Writing for the stage covers a wide range of performance. Most dramatists will try their hand at the one act stage play – typically 20-50 minutes using two or three characters – but the stage has many other opportunities:

  • One person play - where the single actor tells a story and uses other ‘voices’ as needed. Nowadays this might be amplified by film sequences using other actors.
  • Sketch writing which relies heavily on verbal and visual gags.
  • Two-hander where two actors resolve a problem between them.
  • Straightforward comedy, farce or drama in one or three acts.
  • Ensemble drama and community plays where a huge cast is involved in a social exercise that needs a ‘writer’.

As a dramatist you need to remember that the audience cannot follow the performer off stage (whereas screen writing allows the camera to go anywhere). Stage right/left means from the actor’s viewpoint. All performers are called actor (so don’t give your characters names like Pat or Chris if there could be any confusion about gender). Stage directions must be clearly separated from the words to be spoken. Make this visual by using, for example, italics inside brackets or bold caps, and stick with it throughout. Keep stage directions minimal and don’t be surprised when the Director ignores all of them. Layout may vary, but would typically involve the cast names typed in Caps down the left with their ‘words’ in Lower case opposite. Select ‘hanging indent’ from word in order to keep the left alignment of the spoken words in individual speeches.

Drama does not truly exist until it’s performed and that makes it a collaborative process. The dramatist needs to be open to suggestion and prepared to re-write. However, it is your work, stick with the moments you think are really important.

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