This essay introduces the concept of affective stage directions as a tool for taking into account how certain stage directions use affective means to engage the embodied imaginations of actors, directors, and designers. Affective stage directions avoid direct instructions for staging in favor of metaphors, abstract pictures, and alternate scenarios, thereby creating spaces for us all to rethink our assumptions about what kinds of bodies are put onstage and what they do once they are there. In this way, affective stage directions engage directly with the sociopolitical concerns of the theatre-makers staging, or even simply reading, them. How these stage directions affect the people reading and performing them will change based on the time period, geographic location, and particular political concerns of the people who are bodily thinking through them. The essay provides case studies revealing how such a shift in consideration opens up possibilities in performance, but also how this method of approaching stage directions has power in the imagined performances conjured up by readers. As many eventual theatre-makers begin their process with a play through reading, thinking through stage directions affectively is an opportunity available to all people coming into contact with the written text of a script. The concept of affective stage directions examines how these often-ignored portions of the script enable a great deal of agency, as they provide opportunities to reimagine how to think through texts in a bodily way without disregarding the words entirely.


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pp. 307-326
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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