Okay, we begin our short series today with:
The ‘skinny’ on how writing for the stage differs to writing for TV or screen
Unlike TV and film that incorporate a multitude of interior and exterior scenes, stage plays are usually confined to one or two fixed settings (garden, house, workplace). The best set will have entrances/exits to facilitate the writer (and ultimately the actors) as the story is crafted in such a way that characters have a reason to exit and enter in and out of the stage space. Things such as:
- a hall anexe with doors leading away to other rooms
- an office space with kitchenette and entrance to manager’s office
- a corridor with watercooler and entrance to manager’s office
- a sitting room with access out to the garden and through a doorway into the hall .
Confined by the parameter of the stage area, plays are reliant on dialogue to drive the action. Moreover, consideration must be given to the audience’s ability to understand what is happening on the stage when sat in the back row of the theatre. If they cannot see that the white object on the table is grandfather’s last will and testament, they will need someone to speak it out aloud to them.
The pros and cons of producing your stage play
- More chance of your play being performed (then your screenplay or TV series being picked up by producers)
- Opportunity for a credit in stage writing, directing and/or production .
- A chance to see what you’ve written being realised on the stage.
- The play may serve as a forerunner for a TV pilot idea that you’ll develop out of it.
- Play extracts can be filmed and sent out to producers (but don’t send film clips with audience visible as problematic)
- Opportunity to invite an agent or producer along to see it.
- Chance for professional reviews if staged in the right theatre
- Something tangible on your creative CV as you move from writer into production.
- Can be rehearsed as a table read beforehand to ascertain viability as a production.
- Time and money spent in attending playwriting courses or requesting feedback from dramaturg?
- Learning the format by watching/attending plays and reading stage scripts
- Making contacts with amatuer dramatic theatre groups with a view to production
- Writing short and full-length plays to develop and refine your craft.
- Raising investment to produce your play at a theatre with professional actors, etc.
The most important thing to remember
Great stage plays happen because of a great script. So, before embarking on production, make sure it’s great and that everyone who reads your script thinks so too. (And not just the acolytes!)