Kidnie discourses on editors’ revisions of stage directions and the effect on staging the performance and on the reader of the text. Her conclusion asserts that the nebentext (side text – including stage directions) is as important as the haupttext (dialogue). Any modification made to the stage directions not only alters the performance, but also restricts the reader’s interpretation of the text.
Kidnie essentially plays devil’s advocate to other scholars’ theories. I can see that on one side, the stage directions are there to be followed. In some plays, the writer demands that the play only be commissioned if the director adamantly follows all stage directions perfectly. In my opinion, this is excessively anal. I tend to belong to the other faction that looks at stage directions as suggestions. If stage directions are viewed in this manner, various productions will have an original appeal to them. My belief on stage directions made the article a difficult read. If the stage directions are viewed as suggestions, who cares if they may have been modified? A suggestion is open for acceptance anyway. The job of the director is to decide how to effectively block the scene so a performance will run fluidly. The director is responsible for interpreting the action of the scene and deciding if any modifications need to be made. If a script requires a player to enter from upstage left and the stage does not allow for an entrance at upstage left because of space or design of the set, then the obvious thing to do is modify.
I do agree that the stage directions are important, but I do not believe they should be held at an equal value to that of the dialogue. One of Kidnie’s examples included discourse by Michael Warren about a possible missing stage direction in the quarto text of King Lear. Lear may die anywhere during the speech, but is not given a definitive time to die. That’s great! It allows for interpretation, as it should. Changes in dialogue, in my opinion, should be given strict care. There are times when a word here or there needs to be altered to appease the director, but that should be minimal – in fact, most play contracts forbid altering dialogue.