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Conquering Your Stage Directions: A Beginner’s Guide

If you’re a theatre newbie, it can be tough to keep track of where you’re supposed to be onstage once you are handed your script. Use this guide so you’ll glide, run, walk, prance, fight and dance across the stage with ease and star power.

Upstage/Downstage

To understand the idea of moving upstage or downstage, you have to know a bit of theatre history. During the Renaissance, when theatre was becoming more prevalent, stages were raked, which means the highest point of the stage is the back of the stage. The stage then slopes down toward the audience. Stages were raked so that audiences could see the action even if they were on an even level (usually standing).

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Because of this stage style, actors who were told to be at the back of the stage would need to walk up the rake to get there — and the term “upstage” was born. So, when a director asks you to move upstage, you move toward the back of the stage area.

The reverse also holds true. When a director asks you to move downstage, you are moving forward toward the front of the stage and closer to the audience.

Stage Left/Stage Right

Not knowing your right from your left onstage is just as important and not always as easy as it seems.

Think of it this way: As an actor, your left is the left side of the stage when you are facing the audience. Or, you could also call this “audience right” for those looking at the stage.

It’s the same idea for the right. For an actor, the right part of the stage is the right part of stage when you are facing the audience. If you are following this, it’s the audience left if you are sitting in the audience looking at the stage itself.

Still confused? Watch this great video with tons of stage direction information by Krista Price.

Then, make sure to check out this episode of the series Studio C, with their hilarious, totally relatable parody on taking stage directions.

What tricks do you use to remember your stage directions? Let us know in the comments below…

Written by Kimberly Faye Greenberg

Kimberly Faye Greenberg is the first and only actress to play Leading roles in 2 OFF-BROADWAY musicals at the same time. In addition, Kimberly's numerous portrayals of a FANNY BRICE have been critically acclaimed by the NY Times, Huffington Post and Associated Press and currently her solo show Fabulous Fanny Brice is touring the country. Kimberly has worked backstage as a Broadway wardrobe swing dresser on over 20 Broadway shows. As a Performing Arts Consultant Kimberly loves to inspire, educate and work with proactive Artists.

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  1. My dad was in charge of backstage right when I was a kid doing community youth theatre (still brags about this prestigious achievement) so I always just picture my goofy Pops in his headset giving me a thumbs up from the wings on the right!

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