Director responsibilities

This pamphlet is a guide to the administrative and inter-personal responsibilities of the director.  It is not intended to teach you how to direct – that is not really something that can be taught by reading about it, but rather absorbed through training/experience.

Choice of Play:

This is an important but rather vexed question – whether the play is selected by you the director or by the society’s selection committee.  However, once the decision is made, it becomes the “director’s production”.

  • The director is responsible for its creative concept and growth to performance.

Preparation:

Know your play. Study the script until you can visualize it as a finished production. You cannot tell others about the production’s ‘needs’ until you yourself know.

Make sketches and notes of ideas for the staging, bearing in mind the limitations of the stage/performance area. Do not be unduly influenced by photographs or even descriptions of previous productions.

  • If you have a set designer, discuss your ideas and sketches fully with them. If you aren’t sure which concept to go with, collaborate on ideas. Keep visualizing how it will look as you go through the process.

Through the Production Manager, call a meeting of all heads of the departments (HOD’s) involved in the production. Explain the production concept as it involves each of them and discuss any problems that arise out of it. Draw up a schedule/dead line for the completion of all work to be done. Ask for progress reports.

Hold auditions and cast the play. Some new directors like to have another experienced person present to discuss casting with, after the auditions and many societies also require a ‘committee representative’ to be in the audition room to ensure ‘justice is done’. But the decision of the director is final as they have to work with the cast. You cannot ‘direct by committee’.

Plan by whatever method you prefer, stage moves/entrances/exits before rehearsals commence, this helps with your visualization of the overall production. They should be ‘motivated’ moves, but be prepared for change or revision as rehearsals progress
and as the actors begin to enhance their roles, or ‘business’ develops.

Rehearsals:

Prepare a rehearsal schedule for the whole of the rehearsal period if possible. People have busy lives today.

  • A useful suggestion, to avoid conflict with other important cast activities, is to include a section in the audition form asking which nights people would not be free for rehearsal if selected for the cast. Provide each cast member with a copy of the rehearsal schedule and make sure one is displayed prominently in the rehearsal room.
  • Copies should also go to each member of the production crew.

Impress on the cast the importance of attending each rehearsal they are called for and on arriving punctually. If an actor cannot attend, either the director or production assistant must be notified early enough to make alternative arrangements if necessary.

  • An actor’s real contribution to the part is also the study and thought given to the role in-between regular rehearsals.

Technical/Dress Rehearsals:

Ensure the production meeting prior to the dress rehearsal checks that all construction is completed and all the props, wardrobe, lighting, sound, etc are ready to go. Hopefully you will have been able to work with music/sound effects in the later stages of rehearsal.

Check all the costumes and make-up on stage under the lights from the auditorium.

Make it clear to the cast and crew that the stage manager is in control of the technical/dress rehearsal and all matters regarding ‘process’ pass through them.

Consider the rehearsal from the auditorium as a performance and, short of a major break-down try not to interrupt the continuity. The crew now needs to get a feeling for the ‘flow’ of the performance.

Feed-back and additional instructions, should be given after the final curtain. ‘Spot-cleaning’ of cues/action as you go may make the next night’s run better – discuss this with the stage manager.

  • The stage manager and other HOD’s should also be given the opportunity to give feedback to the cast and crew.
  • Don’t panic. Discuss any problems quietly with the actors and the stage manager.

Don’t subscribe to the old adage that ‘a bad dress rehearsal means a good show’. Nothing more comes out of a production, than has been put into it at rehearsals.

The cast are as nervous and apprehensive about the production as you are. Be encouraging and supportive at all times – this will achieve better results than if you are abrasive, temperamental or irritable.

Some directors prefer to avoid meeting the cast before a production opens and will not go backstage. This is a personal matter, as is following the various theatre ‘superstitions’.  

  • But if you do go backstage before a performance, remember not to upset the company in any way and that the production is now in the hands of them and your stage manager.