How to stage a play (with pictures)

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How to stage a play (with pictures)
How to stage a play (with pictures)

There are millions of plays that can be produced, including musicals, improvisational theater, and traditional Greek plays, and each of these productions will require different preparation. You could start from a script or from a place and then write or find a script that makes the most of it. It is also possible that you have already thought of a group of actors and you would like the play you choose to favor their abilities. However, the important thing is that you start from a vision that you can then follow to the end.


Part 1 of 4: Organize Your Thoughts and Your Team

Put on a Play Step 1
Put on a Play Step 1

Step 1. Choose a script

The script is the document where all the parliaments and the dimensions of the theatrical work appear, as well as where the changes of act and scene, the descriptions of the characters and the ideas regarding the staging are defined. You can write your own script or build on one written by an established playwright.

  • Likewise, for the staging of a musical, it will be necessary to buy or compose a score (that is, the music that will accompany the work).
  • You can look in the plays section of a local bookstore for possible scripts, or look up free scripts online.
  • To save money, you could also stage a play written more than 100 years ago (for example, one of Shakespeare's plays), since these are available for free and the rights are no longer owned by any publisher, for so it will not be necessary to buy them.
  • For the staging of an improvisational play or that does not contain dialogue, in any case, it will be necessary to have in writing the basic ideas and aspects such as the changes from one scene to another and the number of actors who will participate.
  • Make sure each of the cast and crew members has their own personal copy of the script. You should also have some backup copies.
Put on a Play Step 2
Put on a Play Step 2

Step 2. Buy the rights

If you want to buy the rights to a play, you have to find out which publisher is. Then, look up this publisher's catalog online or contact them to ask so you can find out how much they charge in royalties. In some cases, the works could be "restricted", that is, they cannot be produced. Therefore, make sure that the work is not restricted and then contact the publisher to request a quote.

  • You must provide the publisher with the title of the work, the place where you plan to put it on stage and its capacity, the organization that will produce the work, the expected price for the tickets and the dates on which it will be presented in order to obtain the quote. You should also mention if yours is a for-profit or non-profit organization, as well as if you belong to the local actors union.
  • Typically, the publisher will contact you with a quote and contract, or they may just provide an invoice.
  • Scripts and sheet music must be purchased separately.
Put on a Play Step 3
Put on a Play Step 3

Step 3. Get a location

The venue you choose should fit the script and your own vision. Check out various theaters and ask for quotes from each one. Traditional theaters have a stage, rows of cushioned seats, lighting and audio equipment, changing rooms and mirrors, access to bathrooms, a curtain, places to store props and sets, and an anteroom for the actors to rest. If you want a more casual production, open-air theaters like Greek amphitheaters and stages set up in parks are great options.

  • You can also often rent theaters at public and private schools, colleges, churches, and community centers.
  • You could also stage the play in an unconventional setting, such as an empty warehouse, a park, or a private home.
  • If you are going to choose an unconventional venue, you want to make sure it has good acoustics, that the space is enough for the action as you imagine it, that there are enough comfortable seats for the audience, and that there is access to restrooms.
  • Consider how you will control the lighting in that space and whether you will need to rent equipment.
  • What space will act as the "behind the scenes" area? Where will the actors be when they are not on stage?
  • Consider getting a venue where you can also rehearse. In case it is not possible for you to rehearse in the same place where the presentation will take place, you should get another one where you can do it. The area of the latter should be approximately the same size and shape as the stage on which they will be performed.
Put on a Play Step 4
Put on a Play Step 4

Step 4. Assemble a team

For plays, a producer is needed to oversee financing and management and also a director to carry out rehearsals. Also, there need to be people in charge of making, sourcing, and monitoring costumes, makeup, masks and wigs, sets (backdrops, large objects like fake cars or trees), and props (the objects that will be manipulated on stage). You should also have a stage manager, who will be located behind the scenes to direct the cast and crew, as well as people who can design the lighting and operate the lights and microphones that will be used during the performance.

  • You can designate different people to fulfill each of these functions or assign several of these to each person within a small group, although this will depend on the scale of production.
  • For example, in a Broadway musical, the team might consist of hundreds of people, while in a school play, a single person might serve as producer, director, stage manager, and costume designer.
Put on a Play Step 5
Put on a Play Step 5

Step 5. Post an ad requesting actors

Hold auditions to select the actors to participate in the play. You could hold private auditions in case you already have an actor in mind, or you could also simply ask him if he would like to accept that role. Instead, if you haven't thought about the actors yet, post notices in a local newspaper or on community bulletin boards to publicize the auditions, describing each of the characters and the type of person you are looking for. For example, if you want to hold auditions for Romeo and Juliet, you could write "Juliet: Young, actresses of any age will be considered but they must be able to play a 13-year-old girl."

