How To Format a Stage Play Script (for submitting)

  Format is extremely important.    If you submit your new play to anyone they will not read it if it is not in the proper format. There is software out there that offer auto-format but sadly I have not found one that demonstrates correct formatting. Notice the character names are in CAPS and centered. Setting, Rise and Dialogue are justified left. Single space between character’s name and first line of dialogue. Blocking (action) is indented and double-spaced from the line above. (The playwright gives the characters instructions on when and where to move.  But, keep it short.  Remember there will be a director who has their own ideas of where they want their actors to be.)  If blocking is only one word, place next to character’s name in parentheses.  A ‘beat’ is to enhance the pace of the speech and is in parentheses within the dialogue. Here is a formatting example:

                                           

ACT I
Scene 1   ©

       Setting:  A loft studio in Greenwich Village. Late afternoon. There are many paintings but all of the same woman. Large, open windows overlook the street.

       At Rise: Monty is standing at his easel. Voices are heard off stage.

                   (MONTY is painting. His clothing is
                    paint smeared.)

VOICE (Off.)

Hey, beautiful!  You’re home early.

                   (Brush in one hand, palette in the other,
                    MONTY crosses up to the windows and peers
                    into the street below. The lilting laughter of a
                    young woman is heard.) 

SAMANTHA (Voice off. teasing.)

Hey, Mr. Murray. Your wife know you’re trying to pick up women in the street?

VOICE (off.) 

No…and don’t you tell on me.  My old woman would give me what for…bothering a young lady like you. 

SAMANTHA (Voice off.)

Your secret is safe with me (beat.)…for a price.  

VOICE (off.)

Oh yeah, what’s that?

SAMANTHA (Voice off.) 

Some fresh bagels from your bakery. 

VOICE (off.)

You got a deal.  I’ll bring them home with me tomorrow.

SAMANTHA (Voice off.)

 Thanks, Mr. Murray!  I’ll look forward to it.  Bye, now. 

VOICE (off.) 

Bye, beautiful.  See you later.  

                   (MONTY’s shoulders slump and he sighs as he watches 
                    Samantha disappear into a building. HE
                    crosses down to his easel.)

MONTY (muttering.) 

Jeez…how can that old guy be so easy with her? (beat.) Monty, you’re pathetic. You can’t even say ‘hello’ to her in the street.  What the hell’s the matter with you?

(end of sample)

Title Page of your script:  Play title and Playwright’s name.  Add contact info on this page if you are submitting to a publisher, agent or theatre. 

Early in the script book,  list the Cast of Characters.  Sample:

                                                              Cast of Characters

MONTGOMERY ANDERSON:   29 years old, a reclusive artist.
SAMANTHA SPARKS:                24 years old, an aspiring actress.
DETECTIVE O’ROARKE:           38 years old, a hardened homicide detective. 
(Note: Listing the ages of the characters is very important for casting.)

Place
Greenwich Village, New York City
Current
Summer

 

Leave lots of white space on the page. Actors/Directors will need wide margins in order to write notes and blocking when in production.
Read more about How To Write a Play

Author’s note: This formatting is approved by my publisher, Samuel French, Inc. This is what they expect to see when you submit. 
  Correct FORMAT if you are self-publishing. And, yes, it’s very different!
How to Format a Screenplay

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6 Responses
  1. Elizabeth Collins says:

    Hi I am wondering about your instruction to underline the names of the characters and yet you have their names in capital letters. Advise please.

  2. Alfred Cucchoara says:

    Immediately before you include your sample, you specifically state that each character should be underlined. I recommend that this obvious error be removed if you are to maintain credibility with your readers.

  3. Laurie says:

    At the beginning where I list my cast of characters, do I list a non-speaking role? My play takes place in a diner and a waitress will stop by the table. It’s not a character per se, but the director would have to plan on having a fourth person. I’m not sure how to handle that. Thanks for your help.

    • Trisha says:

      Great question! The cast of characters is literally that. All the characters that a director will need to cast. So all characters, speaking or no should be listed. Sometimes, when’s it just what we call a ‘walk on’, the director will use a member of the technical crew. But more common, the part is offered to an actor; sometimes a person new to the stage. I once directed a play that had a dead body lying under the coffee table the entire length of the play. I had a man who showed up and asked to audition for the part. (true story and very funny).
      Hope this helps and thanks for the question, Laurie.

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