Defining Stage Space

Theatre practitioners use specific terms to help them to describe different aspects of stage space. Readers of play scripts and performers will find it useful to learn the definitions for some of the key descriptive codes that playwrights use. The most common ones that are used in dramatic texts refer to specific locations on the stage.

Upstage: The space towards the rear of the stage is said to be ‘upstage’. The term comes from the days when the stage really did slope upward towards the back. Sometimes you will here people say that one actor ‘upstaged’ another. This usually means that he or she deliberately tried to pull the audience’s attention away from the other actor and put the focus of the scene on to his or herself.

Downstage: This is the opposite of ‘upstage’. It is the area towards the front of the stage.

Stage Right/Stage Left: These are perhaps the most common terms that can be found in plays. It is crucial to remember that these terms refer to the actor’s Right and Left as s/he faces the auditorium. That is, the terms relate to the play in performance.

It might be useful to envisage the stage as being divided into squares and that these terms are used to describe each square. Theatre practitioners tend to attribute differing degrees of significance to each area of the stage.