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Find, Edit & Customize Play Scripts

show planning & advice Feb 16, 2024

Editing Scripts into a (show) Master Event Guide*

Finding a play script that perfectly fits your group is like trying to find a wedding dress.  You can get really close…but it will need a little work to fit what you want & need.

I’ll show you my process so you can become your own “tailor” by sharing the top places I find play scripts, show you my 25 steps to editing plays so they fit my club, and explain how I then make the script into what I call a “Master Event Guide” for the entire show process to foolproof the performance. 



Over the years I have fallen in love with the ability for live theater to promote creativity, community and joy.  Please share this video with anyone you know might benefit from starting or improving a community artistic endeavor as it can be quite an intimidating and overwhelming process at times, but it doesn’t have to be.

The 3 places I go looking for plays are Drama Notebook, Lazy Bee Scripts and Teachers Pay Teachers

Make sure you read and follow all the rules and regulations listed for each script.

On a side note, people want to laugh.  Make ‘em laugh.  You can pick whatever genre of play you want to pick but remember that you will be spending many hours editing, planning, practicing and performing through the play you pick.  Wouldn't it be better to start by selecting something joyful?  Ok, moving on…

Time to tell you the 25 steps I put my plays through after I have chosen one but before you start editing make sure you know your venue, it’s capabilities, remove elements of producing a play that stress you out (because performances don’t need all the bells & whistles to be “good” or express creativity) and be honest with yourself about what your group is experienced enough in to be able to handle.

When I need a new play I:

1- Find the play.

2- Purchase, download, add to your club’s (MAD’s) expenses.

3- Copy and paste the play into an editable document.

4- Divide or combine lines/parts to match the number of students you have, take parts out, etc.

5- Find 2 people to read it with you and edit out/add new lines or parts in it to fit your club (people with good imaginations).

6- Take out all the fluffy things that you don't need for the Event Master Guide (example: about the play author section).

7- Make a chart at the top of your document with the play script that will become your new “Master Event Guide” because it will have all the details for the entire performance on it. This chart should have columns and rows for each character, male or female or either, the line count for each character, a costume description, characters personality details, and a space to put the name of the person who is taking that role. 

(Start with the Master Event Guide that fits your performance/event/MAD show.  Fill out the chart provided with the characters, gender (M, F, Either), line count (fill in after the play is completely edited) and add costume description and add character personality details, things that character does to help students pick and prepare for roles.

8- Number the characters so you know exactly how many you have.

9- Decide how many stage entrances/exits you will  have and mark them as needed in the play. Obviously, one stage exit is the easiest and new clubs (MAD's) should definitely only have only one.

10- Make a prop list for each scene as you read, add the props in the place they are needed in the actual script location needed and add the names of each character & person & prop they need next to each new scene/act title.

11- Correct bad language, change what you don't like, change characters names you don’t like, and things that are outdated or offensive.

12- Insert songs between scenes, compile playlists for pre-show, intermission & post-show on the app of your choice.

13- Insert sound effects in the exact spot on the script (this will make the plays much more complicated. Sound effects can be eliminated, and new MAD’s should not do sound effects yet).

14- Insert acting suggestions.

15- Change all the “Acts” and “scenes” to only “scenes” in numerical order (having both acts and scenes is confusing), use actual numbers (not spelled numbers) and a 1 or 2 word description of the scene (example: Scene 4 The Castle).

16- If you haven't already, next to each scene title enter characters/actor names (list both together for the description of who is in each scene) so anyone helping at play practice knows both the character name and the actors name in each scene, and because putting the names together helps everyone learn all the character names with their actor. Enter these characters in their “line up order” as they should go on stage first to last.  Be sure to add their props needed in that scene next to their name. 

17- In the chart at the beginning of the Master Event Guide, add as many details as possible about the things a specific role would need to make the best character (examples: loud voice, strong enough to pick someone up, able to keep from laughing, short or tall, etc.).

18- List out the characters in each bowing row, fill in details for the opening and closing remarks to fit your play.

19- List out who is in each scene (for easier practice reference) in the list at the end of the Master Event Guide, and what props are needed for each scene, what backdrops are needed for each scene.

20- Consider doing (or having someone do) sketches for backdrops, props (stage placement for all these things), actor placements for complicated scenes, etc.

21- Format the Master Event Guide so it’s void of empty lines and negative space as much as possible so it can be printed in the fewest number of pages possible (remove blank lines, make the font size 9, remove any unnecessary writing), make the whole thing the same font, leading and tracking the same, indent lines to make it easier to read, make sure the page numbers are on there so people can reference pages easily during practice, 

22- Fill in all the jobs and roles (adults and students), Adults only for “backstage” and “sending students on stage” roles because it makes students look & feel mean to boss their peers around, make sure each person reads their Job* description.

23- Add an intermission if the show is going to last more than an hour.

24- Once this is all done you will have a “(show) Master Event Guide*” and it should be printed ASAP for everyone on double-sided paper copies for all your MAD members and adult helpers, and extra for line reader, extra copies when students forget theirs. Post it on the app as well.

25- Finally, as you can see, I color coded everything so each person with a job can easily find the task they are in charge of and so the Master Event Guide isn’t just a sea of black words on a white page.  It’s easier to memorize something that is broken up visually.

Master Event Guide will  help your whole event night flow, allow the cast & crew & adults to follow along with each detail, make it cohesive, self explanatory and more successful.  I leave absolutely no detail out when making the Master Event Guide, or stuff simply won’t end up happening.  

Everyone needs to be on the exact same page from the first practice, literally. The Master Event Guides can make this happen. Some students prefer the color version of the Master Event Guide, while others prefer to print it in black and white because it’s easier to see their highlighted parts.  Everyone should take the time to highlight their own job/role. 

I’m working on a video to apply my “Master Event Guide” process to weddings because my oldest daughter is getting married this summer and I’m “fool proofing” that as well, so check for that video soon.

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