Day 7 Topic 3
Stage Right is right according to the performer’s viewpoint when looking at the audience.
House right is right according to the audience’s view facing the stage.
Downstage is closer to the audience and upstage is further away. The terms come from when stages were regularly built on a rake. A rake is a stage that is built on an angle so that when you walk closer to the audience you are walking downhill.
Stage Direction Shorthand
Playing the Diagonals
If you can draw an imaginary line between you and any other person or object onstage and create a diagonal line (like the green lines down below) and not a horizontal or vertical line you are in a great position.
Playing the diagonal aesthetically suggests more action and movement and is more dynamic. It also helps the audience have a better view of the action that is happening on stage.
From the audience’s perspective, it is easier to gauge the distance from stage left to stage right than upstage to downstage. In other words, the audience can more accurately tell how close you are to someone that is stage left or right of you but when they are upstage or downstage 2 feet looks more like 1 foot to the audience.
When you play the horizontal instead of the diagonal it automatically ruins the illusion that the stage represents an imaginary world. By lining up with the rows of the audience or the four edges of the stage it shows your character is no longer in that imaginary world but on a stage on a subconscious level. It also ends up looking extremely awkward and doesn’t allow for characters to relate to each other in a way that feels natural while keeping the audience engaged. Playing the horizontal also forces interactions where the two performers are looking into the wings with the audience not being able to see much of what is going on.
When you play the vertical you run the risk of blocking individuals from view. If you are on different levels then that fixes that problem but still leaves the problem of being to perfectly aligned with the space, creates a more static and boring visual picture, and reads as contrived because it is too perfect.
When archeologists are searching for ruins of ancient construction they look for lines that are too straight and uniform. It is the uniformity and lines that give away that it is man-made and not natural. Nature doesn’t line up so neatly and perfectly. The same thing is perceived by an audience when looking on stage. Too perfect isn’t believable because it isn’t natural.
By playing the diagonal you help perpetuate the illusion that the world they are seeing on stage is not on a stage but is a natural world of its own.
Singing to 10 & 2 for (especially for opera)
Like the picture below suggests, If a performer stands center stage and looks straight ahead towards the audience that is 12 o’clock. Before you sing your face needs to be between 10 & 2 o’clock. In opera, this is a must with very few exceptions. This is because if you don’t face between 10 & 2 your sound gets lost in the wings and you can’t see the conductor in your peripheral vision and you might as well not be singing as far as the audience is concerned.
In other genera of performance, this isn’t as rigid a rule because unless you are singing opera you are usually going to be singing with a mic which means as long as the mic can pick up your sound you can be heard from any position on stage in relation to the audience. The reason this rule still applies for the majority of the time though regardless of the genre is that the face is the primary communicator of a performer. If the audience can’t see the performers face they won’t stay engaged for very long.