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Theatre director: Job description

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A theatre director has responsibility for the overall practical and creative interpretation of a dramatic script or musical score, taking into account the budgetary and physical constraints of production. They are involved at all stages of the process, from the design and pre-production stages and rehearsal right through to the final performance.

Directors work closely with their creative and production teams, the performers and the producer to create a performance which connects with the audience. They therefore need to be able to coordinate effectively across a wide range of disciplines and with artistic vision.

Most directors are usually employed on a freelance or fixed-term contract basis. They can also be employed as artistic or resident directors in repertory companies. Some directors are also writers, designers and performers and may write, devise, design and act in their own work.

Typical work activities

Most theatres are headed by an executive administrator or general manager answerable to a board, a local council or both. Large theatres may also have an artistic director who selects the plays to be produced in the theatre each season (and the director for each) and is responsible for managing the company and its finances together with the administrator. In the case of a small performing company, such as a touring fringe company or a theatre-in-education group, the director may also act as administrator or producer.

Aspiring directors may have backgrounds as actors, writers, designers, stage managers or producers. Some directors begin their working lives as assistant directors, undertaking activities such as rehearsing certain scenes away from the main rehearsal and giving feedback to actors once the production is under way. Most directors, however, start their career in fringe and small-scale theatre developing their own work, often working on grant-funded or 'low-pay, no-pay' projects with like-minded artists.

Some theatre companies employ a full-time director as an associate. The director then works closely with the artistic director, assisting with the programming for the season and directing some productions.

Typical tasks include:

  • programming and budgeting;
  • working with writers through workshops or script development schemes;
  • adapting a script and, if the play is newly written, working with the writer or collaborating with playwrights;
  • breaking down a script, analysing and exploring the content and conducting relevant research;
  • translating and interpreting a script or musical score;
  • holding auditions for productions, selecting and hiring designers, musicians, etc.;
  • managing time and organising people and space;
  • attending production meetings with set designers;
  • organising rehearsals;
  • communicating and liaising with all parties involved, including actors, the creative team, the production team and producers;
  • attending preview performances and preparing detailed notes for the cast and creative and production teams;
  • helping to publicise the production by giving interviews and leading discussions.
Written by AGCAS editors
September 2013

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