About the Score Technique

The Score Technique™ is a new form of contemporary playwriting developed by director Shannon Fillion and playwright Danny Rocco (Mitarotondo).  The Score Technique is a term that we use to describe both the tool and the process by which we try to make theater more immediate and timely. We question “dramatic habits” that we believe are standing in the way of our best work. We investigate these questions in our plays, both in content and form, sometimes formally, other times informally. 

Excerpt from Orchestra by Danny Rocco (Mitarotondo) written in the Score.

Excerpt from Orchestra by Danny Rocco (Mitarotondo) written in the Score.

At the heart of our technique is the Score. The Score uses the fundamental principles of sheet music composition to capture the nuance of an actor’s voice, and unite the entire creative team of a play – actors, director, designers, playwright and stage managers – in critically timing an imagined world.

Our hope is that working in this form can help us rediscover the precision, collaboration, and musicality of theatre - a medium that is, at its core, more similar to song than the novel or poem.
- Danny Rocco (Mitarotondo)

We started developing the Score in our last year of graduate study at Columbia University. Our experimentation came from a need for a more manageable and practical way of rehearsing and writing for large ensembles. The core of our research sprang from Danny's play Orchestra. We wanted the audience to be carried away by the play, both in content and form: for the characters to dip in and out of song, and for the entire play to feel like a piece of music. But to do that, we had to critically time the overlapping acrobatics of the characters. Standard Play Format (or “vertical format”) wouldn’t allow for that precision; it encouraged a “taking turns talking” rhythm that slowed rehearsal and stunted the writing of the play. Searching for a new structure, we turned to music. Using some aspects of orchestral score and some items of our own invention, we developed the Score, which has become the focus and force behind our creative work ever since.

You read the Score like you would read a piece of sheet music. Rather than use pages, we use measures. Measures flow one after the other like in a piece of music. In a measure, each character has a staff line that reads horizontally across that measure. For the actor, your staff line tells you what to say and when to say it. For the director, a measure paints a portrait of what and when characters are speaking, and how dialogue could relate to the other elements on stage, like light and space. Unlike music, there is no meter or time signature dictating how long a measure needs to be in stage time. The Score only says what and when stage elements happen relative to each other, leaving it up to the director and the ensemble to orchestrate pacing.

Excerpt from Sun and Room by Danny Rocco (Mitarotondo).

Excerpt from Sun and Room by Danny Rocco (Mitarotondo).

Our goal with this form is to provide a specific illustration of a play’s shape, specific instructions on how the elements of a play interact with each other, and therefore a higher level of communication and discovery for a director, ensemble and playwright.