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What is a Theater Director?

Jessica Ellis
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A theater director is an important part of any play, serving as the supervisor and visionary of any production. He or she must serve as a jack-of-all-trades, knowing enough about each aspect of production to bring them together as a single entity. While no special training is required to become a theater director, the most basic skills needed include the ability to communicate well, basic technical knowledge, and a visual sense of how objects work on a stage.

Many theater directors have a serious background in literature and drama. Some of the world's greatest universities devote departments to training and educating directors. The studious theater director may possess a variety of degrees from undergraduate, graduate and even doctoral programs. While education can be of great benefit to a theater director, it is by no means completely necessary and is best when applied in concert with other skills.

Although experts may debate the primary merits of a director, one of the most vital skills is an extraordinary ability to communicate and motivate. In addition to rehearsing the actors, the director must coordinate with the designers to determine the look, sound, and feel of the production. Depending on the budget of the show and the composition of the theater company, these designers may specialize in lighting, sound, set design, costumes, or makeup. A director must be able to communicate their plans and ideas to these experts, while allowing them to exercise creative freedom and encourage them to suggest new ideas. Like the team leader on a rowing crew, a theater director must ensure that everyone is pulling in the same direction at the same time.

In order to better communicate with their designers, a theater director must have basic knowledge of the technical fields of the theater. By knowing what is possible to achieve on stage, a director can save everyone a lot of time and headache. Although it is impossible to be an expert in every field of the theater, aspiring directors may want to take a basic class in each area, to familiarize themselves with the tools and capabilities of the field.

Modern culture is based around film much more than live theater, leading to serious misconceptions of how scenes and plays look on stage. With the inability to use close-ups, zooms, and dramatic cuts, a theater director must be able to communicate subtextual information by knowing how to tell actor's where to stand and how to move. Blocking, as it is called, is an underrated part of the theater director's job, but it remains vital to any successful production. If your lead actress's death scene is blocked by a sofa and two extras, the audience will not care. A successful director will be able to visualize a scene and position the people, furniture, and props effectively.

The most important aspect of being a theater director may be vision. While creativity cannot be taught, talent can be woken and focused through practice, scene work, and practical experience with the stage. Many great directors will start out as bad ones, and be able to learn from their mistakes and trust in their own ideas. When a director manages to be both focused and open to suggestion, both clear and humble, she will truly be capable of great work.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for Practical Adult Insights. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.
Discussion Comments
By anon78492 — On Apr 19, 2010

very helpful.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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