The key part of a theatre director’s role is passion and drive for how the theatre world works. They’re the leader of creative vision, interpreting words into a performance on stage with music.
The magic of being a theatre director is creating new ideas, thinking outside of the box and bringing a show to life with performers, music and dancing. It’s the opportunity to be open-minded about your creative vision.
What is a theatre director?
Theatre directors lead on putting a final production together. They’re responsible for the creative and practical interpretation of scripts or musicals. The director is involved through the entire process from the design, pre-production stages and casting to the end performance.
A degree or higher national diploma (HND) isn’t essential to becoming a theatre director, however, a relevant degree could provide you with the necessary theatre skills to apply to this role.
The performance goal is to create something which connects with the audience. This means coordinating the team effectively and ensuring your plans align. You will have a say in lighting, sound, costume, stage design and more.
The theatre roles and responsibilities can vary depending on the size and staffing structure of the theatre you’re working at. It’s a collaborative role which means, you will work across every department in the theatre. These are the many responsibilities you can expect:
- Collaborating with writers through workshops and idea sessions.
- Adapting scripts and working with writers to develop scripts.
- Budgeting for the production costs.
- Analysing scripts and conducting relevant research for success.
- Understanding and translating a script for a musical score.
- Organising auditions for performers, musicians, hiring theatre designers and more.
- Strong time management and organisational skills.
- Attending set design meetings.
- Organising and attending rehearsals.
- Communicating and collaborating with all the theatre team including production and the actors.
- Attending preview performances and reviews for improvements.
- Work on the marketing side of the theatre show to create hype through interviews.
Most directors are either employed on a freelance or fixed-term contract basis, which can alter the director’s salary range. The Independent Theatre Council (ITC) negotiates the minimum pay rates for a whole range of jobs within the theatre from administrative staff and choreographers to directors. On average the preparatory fee for a full-length pay is £1,614.30. The preparatory fee for short pay is £1,117. The rehearsal-weekly payment is £494, and the weekly pay for all duties is £599.90. As salaries are generally low, many theatre directors also run creative workshops or branch out into acting to increase their salary overall.
For more experienced directors or those who work on a freelance directors basis, contracts and salaries can be negotiated and vary considerably. Many theatre directors may also employ agents to arrange a deal on their behalf for different projects.
A degree or higher national diploma (HND) isn’t essential to becoming a theatre director, however, a relevant degree could provide you with the necessary theatre skills to apply to this role. Subjects include performing arts degrees, drama degrees, theatre studies degrees, music degrees, English literature degrees and many more. These courses will provide insight into the industry and can offer, depending on which degree, onsite placements. This helps with a more visual understanding of the creative working world.
More than likely, before becoming a theatre director, you will already have the industry experience to reach that level.
For further study, you can look into a Master's degree, specialising in drama degrees, theatre degrees or directing postgraduate degrees. Few universities offer a Master's degree in directing, however, if it’s your passion, it can help you further along in your career. These director courses will teach you how to direct and provide an opportunity to put that work into practice.
As a degree or HND isn’t necessary to work your way up to a theatre director, you may be able to progress into the role by working within the creative industry. Whether as an actor, writer, stage manager or producer, theatre experience can help you gain a reputation for this line of work.
Training and development
More than likely, before becoming a theatre director, you will already have the industry experience to reach that level. Many directors, don’t have any formal training to continue their development when working, as it’s usually self-directed. Some venues can afford to sponsor you for training but many can’t and if you are a freelance director, you’ll need to fund this yourself.
There are specialist courses available in directing to further your knowledge. The Federation of Drama Schools offer accredited courses in subjects including technical theatre and stage management, and a host of other non-accredited relevant courses.
The National Youth Theatre (NYT) provides numerous training opportunities and onsite placements, and includes working onstage and backstage. Professional directors work on the shows, providing you a chance to develop your theatre skills and making relevant contacts.
Work experience is crucial to becoming a theatre director as it provides insight into the workings of the theatre.
Other regional theatre companies can also help you gain professional theatre experience. The Regional Theatre Young Director Scheme (RTYDS) offers various programmes such as the introduction to directing and residency placements in the theatres.
The Stage Directors UK (DSUK) professional body is for theatre and opera directors. Their membership is ideal for professional development and networking opportunities.
As a creative and managerial job, the role of a theatre director requires numerous skills and including:
- Strong negotiation and interpersonal skills, when collaborating with various teams.
- Out-of-the-box thinking and creativity in all areas.
- The ability to express your creativity orally and in writing.
- Strong team player and great with time management.
- Willing to take artistic risks and have a persuasive nature.
- Motivating and inspiring others.
- Excellent organisational skills to plan out schedules and work with others.
- Great research skills.
- Passion, dedication and enthusiasm.
- Understanding of technical issues, the workings of a theatre and the entire process.
- Develop innovative ideas and great at problem-solving.
- Knowledge of health and safety procedures in the theatre.
- Understanding various types of theatre.
- Awareness of audiences and investors.
- Flexibility towards your approach to work.
- Consideration of issues of ethics and authorship.
Work experience is crucial to becoming a theatre director as it provides insight into the workings of the theatre. There are plenty of ways to gain work experience within the theatre industry.
Getting involved with any form of drama can be beneficial to your creativity. Research local opportunities, whether acting, assisting backstage or front-of-house to attending drama clubs. You can also invest your time attending the theatre shows and plays, and write reviews of them.
You can venture into volunteering roles as a director. Directing student shows, films or even work on your projects. These will provide you with hands-on theatre experience in a director manager setting and grow your creativity, developing new ideas.
We’d always recommend furthering your reading on the theatre world. The Stage is a specialist press, which provides up-to-date news and opinions on the profession. It’s useful for being on the ball for future career opportunities.
Assistant director jobs are always helpful to gaining theatre experience working alongside a professional director. This could be through an internship programme or volunteering for a particular director or theatre company.
Theatre directors lead on putting a final production together.
Networking is valuable for building a career in the theatre industry. Many opportunities are to do who you know and why it’s crucial to make contacts throughout your theatre experience.
Developing as a theatre director has many routes you can go down. Initially, you can begin working for small touring companies, assisting in developing smaller-scale productions. This provides the experience to progress into more senior roles and larger companies as a director.
It’s usually around ten years of experience until you can apply for more senior posts. Although, once you’ve gained extensive experience, there’s the option to work on your own accord. You can set up a company, or work freelance and begin individual projects. Alternatively, there’s the option to accept a residency for artistic director jobs at a particular venue. You’ll then be responsible for the complete seasonal programme and are generally more of a managerial role.
You can move to subsided theatres in the commercial sectors leading to film and television opportunities and a salary increase.
- Rates of Pay — ITC-Arts.org. Retrieved 1st September 2022.