How To Format Your (Self-published) Stage Play

TS.   Now that the traditional publishers have turned you down, file away that rejection letter,  soothe your fragile writer’s ego with a hot cup of tea, some chocolate, or whatever and self-publish your play. 

 It’s important to know that the correct way to format a stage play for submitting (to a publisher, agent or theatre) is very different from the format used when publishing it. Below is a sample of the correct formatting. 

List of  Characters:  I noticed that in the Dramatists Play Service scripts, they do not list the ages of the characters.  I always provide the buyer (producer, director, etc.) the ages of the characters for ease of casting.  I know from experience that a director wants to have this information immediately when choosing a play.  What if they don’t have an eighty-year old, male who can act?  Make-up can only go so far!  Ethnicity is rarely listed but there are exceptions. But, generally, no. What if the director has a different vision for casting?

Sample: 

CAST OF CHARACTERS      (Place on the 3rd or 4th page after title, playwright’s name, Copyright notices.etc.)

Emilee. Age 13, a pubescent girl making decisions

Danny. Age 14, Emilee’s first boyfriend

Maribeth. Age 22, Emilee’s older sister

Emilee’s best friends

Ruth. Age 13. The timid one
Barb. Age 14. The bold one
Sue.   Age 14. The worrier

SETTING
A park bench. Middle School. Emilee’s house. 
TIME
Present day. 

Format Sample:

(From my published short play, “No Means NO!”© ) The formatting of the Dramatist Play Service (publishers) do use parentheses when formatting the blocking. It is jumbled into dialogue even though it does not pertain to that particular character’s ‘action’.  I find this very distracting but I am certain it has to do with production costs and keeping the page count down. Blocking direction is indented, italicized and in parentheses. Line spacing is 1.15 instead of single-spaced. Character’s names are all in CAPS and not italicized. Before dialogue, Characters’ names are all in CAPS with a period. Blocking is indented. Scene breaks should be on the next (right) page. There are no extra line-spaces between blocking and dialogue except if there is a ‘beat’ when the same character pauses. Be certain to leave plenty of white space for the actors/director’s written notes. I prefer the format used by (my publisher) Samuel French, Inc. which you see below:

                                           Scene 1 

Setting: A neighborhood park near a middle-school. Mid-afternoon.

                    (EMILEE and DANNY are seated on a bench. THEY are sitting upstage
                    with their backs to audience and 
are kissing. 
                    DANNY begins to fondle EMILEE. SHE pushes HIS hands away.)

EMILEE. No! Cut it out Danny!
DANNY. (Stopping.) I want you, Emilee. Stop being such a tease.
EMILEE. (Holding both of his wrists.) I don’t want to.

                     (DANNY begins to kiss her again. HE starts to touch her again.
                     Jumping up,
SHE yells at HIM.)

EMILEE. I said ‘No’! I don’t want you to do that!
DANNY. I thought you loved me?
EMILEE. I do.
DANNY. Okay then.

                    (DANNY pulls HER down on to the bench. HE begins to kiss
                     and fondle
EMILEE again.)

EMILEE. (Jumping up and crossing several steps away.) Stop it, Danny!

                    (SHE rushes off stage left.)

DANNY. (Rising and calling after her.) Em! I love you!

Scene 2   (New page)

Setting: Emilee’s home.

                   (SUE, RUTH and BARB are laughing and talking.
                   EMILEE is not participating.)

SUE. (Noticing her friend.) What’s wrong, Em? You sick?
EMILEE. No. Nothing.
BARB. Come on, ‘fess up. We’ve known you since first grade. What’s the matter?
RUTH. You can tell us. You know that, right?
EMILEE. (Sighing.) It’s Danny.
RUTH. Ugh! Boys!

                   (THEY laugh except EMILEE.)

SUE. Whad’ he do?
BARB. Yeah, what? We’ll beat him up for you.
EMILEE. (Laughing tearfully.) He…he wants to do stuff.
SUE. They all do.
BARB. Comes with dating, Em. They’re all dogs.
RUTH. Yeah.
EMILEE. But, I don’t wanna.
SUE. What?
EMILEE. You know…stuff. (Beat.) And I’m afraid that if I don’t, he’ll break up with me.
SUE. Yeah, there’s that.
BARB. Just do it. It’s not so bad if you close your eyes.

                 (The GIRLS who are sexually active giggle.)

RUTH. Do what?
SUE. Jimmy wanted me to kiss him…down there.
RUTH. Why?
EMILEE. I’m not doing that!
BARB. (Blurts out.) I’m having sex with Arnie.

                 (The GIRLS scream.)

SUE. No, you’re not!
BARB. Am too.
RUTH. Barbara J. Masters! I’m telling your Mom!
BARB. No you’re not, Ruthie. Remember our pledge.
SUE. I’m not having sex until I’m sixteen, at least. My parents promised me a car if I will abstain…their word…until I’m sixteen.
BARB. Car trumps a boyfriend any day.
SUE. But that doesn’t mean we don’t do other stuff.
RUTH. Barbie, you’re using a condom, right?
BARB. Arnie doesn’t like them.
RUTH. But you have to.
EMILEE. I don’t want to do any of it. And Danny keeps after me every time we’re alone. What should I do?

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Look Inside a script: Click Here 
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