I am often asked – so what exactly DO you do as the Director?
The Director is the person responsible for the overall creative vision for the show and for translating that to the cast. To do this they must liaise with all the production team members including the Musical Director, any Assistants or Dance Captains, the Stage Manager, the Sound and Lighting Designers and the Wardrobe mistress/master and the Props mistress/master to name a few.
However, please don’t mistake the title ‘Director’ with the title ‘Producer’. I am often referred to as a producer but the Producer is the society or group who are responsible for the performing rights contract for the show or play, they engage the Director to produce the play or show.
Every Director is different and works in different ways but to find my vision for the piece, I like to do extensive research. For me, attention to detail is key – making sure everything fits in with the period or geography of the piece. Background research can take some time but I believe it is worth it for the authenticity of the finished performance.
Once the vision has been translated then the individual members of the production team can book or order the sets and costumes and start planning their part of the production etc.
When that is done, usually the first job for the Director is to choose the audition pieces and set any audition movements. The Director normally sits on the audition panel and along with the panel members has the difficult job of casting the show.
As a Director, I set the audition pieces and routines as far in advance as I can, that gives me time so I can also provide a draft schedule, a draft props list and a draft costume plot. Once the parts are cast, I can simply update these and send them out. The hardest job is re-arranging the schedule to accommodate the cast’s holiday dates or other commitments and still ensure the rehearsal process runs smoothly. This is often like ‘painting the Forth bridge’ and can be changed and amended numerous times during the rehearsal period.
From this point on – the entire production needs plotting – who moves where when, the inflections and emotions required in the dialogue, any dance routines will need setting – in other words the whole show needs preparing prior to rehearsals. For a big company musical that is very time-consuming and can take hours of work before you have even entered the rehearsal room.
As rehearsals, can take weeks they should be fun as well as hard work. But all the time during the rehearsal process the Director is still working with the Stage Manager and his team on the scene changes, the Wardrobe Mistress on what everyone is wearing in which scene, confirming all the props with the props team, liaising with the sound and lighting teams, confirming photo shoots for the show publicity, perhaps checking the programme contents and anything else that needs to be done in preparation for the show.
Once the show approaches, it is mostly giving notes and ironing out any wrinkles in the performance in preparation for opening night. The technical and dress rehearsals can be stressful but you are part of a team to share the stress and the success.
In fact, the success of the show depends on the actor’s performance but the guidance comes from the Director, a guiding hand to help and assist the actors and to be the one to take responsibility and oversee the whole production. The job requires broad shoulders and often thick skin!
Once the show opens, then it’s up to the Stage Manager to run the show. So for me, it’s then time to relax in the bar with a glass of wine and enjoy the performance!!!