Archives For Skills

Essential skills for all things theatrical

Ok, I'm cheating - this is not a first read through! But encourage your cast to act as well as read the lines.

Ok, I’m cheating – this is not a first read through! But encourage your cast to act as well as read the lines.
Pic by Tom Flathers (as if you didn’t know)

Also in this series:
Offbeat Directing 1: The Vision Quest
Offbeat Directing 2: Understanding the Script
Offbeat Directing 3: Dreaming and Planning
Offbeat Directing 4: What Does the Director Do?
Offbeat Directing 5: Trial by Audition

You’ve just survived the painful experience of casting the play and your chosen actors are assembled for the first read through. You would love it if they’ve actually read the play, thought about it and got to know their characters a bit, but just having read it would be ok for now! You all sit in a circle …. now what? This can be one of the most awkward moments and it’s easy to fill the awkward silence by rabbiting on about your vision, how you see the set and the costumes, what you think it’s all about and many other valuable insights you’ve collected over the months you’ve been working on the play. But don’t do that, it’s really not the right time! People are nervous – get them reading pretty quickly! They don’t want to listen to the director (not too much anyway) – they just hope they don’t sound foolish or pronounce that strange word on page 24 incorrectly (they will – ignore it). Continue Reading…

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Director sitting nicely, brain engaged and keeping quiet (for now)

Director sitting nicely, brain engaged and keeping quiet (for now)

Listening and watching (in a positive way) are very underrated. In a previous ‘life’ I was a therapist (remedial massage mostly) and I spent many years teaching others how to assess the varying conditions of their clients. Listen, watch and, in the case of a physical therapy, get your hands on (but even then you are listening with your hands). In theatre, observation is everything – but not just in theatre. The same applies if you just want to help a friend. Watch .. listen. Where are they? Continue Reading…

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finding your cast

Also in this series:
Offbeat Directing 1: The Vision Quest
Offbeat Directing 2: Understanding the Script
Offbeat Directing 3: Dreaming and Planning
Offbeat Directing 4: What Does the Director Do?

Ok, hands up .. who likes auditions? No one? Well, there’s a surprise! I absolutely hate auditions. As director I always want to give everyone a part, preferably the part they want (naturally I squash that part of me for the duration!). What makes that so much worse is that there will always be a significant number auditioning for the ‘best’ role. After years directing in youth theatres I can honestly say that most people do not find the idea of the ‘character cameo’ very appealing – they want lines and appearances. Some people count the lines – presumably so they can see just how good their part really is. I can’t complain I suppose, I do remember auditioning for the part of Juliet in Romeo & Juliet at school and no other part would have been on my radar (yes, I did get it – I was very determined). As an actor of course, the whole process is nerve racking and fraught with horrors. Not getting the part you want may result in tears and tantrums, or just bitter disappointment and profound silence. Getting the part you want results in wild celebrations and much screaming – which makes the the ones who didn’t get the part feel SO much worse (yes, I have worked mostly with the unbridled emotional responses of teenagers and children). So why on earth do we do it? Why don’t we just handpick pick the cast we want and bypass the horrid audition? Continue Reading…

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Precision Pointing Demo from Hugh Farey directing The Real Inspector Hound

Precision Pointing Demo from Hugh Farey directing The Real Inspector Hound. Photo by Tom Flathers

Also in this series:
Offbeat Directing 1: The Vision Quest
Offbeat Directing 2: Understanding the Script
Offbeat Directing 3: Dreaming and Planning

What does the Director do? You might well ask! I’ve seen many directors at work and some appear to think it is entirely to do with deciding which side to make your entrance from and where to stand when you get there… These things do have to be decided (to some degree) but there is so much more to do and, like most things in life, we can always defer the hard tasks and meaningful, but difficult, conversations by doing something fairly mechanical (the washing up is always fair game if you’re at home – obsessing on where to place your cast if you’re in the theatre). So .. what is the actual role of the director?

The Director’s job is to TELL THE STORY.
Sounds easy, but it really isn’t. Continue Reading…

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Day Dreams by John Atkinson Grimshaw (Directing ... but not as we know it)

Day Dreams by John Atkinson Grimshaw (Directing … but not as we know it)

Also in this series:
Offbeat Directing 1: The Vision Quest
Offbeat Directing 2: Understanding the Script

I never stop dreaming and I never stop planning either. These two things work well together – in fact it is crucial that you can engage with both if you want to create something special (and you should). Never strive for mediocrity! Start to think big – and it really doesn’t matter that deep down you know you won’t get sell out audiences, standing ovations, knockout performances and a set to die for – AIM FOR THEM! When you aim for something big you are pointing yourself in the right direction. If you saw two signs – mediocre to the left and brilliant to the right, which way would you look? I think we’d all look right – so point yourself in that direction from the beginning and don’t look back. Never say ‘but there is no point, I won’t get there’ because in doing that you are missing the point. The point is that we want to improve our skills, achieve more and get a better show on than we have ever managed before and to do so we go in the direction of awesomeness and brilliance. I know lots of people simply don’t believe in themselves, some aren’t interested in improving skills and others don’t realise that improving their skills as a director (or anything) really isn’t rocket science (unless you want to be a better rocket scientist .. in which case it is). It is harder work, but the rewards are there if you put the time and effort in. So … onwards into dreams and planning … Continue Reading…

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The Script. Photo by Tom Flathers

The Script. Photo by Tom Flathers

You might like to read Offbeat Directing 1: The Vision Quest first.

I mentioned in Part 1 that you have read the play and enjoyed it, met the characters and yes, you would like to direct it. You’ve started to think about the design of the production and you’re inspired! Before you get into serious planning mode (coupled with some serious dreaming) I strongly suggest you read the play again. This time start to really understand the play. It is your job as Director to tell the story in a coherent and (appropriately) entertaining way and to do this you must understand what the author is actually writing about. Ask yourself ‘what is the premise of this play’? Get right down to one sentence that describes what the play is about. A good way of understanding the concept of the premise is to look at taglines (films make great use of these). I love the film ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’ (1992 version) – on my copy the tagline says ‘Love Never Dies’ – and that’s it – that’s what the film is about. Every part of the story is supporting that premise. I recently wrote a version of Beauty and the Beast – the premise of which I’m sure you are familiar with – ‘real beauty lies within’. This is an important step – you need to understand very clearly what the writer is actually writing about underneath the action and dialogue. If you’re going to tell the story get your head round it first! Continue Reading…

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Sir Galahad - the Quest of the Holy Grail - Arthur Hughes, 1870 - or 'On a Quest for the Director's Vision' ..

Sir Galahad – the Quest of the Holy Grail – Arthur Hughes, 1870 – or ‘On a Quest for the Director’s Vision’ ..(I wish)

This series is not the definitive ‘How to Direct a Play’ guide – I wouldn’t presume to be anywhere close to that (not even sure what it might look like). This is how I direct a show and I daresay we all have a few things in common we can compare and explore. It may also be of help to directors just starting out on their journey or others that need to refresh the way they approach the task. It may also be of no help whatsoever or may just give you an insight into how other people direct and be rather/tremendously/vaguely interesting in that respect. Who knows … Please feel free to comment!

So … stepping gracefully up to the ‘vision’ part, we assume that you have in fact read the play you want to direct. I know, it’s obvious isn’t it (no insult intended), but I have known directors turning up to an audition for their play and guess what? Yep, they haven’t actually got round to reading it. Director’s credibility at this point in the eyes of the prospective cast = nil. Continue Reading…

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