- Start planning early
- Communicate with other theatre users.
- Don't assume that the theatre will be completely at your disposal in the run-up to the play.
- Create a buzz around the play - Talk to the Publicity secretary.
Pay particular attention to getting the practical aspects of the production in good order before commencing rehearsals: -
- Set design - do you know what you want? Will it work? Is it over-ambitious? Or not ambitious enough? Who will build it?
- Costumes - Where will they come from? Have you agreed a budget? -
- Props - Quality of props can make a huge difference.
- Scene changes - Will they be slick? Can you avoid blackouts? Can the cast do the scene changes?
- Stage Plans - You can download stage plans here in .pdf (Acrobat) format or .dwg (Autocad)
- Lighting and Sound - Consult with the theatre technical team about your plans
Nicky Beards on directing A Midsummer Night's Dream
Some time ago, Nicky Beards offered some advice for prospective directors at Hasland Theatre. Here's her article reproduced in full, describing her experience of directing Hasland Theatre’s much-praised production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”:
So you want to be a director?.. Do you? Brilliant! But don’t read this...it’s bound to put you off. Or maybe it will inspire you? What I do know is that I asked myself these questions a couple of years ago and mulled them over for quite a while before the planets aligned, a new decade came swinging into view and Matt Smith became Doctor number eleven (these big Doctor Who events help me think straight). I came suddenly to the conclusion that, yes, of course I want to be a director; what right-minded, slightly egotistical and diva-ish actor wouldn’t?
“The play’s the thing”, so they say and I have to agree. I wasn’t prepared to direct a play that I wasn’t completely passionate about. So, when it was suggested that HTC might be up for a bit of The Bard, I could feel myself gearing up for a potential directorial debut. I knew that, with the right play chosen, I could rise to the occasion. A scary prospect.... but nonetheless thrilling. A Midsummer Night’s Dream was eventually selected and I got the gig.
My love of Shakespeare stems from damn good English teachers at school. Through studying plays such as Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth and Antony & Cleopatra, and taking on lead roles in Twelfth Night and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I seemed to rapidly develop an innate understanding of the text and to cultivate a real love of all things Shakespearean in my teens. I could weep at the thought that many of today’s kids dismiss his works as too hard to understand or think them boring. Directing “Dream” was Hasland’s chance to change a few perceptions.
Planning...Every word of The Bard is brilliant but sometimes the man couldn’t half waffle! So...my first job at the planning stage was to edit the script and try to make it more accessible to our audiences. I started doing this last summer, whilst rehearsing Titus Andronicus in Derby (I was in Shakespeare mode). 2010 still seemed a way off, but I don’t think you can start planning your play too early. Of course, not many plays warrant editing, but I think Shakey is an exception. I believe it paid off - many audience members said that our production had great pace and was easy to understand. Phew!
Mood boards! I think these are a great planning tool too. I started to form the look and feel of the play after a particularly successful trip to the RSC gift shop, where I purchased a lovely scrapbook to keep my ideas in. It helped evolve the overall tone, costuming and set designs (which were so lovingly and painstakingly created by Nick, Terry, Andy and the gang). Central to the set would be Puck’s tree...I never realised how awesome and real that tree could look. I miss it now it’s gone!
Casting. This can be a difficult process, however it’s done, but I knew from day one that I had the perfect bunch as my cast. I felt that recruiting some actors (and good friends) from Derby Shakespeare Company, experienced in the ways of Shakespeare, would be the perfect way to enrich our company and production (Hear, hear!- ed.). One of my favourite things about “Dream” was watching the two groups develop friendships, laugh riotously and learn from each other. I still cannot express in words the dedication of the cast. We had actors travelling up from Coventry, Nottingham and Derby several times a week, without a word of complaint or lateness, (although Bob cut it a little fine for one performance - let’s just say I could now get a job as a car parking valet in a hotel)!
I won’t deny it’s a bit daunting creating a play from scratch that people will be paying to watch, as well as being in charge of lots of actors, however easy they made it for me. It constantly surprises me that anyone would pay heed to my words and ideas. Many actors “do acting” to conceal their insecurities and I am no exception. If I am guilty of anything, I would say it was too much control over all aspects of the production. I am a bit of a control freak, I now realise! Next time, I will try to delegate more. Realisation that teamwork is the key fuelled the cast and crew to give their best. The rewards were manifold; the audiences loved it, the members loved it, The Derbyshire Times loved it, the cast and crew were never less than happy and I was thrilled. Hasland Theatre Company demonstrated (much as we did with the success of “Cabaret”) that we can do pretty much anything and do it well.
My top five tips for new directors:
1. Choose a play that you love.
2. Plan early. Know the play inside and out. Back to front if need be! Poor planning = grumpy director having sleepless nights ‘cos they are out of their depth!
3. Be flexible. Things change and evolve over the rehearsal period. Take on board new ideas that pop up. Be prepared to delegate.
4. Give the cast and crew the feedback and praise they deserve. Often! They’re there because they love local theatre. It’s not a job, it’s a hobby and they need to leave the theatre believing in what they are achieving and feeling good about themselves.
5. Most of all, enjoy it. Laugh a lot! HTC is a lovely company packed full of talent and generosity. What’s not to love?