Construction and meaning
Stage Directing, The First Experiences
(Waveland Press, 2004)
This is the most common structure. One incident leads logically and linearly to the next
is an example of a play organized on its
Other plays are
in nature, like works by Paula Vogel and Brecht. Aristotle described this form as the “epic”
The heart of the modern realistic script is people in
The way the conflict is arranged and developed is
Well-written plays have a
to represent various objects through other means
• …As Aristotle understood the word, imitation is
a creative act
and not a copy
“the imitation of an action that is serious, complete and of a certain magnitude; in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament, the several kinds being found in separate parts of the play; in the form of action, not of narrative; through pity and fear affecting the proper purgation of these emotions…”
“…an imitation of characters of lower type
PLOT is the imitation of the action...the arrangement of the incidences
CHARACTER, the agents of the plot
THOUGHT (THEME) is a general truth enunciated
DICTION is the expression of the meaning in words
SONG is an embellishment whose sense everyone understands
SPECTACLE is the least artistic, connected least with the art of poetry
Time and place
Social circumstances, age, sex, etc. of characters
In short, details provided by playwright to create the world of the play
What the characters say
What other characters say about them
When, where what, who
Why (discovered in rehearsal)
The people of the play (Characters)
is who the play is about
is preventing the protagonist from getting what is wanted
--The specific time of the action and its elapsed time.
--The environment of the script.
Geographical and exact
--The major conflict as expressed in previous actions
The development of the obstacles and complications that escalate the conflict
...sometimes called RISING ACTION
The END contains the CLIMAX and the
The action of the plot leads to the climax and falls away from it
Most plays will require some research.
MASTER HAROLD and the boys
, it is probably important to know something about South Africa. What is Apartheid?
What is ballroom dancing? What are “donkeys years?”
Ultimately, the director must know everything there is to know about the script and the world of the play.
Modern plays typically have a one or two act structure.
Shakespeare’s plays have five acts.
Plays from other periods might have 3, 4 or
6 acts depending upon the conventions of the time.
These describe ways in which we break down a script.
The smallest unit is a beat...several beats make a unit...units form scenes which form acts...several acts make a play.
An individual and separate section of a play that comprises one part of the dramatic action. (Obviously, longer plays have more action units than shorter plays.)
Label each action unit...This label describes the action within the unit.
Sections marked by the entrances and exits of characters.
Can be a single unit or comprised of several units.
A beat is marked whenever a transition appears...when a character’s objective changes.
In music, a measure is a group of related notes while a group of related measures is a musical phrase. In drama, a series of sentences makes up a beat and a series of beats makes up an action unit. Playwrights construct beats just as novelists construct paragraphs.
An objective is phrased using an active verb to express what the character wants or needs at that particular moment.
So, objectives (
) become the fifth “W” of given circumstances.
Identify objectives and beats with ACTABLE VERBS
Dramatic action and character are intertwined almost beyond separation because the action of a modern realistic play is revealed entirely by what the characters say and do and by what is said about them by others. Character, then, is the instrument of the dramatic action; that is, all action happens through what characters do and say.
ACTION TRAITS illustrate character.
Characters can be complex or simple depending on the number of defining actions.The director should begin a character analysis by making a list of what each character in the play does. Action traits are central to delineating character.
The qualities that make a character unique.
They are discovered through the analysis of given circumstances such as age, education, social class, environment, appearance, language, etc.
Personality traits not specifically indicated by the playwright can be fleshed out by the director through casting.
These help to define how the character operates in the world of the play.
Protagonist-antagonist are central characters
Other characters help to define or contrast the central characters (Confidante, Foil, etc.)
Understanding the traits of each character helps the director in casting
•Encompass all of the character’s individual objectives
•Be directed toward other characters and not inward
•Reflect the inner life of the character
•Relate to the play’s large issue
•Be stated as a “to” construction followed by an active verb. For example: to get back home to
Kansas…to revenge my father’s murder, etc.
Minor characters may not have clearly defined
Directors can develop a superobjective that is in keeping with that character’s functional traits.
Character development is a partnership between the playwright and the actor.
SO--casting becomes an important tool for shaping character
plot is about what happens
in a wider context. This is often called theme, moral or message.
ACTION AND MEANING. There can be many meanings to a play and different productions will emphasize different meanings.
Look at the play’s title
Examine key speeches
Evaluate the qualities of the play’s major character
Research into playwright’s background and other works
CORE MEANING should not be confused with what happens to central character. A script’s core meaning is greater than the conflict and realization of the main character. As such, it should be stated as a broad general statement.
For example, OEDIPUS
’ core meaning might be
“people who let their pride in themselves blind them to reality are fated for tragedy.
Does the core statement accommodate the central action?
Can the major characters be better understood in light of the core meaning?
Does the core meaning reflect the given circumstances?
CURRENT POLITICAL OR SOCIAL EVENTS guide our understanding of plays
PERSONALITIES OF ACTORS AND
DESIGNERS can influence a production
OTHER INFLUENCES can shape the director’s approach
“Modern urban and industrial society leaves no safe space for the fragile and emotionally needy to live.” OR
“People who let their pride in themselves blind them to reality are fated for tragedy.”
is made in production, the outcomes of those choices can be