How to Teach Stage Directions

Teaching stage directions is easy.

If you are planning on directing a school play, you will first need to make sure your students understand stage directions. Teaching stage directions isn't that hard but it requires students to think a little bit differently than they are used to. If you plan for the lesson, it's possible to teach an entire group of kids all about stage directions at the same time.

Tape out a grid on your stage made up of three squares by three squares. All the squares need to be of equal size.

Explain to your pupils what the terms "Stage Right" and "Stage Left" mean and how they differ from "House Right" and "House Left." Stage Right and Stage Left correspond to the direction the actor moves when he is standing on stage, facing the audience. House Right and House Left correspond to the direction someone moves when they are in the audience, or "house," facing the stage. Stage Right and House Left are the same direction.

Explain what is meant by "Upstage" and "Downstage." Upstage is the area at the rear of the stage, away from the audience. Downstage is the area closest to the audience at the foot of the stage. So, when an actor moves "upstage," she is moving away from the audience. These terms come from a time when stages were slanted down toward the audience so an actor who went "upstage" literally walked up a slant.

Make the class stand in Center Stage on your grid. Call out directions and have them move as a group Stage Left and Stage Right, Upstage and Downstage. After a few times, bring them back to the center. Begin to mix up the directions a bit by calling out areas like Downstage Left, Upstage Center or Center Right. Have the class go to the area of your stage grid that you call out.

Give your students a worksheet with a drawing of the stage and have them write down what each section is.

  • You can make a game out of it and begin calling out directions faster and faster. If an actor moves the wrong direction, he is out of the game. The last one standing wins a prize.

R.L. Cultrona is a San Diego native and a graduate of San Diego State University. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in theater, television and film with a minor in communications and political science. She began writing online instructional articles in June 2009.