I was asked a question by a director this evening and I wasn't sure how to answer her.
She was a little concerned that a playwright had politely asked to attend a rehearsal. Would he be critical if his stage directions had not been followed to the letter?
I pointed out that with my writers hat on that though I wrote stage directions into a script that I wasn't expected them to be followed. My main concern was merely with getting characters on and off stage.
As an actor I expected to be allowed to move as I felt appropriate to the character I was playing.
As a director I expected to give actors that same freedom. But as the "third eye" would give actors such direction as seemed necessary in terms of blocking, etc.
I personally expect my stage directions to be tossed - especially my earlier plays where I had way too much stage direction. It rather impinges on the actors' and directors' job.
Having said that, though, I think this is the most useful way to think about it:
The actor or director has to have a good reason for ignoring something in the script. If it is because the set is not as described, or this character is so excited, he runs instead of walks in, and it is true to the play, then this good reason trumps the written directions. If the playwright is generous and intelligent, she will see these good reasons and not need to be told.
If she doesn't see the good reason, she has the right to ask - especially if she is attending rehearsals. I don't know if she has a right to be offended - I think ultimately in a clash between the stage directions and the director's vision, the director's vision will probably trump. But as a general note on life, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar anyway and a few well-placed questions are likely to be better than leaving in a huff. Or if it is a long play, a minute and a huff.
respect to anyone who can tell from whom I stole that last gag.
I reckon the staging aspect is certainly valid.
For example, I've just had one of my one act plays
accepted for a festival. I wrote it for a basic box set.
The main part takes place backstage but as written part of the action occurs on stage but off stage through a back stage curtain. However, on re-writing the ending of the piece as requested and doing a final revision of the whole of it occurred to me that the onstage could just as easily be done using the theatre audience as the audience.Does that make sense?
The point is that would radically change many of the stage directions but retain the dialogue as it stands.Of course, being a festival the company may have to accept further constraints on staging which could mean changes in stage directions. Personally I have a very open mind on this.
Certainly some amateur productions I have seen have suffered from directors using the Acting Edition like a bible even though the set bears little or no relation to that suggested in the acting edition.
I've just wasted 20 mins searching the BBC to find a listen again site for a programme they've just deleted! (I can't wait until the BBC go Podcast fully!)
They have been running a series of programmes on Radio 4 about acting/directing methods. It has become the norm today (in UK pro theatre at least - or this is what the programme was saying) to never block a play. Instead the actors start things off and the director guides them - a bit like not sitting in a classroom anymore, you're 'facilitated'.
I had a horrible habit of wrirting directions in my early plays. I'm a lot better since I started taking the tablets.
But I love to attend rehearsals - indeed I went to one last week. I would not tell anyone how I wanted a part played... But I did tell them stories that I had in the scenario and the character bios that didn't make it to the script. I also told them the motivation I had to write the script.
I was very strange, because after doing so the way they appraoched on the stage afterwards was so like the way I had seen it im my mind's eye whe I wrote it.
It's perhaps not quite the process you're describing but it seems to be fairly common practice now to "workshop" plays especially new ones. Not quite in the Mike Leigh fashion but using a fully developed script. The increasing practice in provincial theatre of putting together an ensemble cast for the season i.e doing three or four plays with mostly the same cast and odd "guests" allows a familiarity between actors/actresses that facilitates this.
Amdram is of course an entirely different world.Directors are not always chosen on ability. 'Nuff said. Their basic insecurity leads them to lean heavily on the Acting Edition. When the directions are not spelled out they are often at a loss. I recently saw a production of Brass'd Off in which actors were virtually wheeled on, said their piece and were wheeled off. It was reminiscent of those dreadful junior school pantomimes where Johnny is pushed on by the teacher or his school pals, shouts out his few words and then gets back in line.