  • You should include a list of the number of actors you will need, as well as mention if it will be a paid role, the frequency of the rehearsals and the date of the performance (s).
  • Also mention where and when the auditions will take place, which is necessary for the actors and the information to bring with them to contact you.
Put on a Play Step 6
Put on a Play Step 6

Step 6. Hold auditions and select the actors

For this, the producer and the director must ask each actor to read from the script some lines of the role they want. You can hold separate auditions for each actor, or gather all the Juliet wannabes, for example, and ask them all to read their lines one after the other. You could also ask the actors to prepare a monologue in advance to audition.

  • It may be necessary for you to be the one to read the lines that do not correspond to those roles, or you could ask another actor to stay nearby to read along with the person whose audition is taking place.
  • You must record the contact information for each of the actors. This way, you can let them know if they got the part.
  • When you have multiple options for each role, make a second call. These are separate auditions where you recall the actors you are considering for roles to audition again.
  • After you have selected the actors for the play, you should contact them to let them know whether or not they got the part. In case there are also short roles (that is, they have no dialogue or only a few lines), you could ask the actors who did not get the desired roles if they would be interested in playing them.
  • Actors playing these types of roles do not need to appear at all rehearsals. However, they will still be able to enjoy a little time on stage in the course of the production.

Part 2 of 4: Rehearse the play

Put on a Play Step 7
Put on a Play Step 7

Step 1. Do a pre-reading

After selecting the entire cast, you should gather them together at the rehearsal venue and ask them to read the script. Then, start a discussion about your own vision of the work to get their opinions. Discuss the importance of each scene and clarify the meaning of each line.

  • Discuss the characters. Talk to each of the actors about the character they are going to play and ask them to come up with a backstory for the character, as well as determine the character's opinion of the other characters in the play.
  • Explain what the stage will look like.
  • Come to an agreement on the rehearsal schedule and establish when you expect them to have their speeches memorized.
Put on a Play Step 8
Put on a Play Step 8

Step 2. Mark the offsets on the stage and rehearse along with the script

You must determine the approximate position of each actor on stage at each moment of each scene. This is known as "marking the offsets" of the work. Ask the actors to write down their displacements on their copy of the script and you should do the same on yours. Start rehearsing using the script. The director of the play should have a copy with him at all times so that if any of the actors forgets what to say, he can ask "What's next?" and the director can remind you.

  • For the production of a musical, a choreographer will also be required to create the dance sequences for each song. This will involve much more sophisticated marking of displacements.
  • When making this marking, you must take the scenery into account. Mark with masking tape the places on the stage where the curtain, the sets and the spotlights will go, making sure that all the actors know where each element is.
Put on a Play Step 9
Put on a Play Step 9

Step 3. Rehearse in stages

First he rehearses each scene, then each act, and then the entire play. After each trial, you should make comments. The director should make comments after the rehearsal of a scene or an entire act and review the parts that have created difficulties. Also discuss what scenes are going very well and what should be changed. In your comments, you should be sure to provide specific guidance.

  • For example, you shouldn't say something like "Romeo, you don't seem to be really in love. You look bored when you're on stage." Instead, you can say "Romeo, we must work on your body language. You should always look at Juliet when she is on stage and not take your eyes off her. She must have you completely captivated."
  • Go over the scenes that aren't going so well and give your actors specific advice. For example, once you've made the comments to Romeo, ask him and Juliet to come back on stage to go over only those lines that didn't go well.
  • Make detailed markings for displacements so that you can guide lackluster performances. For example, you could say, "Fine, Romeo. When Juliet moves, you should follow her movements. Juliet, I want you to raise your arm as you say that line. Okay, Romeo, now step in that direction when she raises her arm. Imagine. that you are a puppy playing to bring things to its owner ".
Put on a Play Step 10
Put on a Play Step 10

Step 4. Carry out technical and general tests

You should start conducting dress rehearsals as the presentation date approaches. In dress rehearsals, the play is performed the same way it will actually be performed, from start to finish, with the actors fully dressed and made up and all the sets, lighting and sound where they need to be. This will give you the opportunity to ensure that all elements of the artwork are in place.

  • You should also carry out a separate technical rehearsal where the stage manager can give you tickets for each scene change and so that the technical team can execute the necessary changes in lighting and sets.
  • Carry out these rehearsals several times to ensure that the changes can be made quickly.
  • In several of the dress rehearsals, pause to make comments and troubleshoot sets, costumes, and lighting.
  • When this is all going smoothly, do a rehearsal or two of the entire play from start to finish without stopping.
  • If an error occurs in terms of staging, lighting, or performance, the cast and crew will need to make sure to amend it as they would if it occurred during the actual performance.

