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I'm trying to find the name of an element of playwriting which describes actions performed by actors in a play. For example,

Let me see.

Picks up skull

Alas, poor Yorick!

The element I'm referring to here is "Picks up skull". Does this have a name? If so, what is it?

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Those actions are described by the author (or, as in the case of your example, by an editor) to be performed by the characters. Actors do what they damn well please. –  StoneyB May 24 '13 at 22:52
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1 Answer

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Stage direction — as mentioned in The Free Dictionary.

When the play is actually staged, as StoneyB says:

The action itself is called business in The Profession, unless it involves movement from one location to another, when it is called a cross, verb to cross. All business and crosses together constitute blocking; the director (producer in GB) blocks the play, with as much or as little fidelity to the writer's stage directions as he likes.

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+1 The action itself is called business in The Profession, unless it involves movement from one location to another, when it is called a cross, verb to cross. All business and crosses together constitute blocking; the director (producer in GB) blocks the play, with as much or as little fidelity to the writer's stage directions as he likes. –  StoneyB May 24 '13 at 22:47
    
@StoneyB: that should be its own answer or added to the current one. –  Mitch May 24 '13 at 22:50
    
@Mitch Up to Luke if he wants to use it. What he provides is a complete Answer to OP's Question; I just provide footnotes. –  StoneyB May 24 '13 at 22:53
    
Seemed like the question was more broad than that, but that's all good info, Stoney, I'll add. –  Luke Baumgarten May 24 '13 at 23:28
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Luke you seem to have not noticed the style formatting there. –  Kris May 25 '13 at 5:58
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