Coming from the World of Screenwriting, it proves difficult for me to discern the usage of parentheticals from the usage of stage directions in a play I'm writing. I need to know which is for what and when is it appropriate to use.

For example:

    ACT I

    Scene 1

    We are on the greenery of a park where a brisk, bright, windy       afternoon greets each of the following people sitting at the chairs:

    Enter Stage Left a female jogger, thirty-two, who has her chihuahua wrapped up in matching exercise clothing, tempts the dog into whimpering with some raw salmon.

    Female Jogger

            Who's a cutie pie? Who's a cutie pie? Sit, girl.

                    (The dog sits.)


                    (The dog jumps. The female jogger lifts the dog in her hands.)

            Kick your heels!

                    (She wiggles the dog in a way that allows the dog to clasp her paws.)

            Good girl! Good girl! Here's your treat!

                    (Enter Stage Right a business woman, also in her early 30s, carrying a messenger bag, Starbucks mocha latte and Chanel sunglasses. She seems to be contesting back-and-forth on an important phone call.

    Business Woman

                    (on the phone)

            No, no, no… I told you, Marissa, the realtor is supposed to owe us five grand. You make her… you make him--listen to me!… I know that we're late for that but what can I do, I'm at work. I'll call you later, okay? Yeah, whatever… Alright, alright, "love" you too!… Bye, Mom.

                    (disgruntled, the Business woman sits like a prissy kindergartner and opens her laptop. She starts to sip her coffee but near drops it at how hot it is.)


-.. .-

2 Answers 2


Parenthetical remarks are used to describe the attitude, tone, or action for the actor who is speaking. Stage direction describe whatever's going on on the stage in general. There's a bunch of different "standard" or "accepted" formats used to accomplish it.

The name of a character who is speaking should be capitalized and centered, just like in a screenplay. A parenthetical remark should follow it immediately (single space).

Stage directions should be indented more these days, 4.25", and double-spaced before and after.

Just like in a screenplay, should the same character continue speaking after a block of stage direction, it's a good idea to type their name again and put "(Continued)" next to it.

Your "on the phone" is the only true parenthetical remark in your text. The rest are stage directions.

Dialogue is the only element that is not indented and runs all the way from the left margin to the right.

Musicals are formatted differently, but the differences are subtle and not immediately apparent.

  • @D.R.Archila: Any time, tiger.
    – Ricky
    Commented Nov 8, 2015 at 19:45

Not true, " should be capitalized and centered," it should be left side. Character names appear in all caps, indented 4 inches from the left edge of the page. Once the character name is typed, there is never a double space that follows... the next line after a character name is never blank. The next line after a character name is either dialogue or a brief stage direction if needed. See the example pages. from this page: https://ptfaculty.gordonstate.edu/lking/CPF_play_formatting2.pdf

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