Writing about performance…

Titles must be underlined or italicized.  This includes the titles of plays (Medea), musicals (Medea!), primary source texts (The Poetics).  Song, poems, scenes, or other components of larger texts are placed within quotation marks (“Maria” from West Side Story).

Performance critiques use proper nouns to cite relevant material. “Kelli O’Hara won a Tony Award for her performance of Anna Leonowens in the Lincoln Center Theater‘s production of Rodgers and Hammerstein‘s The King and I (2015).

Also cite source material. “Based on Margaret Landon‘s popular novel Anna and the King of Siam (1944), the musical premiered…”

Use dates to distinguish original Broadway productions from revivals or film adaptations. “Adapted for the Broadway stage in 2000, the musical White Christmas first appeared on film in 1954.” Dates can also appear in parentheses. “Theatre scholars define Oklahoma! (1943) as the first integrated musical.”

If you don’t know this information, may I introduce Google…

Avoid passive verbs, especially when they allow the author to fall short of providing relevant information. Change “Anna was portrayed as an angelic savior in hoop skirts” to “O’Hara portrayed Anna as an angelic savior in hoop skirts.” Even better, to include more specificity: ” “O’Hara portrayed Anna as an angelic savior in hoop skirts, swishing through the court and capturing hearts in dresses designed by Catherine Zuber.”

(Essentially, know the major players and use their names to attribute artistic choices.)

Use terminology correctly:

Reference “actors” and “performers” as distinct from fictional “characters.”

Reference a “production” as distinct from a “performance,” the first being the cumulative work of artists who have produced something for the stage and the second being a time-bound event, the occasion of artists presenting their production.

Distinguish a “play” from a “musical.” Both are dramatic texts. Drama is a genre of literature.

Distinguish scenery (stuff on stage) from scenic design (artistic concept developed for production) from stagecraft (the construction of and manipulation of scenery).

Distinguish costumes (stuff worn by actors) from costume design (the artistry) from costume craft (the construction and manipulation of stage clothing, wigs, makeup, etc.)

Distinguish lighting (illumination) from lighting design (the artistry) from light cues (moments of distinct lighting created for a scene).

Distinguish sound (incidental noise or music) from sound design (the artistry of noise and amplification) from composition (the writing of music) from sound cues (moments of noise or musical created for a scene).

Distinguish a cast album (recorded by stage performers) from a soundtrack (recorded for a film).

Writing Guides

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