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Career Advice

How to become a Theatre Director

How to become a Theatre Director

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Before all of ye seasoned theatre directors and board treaders protest “There is no sure-fire way to become a director”- we know this, but hopefully this little post should help point people in the right ‘direction’.

What exactly does a Theatre Director do?

Unfortunately there is no short answer to the question…I would be inclined to say that “the director of a theatrical production holds the overall responsibility for the practical and creative interpretation of a dramatic text” but of course it’s not quite as simple as that.

The easiest way to get a sense of the role is to look at some of the tasks that you could find yourself undertaking on a day-to-day basis.

  • Taking a senior role in the creation of a piece of work from the very initial stages of planning and development right through to the final performance

  • Helping to manage the budget of the performance/company

  • Working with writers in a workshop environment to script / edit dramatic texts

  • Working closely with the script to form a creative vision of how their interpretation will be realised on the stage

  • Analysing and exploring the text and conducting relevant research (If no dramaturg has been appointed)

  • Taking a major role in the recruitment of other crew and production support often including producers, stage managers, dramaturgs, technical staff etc.

  • Undertaking auditions for all roles within the performance – the director is normally given full control over casting

  • Creating a detailed production schedule

  • Communicating and liaising with everyone involved in the production process including actors, writers, technical support, stage crew etc

  • Providing detailed feedback and suggestions to actors and other production members throughout the course of the project

  • Taking an active role in the promotion and marketing of the performance.

As a result of the high level of creative collaboration which exists in a theatre environment, many theatrical directors will also assume duties outside their specific call of duty including writing, producing, acting, devising and providing technical support.

What skills would come in handy?

The work of a theatre director is highly skilled and the role takes exceptional competency to be carried out effectively. Here are some of the skills and attributes which are most necessary in order to make your career a success;

  • The creative vision to turn a piece of text or stimulus material into a final production

  • Passion and flair for working within the arts community

  • Extremely well developed organisational skills and the ability to manage several different areas of a project at once

  • Excellent people skills and the ability to manage a large team of people working in different areas of the production.

  • A flair for negotiation and diplomacy

  • Highly developed verbal and written communication skills

  • The ability to identify skills in your team and utilise these to the fullest

  • A good understanding of the technical possibilities and limitations of the theatrical environment and the creativity use these skilfully within a performance

  • Innovation, originality and the desire to create fresh and enjoyable work

  • The willingness to remain abreast of all developments, trends and fashions within the theatre

  • Good research skills

  • Dedication, passion and enthusiasm

theatre2There is no qualification (or indeed experience) which is 100% necessary to become a successful theatre director, this is because as a career, it tends to be more reliant upon a person’s own natural creativity and hard work than on certificates and academic titles.

However this being said, the vast majority of people seeking the life of a theatre director will choose to pursue it (at least in the initial stages) through traditional academic study. Sometimes a would-be director will be accepted onto a director’s course within a drama school to hone their skills, however it is important to understand that the successful completion of such a course will not necessarily result in being hired as a director.

On the whole within the community, professional experience will hold more weight than academic qualification, so whilst academia can provide an excellent foundation from which to launch your career, it is vital that this is paired with significant experience of professional practice.

Degree Courses

Obviously a degree in theatre studies or closely related field would be an ideal qualification for an aspiring director to have, although a number of other areas of study can also be advantageous including performing arts, music, film studies, English literature, creative writing and other courses which require high level of creativity or thought processes.

Professional development

Having a great general experience of the workings of a theatre and the creation of productions will give you a solid foundation for your career as a director. Therefore you will find that many directors cut their teeth working in a number of different areas including wardrobe, stage management, front of house, sound, acting and lighting.  Whilst getting professional paid experience as a director may be very difficult in the early stages of your career you can still gain great relevant skills by working with fringe and amateur theatre productions, especially when they give you an opportunity to undertake the role of director.

We know that it sounds like a bit of a cliché, but often progression within a theatrical community really is a case of ‘starting at the bottom and working your way up’. Networking should play a key role in this and the work that you get will quite often come from contacts which you have made in a previous role.

Best of luck if you still fancy becoming a theatre director, but if not why not take a look at our career directory where there are lots of other careers that you can choose!

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