Script Analysis for Directors, Part 2: Going Deeper

Script Analysis for Directors
Written by Kerry Hishon

In Script Analysis for Directors, Part 1: Scanning the Script, we started our pre-rehearsal planning process with a simple scan of the script to get our early thoughts and ideas out on paper. Once the initial scan has been completed, it’s time to go deeper into the meat of the script, get even more specific, and get these ideas into the hands of your eager student designers and crew members. The following tips will help you to get even more organized and feeling good about your pre-production process.

In our previous article, we started our initial scan of the script by making basic notes on eight different categories: Lights, Sound, Special Effects, Costumes/Hair/Makeup, Props, Set, Concerns (problems, potentially difficult scenes, aspects to assign to the musical director or choreographer, etc.) and Ideas (notes about creative solutions to problems, concept thoughts, etc.). These are the ideas and thoughts that came up immediately during the first scan of the script. On the second scan of the script, we’re going into detective mode to look for more technical clues and insights that we may have overlooked during the first scan.

As mentioned in the previous article, certain technical cues will be clearly indicated within your script, such as Blackout or SFX: train whistle. You’ll need to look harder now for less obvious ones. For example, consider the stage direction Suddenly, a bolt of lightning splinters the ship and throws the humans overboard (which is one of the first stage directions in the musical Tarzan). That one sentence incorporates at least three technical concerns: a lightning effect (Lights), possible thunder sounds as well as the sound of the splintering ship (Sound), and throwing the humans overboard (could be Set, Special Effects, Concerns, or Ideas, depending on your staging plan). Further on in that scene, the humans wash up on the shoreline. How will you stage the transition from the water to the shoreline?

Once you have completed your second scan of the script for technical and design ideas, you will want to type up or make copies of certain lists to give directly to your team members. For example, give the Props list to the props head, give the Set list to the set designer, and so on. You’ll also want to send along your initial lighting, sound, and special effects notes to the stage manager and the specific technicians/designers, so they can start their work on the show. Communicating your ideas to your team early means that you’ll have less chance of things getting left until the last minute during rehearsals.

For the third pass of the script start looking deeper at themes and character work. Consider the following questions:

  • Are there any repeated thoughts expressed by the characters or situations that occur at different points throughout the script? These repeated moments should be noted and emphasized.
  • Do the characters have any catchphrases or stand-out lines that you’d like to highlight?
  • If your show is particularly well-known or is an adaptation, parody, or homage to a famous “something” (whether that be a song, a character, a situation, or a show), is there a particular part of the show that you want to emphasize? For example, if you are producing The Wedding Singer (which is a musical based on an Adam Sandler movie), where are the specific “Adam Sandler” over-the-top moments within the show?
  • Conversely, is there a scene or situation that you want to downplay or de-emphasize? For example, if you are doing a production of Alice in Wonderland, do you want to go the Disney route of putting Alice in a blue dress, or do you want to have her wear something different? Will she still be recognizable?
  • Are there any cuts or adjustments you want to make? (And if so, do you have permission from the playwright or rights holders to do so?)
  • When reading the script, what feelings, emotions, words, or thoughts pop into your head? Write those down, even if they don’t make any sense to you in the moment.

The second and third deeper passes of the script can really help you to peel back the layers of the script and figure out exactly where you want to take this show. It’s great to have your students try these script scans as well. They can practice their observation and note-taking skills. They may even bring forward some concerns or ideas that you hadn’t thought of.

Click here for a free printable tip sheet and a classroom exercise.

Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage combatant from London, Ontario, Canada. She blogs at

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About the author

Kerry Hishon

Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage combatant from London, Ontario, Canada. View her blog at