Travis Preston Shares Less Known Tips for First Time Stage Directors

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According to a recent survey, stage directors have one of the most stressful positions within the arts industry. The combination of working long hours, organizing a team of potentially more than 100 crew and cast members, and bringing to life an artistic vision is no easy task. For many new theater directors, this position can be both a dream come true and an emotionally taxing experience. As Dean of CalArts School of Theater and Head of the Directing department, Travis Preston recognizes the unique struggles amateur directors face every day and is uniquely qualified to share his experience. Below, Travis Preston will attempt to lessen some of the pressures of directing by sharing his tips for first-time stage directors.

Make Sure to Rehearse Important Scenes Before the End of the Day

All directors recognize the importance of effective rehearsal. During rehearsal, how actors perform in one scene will often influence how the tone of the next, with the final stage result being a cultivation of each of these rehearsals. For this reason, it is perfectly understandable that new directors would want to save the most important scene for the end of rehearsal, as practicing the scenes leading up to this climax influence how actors respond to the script. However, this can be a costly mistake as actors will often use the notes given to them throughout rehearsal within the climax scene. It is vital for actors to give an unadulterated performance for important scenes and remain uninfluenced by previous notes.

Be Sure to Be Highly Involved in Casting

There is a popular theater saying that 90 percent of directing is casting. This saying holds a certain amount of truth, as having talented actors with the right chemistry can make or break a stage performance. In order to successfully cast your production, new directors must ask themselves what kind of audition will most effectively cast the best actors for each role? While some shows may have a more successful casting if actors perform monologues, others may do better if auditioning actors read directly from the script. Finally, it is important that new directors remember that talent does not always equal reliability. Although an actor may appear perfect for a role if they do not show dedication to the production, they should be immediately replaced by a more reliable actor.

Take Notes on Everything

As a director, it is your job to observe every detail of your stage production. Any small mistake, inconsistency, or problem with rehearsal should be written down and later communicated to actors or crew. While this is a significant job for any sole person, staying organized and keeping diligent notes will help directors recall every note during rehearsal and ensure that the appropriate changes are made.

Travis Preston
Travis Preston of CalArts blogs about modern theater and the arts

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