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Creating Stage Directions: "Blocking a Play"

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What is “Blocking”? Blocking is when a director determines an actor’s movements and positions on stage. In most plays the stage directions have been indicated by the playwright. For example, the script might read something like this:
FRED: Where should I put these flowers? (He looks Stage Left then Stage Right. Then he places the flowers in a vase Upstage Center.) Oh, this’ll do.
In this case the director might simply use the stage directions from the text. (Hopefully the actors will be familiar with the difference between Stage Left and Stage Right). However, many plays have long scenes or monologues devoid of stage directions. Should the director force the actors to simply stand still and talk? Probably not. Instead, the director should create movement that:
  • Exemplifies the natural behavior of the characters.

  • Conveys the meaning and mood of story.

  • Helps to feature certain actors at appropriate moments.

  • Keeps the audience awake and involved (This is very helpful during Sunday Matinee performances!)

Stage Directions in Shakespeare: Shakespeare’s plays offer very few stage directions:
  • Romeo enters.

  • They fight.

  • Tybalt is slain.

This means that the director must be dynamically inventive. All of the blocking must come from the director (and whatever the actors are able and encouraged to contribute). This is why Shakespeare’s plays are so invigorating when watched in live theater. The words are hundreds of years old, but the movements, sword fights, and love scenes are all new creations.

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