How to Read a Play: Script Analysis for Directors, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

How to Read a Play

Script Analysis for Directors, 1st Edition

By Damon Kiely


204 pages

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pub: 2016-03-11
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The work done on a play before the first rehearsal, the first group reading or even the before the cast have met, can be crucial to the success of a production. Directors and dramaturgs must know how to analyze, understand and interpret a play or performance text if they hope to bring it to life on the stage.

This book provides a broad range of tools and methods that can be used when reading a text, including:

  1. Lessons from the past. What can we learn from Aristotle, Stanislavsky, Meyerhold, Vakhtangov, Brecht and Harold Clurman? This section establishes the models and methods that underpin much of a director’s work today.
  2. A survey of current practices in Western theatre. A combination of research, interviews and observation of practical work addresses the main stages in understanding a play, such as getting to know characters, sharing ideas, mapping the action and grappling with language.
  3. A workbook, setting out twenty one ways of breaking down a play, from the general to the particular.

Contributions, reflections and interjections from a host of successful directors make this the ideal starting point for anyone who wants to direct a play, or even devise one of their own. This wide range of different approaches, options and techniques allows each reader to create their own brand of play analysis.


"Damon Kiely has written a book that is readable and helpful to everyone faced with the very particular challenges of reading plays. Clearly driven by his own curiosity, Kiely examines how talented theater professionals throughout history have found success and true gratification in reading scripts."

- Anne Bogart

Table of Contents

Forward by Anne Bogart


Lessons from the past


Konstantin Stanislavski

Vsevolod Meyerhold

Yevgeny Vakhtangov

Bertolt Brecht

Harold Clurman

A Survey of Current Practices

Digging into the Script on Your Own

Reading the Play for the First Time

Moving Past First Impressions

Going beyond the Words on the Page

Preparing for Design Meetings and Casting Sessions

Sharing your Read on the Play

Discovering the World of the Play

Getting to Know the Characters

Gearing up for Rehearsing with Actors

Grasping the Given Circumstances

Mapping the Action

Grappling with the Language

Reading a Play without a Script: Notes on Devising

What do you start with?

What are you analyzing?

What is a play?

Workbook Chapter

The First Steps in Preparation

Getting Ready to Talk to Designers

Getting Ready to Cast the Play

Getting Ready for Rehearsal

Checking Your Handle on Structure

A Final Gut Check


Character Biographies

French Scenes: List Version

French Scenes: Chart Version

Director Breakdown

Moment Chain

Streetcar Punctuation Write Up

The Tempest Punctuation Write Up


List of Interviews

Biographies of Interviewees

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
DRAMA / General
PERFORMING ARTS / Theater / General