Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Annette J. Saddik

Committee Members

Marvin Carlson

Jean Graham-Jones

Subject Categories

Dramatic Literature, Criticism and Theory | Other Theatre and Performance Studies | Theatre and Performance Studies


stage directions, affect, performativity, queer phenomenology, theatre, embodiment


This project contends that certain kinds of stage directions can affectively engage the bodies of actors, and the imaginations of directors and designers, resulting in a collaboratively created performance of a given theatre text. As opposed to more literary treatments of stage directions, this project contends that theories of embodiment, especially affect theory, is a useful lens through which to explore the range of potential performances present in various stage directions. By analyzing the ways in which stage directions allow for more agency than has traditionally been considered in theatre scholarship, I seek to encourage theatre makers and scholars alike to explore the potential contained in these historically marginalized portions of theatrical texts. I focus on the work of six English-language playwrights who are known for their creative uses of stage directions: Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams, Brian Friel, Lisa D’Amour, Sarah Ruhl, and Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. Through analyzing the oeuvres of these six playwrights, I have identified five different tactical uses of stage directions that require collaboration from the future theatre makers who will encounter these play texts in order to supply various active and enacted portions of the plays. Although the Method, and other prevalent acting techniques in the United States, have encouraged actors to disregard stage directions, the kinds of stage directions analyzed in this project are written in a variety of ways that challenge that dismissal, ultimately reorienting actors towards these unspoken pieces of text. In this sense, Spoken Stage Directions, Affective Stage Directions, Choreographic Stage Directions, Multivalent Stage Directions, and Impossible Stage Directions all performatively affect the actors, directors, and designers encountering them, allowing for a wide range of potential performances. This process is also inherently queer, as expressed via Sara Ahmed’s concepts from Queer Phenomenology, where Ahmed theorize that queer orientation is a process of physical and ideological reorientation. As stage directions are marginalized portions of texts, privileging them is a process of queering, and one which requires a physical and mental reorientation towards the play scripts being discussed. This project begins the work of a more theatrical approach to the analysis of stage directions, and is meant to be of use not only to theatre scholars, but also the practical theatre makers who will encounter these texts.