stage direction

Definition

Theater

  • A theatrical instruction, usually written into the script,telling an actor to move to a certain area of the stage, or askingthe stage manager for a specific stage effect.

    Movements by actors are always described from the point ofview of someone looking from the stage towards the auditorium; thereforewhen an actress moves 'stage left' a member of the audience sees hermoving from left to right. The primary movements on stage are labelledupstage (away from the audience) and downstage (towardsthe audience), terms that derive from the early 'raked' stages thatsloped upwards towards the back. The stage is divided into nine mainzones: the three at the back are labelled 'up left', 'up centre',and 'up right'; the three middle ones are 'left', 'centre', and 'right';and three at the front are 'down left', 'down centre', and 'down right'.Directions of this kind are normally abbreviated, as 'UR' for 'upright', etc.

    If an actor is directed to stand above a piece offurniture or other object he should stand upstage of it, while belowindicates the opposite. Cross means that the actor shouldmove across the stage from one side to the other, while scissorcross means that two actors should exchange sides of the stage.Enter and exit require no explanation. Manet(Latin: he remains) was formerly used to indicate that the actor shouldremain on stage.

    Stage directions are also given in regard to scenery and stageeffects. These are normally self-explanatory but can be complicated,as this direction from Thomas Shadwell's production of The EnchantedIsland (1674) shows:

    This tempest...has many dreadful Objects in it, as severalSpirits in horrid shapes flying down amongst the sailors then risingand crossing in the Air. And when the Ship is sinking, the whole houseis darken'd, and a shower of Fire falls upon 'em. This is accompaniedwith Lightning, and several Claps of Thunder.
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