Give them space.
  • Upstaging – this is a don’t do. Basically it means getting more attention than the featured players. This is also known as “stealing the show.”
  • Quarter position; i.e., having your body at about a 45-degree angle in relation to the audience. Usually if you are not facing the audience full front, you will be slightly turned, but not in profile or facing away; but of course there can be exceptions.
  • Turn toward downstage – toward the audience. If you must turn to move, turn in the direction that keeps you facing more toward the audience.
  • Don’t cover others – use your upstage arm / leg. When you are moving, be aware of where others are.
  • Kneel on downstage knee. If you are directed to kneel (on one knee), do it on your downstage knee. (In New Wrinkles, if the Director tells us to kneel, he better have someone there to help us back up!)
  • Moving from one place to another on stage. The direction might sound like “cross down stage right,” and you would write a note to yourself – ‘xdsr.’
  • Counter-cross. Often when one player is moving in one direction, another player may be ‘counter-crossing’ to balance the tableau.

NW_Stage_Anastasia_by_Evan_Zimmerman_MurphyMade._t1000

In the “Stage Directions” image shared earlier in the article, there are several terms that may need illumination:

Prompt Side / Opposite Prompt:  The Stage Manager, who is the one immediately back stage who will keep track of who is supposed to be on stage doing what, will be following the ‘script’ and may ‘prompt’ the actors, as needed.  The Stage Manager is usually ensconced down stage left just behind the proscenium (see below).  “Opposite Prompt” is the corresponding area immediately back stage down right.

Main Rag / House Curtain / Grand Drape:  This is the front curtain that will be raised when the show begins.

Wings: There may or may not be actual “wings,” which would be curtains or flats (scenery painted on canvas stretched over a wooden frame), but the side areas immediately back stage will always be referred to as “the wings.”

Cyclorama: A large, flat surface at the back of the stage. It may be slightly concave. It is used with lighting to create atmosphere and effects. Stages are often set without direct use of an actual cyclorama (usually called ‘cyc’ (pronounced sike)). The set itself may define the upstage area, or a backdrop / curtain may be used.

Proscenium: The metaphorical vertical plane of space in a theatre, usually surrounded on the top and sides by a physical structure. This frames the “fourth wall” I mentioned above.

Apron: Any part of the stage that extends in front of (on the audience side) the proscenium arch.

Olio: This is a reference mostly back to vaudeville days, when some acts were performed in front of a closed curtain; but some folks still use this to refer to that type of scene or that area of the stage.

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I feel like I have left out so much of how to speak the language of “stage directions.”  But I am pretty sure I will be circling back around to some things, like how to behave when you are back stage, for example.

Stick with me!  There is still more to come; e.g., elocution, costumes, make-up, etiquette.

It just gets funner!

 

[Exit Up Right]


Responses

  1. I love when the fourth wall is broken. Probably my favorite thing about visiting the Globe Theatre when I lived in London.

  2. I am also a fan of breaking the fourth wall. My general view is that we are there to entertain – which can often mean more direct engagement with the onlookers.

  3. everyone seems to be having so much fun 🙂

    • Well, yes. It is mostly fun, or I guess we wouldn’t do it. It is hard work… but, man, is it ever fun. Yep.

  4. Love this. Very informative. I knew about stage left and right. But most of the other things are new information to me. I, too, love when that “fourth wall” is broken. TV shows like The Office and Modern Family do that very well.

    • Hmm. I wonder how one would apply the concept of the fourth wall to leading worship? Maybe when the veil was rent during the execution of Jesus, that was the ultimate breaking of the fourth wall!

      • Indeed!

  5. I’m fascinated by the notion of the fourth wall and the transgressive nature of crossing it; I know it’s done in ‘The Truman Show’ . I get the imoression it;s becoming more and more common and losing its transgressive status


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