Stage Directions


I have a good brain for maps. I can navigate well in physical space and especially cities. My sense of direction served me well when I read Joyce’s Ulysses since the movement of the novel is the movement of characters in space. I was able to move around my own mental Dublin with Leopold and Stephen. 

Moving from novel space to stage space, I want to talk about one of my favorite playwriting elements, stage directions. I love stage directions. 

Stage directions describe the stage and the visual world of the play as well as any physicality by the characters. 

My favorite stage directions are at the beginning Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape with the banana business. I like bananas in plays. Beckett is fun. 

Recently, I found myself reading stage directions for a variety of play readings. First one friend asked me to jump in and read, then another friend asked, so I had a chain of play readings. I enjoy reading stage directions. I can indulge my inner actress without actually acting. 

Sometimes, I feel like the Stage Manager in Our Town. I set up the stage simply and efficiently, then I let the play play. I try to dress for the play—not in any big costume way—just to fit in with the play’s universe. 

Unlike the other actors in the reading, I am only there for the reading. When the play is produced, I will not be called. My part will disappear. Knowing this gives my work for the reading a simple kind of specialness. I will do it, then it will be over. Onto the next thing. 

I never thought I would find such specialness in a play reading.

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