Theatre director

Last updated
A director providing instruction SarDrama Urod repetitsii 01.JPG
A director providing instruction

A theatre director or stage director is a professional in the theatre field who oversees and orchestrates the mounting of a theatre production such as a play, opera, dance, drama, musical theatre performance, etc. by unifying various endeavors and aspects of production. The director's function is to ensure the quality and completeness of theatre production and to lead the members of the creative team into realizing their artistic vision for it. The director thereby collaborates with a team of creative individuals and other staff to coordinate research and work on all the aspects of the production which includes the Technical and the Performance aspects. The technical aspects include: stagecraft, costume design, theatrical properties (props), lighting design, set design, and sound design for the production. The performance aspects include: acting, dance, orchestra, chants, and stage combat.

Contents

If the production is a new piece of writing or a (new) translation of a play, the director may also work with the playwright or a translator. In contemporary theatre, after the playwright, the director is generally the principle visionary, making decisions on the artistic conception and interpretation of the play and its staging. Different directors occupy different places of authority and responsibility, depending on the structure and philosophy of individual theatre companies. Directors use a wide variety of techniques, philosophies, and levels of collaboration. [1] [2]

The director in theatre history

In ancient Greece, the birthplace of European drama, the writer bore principal responsibility for the staging of his plays. Actors were generally semi-professionals, and the director oversaw the mounting of plays from the writing process all the way through to their performance, often acting in them too, as Aeschylus for example did. The author-director would also train the chorus, sometimes compose the music, and supervise every aspect of production. The fact that the director was called didaskalos, the Greek word for "teacher," indicates that the work of these early directors combined instructing their performers with staging their work. [3]

Jean Fouquet: The Martyrdom of St. Appollonia (1460), depicting the staging of a mystery play, led by a theatre director Jean Fouquet - The Martyrdom of St Apollonia - WGA08031.jpg
Jean Fouquet: The Martyrdom of St. Appollonia (1460), depicting the staging of a mystery play, led by a theatre director

In medieval times, the complexity of vernacular religious drama, with its large scale mystery plays that often included crowd scenes, processions and elaborate effects, gave the role of director (or stage manager or pageant master) considerable importance. A miniature by Jean Fouquet from 1460 (pictured) bears one of the earliest depictions of a director at work. Holding a prompt book, the central figure directs, with the aid of a long stick, the proceedings of the staging of a dramatization of the Martyrdom of Saint Apollonia . According to Fouquet, the director's tasks included overseeing the erecting of a stage and scenery (there were no permanent, purpose-built theatre structures at this time, and performances of vernacular drama mostly took place in the open air), casting and directing the actors (which included fining them for those that infringed rules), and addressing the audience at the beginning of each performance and after each intermission. [4]

From Renaissance times up until the 19th century, the role of director was often carried by the actor-manager . This would usually be a senior actor in a troupe who took the responsibility for choosing the repertoire of work, staging it and managing the company. This was the case for instance with Commedia dell'Arte companies and English actor-managers like Colley Cibber and David Garrick.

A portrait of Constantin Stanislavski by Valentin Serov Stanislavsky.jpg
A portrait of Constantin Stanislavski by Valentin Serov

The modern theatre director can be said to have originated in the staging of elaborate spectacles of the Meininger Company under George II, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen. The management of large numbers of extras and complex stagecraft matters necessitated an individual to take on the role of overall coordinator. [5] This gave rise to the role of the director in modern theatre, and Germany would provide a platform for a generation of emerging visionary theatre directors, such as Erwin Piscator and Max Reinhardt. Simultaneously, Constantin Stanislavski, principally an actor-manager, would set up the Moscow Art Theatre in Russia and similarly emancipate the role of the director as artistic visionary.

The French regisseur is also sometimes used to mean a stage director, most commonly in ballet. A more common term for theatre director in French is metteur en scène.

Post World War II, the actor-manager slowly started to disappear, and directing become a fully fledged artistic activity within the theatre profession. The director originating artistic vision and concept, and realizing the staging of a production, became the norm rather than the exception. Great forces in the emancipation of theatre directing as a profession were notable 20th-century theatre directors like Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, Vsevolod Meyerhold, Yevgeny Vakhtangov, Michael Chekhov, Yuri Lyubimov (Russia), Orson Welles, Peter Brook, Peter Hall (Britain), Bertolt Brecht (Germany), Giorgio Strehler, and Franco Zeffirelli (Italy).

