Directing Strong Women

Image created for Westinghouse by J. Howard Miller. Now in the public domain.Occasionally, we come across stage directions like the one Nathan found in a Nativity pastiche: “Enter Jane – carrying baby Jesus, Michael and Mary.”  It’s very tricky to cast roles that require such a balance of delicacy and strength.
Of course, it’s clear what the writer meant, so we could just let it stand.  On the other hand, it detracts from the quality of the writing and we’d prefer the laughs to come from the deliberate comedy.

It can be difficult to phrase stage directions to convey all the information succinctly.  In this case, the writer was trying to combine two lists – the list of characters entering the stage and the list of things carried by Jane.  The optimum phrasing depends on whether or not the order of entrance is important and how many characters are carrying objects.  So, for example:

  • If the order is unimportant: “Enter Michael, Mary and Jane who carries baby Jesus.”
  • If the order matters: “Enter Jane, carrying baby Jesus, followed by Michael and Mary.”
  • If more people carry things: “Enter Jane, Michael and Mary.  Jane carries baby Jesus, Michael carries a bag…”

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