Directing for Community Theatre

7 steps to directing

My learning curve as an actor has never been a nice smooth upward projection. In fact, it’s been downright messy, full of plunges into laziness, apathy, pride, stubbornness and then some more laziness. Fortunately though, I was able to watch and work with better actors than myself in every show I did.   That combined with teachers strong on technique, a passionate desire to learn everything I could (obviously not in my lazy periods) and good directors who pushed me beyond what I thought I could do, gradually created a foundation of skills that have allowed me to have some real fun.

Directors have a huge job in community theatre. Not only are they responsible for the artistic vision of the production, they often find themselves being teacher, producer, stage manager, parent, drill sargent and counselor.

A great community theatre director is one who knows that his/her job is to work with the skills of each cast and get the best performance that the cast is capable of.

Sometimes however, you strike a director who is still green and sees the quality of the performance as a reflection on themselves. Their pride comes before the needs of the actors and because they lack real directing skills, they cope by becoming dictatorial and demanding, sending actors into tailspins of insecurity.

In community theatre, you don’t necessarily have to be good at directing to get the job. You just have to volunteer.  That’s admirable but your experience as a director can be far more than just someone who raised their hand.

With the internet, there is no longer any excuse for those chosen/volunteering as directors to remain unskilled or uninformed. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on courses built for professionals. All you have to do is open your internet browser and start exploring.

Make becoming a better director your #bigfreakychallenge2015 and explore all the resources that are available to you. Here’s the top 7 things you can do to become a more effective director.

  1. Admit you are in over your head and that you will be learning new things for the rest of your life. Enjoy the process and share what you learn with others. Ask questions of those in the wider theatre community who have been directing for longer and whom you respect.
  2. Read and study the publications used to train professional directors. The books on the reading list from the NIDA directing course are available at the public library and I’ve uploaded the NIDA reading list to anidiotonstage.com.au for you.
  3. Go to as many professional theatre productions as you can and observe them through your ‘director’ eyes. You’re looking for inspiration in set and lighting design, actor’s technique, blocking, etc. You will not get this from other amateur productions no matter how good they are because they have the same limitations of budget and skills that your company has. Aim higher.
  4. Get online and watch things like The Actors Studio series on Youtube, Uta Hagen’s works, read the teachings of major acting method creators. Take what you can and keep going back to these teachings because you will understand more as you learn more. This article from a few weeks ago gives you some of these links.
  5. Learn to collaborate. You are working with a team of volunteers and, whilst you have the responsibility of the overall vision, these people also have a voice. They may not have professional skills but they are eager to do their best and enjoy the experience. Be respectful but strong and find ways of helping them.
  6. Become a problem solver. Everyone is going to want you to compromise constantly to make their lives easier. You have to learn to make decisions quickly; decisions that don’t compromise what is really important but allows everyone to achieve their outcomes. Not easy but you get better the more you do it.
  7. Improve your people and leadership skills by reading, reading, reading. The author, John Maxwell is a great place to start. If you are currently thinking that you don’t have time to read (an excuse by the way), get books in audio version to enjoy on your way to work/rehearsal, while you’re doing the dishes or out for a walk. Keep the good stuff going in and you’ll find that good stuff starts to leak out. Podcasts on leadership are numerous and great for this reason. I use Podcast Republic but of course there’s iTunes as well.

Quality community theatre depends strongly on the quality of the director.

It’s not enough to “just have fun”. You have influence over a large group of people who want to enjoy themselves – yes – but they also want to be proud of what they do; they want to be part of something greater than themselves; and achieve more than they thought possible.

There’s a saying that “without a vision the people perish.”

I challenge you to begin reaching for that vision and create community theatre that makes an impact.

Cheers, Sher.

An Idiot On Stage provides resources, fun and information for community theatre. I invite you to go to my website now and subscribe to receive my regular email that catches you up with anything you might have missed from the Idiot and all the new stuff coming out.

www.anidiotonstage.com.au

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