A cautionary note was introduced by the famed director Sir Tyrone Guthrie who said "the only way to learn how to direct a play, is ... to get a group of actors simple enough to allow you to let you direct them, and direct".[ citation needed ]

A number of seminal works on directing and directors include Toby Cole and Helen Krich's 1972 Directors on Directing: A Sourcebook of the Modern Theatre, Edward Braun's 1982 book The Director and the Stage: From Naturalism to Growtowski, and Will's The Director in a Changing Theatre (1976). [6]

Directing education

Because of the relatively late emergence of theatre directing as a performing arts profession when compared with for instance acting or musicianship, a rise of professional vocational training programmes in directing can be seen mostly in the second half of the 20th century. Most European countries nowadays know some form of professional directing training, usually at drama schools or conservatoires, or at universities. In Britain, the tradition that theatre directors emerge from degree courses (usually in English literature) at the Oxbridge universities has meant that for a long time, professional vocational training did not take place at drama schools or performing arts colleges, although an increase in training programmes for theatre directors can be witnessed since the 1970s and 1980s. In American universities, the seminal directing program at the Yale School of Drama produced a number of pioneering directors with D.F.A. (Doctor of Fine Arts) and M.F.A. degrees in Drama (rather than English) who contributed to the expansion of professional resident theaters in the 1960s and 1970s. In the early days such programmes typically led to the staging of one major thesis production in the third (final) year. At the University of California, Irvine, Keith Fowler (a Yale D.F.A. and ex-producer of two LORT companies) led for many years a graduate programme based on the premise that directors are autodidacts who need as many opportunities to direct as possible. Under Fowler, graduate student directors would stage between five and ten productions during their three-year residencies, with each production receiving detailed critiques.

As with many other professions in the performing arts, theatre directors would often learn their skills "on the job"; to this purpose, theatres often employ trainee assistant directors or have in-house education schemes to train young theatre directors. Examples are the Royal National Theatre in London, which frequently organizes short directing courses, or the Orange Tree Theatre and the Donmar Warehouse on London's West End, which both employ resident assistant directors on a one-year basis for training purposes.

Styles of directing

Directing is an art form that has grown with the development of theatre theory and theatre practice. With the emergence of new trends in theatre, so too have directors adopted new methodologies and engaged in new practices. Interpretation of the drama, by the late twentieth century, had become central to the director's work. Relativism and psychoanalytic theory influenced the work of innovative directors such as Peter Brook, Ingmar Bergman, Peter Stein, and Giorgio Strehler.: [7] )

Kimberly Senior, director of Disgraced on Broadway, explains her role as director by saying “I get to take things that were previously in one dimension and put them into three dimensions using my imagination and intellect and people skills.” [8]

Once a show has opened (premiered before a regular audience), theatre directors are generally considered to have fulfilled their function. From that point forward the stage manager is left in charge of all essential concerns.

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Konstantin Stanislavski</span> Russian and Soviet actor and theatre director

Konstantin Sergeyevich Stanislavski was a seminal Soviet and Russian theatre practitioner. He was widely recognized as an outstanding character actor and the many productions that he directed garnered him a reputation as one of the leading theatre directors of his generation. His principal fame and influence, however, rests on his "system" of actor training, preparation, and rehearsal technique.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Outline of theatre</span> Overview of and topical guide to theatre

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to theatre:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jerzy Grotowski</span> Polish theatre director

Jerzy Marian Grotowski was a Polish theatre director and theorist whose innovative approaches to acting, training and theatrical production have significantly influenced theatre today.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Stagecraft</span> Technical aspect of theatrical, film, video production

Stagecraft is a technical aspect of theatrical, film, and video production. It includes constructing and rigging scenery; hanging and focusing of lighting; design and procurement of costumes; make-up; stage management; audio engineering; and procurement of props. Stagecraft is distinct from the wider umbrella term of scenography. Considered a technical rather than an artistic field, it is primarily the practical implementation of a scenic designer's artistic vision.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Stanislavski's system</span> System to train actors

Stanislavski's system is a systematic approach to training actors that the Russian theatre practitioner Konstantin Stanislavski developed in the first half of the twentieth century. His system cultivates what he calls the "art of experiencing". It mobilises the actor's conscious thought and will in order to activate other, less-controllable psychological processes—such as emotional experience and subconscious behaviour—sympathetically and indirectly. In rehearsal, the actor searches for inner motives to justify action and the definition of what the character seeks to achieve at any given moment.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">T. W. Robertson</span> English dramatist and innovative stage director

Thomas William Robertson was an English dramatist and stage director.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Adolphe Appia</span>

Adolphe Appia, son of Red Cross co-founder Louis Appia, was a Swiss architect and theorist of stage lighting and décor.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Amateur theatre</span> Theatre performed by amateur actors and singers

Amateur theatre, also known as amateur dramatics, is theatre performed by amateur actors and singers. Amateur theatre groups may stage plays, revues, musicals, light opera, pantomime or variety shows, and do so for the social activity as well as for aesthetic values. Productions may take place in venues ranging from the open air, community centres, or schools to independent or major professional theatres.

A dialect coach is an acting coach who helps an actor design the voice and speech of a character in the context of an on-camera, stage, radio or animation voiceover production. The dialect coach often does original research on dialects and speech patterns, prepares training materials, provides instruction and works on lines with the actor. A dialect coach will give the actor feedback focusing on issues of credibility, consistency, and clarity. A dialect coach may also be employed to help comedians hone impressions of celebrities, to train non-actor public speakers in vocal character and delivery, or to help singers improve in diction and attain a balance between tone and articulation, especially when singing in a second language.

