On the Book


Being on the book in theatrical terms means an actor who has not learned their lines, and needs to rely on their script.

However, what I do is different – and is a variation of the term blocking.

As the director decides where actors are to enter and exit each scene, and how movement about the stage is to flow, my job is to record these movements exactly in the script.

The term blocking derives from the practice of 19th-century theatre directors such as Sir W. S. Gilbert who worked out the staging of a scene on a miniature stage using blocks to represent each actor.

I’m not sure if Helen, as director, or Clare as deputy-director actually use blocks when working things out, I’ll have to ask ….. (no – though lego models have been used by past WOAS teams!)

I need to attend every rehearsal with my toolkit, consisting of play script, pot of sharp pencils, and most importantly, my eraser.

I always start each new play with a pack of sharp pencils, which dwindle in number as rehearsals progress, as cast and crew “borrow” them to add notes to their own scripts!

In addition to exits, entrances and basic positions and movements, it is also important to record other stage directions, such as use of props, and specific interactions between cast members, even if they are not the exact focus of the audience’s attention at the time. Someone somewhere in the audience will notice these details. Even if the actors feel they are not necessarily important, they most certainly are being observed!

This recording serves as a vital aide-memoir to the actors and production team. It is useful if anyone misses a rehearsal, because I can help them once they return.

Of course, directions change as the staging evolves, and I frequently reach for my trusty eraser. In addition, I closely read any notes and emails the director sends to the cast to identify changes needed in my script.

Once the actual production is underway, my job is done. It is a bit like sitting in a driverless car, as at this point there is nothing I can do. I can hardly shout, “No, stage left please ….. LEFT!” if somebody inadvertently wanders on stage through the wrong entrance. 

I clearly remember one occasion when a cast member (who was bringing on a prop crucial to the whole play) failed to appear at all! While I held my breath, covered my eyes, and prayed fervently to all the theatre gods, the actor already on stage had the astonishing presence of mind to ad-lib – for what seemed like an eternity –  until eventually the hapless character stumbled (or was pushed?) into the limelight. 


Whether you call it being on the book, or blocking, it’s a very interesting and important job, and I’m really proud to do it.

Now, excuse me please while I count my remaining pencils.

By Pippa, Rehearsal Manager