Understanding text directions in theater


Don't know what a didascalia is ? Here are some basics for reading and working with drama.

Writing for the theater has its own language and its own rules. 

We'll break down the basics here together. The text is organized in several parts:


At the beginning of each play, you'll find the characters with their ages and relationships. 

Sometimes you will also be given a context (time, place, brief history). 


The plays are then divided into several acts. Historically, the change of act signaled a change of scene. In contemporary theater, the divisions can be a little different. 

Within these acts, you will find scenes. Scenes usually change with the entrance or exit of a character.

In contemporary theater, scenes can also mean a change of place, of temporality, of atmosphere.... 


In the body of the text, you will have either the dialogues (thus the character who speaks then his text) 

Isabelle: This is my life. Do you think it will change anything if I wait here?

Emma: Go ahead then, leave! 

This is what we call the didascalies, i.e. the intentions, movements and actions. These are indications given by the author for the staging and direction of the actors. They can appear at the beginning of a scene:

Between Antoine holding a knife in his hand. 

Or they may be inserted between dialogues. 

Silence. The light goes out suddenly. 

They are usually noted in italics in the text and should not be read, but taken into account (or not!) for the work of the play. 

Note that the indications of the characters who speak and the indications of address are also didascalies (and therefore should not be read aloud). 

Isabelle: I know very well what I'm doing. (to Emma) We'll both go another time, okay? 

And then ? 

Do you want to work on these texts? At Apolline, we offer acting classes dedicated to text interpretation! Come and test your new culture on stage!