Video Tip Tuesday – Avoid Blackouts!

It’s Video Tip Tuesday during our month of May Madness.

The tip? Staying away from blackouts! How do you handle a play made up of short scenes without going to black after every scene?

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Hello. Welcome to our Video tips series where I’ll be sharing production tips that apply directly to our plays. Today? We’re going to talk about blackouts. Let me tell you what I feel about blackouts. Blackouts, if I may speak frankly, are a heinous blight on the theatre of today. How about that?

When an audience walks into a theatre, be it school cafeteria or Broadway, when they sit in their seat, they want to be taken into a world. They want to be enveloped into an experience. And there’s a vast number of experiences out there. But it’s the job of the play to offer an experience and keep an audience in the world. Side note: If you’re a playwright, and you’re writing a play, keep in mind what is the experience you want to offer to an audience. If you’re a director what is the manner in which you’re going to deliver this experience. It’s important.

Blackouts. In a blackout there is no experience. There is no world. What a blackout offers is an opportunity for an audience to think about their laundry. And the longer the blackout the more the real world can interfere.

All of this is important to keep in mind when producing our vignette plays. Vignette plays, short scenes on a theme. Lots of scenes, lots of opportunity to misuse blackouts. If every scene is ending in a blackout: you’ve got one scene – boom, and then another scene – blackout, and another – boom, and we’re getting repetitive, and it’s all very choppy, and you’re losing pace and timing, and most of the scenes in the vignette plays are comic, and comic scenes need pace and timing!

So what do you do? Think about using transition music when you’re moving from scene to scene. It keeps the pace up but you also have that break. Use blocking to your advantage. Have your actors on the move. Scene A is stage left, they are finishing. As they are exiting scene B is over here already entering, in place. No need for a black out.

Can blackouts be used effectively? Of course. But unless your audience is gasping out loud when the stage is plunged into darkness. Unless you’re completely re arranging the scenery. Unless you’re moving from 1882 to 2050, keep the lights on. That’s it for Video Tips.

About the author

Lindsay Price

1 Comment

  • One of the best lessons I ever learned as a director:

    “When you go to black, the audience mentally gets up, goes to the bathroom, checks the fridge, and wanders back in the middle of the next scene.”