Wednesday, 26 January 2011

things i learnt #3: stage directions

'Things I Learnt' is an occasional blog series, highlighting some of the less obvious knowledge learnt at school that's still useful in everyday life today - for this author anyway. To read previous posts, click here.

Something learnt at school, relearnt at university, refreshed when I returned to education as a secondary school teacher, and still hounding me (at least) weekly are four words: stage left, stage right.

You think it would be simple, as the diagram above illustrates (which I'm almost considering getting tattooed on the inside of my wrist at this point.) But the problem has always been that the wires between "house" and "stage" in my brain seem to get tangled. A lot.

I remember learning basic blocking at age 11 or 12 in drama class. Now, my junior school Drama teacher was an interesting fellow. He was also our cricket coach (I say "our" - I mean the 10-15 or so of us who were actually interested, come the summer term. It's the only school sports team I was ever guaranteed a place on. But that's another story.) He seemed pretty prolific when it came to organising the school drama productions. However, in the classroom, he seemed a bit less interested. Mind you, years later as I was attempting to teach junior school Drama in the same room to the same age group, I had a lot more sympathy - not to mention even less patience. Again, another story.

And so he would write the directions on A4 pages, and stick them on the relevant walls. Then we played games akin to the church hall favourite, Port & Starboard. Often at the start of every lesson for a few weeks. And yet can I remember? Can I heck.

Several years later, and I'm attempting to completely bluff my way around a production meeting with some actors on a short film. Getting carried away, I think I've convinced one of the leads to do exactly as I want him - but crucially, as he blocks it out, he keeps coming from the wrong direction into frame. I'm getting more and more exasperated, and he's getting more and more confused. Eventually, he realises I've got the directions the wrong way around.

Never give an actor the upper hand, because you'll never get them back.

Another couple of years on, and I'm about to play the Port & Starboard game with my own Second Form class (that's Year 9 for those from normal schools.) I stick up Upstage and Downstage. And then I'm suddenly standing in the middle of the room with Stage Left and Stage Right signs in my hand. I haven't a clue.

I end up asking the class if anyone wants to show if they can remember which is which. I think it worked. I still wasn't sure.

Stage directions are from the perspective of the stage. But then, how come stage up and stage down don't seem to correspond in the same way? And so I get stuck, time and time again.

Technically therefore, I'm not sure if it counts as a 'Thing I Learnt'. Really, it's a 'Thing I Am Still Learning Again and Again and Again...'

Exit stage left right SIDE...


David Lowry said...

Don't forget "Front of House" which, as we all know, is --the-back-of-the-room-- wherever the sound desk is.

Billy Fyffe said...

If it means anything.. I'd have you on my football team.

Pete @mediatree said...

Ha ha cheers Bill! I guess we're playing against a load of kids though...

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