1) While many people are drawn to the potential for fame and power associated with being a theater director, only a few are truly successful. An effective theater director is a unique individual who combines business, organizational, and exceptional inter-personal skills with a sharp mind for literature and a clear creative vision. While the author creates the story, the characters, and the lines, it is the director who brings the play to life and applies his or her own unique vision to production. There are several key responsibilities a theater director must fulfill.
Casting the Play
2) The director organizes and oversees auditions. While he or she may not be the only voice in the decision process, other stakeholders look to the director for a firm opinion on each audition. In addition to looking for actors who fit the look and tone of the production, the director must also pay attention to chemistry between actors, to ensure that the fictional relationships of the play are not undermined by obviously mismatched actors. In addition, the director must quickly assess each actor’s personality and temperament to ensure the actor will be a good fit professionally with the rest of the organization.
3) Rehearsal involves more than repeatedly running through a play from beginning to end. Effective directors must choose how and when to begin rehearsals. For example, many directors choose to begin rehearsing the climax of a play first, in order to give actors a sense of what they should be working toward in their performances. The director also considers staging during every rehearsal, and how the audience will perceive every action and inflection performed by the actors.
4) During rehearsal the director should coach and work with individual actors, as well as the group, in order to achieve the vision he or she has perceived for the play. One-on-one coaching is not uncommon, especially for the most important roles. After each scene rehearsal, an attentive and effective director will provide notes to most, if not all of the players, either pointing out strengths in their work so far, or asking for a different approach or adjustment to the scene. For this reason, a director must be highly attentive to detail and the smallest nuances in speech and body language.
5) While most established theaters have property managers who handle all elements of staging, and lighting managers who adjust stage and audience lighting throughout a performance, these professionals can only do their jobs if the director is able to do hers. An effective director is open to discussions with lighting and property managers and, rather than dictate specific requirements, is willing to be part of a team of professionals focused on creating a singular vision for the performance.
6) The director is not directly responsible for ticket sales or marketing of a play. Nor is she responsible for determining employee salaries or negotiating contracts for theater space, costume rentals, or other expenses associated with the production. However, the director must be available and willing to participate in marketing meetings, and must understand the financial constraints of a production in order to make the most informed decisions for a production. For this reason, the director should expect to participate in business and financial meetings related to the play.
7) If a play is successful and has a long run, the director may turn directing duties to an assistant director from time to time, which provides the novice an opportunity to hone his or her own skills with a well-managed play. However, it is imperative that the director attends most performances personally, as, over time, new adjustments may need to occur in order for the play to remain as fresh as it was on opening night.