When you write a play how much detail do put in what should be on stage? Do you say that there has to be chairs and a desk or do you just say an office?
For instance, I want to the play to be set in a counselor's office. Do I then proceed to described what is in his office? I feel that too much detail would alienate those with a low budget.
So far I have been including some notes on what should the stage look like and also what to do on small budget. Instead of an entire office set, set an office chair, a couch, a coffee table, and a fern.
One other thing I would say about stage directions: For a long time there was a trend in the theatre among institutional directors - Meaning MFA teachers - that said "First thing: throw out the stage directions." I always felt this was B.S.
Stage directions in Samuel French and Dramatists Play Service scripts for a long time were written by the stage managers of the original Broadway productions. They were written for specific stages at that time, and were meant to help out any future production, especially in amateur theaters and college productions and usually for proscenium stages.
Every set will require new stage directions - usually - and again these were helpful in an era when most productions were "proscenium stage orientations."
But one thing not mentioned is the "tone" of the staging. When one writes stage directions it is the TONE of the performance that also must be captured.
Anything a playwright writes must serve the text and production "tone."
So, don't be afraid of stage directions. Every playwright achieves their own way of communicating a written text. Tennessee Williams is not Arthur Miller is not Lanford Wilson is not Sam Shepard is not Paula Vogel, is not Tony Kushner is not RAY TURCO!!!
Novelists use descriptions of setting and tone all in their own quality of writing; screenwriters do as well - though USUALLY in much fewer words. So don't be afraid of them. If you believe they are necessary, use them.
If you want to see masterful use of stage directions, read NOISES OFF by Michael Frayn.
And finally, I would suggest use stage directions of any length - form onoe word to fifty words - only out of a necessity; whether it be for a necessary visual physical actions or necessary tonal qualities. And feel free to use any means necessary to get your theatrical point across. Don't ever let the "RULES" limit your imagination.
I wrote, "Don't ever let the "RULES" limit your imagination."
I'd rather say, "Knowing the RULES is a very good thing. But use the rules to let your imagination explore and grow into your own work.
Salvador Dali as a great realist painter. But you look at the stuff he is known for and you can see what he did with his work, by knowing the Rules. Same with Magritte. Same with all the Impressionists.
Robert McKee has a great quote about the difference between the growth of the artist, between being young and inexperienced and then becoming an experienced artist. If I find it agin I will post it.
As a director, I don't need a lot of set detail and stage direction. The stage is my canvas and I wish to create the vision I see. However, as an author, I am reminded from time to time that many directors want it all spelled out. They need a set diagram and detailed stage directions for their casts. While I do expect my words will be honored, how they are interpreted and how my play is staged will hopefully be a revelation.