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Drama

Approaches to the written paper

Areas of the stage

Stage areas are named so that people can easily say where an actor needs to be. The areas of the stage are always related to the actor, so stage left (SL) would be on the actor's left when facing the audience. The director, watching from the audience, would see stage left on his or her right.

Common abbreviations for the areas of a stage

USR - upstage rightUSC - upstage centre USL - upstage left
CR - centre right CS - centre stage CL - centre left
DSR - downstage right DSC - downstage centre DSL - downstage left
AudienceAudienceAudience

Make sure you know where these areas are - you may need to write them on your script [script: The text of a play or drama production - usually the script will give suggestions for the setting of the scene and contain direction for the characters ] or use them when directing members of your group. You may also need to write about stage areas in your evaluation of a live theatre performance in your portfolio [portfolio: A collection of your work, completed over the duration of your studies ].

Tip:

Remember - films often make effective use of colours. Two good examples are Schindler's list and Road to Perdition where the director and designer use colour to create mood and atmosphere

Now look at this typical exam question about staging:

Exam question

The question is based on one of the set texts, Dr Korczak's Example, but you can use the information to answer the staging question on your chosen play.

Look at Scene 20 of Dr Korczak's Example. Give a full written explanation of your design ideas for this scene. In your answer you should refer to:

  • Your chosen production style and how it is linked to your choice of stage
  • Your choice of set
  • How you would use colour to create to create atmosphere
  • Any other ideas you would like to use

Exam model answers

Now look at these two answers. Which do you think would score the highest marks?

Answer A

I have chosen to set my production of Dr Korczak's Examplein Theatre in the Round. I have chosen this type of acting area because I would want the audience to feel involved in the action and throughout the play the actors talk directly to the audience. The style of the play is influenced by the methods of Brecht who wanted to break the illusion of the fourth wall and to constantly remind the audience that they were watching a play and not caught up in the illusion of theatre. Theatre in the round would suit this concept.

In keeping with Brecht's ideas the style of the play would be minimalistic with only key props being used. Also, because the play is a TIE production and would be moving around a lot, it would be important to keep things simple. The floor-cloth would be a collage of yellow stars which would represent the persecution of the Jews and it would give the idea that they are trampled under foot by the Nazi regime. Above the acting area I would hang a huge Nazi flag to symbolise the power of this nation. David Greig, the playwright, used dolls in the original production to represent the children but I would use old brown battered suitcases, with names roughly painted on the sides. I would place these around the stage facing the audience. I would use sad music throughout the play, perhaps from Schindler's List to remind the audience of this terrible time in history. The lighting would be quite dark and gloomy in the scenes set indoors but bright and sunny in the scenes outside.

Answer B

I have chosen to set scene 20 of Dr Korczak's Example in Theatre in the Round. I have chosen this type of acting area because this is a particularly intimate scene between Adzio and Stephanie and I would want the audience to feel involved in the action. Also, in this scene, Adzio is talking about leaving their small environment of the orphanage and exploring the world. The shape of the stage would represent this.

The play is a TIE production and would be moving around schools so it would be important to keep the staging simple. Also throughout the play there are many different locations and quick scene changes therefore, to keep the action fluent, I would use a minimalistic style. This scene takes place in a dormitory in the orphanage but my staging would be symbolic rather than naturalistic. I would use a floor-cloth which would comprise of a collage of yellow stars. This would represent the persecution of the Jews and it would give the idea that they are trampled under-foot by the Nazi regime. However, because this is a scene of hope as they talk about escaping and their relationship develops, I would light them to give the impression the moon is shining on them and, instead of looking downtrodden, they would look as if they were glowing quite brightly.

Above the acting area I would hang a huge red Nazi flag to symbolise power but in this scene it would not be lit brightly. It would appear in the shadows because in their own way Adzio and Stephanie are talking about their victory over the regime. David Greig, the playwright, used dolls in the original production to represent the children but I would use old brown battered suitcases, with names roughly painted on the side. I would place these around the stage facing the audience.

At the beginning of this scene the actors would move three of the suitcases to the centre of the acting area to represent the bed and one by the side to represent a chair for Adzio to sit on when he enters. I would also use an old grey blanket to represent the orphanage and which Stephanie would use almost as a security blanket throughout the scene eg at the beginning, when she is frightened, she would hold it very tightly to her almost like a shield. As the scene takes place in the night the lighting would be minimal. As I stated earlier, I would want to create the idea of bright moonlight. However, this scene is one of hope so, as the scene progresses, I would gradually want the lighting to create the idea of dawn breaking because Adzio and Stephanie's conversation gives the idea of hope and possibly a new dawn or beginning for them - “A farm we'll grow vegetables, and cows....”.

On the last line “She kisses him again,” I would have a slow fading of the light as the kiss indicates how close and intimate their relationship has become. At the beginning of the scene I would have the sound of planes in the distance to remind the audience that the play is set during the war. However, when Stephanie says the line “We make a team”, I would quietly underscore from this point to the end of the scene with bright happy waltz music from scene 16. This would emphasise the idea of hope and optimism for their future.

Both answers give:

  • Reasons for the choice of stage and style.
  • Reasons for choice of colour.
  • Reasons for choice of set.
  • Other ideas.
  • Key words and terminology

Examiner's view

Although both answers contain some very good ideas and both candidates are not afraid to use original ideas that are not specified in the actual text, Answer A would not score highly because it is far too general and fails to answer the question criteria by referring to the specified scene. Answer B consistently makes reference to the specified scene as well as covering all of the specified criteria and would therefore be awarded the higher mark.

Revision Tip:

You can prepare notes on your basic staging ideas before the exam and adapt them to whichever scene is given.

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