Stage Directions For Actors Unlocked

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Stage Directions for Actors Unlocked is a blog that provides actors with the tools they need to succeed in their craft.

What are Stage Directions?

Stage Directions are instructions that tell the actor what to do, where to go or what emotion to portray.

They are also instructions in a play/film for technical features of production like sound, light, scene, props, movement, and costume. 

Stage directions tell actors where to enter, exit, move, sit and stand.

Stage directions also shape an actor’s performance.

They also give insights into the playwright and how they approach their work. 

In short, Stage directions specify what is happening on stage during a performance.

The main purpose of stage directions is Blocking. 

Blocking is actors’ precise movement on the stage during the performance of a film, play or musical.

What are stage directions in plays?

Stage directions are instructions in the script of a play that tell actors how to enter, where to stand, when to move, Sound preference, light changes etc…

What are stage directions examples?

Example 1:

Adam : Pick your poison.

                  ( Steve slides up to a stool at the counter a few down from her.)

Steve : Can I get a grape soda?

How do you identify stage directions ?

The basic form of stage directions tells actors where to go on stage.;

  1. If you’re looking at the audience, stage left is to your left while stage right is to your right.
  2. Moving towards the audience is downstage.
  3. Moving away from the audience is upstage.

Why are stage directions important ?

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Stage directions are important because they give directions for the actors to use on stage.

They tell them when and how to enter, exit, move.

They also guide the actions of the character.

If there were no stage directions every actor/performer would have to create characters from scratch, have the blueprint for a product and also it will lead to a lack of concentration by the cast and crew, lack of consistency, and such.

Stage directions also inform actors what should be done with the props (eg. bat) they have, how they should speak (eg. seriously), and what kind of gestures they should portray. 

Stage directions describe the action and movement of the performer. 

Stage directions detail visual presentation.

How to perform basic stage movements

Backing Up

This is considered a weak move and should be avoided. 

Moving backward makes a dramatic point, then it’s acceptable.


Take “strong” crosses downstage (below) other actors, “weak” crosses upstage (above). 

Most crosses are made downstage of the standing character and upstage of the seated characters. 

The shortest distance between two points is considered the best guide for a cross.


Avoid dry foods and snacks.

Avoid carbonated beverages.

You can substitute tea for light colored drinks and grape juice for dark colored drinks (coffee).


Enter in the wings, and take the physical attributes of the character. If 2 characters share an entrance together, then the speaking character should enter last.

Don’t forget “ Get into character before the entrance ”.


You are to remain in character until you’re 5-6 feet into the offstage area.

If several characters exit at the same time, the character with lines should exit last.


All stage falls are planned and rehearsed. 

Place your body weight on the leg opposite from the direction you will fall. 

As the fall begins, the knee (on the side that is falling) relaxes and bends. 

The fall is broken as the knee, hip, and shoulder hit the floor (in that order). 


Don’t cover your face with a gesture.


When kneeling on both knees, First lower the downstage knee then lower the upstage leg into position.


Always move or gesture on your own lines, this way your not stealing the audience’s attention during another actor’s lines. 

Make every movement count.

Professionalism Onstage

Don’t turn your back to the audience. 

Don’t stand in front of another actor.

Personal Business

When a character performs small actions without moving from place to place, this is known as personal business.


You should keep your back straight and push up with the upstage leg.

Then you should shift your weight to the downstage leg.


Secure your position of the furniture with the back of your upstage leg. 

Keep the weight of your body on the upstage leg as you lower yourself onto the seat by bending your legs. 

Stage Slaps

Using a cupped hand, strike the slap receiver on the chin or jawbone, don’t strike the ear.


You should always turn toward the audience unless you’re directed to do otherwise.


Carry your weight in your chest rather than the feet. 

Head and shoulders should be straight and up.

Steps should not be too long. 

Walking Up and Down Stairs

Exercise leading with your toes and coming down on your heel without looking down at the steps.

Don’t bounce up and down the stairs. 

When going down the stairs, pause for a bit and draw attention to your movement.

Don’t cross your legs onstage, unless directed to do so.

Males sit with legs slightly apart while women sit with ankles crossed.

Types of stage directions

Listed below are 3 types of stage directions :

Proscenium stage:

Also referred to as end-on staging. This is a stage where the audience sits on only one side with a lower height.

In-the-round stage:

This type of stage is positioned at the centre of the audience and the audience is usually involved. 

Traverse Stage:

A stage where the audience sits on two sides. This stage creates an intimate atmosphere.

What are the 9 stage directions?

Downstage Center

Center part of the stage closest to the audience.

Image: Downstage Center

Downstage Right

Closest to the audience on the right side of the stage as you face the audience.

Image: Downstage Right

Downstage Left

Closest to the audience on the left side of the stage as you face the audience.

Image: Downstage Left

Center Stage

Center area of the stage.

Image: Center Stage

Center Stage Right

Center right side of the stage as you face the audience.

Image: Center Stage Right

Center Stage Left

Center left side of the stage as you face the audience.

Image: Center Stage Left

Upstage Center

Center stage, far from the audience.

Image: Upstage Center

Upstage Left

Left side of the stage.

Image: Upstage Left

Upstage Right

Right side of the stage.

Image: Upstage Left

Industry Stage Direction Abbreviations

  • C: Center
  • D: Downstage
  • DR: Downstage right
  • DRC: Downstage right-center
  • DC: Downstage center
  • DLC: Downstage left-center
  • DL: Downstage left
  • R: Right
  • RC: Right center
  • L: Left
  • LC: Left center
  • U: Upstage
  • UR: Upstage right
  • URC: Upstage right-center
  • UC: Upstage center
  • ULC: Upstage left-center
  • UL: Upstage left

Stage Directions Vocabulary

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Act – to perform for an audience representing another person.Come on : To appear on a stage.

Acting area – see stage.

Actor – performer, player, thespian.

Angel – financial backer of a play production. 

Audible – able to be heard.

Apron: The area in front of the stage.

Above: Away from the audience.

Below: Towards the audience. 

Backstage: The area behind the scene/setting.

Cue : Something that an actor does or says as a signal to another actor to do or say something.

Centerstage – C, middle portion of the stage area; between L & R and U & D.

Cheat, cheat out – ‘aiming body out toward the audience when talking to another character.

Downstage or D: Nearest/towards the audience.

Resonance – enrichment of sound from its vibration in a closed space. 

Resonators – body chambers where sound vibrates; throat, mouth, nasal cavity & sinus cavities.

Proscenium arch:  The frame structure at the front of traditional playing spaces. 

Stage right or R: Your right, when you face the audience.

Stage left or L: Your left, when you face the audience.

The crossover: The walkway between stage left and right. 

Tabs: The downstage curtains separating auditorium from the stage.

Upstage or U: Away from the audience.

Onstage: The acting area within the set, visible to the audience.

Offstage: The parts of the stage not enclosed by the setting.

Wings: The area immediately off stage, usually there is a wing stage left and right.

House: Where the audience sits. 

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