Our Blog / Basic Guidelines On How To Create A Stage Play

Producing a play for the stage encompasses the journey from finding (or writing) a script all the way to promoting the play until opening night. It could certainly feel daunting, especially if you're limited on resources and perhaps experience. Here’s the thing - even the most seasoned directors or producers still need and work from a plan for every single theater production.

In this article, we walk through a high level view of a play production process - all the basic steps on how to go all the way from a script to the big opening night!

Find a Script

If you're not planning to write a script you're going to need to find one. The script should be something that inspires you and also inspirational for your audience, or it could in fact be for another reason. What’s your goal?

But finding a worthwhile script isn't always so easy. Sometimes there doesn’t seem to be that exact match. There are a lot of scripts available online, but most are not free.

Some scripts are only available by contacting the author directly. You can also use a database where playwrights feature their work to sell their own play scripts.

How Much Does It Cost To Produce A Stage Play?

The first step is to find a script and determine if it’s feasible to produce your play or not. This means figuring out what you have to spend to put on a show.

The first step towards setting up a budget is to figure out what you want to spend your money on. This includes everything from the venue and how you want to spend on items like sets, costumes, lighting, props, etc. You can even use sample budgeting formulas to use as a template and then customize to fit your expectations.

Any Broadway or off-Broadway will cost millions. Amateurs can spend hundreds to thousands.

Here are the main factors when it comes to your potential budget for a play:

Rights To The Work

Don't want to pay for written scripts? Then you can use a script that belongs to the public domain. These are classics from Shakespeare or other works that are more than 100 years old. There are lots to choose from.

Venue

Venues are rarely found for free use.

However, creative solutions are out there especially through local businesses like a coffee shop, bar or anywhere that has room for a stage.

Negotiating is key and finding a venue that allows them to benefit from all the proceeds is not out of the question.

Cast and Crew

Will you hire an entire cast and crew or collaborate with friends who are motivated to invest with you? Churches or drama clubs can be a source for recruitment, and producers manage to save money by taking this route.

Theater plays typically involve the following types of roles:

  • Producer
  • Director
  • General Manager
  • Company Manager
  • Production Manager
  • Artistic Director
  • Costume Designer
  • Sound Mixer
  • Choreographer
  • Flymen and Mechanists
  • Orchestra or band
  • Carpenters

How Do You Structure A Play?

Let’s be clear - there is no one way to structure a play. Each playwright has his or her own tips to become a successful playwright. Various schools of thought and the type of theater production determines how to approach the play’s elements and structure.

Before determining the structuring of a play, the initial question to ask is “how do you create a strong plot?”

Exposition

The exposition is the part of the story that introduces the background information.

This includes the events that have led up to the story, as well as the characters and their backstories. Without it, the story would be difficult to follow. However, too much exposition can be cumbersome and boring. So be sure to strike a balance!

Rising Action

The rising action is a series of events in a story that increase the conflict and create suspense.

It usually begins after the exposition, when the story's main conflict and characters are introduced. The rising action builds on the conflict, making it more complex and difficult to resolve. This element is essential to creating a compelling story that will keep readers engaged from beginning to end.

Climax

The climax of a play is when the suspense reaches its highest point and usually the turning point.

For instance, the protagonist faces their biggest challenge. It’s a key element of a play so that the built up tension throughout the story leaves readers very invested in the outcome. The climax should be unpredictable but still make sense within the context of the story.

Falling Action

The falling action is when the main conflict starts to resolve.

This is usually the point at which the protagonist begins to take control and make things happen, instead of reacting to events. The falling action can often be subdivided into a series of smaller conflicts or crises that must be faced before the final resolution. These smaller conflicts often involve secondary characters, and can provide insight into the protagonists' motivations and values.

Resolution

The resolution is the part of the story where everything is explained and tied up neatly (but sometimes not so!).

Sometimes the resolution occurs right at the end, but sometimes it happens earlier on and the rest of the story is just tying up loose ends. There are always exceptions to this rule of course, but in general, a resolution is generally considered to be a good thing.

1, 2 or 3 Act Play Structure?

Most plays are organized according to a 2 or 3 act structure. This simply means that the play is divided into sections, with each section corresponding to a specific act. The number of acts can vary depending on the length and complexity of the play, but most fall within the 2-3 act range.

Each act typically contains several scenes, which are further divisions within the act. The scene is the basic unit of action in a play, and usually corresponds to a specific location or time. For example, a play might have two acts, each of which contains three scenes. In this case, the play would be said to have a 6 scene structure. This basic framework provides a helpful starting point for understanding how a play is organized.

Casting

The next step is casting. This involves finding people who look right for their parts, as well as having them audition in front of a group of directors, producers and other staff members. Once they have been cast, the production team begins rehearsal.

Rehearsals

During the rehearsal period, you should focus on making sure you get the most out of the time by planning ahead for everything from logistics to wardrobe choices. It's important to have a clear idea of what you want your performance to look like before the show starts. This will help you stay focused on the task at hand.

Read through

The first rehearsal usually consists of a table read of the script where each actor simply reads their lines. Directors may decide to cut or modify lines based on how the table reads go.

Staging

Staging, or blocking, is the process of determining where each actor will move within a scene. Most stage directions are pretty basic, so the director has a lot of freedom to decide who is supposed to be saying what while he or she is saying their lines. This usually takes up to two weeks of rehearsals.

Rehearse

Practice as much as you can until you feel comfortable. Actors will of course have to memorize their parts and practice until they're ready for the big night. Graduating from reading lines to going "off book" should be a gradual process rather than setting a deadline for memorized lines at one go.

Special Rehearsals

Some theater plays might require a special rehearsal, such as dance choreography before they can be brought into regular rehearsals.

Dress Rehearsal

Finally, all the elements of the play can be incorporated into one dress rehearsal. The idea is to perform as if it's already opening night, and all the elements come together.

Publicity and Opening Night

Whether it's you or a producer who will take on this role, it's definitely an important one that can make or break a play's success. How will you sell tickets?

Besides promoting by word of mouth through friends, family and other networks, paid and non-paid online marketing along with a website to buy tickets will be worth the effort.

Conclusion

Casting, rehearsal, staging, publicity and opening night- these are the basics of putting on a play. Of course, there is much more that goes into the process, but this should give you a good starting point.

Directors and producers shouldn't just focus on the technical process , but on the emotional journey that the audience will go through as well. After all, that's what live theater is all about.

So go out there and put on a great show!

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