The primary goal for this chapter is to explain what is involved in being a director, from selecting a script to casting a play and working with actors in rehearsals.
Selecting the Script
1. A director needs a working knowledge of all areas of production.
2. A theatre’s success depends in great part on the scripts it produces.
3. The director, who participates in script selection, must judge what will be acceptable and marketable within the total season.
4. It would not be wise to choose a play that either has been produced recently or will soon be produced at nearby theatres.
5. Directors must also consider the type of theatre structure and the availability of talent when choosing a script.
Analyzing the Script
1. A director begins by analyzing the script to determine what the playwright intended.
2. A director must decide on how to interpret the playwright’s meaning.
Finding an Overall Concept
1. Directors often do a great deal of script analysis before meeting with the production team.
2. The director researches the social, political, and economic world of the play and of the playwright.
3. The director may choose to find a visual or metaphoric concept to be carried through the production.
Interpreting More Closely
1. The director must be selective and find the elements that will best communicate the meaning of the play to the audience.
2. Directors will often add elements to a script to clarify their interpretation.
3. Using his or her own interpretation of the script, the director determines the basic action and areas of conflict within the play as a whole, and then scene by scene.
4. The director determines where the major and minor climaxes occur, as well as the overall mood and atmosphere of the play.
5. The director establishes how the characters relate to one another and how they each help to advance the plot.
Anticipating Design and Blocking
1. A director must consider all of the technical elements and determine how to integrate them into a unified production.
2. The director may work out the overall design concept, or solicit ideas from a design team.
3. After approving the set design, the director plans the broad movements of the actors in the space.
4. Some directors block the entire show in detail prior to working with the actors; others wait until the show is in rehearsal before blocking.
Casting the Play
1. A director must choose actors who are sincere, reliable, and talented.
2. Directors must consider how well actors will work with the rest of the cast and how well they will take direction.
3. Directors generally do not precast roles, but they have an idea of the character and strive to find the actor who comes closest to that idea.
1. Auditions usually consist of actors either reading from the script or presenting prepared material.
2. Some auditions are held with all the actors present, thus allowing the director to see how actors look together. Other auditions are private, with the director giving actors their cues.
3. Some directors prefer to interview actors without having them do a reading.
4. Large professional theatres often hold “cattle calls,” where many actors appear at the same time. Often, many are eliminated purely on their physical appearance.
5. A director should consider how easily the actors move, their emotional depth and range, the quality and control of their voice, and their overall potential for a role.
Rehearsing the Play
1. Once the cast is chosen and the technical designs are under way, directors devote most of their time to the actors.
2. Generally, professional theatres rehearse eight hours a day for four weeks. Community and educational theatres rehearse two to three hours a day for six weeks.
1. The first few rehearsals are usually dedicated to reaching an agreement on a script’s interpretation.
2. The major purpose of reading rehearsals is to agree on the interpretation of the script.
3. Reading rehearsals give the actors and director a chance to come to an understanding of the basic action of the play and the motivations of the characters.
4. The director may show the actors the production designs and floor plan to help them visualize the set.
1. The goal of blocking rehearsals is to figure out the actors’ movement patterns.
2. It is the director’s responsibility to give the play life.
3. The director needs to consider sight lines and the creation of an aesthetically pleasing picture throughout the show.
4. Inherent business onstage is any action that advances the story or is an integral part of the plot.
5. Supplementary business is added for effect, either to enhance the message of the play or to establish character.
6. Both inherent and supplementary business can be used for focus.
7. A director must provide unity and variety in picturization, as well as showing conflict, focus, emphasis, and characterization.
8. Although movement is planned, it should be allowed to build and change throughout the rehearsal period.
Character and Line Rehearsals
1. Line and character interpretation are developed simultaneously.
2. The director must be sure that the actors understand the significance of each line and that they deliver the lines in a way that is in sync with the mood and style of the production.
3. The director must consider the clarity and projection of the actors’ voices.
1. Action, interaction, delivery, and interpretation are refined and polished during this phase of rehearsals.
2. At this point, the director tries to run through scenes or acts without stopping to give directions to the actors.
3. The director takes notes and gives criticism after the act is complete.
4. The director begins to concentrate on the broad aspects of movement,
pace, timing, and rhythm.
5. Pace refers to the overall speed in handling business and speaking lines.
6. Timing refers to the use of pauses within or between speeches.
7. The rhythm of the play refers both to the flow of the language and to the picking up cues and changing scenes.
1. By now the actions and interpretation should be established, so that the director can focus largely on the technical aspects of the production.
2. If the director and the technical team have worked closely with each other, technical rehearsals should require only the correction of minor details.
1. Dress rehearsals should be considered trial runs for a production.
2. Most theatres plan two dress rehearsals before a production opens.
3. At this point, the director’s job should be complete.
4. In the event that the show has a long run, the director may call a rehearsal to correct inconsistencies. If performers need to be replaced, the director or production manager works with the replacements.
Directing in Arena Theatre
1. Directors of arena-staged productions often have actors moving in a curved direction for the benefit of the audience, which is in closer proximity to the action than in proscenium theatre productions.
2. In arena theatre, furniture placement and spacing resembles that of real-life rooms.
3. One difficulty in directing for the arena stage is the lack of control over the picturization, due to the audience’s viewing the production from all sides.
4. There are no weak playing areas, and body position is of little value.
5. When blocking shows for the arena stage, directors often designate areas of the stage to correspond to the face of a clock or to geographic (compass) directions.
6. Weakness or strength in arena theatre depends on how actors execute their movement rather than on their proximity to others.
7. Entrances to the playing space take more rehearsal in the arena stage, since every move is in the view of the audience.
8. Casting the right physical type is more important on the arena stage, as makeup and costumes must be more subtle.
9. Plays for the arena stage must be chosen carefully, since changes of location may be difficult.
10. Directing for the thrust stage is similar to directing for the arena stage, except that there can be more background scenery.