Stage directions are the terminology used to direct traffic on stage. All stage directions are given in reference to facing the audience while standing on stage (much like port and starboard on ships). There are four basic stage directions: upstage, downstage, stage left, and stage right. Stage left and stage right should be fairly self explanatory. Upstage refers to moving away from the audience and downstage refers to moving closer to the audience. The terms upstage and downstage originated from the use of raked stages where the part of the stage closer to the audience would be lower than the part of the stage farthest from the audience.
==The Stage Directions==
Upstage: The back of the stage or part of the stage farthest from the audience.
Downstage: The front of the stage or part closest to the audience.
Stage Left: The left of the stage when facing the audience.
Stage Right: The right of the stage when facing the audience.
Center Stage: The Center of the stage.
On Stage: Used in reference to moving laterally towards the center of the stage.
Off Stage: Used in reference to moving laterally towards the sides of the stage.
Mid Stage: The general area around center stage.
In: Used in reference to flying a piece of scenery down or towards the stage.
Out: Used in reference to flying a piece of scenery up or away from the stage.
When taking down blocking notation in a prompt script, the 5 basic directions (Up, Down, Left, Right, and Center) are abbreviated to their initial and used in combinations to best describe where an actor is to be located. For example an actor may leave the chair DR (Down Right) and exit through the door UL (Up Left).
It's common to divide a stage into nine areas:
UR, UC, UL==House Directions (Also Camera Directions)==
SR, CC, SL
DR, DC, DL
The upstage and downstage areas may also be abbreviated as USR, USC, USL, DSR, DSC, and DSL.
Five areas across may also be used: SR, SRC, C, SLC, SL; or SRR, SR, C, SL, SLL.
House directions are essentially the same as stage directions except that the perspective is that of someone sitting in the audience rather that an actor on stage. House directions are best used in a theatre such as a proscenium arch where the front of the seating area butts up to the front of the stage. Clearly these directions could get confusing in an arena or black box setting arranged in something other that the traditional proscenium arch configuration.
Up House: The portion of the audience seating area farthest from the stage.
Down House: The portion of the audience seating area closest to the stage.
House Right: The right side of the audience seating area when facing the stage.
House Left: The left side of the audience seating area when facing the stage.
Center House: The center of the audience seating area.
Mid House: The general area around center house.
For non-proscenium/end stage applications, "upstage" is mutually agreed upon and all the same directions are used. For true "in-the-round" staging, either compass points (N,S,E,W), or clock face numbers are used.
"Upstage" and its conjugations may also be used as verbs, meaning to stand behind a performer forcing him/her to face away from the audience and thus weakening his position (as the audience is looking at his back) and strengthening one's own. Modern usage has evolved to mean any performance that takes undue focus--"the dog in Annie totally upstaged everyone else when he scratched himself."