These bracketed notations in the script, written by the author, indicate the performers where to sit, stand, walk about, enter, and depart. Stage instructions may also be used to instruct actors on how to design their performances. For example, an actor might be told to act sober when appearing in a drama scene with someone who is drunk.
The most common type of stage direction are orders, which can be given to one person or many people. An order can also be referred to as a directive. A request is a request that someone do something; it cannot be acted out physically on the stage. A suggestion is a recommendation that someone do something; it can be acted out physically on the stage. When giving an order, it is usual to use the word "please". Some examples of orders include: "Enter Fred", "Exit John", "Stay here, I'll be back soon".
Other types of stage directions include cues, which inform actors when to start or stop doing something; changes, which tell actors where to go or what items to carry; reminders, which help actors keep track of time; and marks, which describe physical aspects of the set or costume. For example, a mark might say "Smock worn by Mary", to inform actors that Mary is supposed to be wearing a smock.
Changes are usually indicated by an arrow.
Stage directions serve a variety of purposes, but its major role is to guide players' motions on stage, a process known as blocking. They also tell them what else should be happening at each location.
Stage directions are used not only for plays but also for concerts, performances, and films. They help actors get into character, inform musicians of their surroundings, and keep viewers up to date with what's going on in the scene.
The word comes from the French word direction, which means "road" or "route." Stage directions therefore describe routes that actors must follow to reach certain locations during a performance. For example, an actor might be told to go back inside the house after leaving it. The writer indicates this by writing "exit stage right." Here right refers to the fact that the actor should return to the location identified by the word exit, which is usually a doorway or window opening onto a side street or alley.
Exit signs are sometimes used instead. These are small flags placed in specific locations on a set that signal to actors when they are permitted to leave their respective scenes.
Exit signs are useful tools for directors to use while keeping track of which characters are available for subsequent scenes or monologues.
Stage instructions are script notes that are italicized and placed in parenthesis or brackets. They often explain the location and timing of a scene (the setting), how the actors should deliver their lines, and how the characters should move onstage. A director will also insert occasional stage directions of her own.
The term "stage direction" comes from the days when all theater was performed before an audience, so every aspect of the performance needed to be shouted out by someone during the show - including what actions should be taken on stage.
So, a stage direction is any note written out by someone with authority over the production which tells actors where to stand, who's supposed to talk next, or anything else for which there is not enough dialogue. These notes are usually included in the script just like normal words would be, but they can also be found printed alongside the production in a book called a "cue sheet." Some theaters still use cue sheets, because they are easy to copy at the start of each show and distribute to actors before they go on stage. But most theaters now use computer files instead. The actor looking to learn more about this process will find many helpful articles online.