acting 101: #16 stage directions (theater)

Finally, your acting 101 guide resumes! For a theater actor/actress, the stage is where all the magic happens. Effective navigating on stage is vital for a seamless work day with the director and crew of a play. So here are directions to know before you step on stage. Before I list them, keep in mind: the actors/actresses on stage do their best to face the audience – so that’s our base.

stage directions

• upstage: farthest away from the audience, actor’s back (abbrev.: U)

• downstage: closest to the audience, actor’s front (abbrev.: D)

• stage right: the actor’s right (abbrev.: R)

• stage left: the actor’s left (abbrev.: L)

• center: well…this one’s self-explanatory (abbrev.: C)

In the Middle Ages, the stages were sloped (lowering towards the audience) so the audience could see the stage and performances better – that’s where “upstage” and “downstage” derive from. The part of the stage clostest to the audience was the lowest (downstage) , the part farthest away was the highest (upstage).

The above mentioned stage directions are combined with one another to give specific suggestions to the actor/actress (note: suggestions! bigs side-note: the actor/actress should feel the directions suit the character they play, otherwise have a talk with your director and check how much freedom you have to move differently if your interpretation of the character calls for). So you might see something like “UL” for upstage-left.

That’s your acting 101 on stage directions. Keep in mind that directors might make up their own lingo, so these are not set in stone and neither are they all directions that you’ll ever work with.

Break a leg! Happy magic creating 🙂

-your tiny woman in a giant world