King Midas and the Whispering Grass

play by Ursula Dubosarsky, based on a Greek Myth in Ovid's Metamorphoses , illustrated by Douglas Holgate

Learning intention:

I am learning to experiment with text structures and language features when creating literary texts.

Success criteria:

  • I can reflect on why stage directions are important in plays
  • I can analyse a play to examine the way in which stage directions are written
  • I can write stage directions to accompany a brief script
  • I can adopt the appropriate style when composing stage directions

Display the following dialogue and select two students to read the lines as you perform.

Character 1: Give me that.

Character 2: No, you give it to me.

Character 1: Ahh, I can’t hold on to it.

Character 2: Why did you do that?

Character 1: I can’t believe you did that.

Discuss students’ interpretations of the action that accompanies the dialogue. Ensure students conclude that while they can establish the characters are having a disagreement, the context is ambiguous and therefore it is challenging to know exactly what is going on.

Select a student to assist you with a role play while the same two students reread the lines. Briefly explain the following to the student assisting you, ensuring the other students do not hear:

  • mime a tussle between the two of you, over an object that eventually gets dropped

Perform the actions as students re-read the script. Discuss students’ interpretations of the story now, steering students towards concluding that it is far easier to know what is going on when there is action to accompany the lines.

Inform students that when playwrights compose plays they include stage directions to ensure actors know how to perform the lines.

Read the play King Midas and the Whispering Grass noting the stage directions, for example:

KING MIDAS, wearing a crown, sits on a chair under a tree singing to himself quite out of tune.

(Enter PETRONELLA with a large pair of scissors.)


Discuss the formatting used for stage directions ensuring students note the following:

  • the names of characters are written in capital letters
  • stage directions are written in a brief and succinct way
  • they are placed in brackets
  • they are written using a different font (italics)

Discuss how to compose stage directions based on the actions composed collaboratively. For example:

(The two characters mime tossing a vase back and forth, engaging in a tussle before the vase is dropped, it smashing to the ground.)


Model how to record the stage directions by placing them inside brackets. Tell students that when writing by hand they may find it challenging to write in italic style. Discuss alternate methods for differentiating the stage directions from the dialogue in the script. For example, students may prefer to write in block capitals or to use a different colour to when noting the stage directions.


Display the following lines:

Character 1: Wait, don’t do it!

Character 2: Just you try and stop me.

Character 1: I have to, this is too serious. I cannot let you do it.

Character 2: Ha ha, too late!


Place students in groups. Instruct them to discuss with their groups actions that could accompany the lines. Tell students to note these as stage directions. After students have had time to record their stage directions, instruct them to rehearse performing the lines and the stage directions together.

Pair groups together and instruct students to perform their sections of the script to each other.



Instruct students to write their own lines for a script. Tell students to swap with another group before writing stage directions to accompany their peers’ script.