How to Cite Stage Directions

By Rose Mathews
A group of students on stage.

Stage directions can be as simple as one word describing how the character should speak, or they can be a lengthy description of the set and mood of the show. In some plays, such as Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie," the stage directions are almost as important as the dialogue in determining the author's intent. When writing about these plays for a scholarly paper, it's important to successfully note and interpret stage directions, and theater researchers must follow specific guidelines when quoting a play's stage directions in their work. The Modern Language Association, or MLA, guide explains the standard format for doing this.

Quoting From a Play

When quoting dialogue from a play, that dialogue must be set off from the rest of the text by indenting the first line of dialogue 10 spaces from the left. The character's name should be in all capital letters, with a period following the name. If one character's speech is longer than one line, subsequent lines should be indented 10 spaces as well.

Citing Stage Directions

Like dialogue, stage directions are set off from the main body of a research paper's text. According to MLA guidelines, stage directions should not be formatted any differently than the rest of the dialogue that's cited in the paper and should be reproduced faithfully. If it's necessary to omit stage directions when quoting from a play, ellipses can be used to indicate the missing language.