1. Foamy

    Foamy New Member

    Mar 2, 2010
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    Voice Overs in scripts?

    Discussion in 'By the Genre' started by Foamy, Mar 3, 2010.

    I have finished my first play script ( for acting out on stages and such.), some time ago and have decided to include a character that narrates at the beginning (he is however not yet introduced officially as a character on stage, at that time period.), he introduces all of the eminent characters in my play and I was wondering would this be acceptable in terms of a drama play? I also need advice, as to how often voice-overs should be used in both movies and drama plays, as well as how long they should be, when used.

    I am deciding on commencing writing with drama scripts first and then will move on to movie scripts, in order to get the gist of the basics, but I still have a long way to go, so I would appreciate any help.
  2. digitig

    digitig Contributor Contributor

    Jan 21, 2010
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    Orpington, Bromley, United Kingdom, United Kingdom
    The role you're describing seems similar to that of the Greek chorus, a well established dramatic device, a bit quirky nowadays but can still be used effectively. The Greek chorus is usually onstage, though. If the narration is offstage then you need to consider what the audience will be looking at. And it's a technique that needs handling with great care, because there will be a strong temptation to put stuff in the narration that either should be in the dramatic action or that shouldn't be there at all. I'm inclined to say "If you need to ask -- don't!"

    For effective use of a Greek chorus, consider the Women of Canterbury in Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral, The Liebeslieder Singers in Stoppard/Wheeler's A Little Night Music and Chiffon/Ronette/Crystal in Little Shop of Horrors. All of them onstage, though.
  3. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Nov 21, 2006
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    Coquille, Oregon
    if you haven't studied 'our town' you should... what you seem to want to do is similar to what was done there, to great effect... in that, the narrator is called the 'stage manager' and is thus free to 'break the fourth wall' and address the audience directly...

    what you seem to want to do is not going to be as effective, since first of all, the actor doing the VO will have to use a microphone and speaker to have his lines heard from backstage, or in the wings... and that won't be effective, imo, unless this is meant to be a horror story, with an eerie voice issuing seemingly from nowhere...

    having a 'real' person introduce your characters is ok, but you should really have him off to the side of the stage, as was done in 'our town' and not hidden, with a disembodied voice, imo...

    and for a stage play, lines from one not on stage wouldn't be headed 'Off Stage' by most seasoned playwrights... 'VO' is a screenplay term, though it's been adopted for stage plays now, by some newer writers, i suppose...

    it's a good idea to study up on the proper 'in' terminology, if you want to become a professional playwright/screenwriter... or any kind of writer... such as being aware of the fact that all stage plays are not 'drama plays'... many of them being comedies... so that term is not the opposite of 'screenplays'... plays written for the stage are simply called 'stage plays'...

    i've written both and mentor many screenwriters and playwrights, so if you'd like to be added to my mass of 'mentees' just drop me a line... i can also send you lots of basic info on both mediums, plus format guides...

    love and hugs, maia

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