Performing arts – are art forms where the participant engages in a physical performance using their body, voice, language, or use of specific equipment for entertainment purposes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts</span> Drama school

Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, formerly Mountview Theatre School, is a drama school in Peckham, south London, England, founded in 1945. The Academy provides specialist vocational training in acting and musical theatre, as well as production arts. The President of the school is Dame Judi Dench, and the Principal and Artistic Director Stephen Jameson.

Cardboard Citizens is the UK's only homeless people's professional theatre company, and the leading practitioner of Forum Theatre and the Theatre of the Oppressed methodology in the UK. The acclaimed theatre company works with people who have experience of homelessness or those at risk of becoming homeless to create theatre that makes a real and positive difference to society and those living in its margins.

Laterna magika, largely considered the world's first multimedia theatre, was founded as a cultural program at the 1958 Brussels Expo. It launched its official activity on 9 May 1959, as an independent company of the National Theatre, performing at the Adria palace in Prague. Wonderful Circus, which premiered in 1977, is the most frequently performed theatre piece in Central Europe, and has remained in the repertoire ever since. Laterna magika now is one of the ensembles of the National Theatre, based at the New Stage of the National Theatre in Prague. Laterna magika productions blend various genres, ranging from dramatic acting through affording a dominant role to dance and ballet to mime and Black Theatre. All of their productions have been original works directly created for the company, not ready-made pieces, which, with a few exceptions, have never subsequently appeared in the repertoire of another company. The fundamental principle has been gradually supplemented with new technologies, for instance, digital projection or new media, including real-time programmable software.

Intercultural theater, also known as cross-culturaltheatre, may transcend time, while mixing and matching cultures or subcultures. Mixing and matching is the unavoidable process in the making of inner connections and the presentations of interculturalities. The majority of the works in intercultural theatre deal basically with thinking and doing around the themes, stories, pre-performative or performative concepts of Asian classical theatre or traditional performing arts forms and practices, mixing and matching the concepts or the ideas of the foreign. After the well-known success of Peter Brook's production of the Mahabharata, the trend has been evolving tremendously around the globe and many the cultural institutions of many governments have become directly interested in pushing the boundaries of intercultural senses and sensitivities by financially investing on new theatrical productions, university research, conferences and fellowships

<span class="mw-page-title-main">University of Washington School of Drama</span> American drama school is Seattle, Washington

The School of Drama is an undergraduate and graduate theatre school in the Arts Division of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Theatre</span> Collaborative form of performing art

Theatre or theater is a collaborative form of performing art that uses live performers, usually actors or actresses, to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place, often a stage. The performers may communicate this experience to the audience through combinations of gesture, speech, song, music, and dance. Elements of art, such as painted scenery and stagecraft such as lighting are used to enhance the physicality, presence and immediacy of the experience. The specific place of the performance is also named by the word "theatre" as derived from the Ancient Greek θέατρον, itself from θεάομαι.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Actor</span> Person who acts in a dramatic or comic production and works in film, television, theatre, or radio

An actor or actress is a person who portrays a character in a performance. The actor performs "in the flesh" in the traditional medium of the theatre or in modern media such as film, radio, and television. The analogous Greek term is ὑποκριτής (hupokritḗs), literally "one who answers". The actor's interpretation of a role—the art of acting—pertains to the role played, whether based on a real person or fictional character. This can also be considered an "actor's role," which was called this due to scrolls being used in the theaters. Interpretation occurs even when the actor is "playing themselves", as in some forms of experimental performance art.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Institute for Advanced Theater Training</span>

The American Repertory Theater/Moscow Art Theatre (ART/МХАТ) Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University was founded in 1987 as a training ground for the new American Theater by the Robert Brustein and the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Birmingham Repertory Theatre</span> Theatre in Birmingham, England

Birmingham Repertory Theatre, commonly called Birmingham Rep or just The Rep, is a producing theatre based on Centenary Square in Birmingham, England. Founded by Barry Jackson, it is the longest-established of Britain's building-based theatre companies and one of its most consistently innovative.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Worcester Repertory Company</span>

The Worcester Repertory Company(WRC) is a regional theatre company based in Worcester, UK. The company was founded in 1967 by John Hole, David Wood and Sam Walters.

References

  1. "Director | AACT". aact.org. Retrieved 2019-12-20.
  2. "Introduction to Theatre -- The Director". novaonline.nvcc.edu. Retrieved 2019-12-20.
  3. Brocket, Oscar G.: History of the Theatre. 8th ed. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 1999, p. 24
  4. Brocket, op.cit., p. 96
  5. Russel Brown, John (ed.): The Oxford Illustrated History of Theatre. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995, p. 334
  6. Eckersley, M. 1998. Soundings in the Dramaturgy of the Australian Theatre Director. University of Melbourne. Melbourne. p. 17.
  7. Bloom, Michael: ‘’Thinking Like a Director’’ page 13. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2001
  8. "How to Become a Theater Director". www.backstage.com. 2019-01-14. Retrieved 2019-12-20.