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I am writing a stage play and would like to express my desires for casting and costuming of the characters. For instance, a historical character is of Irish ancestry (thus an actor with red hair and a convincing Irish accent would be desired) and every portrait I've seen of them has them wearing a certain style of clothing. As a playwright, I'd like to express that somehow in the play script in order to aid the director.

Is there a typical way to do this within the play script? Some sort of appendix or something? Or would I just write a document separate from the script and give it to the director with the script?

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Dramatis Personæ

The traditional character list is called dramatis personæ. It's a list of characters (speaking roles) and very brief descriptions (enough to pick them out in the scene), formatted to fit on one page.

This comes at the front, so it can be referred to while reading. No spoilers, you'll want the script to stand for itself. The first read should not have any character prejudice or signaling.

Save this detailed info for a Character Appendix or similar. It won't be appropriate for all script formats. Put it at the end so it can be removed when necessary.

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Hopefully you are reading other people's scripts --they are readily available --and if you are, you'll see that it's quite common and expected for the writer to include a lot of casting and staging details that are just intended for those producing the play, not the final audience. In screenplays, which have a relatively rigid format, these descriptions are introduced when the characters are introduced, but in writing for the theater, you have some more flexibility. The traditional practice (for plays) is to compile all the character descriptions together in their own section at the beginning.

With that said, modern actors and directors tend to resent being micromanaged, and may not appreciate all your detailed notes. For that reason, you might want to keep this section as streamlined as possible. After all, that 6 foot 5 actor with red hair and an impeccable Irish accent might not be available when the play is being cast. If those details aren't essential, you might want to drop them (and if they are essential, they are probably implied in context anyway).

  • Admittedly, I've read a lot more Shakespeare than modern play scripts (they're easier to come by, for one), and those of course lack many of the modern casting details. You make a good point though that essential traits are probably implied by the context. – Thunderforge Jun 26 at 14:56
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    Any decent library, bookstore or used bookstore should have a section of plays, including some more recent selections. It's also a very short google search to find scripts online. – Chris Sunami Jun 26 at 17:00

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