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 similar to 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 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.)

                                                                       CAST OF CHARACTERS (centered.)

Emma ~~ A young earthling girl
Stare ~~ A rhetorical owl
Donald ~~ A young fairie
Cheets ~~ a rambunctious elf
Patsy ~~ A large banana spider
Agnes & Annie ~~ the sister Aardvarks
Thomas ~~ the sea-faring sea turtle
Bertie ~~ the resident reading teacher

SETTING
The Fabled Forest
TIME
Present day. 

Format Sample:

(From my published children’s play, “Emma and the Aardvarks”© ) 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, centered, and not italicized. Before dialogue, Characters’ names are all in CAPS with a period. Blocking is indented x 2. 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:

 

ACT II  (centered & underlined.)

 

Scene 2

At Rise:   A clearing in the fabled forest.

(EMMA and MRS. MOSEYALONG are sitting together on the grass. The PUPPIES are rolling around, play fighting, in the grass as puppies do. CHEETS is trying to get into the play. AGNES and ANNIE sit across from THEM reading THEIR book on Australia.)

MRS. MOSEYALONG

Let me assure you, Emma, we hunt and eat impala, Thomson’s gazelle and common wildebeest. Also, smaller animals such as dik-dik and warthogs.

CHEETS
(Stopping HIS play with the PUPS.)

That’s a funny word. Dik-dik. (Demanding.) Cheets wants to know what it means.

                                                                     EMMA

Manners, Cheets. Perhaps you could ask Mrs. Moseyalong about dik-diks.

                                                                 CHEETS

Cheets wants to know about dik-diks.

                                                                  STARE

Who?

                     (EMMA sighs.)                                             

                                                   MRS. MOSEYALONG

It’s all right, Emma. Sometimes my pups can be very rude. (To Cheets.) Dik-diks are a small antelope.  We don’t hunt Aardvarks. We find their meat far too fatty.

                                                         AGNES
                                                   (Over-hearing.)

I beg your pardon. We are not fatty.  Really! Annie, did you hear what that dog said about us?

                                                         ANNIE

Oh, I don’t think she meant⸺

                                          MRS. MOSEYALONG
                                       (Speaking simultaneously.)

I didn’t mean⸺

                                                   AGNES

Really! The nerve of some dogs.

                                       MRS. MOSEYALONG
                              (Turning back to Emma and Cheets.)
                                   
Dik-dik live in the bushland of Africa. Sadly, they are being driven to extinction in some parts of our homeland. We try to eat other things.

                                                    PATSY
                                 (Knitting her web furiously.)

Iii–Eee!  Los pequeños, los cachorros! Mrs! Your children are destroying my web. Mira! See what they have done.

                            (Slowly rising, SHE crosses to where HER pups are bumping into the lower strands of Patsy’s web. SHE  growls once deep in HER throat.)

                                   MRS. MOSEYALONG

Grrrrrr⸺         

                                     (The PUPS instantly stop THEIR play and run to THEIR mother’s side, whining and kissing HER  face.)

                                     MRS. MOSEYALONG

I apologize, Miss Patsy. My pups are careless but mean no harm.

                                                   PATSY

Dios mío, qué molestia! My beautiful web. Now I will have to repair. Go away! I am very⸺how you say⸺ocupada.

                                     (MRS. MOSEYALONG leads HER litter to the other   side of the glen, where EMMA is sitting. ROGER, JAX  and SERENGETI pile into EMMA’s lap and EMMA   falls back in the grass, laughing.)

                                    (FERGUS and DONALD enter.)

                                   MRS. MOSEYALONG

Good morning, Sir Fergus, Mr. Donald. (Turning to her pups.) Quiet down, children.

                                    (The PUPPIES, stop their wrestling atop EMMA and sit  at attention watching the adults. EMMA sits up.)

                                                  EMMA

Good morning. Sir Fergus, did you rest well? 
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