Offbeat Directing 2: Understanding the Script

Barbara —  May 22, 2013 — Leave a comment
The Script. Photo by Tom Flathers

The Script. Photo by Tom Flathers

You might like to read Offbeat Directing 1: The Vision Quest first.

I mentioned in Part 1 that you have read the play and enjoyed it, met the characters and yes, you would like to direct it. You’ve started to think about the design of the production and you’re inspired! Before you get into serious planning mode (coupled with some serious dreaming) I strongly suggest you read the play again. This time start to really understand the play. It is your job as Director to tell the story in a coherent and (appropriately) entertaining way and to do this you must understand what the author is actually writing about. Ask yourself ‘what is the premise of this play’? Get right down to one sentence that describes what the play is about. A good way of understanding the concept of the premise is to look at taglines (films make great use of these). I love the film ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’ (1992 version) – on my copy the tagline says ‘Love Never Dies’ – and that’s it – that’s what the film is about. Every part of the story is supporting that premise. I recently wrote a version of Beauty and the Beast – the premise of which I’m sure you are familiar with – ‘real beauty lies within’. This is an important step – you need to understand very clearly what the writer is actually writing about underneath the action and dialogue. If you’re going to tell the story get your head round it first!

Nest step? Understand the characters and how they relate to each other and to the premise. What are they in the play for? What is the essential issue around the main characters and how do the others contribute to the story? I like to draw myself a chart of the characters and mark out what they actually do in each scene. You might find it helpful to study the play from the point of view of the various characters. This is crucial if you’re to direct your actors competently!

What are they like at the start of the play?
What is their relationship to other characters?
What happens to them?
How does it change them?
What are they like at the end?

Not all characters change – most will go on some sort of journey, but it is the journey the main characters that we are looking at. Make sure you understand it so you can take your audience on the journey as well. It’s worth noting that very often we know what will happen in the end. We either know the story already or we recognise the type of story it is. So the chances are you’re not going to surprise your audience with the ending – they’re there for the journey. Think about the ending though … what impression would you like to create. How should your audience feel at the end?

Now you are really starting to understand the play and you’re thinking about the production as a whole. Don’t commit to any ideas or thoughts right now – keep everything open. Next up we look at some planning and a bit more dreaming ….

Next in the series
Offbeat Direct 3: Dreaming and Planning

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Barbara

Barbara

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Writer of Offbeat plays for adults, youth theatres, schools and anyone else! Loves to write, design and direct own shows (is that greedy?)

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