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How to Direct a Stage Play: 8 Tips

Ruby writes from the Philippines. She teaches communication courses including Speech and Theatere Arts. She enjoys gardening and reading.

directing-a-stage-play

What Is Stage Directing?

The skill of guiding dramatic performances on stage or in movies is simply called directing. Modern theatrical directors are fully responsible for all creative components of a dramatic performance.

Now, you are in charge of directing a play. You are about to embark on a few weeks of rapid development and colorful exploration. You will never forget your first experience directing a play, and you will change many people's lives in the process. Here are eight tips to help you.

Advice for First-Time Directors

  1. Organize Yourself
  2. Imagine the Play
  3. Focus on the Fundamentals
  4. Take Time to Study the Details
  5. Create a Team
  6. Don't Panic
  7. Respect Your Performers
  8. Evaluate Your Performance

1. Organize Yourself

In many aspects, a director serves as a coordinator and facilitator. It takes some forethought and preparation to coordinate the many distinct threads of a theatrical production.

It's really useful to have a rehearsal schedule. Establish due dates for returning scripts, gathering props, and publishing play bills. Set aside the first few rehearsals for blocking out the scenes, and don't forget to include one or two tech rehearsals.

The players' parents should be aware of what is expected of them and when, but you don't have to adhere to the timetable with deadly precision. Make it clear to everyone that rehearsal time is limited and that the show must be the main emphasis.

2. Imagine the Play

Nothing occurs until first a dream, as Carl Sandburg famously put it. Visualize the play's action. Have a concept of the visual and aural elements for each scene. Here are some things to consider:

  • What passages have the potential to make people laugh (or gasp)?
  • Which scenes in the play need to go more quickly than others?
  • Which lines need to be sped up?
  • Where are the climactic points?

Make sure you clearly explain your concept to your actors as you construct the "dream" in your head.

directing-a-stage-play

3. Focus on the Fundamentals

If the performance is bad, even the most expensive set and most spectacular effects won't save the show. Strong performances may amaze an audience even with a basic stage, no special effects, and second-hand clothes. The best plays start with acting basics.

Voice Projection

Projection and articulation are important. If the audience can't hear, they'll be unhappy. Your memorization will be useless. Projection requires proper breathing, word choice, and enunciation. Unskilled actors "turn up" by speaking louder and with more intensity. Audiences see clarity as loudness.

Stage Position

Also important is stage position. Student actors often speak while turning, hiding their faces, or avoiding the audience. With experience, every actor may "play to the audience," revealing their gorgeous face and the emotions it can convey.

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4. Take Time to Study the Details

The magnifier is the stage. On stage, little things may grow into great things, and a little disturbance can cause chaos in a large set. Sit in the house during a rehearsal to see your performance from the perspective of a viewer witnessing it for the first time. Move about the theater and check several views.

Take a close look. Pay careful attention, then relay everything you observed and heard to your cast and crew.

5. Create a Team

Drama is a collective craft. Don't attempt to create drama alone. You most certainly know folks who are skilled in construction, electrical work, sewing, and fundraising. Create a productive working connection with them and enlist their assistance.

Remember the support roles. Actors alone are not enough to make a play. It requires technicians, stage workers, set painters, PR personnel, a stage manager, a home manager, a property mistress, and others.

directing-a-stage-play

6. Don't Panic

Plan and prepare ahead of time. Never wait for the last minute to rehearse or do the needed stuff for your play. Always plan in advance. If you do this, you don't need to panic. You don't let panic become your default mode while putting a show together.

Panic may strike from time to time. The development of problem-solving abilities is one of the many advantages of directing a play, so approach any challenges with a level-headed, can-do attitude. Show your composure under pressure to your performers. You are capable of doing it.

7. Respect Your Performers

Actors and actresses should not be treated as chess pieces that can be moved about a board. They are multidimensional, thinking, emotional individuals who have lives outside of rehearsals.

On stage, support their artistic expression. Helping them to unwind and enjoy themselves requires that you must also relax and enjoy yourself. Be upbeat and express your appreciation for the performers' efforts. Find a way to focus on what they have done best. Commend them and do this with utmost sincerity to let them feel valued.

directing-a-stage-play

8. Evaluate Your Performance

At the end of the play, sit together with your team or crew and ask the following questions. This can be done informally, but take note of the responses. As a director, you need to listen to your entire team and use their feedback to guide you. You may add more questions to this list, but these will help you get started:

  1. How did you feel about our play?
  2. What did we/I do best?
  3. What did we/I do worst?
  4. How can we/I improve if we/I were to stage the play again?
  5. What was the audience reaction? What did you hear them say?

Closing Thoughts

Now, it's time to direct your play. Experience the reward that comes with seeing your actors and team working together. I did! So, you can as well. The tale you direct will be brimming with inspiration and fun. And whether you are a beginner or a seasoned director, you'll find yourself thinking, "Oh my! I want to see my crew again for the next show."

Remember, Philippians 4:13 states, "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me."

© 2022 Ruby Campos

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