Improv & Comedy

Stage Directions

Players

3+

Rules

Players perform an ordinary scene based on an audience suggestion. A player outside of the scene will occasionally interrupt to read just the stage directions from the script of an existing play. Players must perform the actions described by the stage directions, and incorporate these actions into their scene.

Notes

Assemble a collection of scripts before playing this game. Traditionally, this game makes use of theatrical scripts, but there is endless room for creative substitutions: screenplays, instruction manuals, recipes, and more.

Rather than picking a script to use in advance, ask an audience member to blindly select one book from a box, bag, or stack of many. Rather than starting at the beginning of the play, have the audience member open the book to a random page.

If available, give the player reading the script a microphone. It is important that the player be heard loudly and clearly. The player should be offstage, and he or she should have a clear view of the stage.

Player reading the script: The most important part of your job is finding when to deliver stage directions and when to allow the scene to progress without your interference. Read only the stage directions. After reading a line, be ready with the next line. Depending on the script, the stage directions may be very near each other, or they may be space pages apart. Always be one line ahead mentally, but avoid rapid, back-to-back delivery of stage directions. Give the other players time to speak between directions. Or don't. In either case, remain in control, and be deliberate in your decisions. However, don't fall into the trap of seeking "the perfect moment" - if you feel unsure about what to do, you're in luck! The words have already been written for you. Try to deliver every stage direction you encounter in the script in order, but if a moment of brilliant opportunity inspires you, you may (sparingly!) cheat and skip a line.

Players in the scene: The stage directions you hear are indisputable truth. Each time you hear a direction, acknowledge it, justify it, and follow it. If you hear, "Doctor exits stage left," and you didn't think there was a doctor in your scene, you were wrong. Look down at your pager and exclaim, "We finally got that kidney donor!" and bolt offstage. Or pop up your collar and say, "The hottie by the bar looks like she's suffering from a case of loneliness, and Doctor Love has just the prescription!" before strutting off toward certain rejection. Match the directions as accurately as possible without sacrificing the integrity or reality of your scene.

Decide how you will play this game in advance. In most cases, the stage directions will only supplement the actions of the players - that is, players may enter, exit, and move around the stage freely, as long as they follow the stage directions they are given. For a more challenging variant, restrict players to moving only when they are instructed to do so by the stage directions.


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updated: 2014-02-05 by helios

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