Theater Director: Job Description, Duties and Requirements
Theater directors are responsible for bringing all the elements of a theatrical performance together to produce an artistic and entertaining production. They use the script, set, lighting and sound to produce an artistic work of creative value and vision.
Theater directors formulate a unique vision of the playwright's script for guiding the cast and crew. They furnish creative leadership for staging the production, rehearse and direct the actors, and approve the production's design, lights and sound direction.
Demonstrating strong management skills, theater directors employ a leadership style that is decisive, yet open to collaboration and inspiration. They are responsible for meeting high standards of art and production quality within planned budgets and time schedules, and they may have to work with producers who provide the financing in larger theaters and make many of the pre-production decisions.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts employment opportunities for producers and directors, including those working in the theater, should increase by 11% between 2010 and 2020. Because large theaters have consistent funding to support productions, prospects may be best there. According to the BLS, the average salary for producers and directors with performing arts companies was $59,090 in 2012.
Theater directors hold auditions to select the acting cast members. They collaborate with the technical crew, which may consist of lighting, sound, set and costume designers. Working with producers on large productions, there may be other supporting staff such as artistic directors and music directors to collaborate on extensive production designs.
The director blocks the play by adapting the actor movements to workable floor plans on the set. Leading rehearsals, he or she collaborates creatively with the actors and technical crew to make the blocking natural, changing it when necessary and allowing inspiration.
Actors draw out character motivations and relationships under the watchful eye of the director, who strives to develop these expressions over the performance's required transitions. Directors finish their work when they determine the final pacing of the play reverberates with the life of an artistic vision that is satisfying and complete.
Motivated by strong passions for theater and art, theater directors enter their craft from different routes. Aspiring directors may begin by accumulating experiences in school productions or community theaters as actors, crew members or budding playwrights. By assisting productions, it's possible to work toward a position as an assistant director and to begin building a reputation. A good resume of these experiences helps one advance along the more formal route toward a bachelor's degree program in theater.
The National Association of Schools of Theatre accredits degree and non-degree programs in the theater. Bachelor's degree programs serve to formalize theatrical experience by providing technical competence and enlarging one's fine arts background.
The bachelor's degree can be used to enter a Master of Fine Arts program in directing. MFA degree programs, typically lasting three years, prepare budding directors for entry-level positions as assistant directors or directing jobs in educational institutions. These programs are highly selective, some requiring qualifying experiences.
MFA programs may begin with production work and include courses in history, drama theory, and literature and criticism. Some of the programs guide students through direction of a classical play, such as one by Shakespeare, and an internship with a community play ensemble. Direction of a final full-length production may be incorporated as a culminating project.
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