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From Script to Stage/Screen: Part 2

In our first article, we looked at how research was vital to prepare any director to present a script onto the stage or screen. Before an audience ever sees any kind of finished product, or really before the first rehearsal even begins, the director is faced with four major responsibilities. These four responsibilities include Research, Scripting, Reality, and Moments. This second column will explore how to read between the lines of any script to get the message intended for the audience.


As a producer or writer seeks a director to put their ideas into a visible reality Click To Tweet, there is always the early meeting where many things are discussed. The first thing to be communicated is the basic theme of the play or musical. Once the director is intrigued, a script is usually given. The script is the playbook from which all decisions are made. The script gives you the basic who, what, when and where and now of any production. Yet, all questions are not answered and that is where the author usually gives the director interpretive control of what is produced. There are some writers who retain tight control of their intellectual property. One example is J. K. Rowling who had power over almost every decision of the Harry Potter series. But, in most cases, the writer takes a backseat to those putting up the money (the producers) and the director who interprets the script.

The director is given a wide range of discretion when putting the words of an author on stage or screen. Take for example the script of Jesus Christ Superstar. In one of the first act’s great songs, Mary Magdalene sings “I Don’t Know how to Love Him”, while Jesus is asleep. The stage directions say that Mary is unconditionally in love with Jesus.  Every stage production I’ve seen has Jesus asleep while she sings.

What is different is Mary Magdalene’s approach to the song. In the original 1973 movie, Mary is nearby Jesus and you are not sure if Mary is in love with Jesus as a man or as a follower. In the 2000 movie version, Mary is almost fondling Jesus as he sleeps. There is no doubt that her love for Jesus is merely sexual in nature. In a national touring Broadway production, Mary lies down on top of Jesus at the end of the song as the lights faded on the scene. Here, it is implied that Jesus and Mary Magdalene have relations.

So, which is the right approach? Which director was correct in their interpretation of the script? To answer that question, you would have to ask Andrew Lloyd Webber himself. In an interview, less than a year old, Mr. Webber mentions that Mary Magdalene does fall in love with Jesus, the man. So, was our first director mistaken? The simple answer is no. The romance was implied through the subtle direction rather than taking a tree branch and hitting us over the head to make that statement like our last example.

This is where good research comes into play. IS there any historical evidence that Mary Magdalene and Jesus Christ had anything other than a master/follower relationship? These answers then will lead you to our third responsibility of reality versus implied situations. We will focus on this aspect in our next article.

Characters have personalities and certain characteristics that must be shown consistently on stage. Click To Tweet You need to keep focus where focus needs to be. Sometimes the stage directions need interpreting or need clarification. That is where a smart director will keep the focus on what is most important to the plot of the script.

Disney World’s Hollywood Studios, presents a short live-action presentation of Beauty and the Beast. Gaston urges the villagers to hunt down the Beast, but there is one man who is visibly struggling with this decision. A woman tries to get this villager to resist joining the mob. All this is happening while Gaston is singing, “Kill the Beast.” I watched the exchange between the wife and man instead of Gaston. I do not know if they intended to distract from the main singer, but obviously there was a message that the director wanted to get across. These are the kind of decisions made each day by directors all over the world. All of these possibilities can be interpreted through the script or libretto. Though the writer created the script, the director becomes the storyteller. What story and messages are you planning on delivering to your audience? Click To Tweet Only you can answer that question as you prepare for your first rehearsal.

Dr. Jim Tippins is currently President of On the Edge Productions, Inc., a resource for Christian scripts and minister aids. An award winning author, Dr. Tippins is proud to share the stories that God has laid on his heart. He has produced, written, and directed scripts, musicals, reviews, and plays all over the country. He has performed with the Kentucky Opera, Overture Opera Company, Theater of the Republic, Swamp Fox Players, Community Choral Society, Florence Symphony and Long Bay Symphony. To see resources and more information, please visit,

www.ontheedgeproductions.org. Or join his blog at drjimtippins.com

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