Part 3 of 4: Staging the play

Put on a Play Step 11
Put on a Play Step 11

Step 1. Get props

This refers to the objects that the actors will manipulate when they are on stage and can range from food and bags to fake guns and a head made of papier-mâché. You can designate a single person to be in charge of the props or designate a prop manager to be in charge of an entire team, although this will depend on the scale of the production.

  • Go over the script with the prop manager to record all the items needed and when they will be needed.
  • You want to make sure that each piece of props fits the age and social class represented in the script. For example, the poison that Romeo drinks should not be in a plastic water bottle, since these did not exist in the 14th century.
  • The actors must be aware of when in the script they will have to manipulate each object and you must make sure that the actors rehearse with them as much as possible, or at least with replacement objects.
  • You can buy or build the props, or receive it in the form of donations.
  • During actual performances, the actors can grab the appropriate props themselves, or a member of the props team can provide whatever they need. The prop manager must know where each prop is located at all times.
Put on a Play Step 12
Put on a Play Step 12

Step 2. Set up the stage

In some cases, the works themselves include suggestions for scenery, but in others, you will have to design it yourself. Before you start rehearsing, make sure you have your stage setup ready. In this way, the actors will be able to know where to move. There are theatrical works whose decorations are very elaborate and others that depend more on the imagination of the spectators.

  • If the work is to be performed indoors, you could paint a backdrop as part of the sets or put up a screen on which images are projected.
  • You can also include furniture and built objects in the sets in which the actors can sit or stand. For example, for the staging of Romeo and Juliet, you will need a balcony.
Put on a Play Step 13
Put on a Play Step 13

Step 3. Make or rent the changing rooms

The costumes that will be used for the play may be rented, purchased, sewn, or borrowed by the costume manager. You can go through the script together to determine what each character will be wearing in each scene and mark changes in costumes. Also make sure the actors know when these changes will need to be made.

  • You may need a few members of your costume team to help make quick changes between scenes.
  • If you need to make a quick change of clothes, you could find costumes that can be removed easily with zippers or Velcro instead of using laces and buttons.

Part 4 of 4: Act out the play

Put on a Play Step 14
Put on a Play Step 14

Step 1. Advertise the work

Get it done in local newspapers and bulletin boards in the weeks leading up to the premiere. Make sure that the posters, advertisements, and flyers you post are designed with an eye-catching image, which you can then also reproduce in the play schedule if necessary.

  • Have the actors dress up as their characters and visit local schools, retirement communities, or public places by acting out parts of the play and handing out flyers.
  • The announcements that you publish must mention the dates of presentation of the work and where it will take place.
  • Be sure to mention prominently if there will be more than one presentation.
  • You could also consider holding a presentation during the matinee hours or during the day and selling tickets at a discount for children and seniors.
Put on a Play Step 15
Put on a Play Step 15

Step 2. Sell tickets

In case the financing of the work is going to come from the sale of the tickets, you must calculate the amount of these that you will have to sell and the price. Encourage actors and crew to sell tickets to friends and family at a discount. You can also create a website where viewers can purchase tickets before the performance.

Designate a person to be seated at the door of the venue selling tickets before the performance

Put on a Play Step 16
Put on a Play Step 16

Step 3. Lay out the premises

Make sure the theater is clean and ready for the performance. You can print a show that includes a list with the names of all the cast and crew members and in which you thank everyone who participated in the production. You could also sell ad space on the show to raise funds. If you do get sponsors, be sure to thank them and also include fun facts about your theater company and the play in the program.

  • You could also consider selling food. You could sell candy, chips, coffee, and alcoholic beverages (if you have a license to do so) to viewers in case the play has an intermission.
  • However, you should make sure you ask the local for permission to be able to sell food.
  • You could also hire ushers who can guide spectators to their spots, as well as hand out flyers and indicate where the restrooms are located.
Put on a Play Step 17
Put on a Play Step 17

Step 4. Act out the play

Enjoy the excitement of opening night. Before the first performance, gather the entire cast and crew to give a speech thanking and encouraging them. Answer any questions they have and remind them of recent changes or issues that may have arisen. Do activities to build group spirit, such as asking everyone to form a circle holding hands and chanting something.

  • Give feedback to the cast and crew either after each performance or before the next.
  • If they are only going to perform once, skip the comments and just praise and thank them all.

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