How to Stage Block a Theater Scene

By Chris Sherwood
Blocking directions

As a director you are challenged with more of a task than just telling your actors what to say and how to say it. You truly need to block every motion, from entrances and exits to where to stand on stage, to assure that your movements tell the story just as much as the script does. This is what theater professionals like to call stage blocking. Read on to learn how to stage block a theater scene.

Review your scripts directions. Most scripts will have basic stage directions. Examples of this are character exits stage right or character sits, or the character lies down. These directions will help you get a better idea of the playwright’s original vision of what the stage blocking should look like. Use these directions as guidance but not necessarily law. Each stage is set up differently and may not allow for certain stage directions. Also, a large part of being a director is imparting your vision on the show itself. Be imaginative and see what works best for your vision.

Create a stage picture. At any point in the show you should be able to take a picture of the actors on the stage. That picture should be able to tell what the actors are doing without explanation. Make sure that your actors are at different heights, different levels, and different settings to always create interest in your scenes. Tell your story not just through the actor’s words but through their motions as well.

Give all movements purpose. Your actors should never move just for the sake of moving. Every movement on stage should have purpose. Where is the character going? What are they doing in the scene? Just because your actor may not have lines, does not mean that they should just stand there blank faced.

Have the stage manager record all stage movements onto paper. As a director you will have a lot on your mind. Your actors will as well. Be sure to have your stage manager record all of your blocking instructions. This will help relieve any confusion you may have later on of where an actor is supposed to enter or where they are supposed to stand. Be sure that your actors know that you have artistic license at any time to change where they stand or how they enter.

Practice, practice and practice some more. Repetition is the only way to get it into your actors (and stage crews) head where they are supposed to go and when. The more you practice entrances and transitions, the better off you will be.

Tip

Try a speed run through with only actions and no words. Yell freeze every once and a while and see if your blocking tells the story and creates a stage picture.

About the Author

Chris Sherwood is a professional journalist who after years in the health administration field and writing health and wellness articles turned towards organic sustainable gardening and food education. He now owns and operates an organic-method small farm focusing his research and writing on both organic gardening methods and hydroponics.