Like a film director, the stage director supervises both the performance and technical aspects of a production. He or she has the artistic spirit of a designer, the methodical mind of a technician, and a poetic soul.
The cast and crew of a live stage production rely on the director to be the all-powerful seer, holding in his or her mind a complete image of the production. To help translate that vision to the stage, the director and producer hire a technical director, lighting designer, costume designer, and other artists during preproduction. Through their individual specialties, the concepts of the director are transformed into comprehensive sketches, blueprints, and eventually fully realized props. It is the director’s responsibility to guide the designers, approve samples, and provide applicable reference material in addition to the script. With the build underway and casting complete, the director’s primary responsibility is to rehearse and prepare the cast for opening night. First he or she leads the actors through a quick read of the script to familiarize each performer with the material and introduce them to their character. From there, an in-depth study of the material takes place as the director blocks each scene and the actors’ delivery is perfected. As opening night nears, sets, costumes, props, and lighting are added piece by piece. The director guides the cast through the challenge of adapting to the new technical elements, and then finally supervises the entire production crew and cast through the dress rehearsal. This is when the cues are set and the technical kinks are worked out. Typically, the director will attend opening night as an audience member, and then his or her service is complete.
Skills & Education
A formal education is not a standard requirement, but a college degree in theater or live production is recommended; a master of fine arts degree is preferred. Whether directing La Bohème or the next Rolling Stones farewell tour, you should have thorough knowledge of production technology. Courses in theatrical design, lighting, and audio are helpful. To coach your cast through a compelling performance, you should study acting and performance theory; numerous local workshops and acting classes are available across the country. The theory and fundamentals can be taught, but at the core of every director must be a solid creative vision and inherent talent.
What to Expect
The most difficult challenge of a director is imagining how the many pieces of the puzzle will fit together. Before the lights are hung and the costumes are fitted, the director must visualize the complete picture and inspire others toward that vision. Most of your time on the job will be spent in the performance space rehearsing the cast, blocking set changes, and dictating cues. You might prefer to be intently focused on the stage, but an endless wave of questions and concerns will constantly conspire to draw you away. A director must be uniquely adept at juggling a hundred crucial details at once, while holding together the foundation of the production. Most stage directors start as aspiring actors, but if the spotlight is not your dream, then behind-the-scenes gigs are a good start. Work as a stage manager will place you at the right hand of a director and prepare you for advancement.
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