3 Things to Remember as a First-Time Director

Taking on the mantle of Director for the first time can be a daunting task. There’s lots to consider, and pressure to do the job well. Being the director of a production is an all-encompassing task and there’s lots of areas of production that you need to focus on. From auditions to opening night, the responsibility lies with you. So if you’re setting out as director on your first show, here’s some things that are useful to bear in mind.

1. Set out your expectations

As a new director, cast and crew will not be sure what to expect from you and your creative vision for the production so it’s important that you set this out clearly at the beginning of the process. It’s easy to forget that all the plans you’ve made in your head mean nothing if they aren’t communicated well to your teams.

Think about what you’ll need from the production team, and when you’ll need it. That way everyone can be prepared and ready to support your bring the production to life. For example, set and costume design will influence what you ask the cast to do during the show, so it’s worth taking a moment to think about this before rehearsals begin.

It’s also important to set out your expectation with the cast from the beginning.

  • What will be expected of them at auditions?
  • What will they need to prepare for auditions?
  • What can they do to help themselves show themselves in the best light at auditions?
  • What will you be looking for in each role?
  • What do you expect from them at rehearsals?
  • Do you have a specific date you would like scripts down?
  • What can they expect from you at rehearsals?
  • How will you run the rehearsal room?

You don’t need to be exhaustive in your answers to these questions, but it’s a good idea to brief the cast and creative team because it helps people feel less unsure about what will happen and they’ll be in a better mindset to help you create the show.

2. Think about the bigger picture

When you are rehearsing a scene, it can be easy to focus on the point of the action where the audience will focus their attention. This is usually on dialogue that is happening with the principal cast members. However, equally important is what’s happening elsewhere on stage during that moment. Is a member of your Dick Whittington ship’s crew upstaging the key action? Maybe there’s a particular piece of set or costume on stage which doesn’t make sense within your story, or isn’t supposed to be seen during this section. Zooming yourself out of the action and taking in the bigger picture is a key part of the director’s job – remember you’re responsible for everything that’s happening on stage.

3. Does this make sense to the audience?

My final tip for directing theatre, is to always be asking yourself what the audience takes from the action they’re seeing on stage. Can they understand what’s going on? What is the most important thing that they take from this scene, and is it clear enough? These might be things that are affected by:

  • Blocking
  • Viewing angles
  • Intonation
  • A character’s status/power on stage
  • What the character is saying
  • Underscoring
  • Lighting design
  • Set deisgn

Sometimes it might be an idea that you’re really proud of just isn’t working well when it’s put in front of an audience. In that case, often you might need to ditch the idea and try something new. It can be hard to get rid of things which we really thought would work when we planned them on paper, but ‘killing your babies’ is one of the best skills a director can have. The sooner you learn it, as painful as it is, the better.

I hope these three things will help you to take risks, assess what is/isn’t working in your show and make your pantomime the best it can be for audiences, cast, crew and for you!

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