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Stage Directing Theory
Directing Theory: pre-text, text and super-text
total theatre

The Theatre Team: Playwright, Producer, Director, Designers, and Actors. Contributors: Jeane Luere - editor, Sidney Berger - editor. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of Publication: Westport, CT. Publication Year: 1998.

(- Introduction: the Theatre Team: Taking the Play To The Stage - Part I The Producer - 1 The Producer's Role - 2 Interviews, Personal Accounts, Comments By Producers - 3 The Producer's Interaction With the Theatre Team In Legitimate Theatre - 4 The Producer's Interaction With the Theatre Team In Musical Theatre, 1940 To The Present - Part Ii The Director - 5 The Director's Role - 6 Interviews, Personal Accounts, Comments By Directors - 7 The Director's Interaction With the Theatre Team - Part Iii The Playwright - 8 The Playwright's Role - 10 The Playwright's Interaction With the Theatre Team - Part Iv The Designer - 11 The Designer's Role - 12 Interviews, Personal Accounts, Comments By Designers - 13 The Designer's Interaction With the Theatre Team - Part V The Actor - 14 The Actor's Role - 15 Interviews, Personal Comments, Points of View - 16 The Actor's Interaction With The Theatre Team)

Production Meetings page?

* prod. staff positions:

The Director's Role
Directors play many parts in production, depending upon the type of theatre group with which they affiliate--a commercial theatre, a repertory group, an educational theatre facility. The roles at such diverse venues will show distinct modes of interaction, authority, and responsibility. The range and the depth of directors' involvement at a venue can hinge upon the philosophy of the venue--its stance on the relevance of drama to society.

Meyerhold envisioned the process of production as similar to the launching of a rocket: The rocket represents "text," and the path of the rocket from sphere to sphere suggests the text's progression toward the audience. The launching starts with a playwright; soon the playwright falls off, and the director takes the play and its actors onward; then the director falls off, and the actors must take the play away from the director and make it their own. Finally, in a sense, the actors fall off, and the play belongs to the audience. In each of these stages, stress and change accompany the molding and reworking of the script. [ Vsevelod Meyerhold's concepts on theatre, including his graphic comparison of production to the launching of a rocket, are discussed in Oscar Brockett, History of the Theatre, 4th ed. ( Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1982), 577. ]


Issues for Discussion in Parts I through V:

The following lists (left) of "Issues for Discussion," one for each of this volume's parts, are based upon specific concerns or principles addressed in established theatre texts such as Robert Cohen Theatre ( Palo Alto, Calif.: Mayfield Publishing Company, 1983) and Oscar Brockett's History of the Theatre ( Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1982). These discussion questions also reflect concerns debated in today's theatre and academic forums.
(Amhart, Part V. -- Working with Your Collaborators)

* the texts on this page are from different manuals and handbooks.

We are entering the field of Technical Theatre and you better take classes in Stagecraft and other backstage professions. What is important to remember that director is a backstage profession. Maybe the most "off-stage" position in theatre...

Tech Theatre list of books from TheatreBooks.com *

Technical Theater for Nontechnical People (Paperback) 1581150202

Glossary of Technical Theatre Terms

technicaltheater.com

* If you think about majoring in directing, tech classes are required. Theatre UAF (see Kade Mendelowitz)

http://www.usitt.org United States Institute for Theatre Technology

Theatre Technical open directory listing *

costumes.org Tara Maginnis

Director and Dramaturg:

Dealing with plays *

PR and dramaturg *

Educating cast, crew and the public


Film Crew

Directing Index * Part I * Part II * Part III * Part IV * Part V *
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Production Team, CREATIVE CREW

There are several (new) pages on dutties and functions... stage manager, designers + new

Set Designer

The set designer is responsible for designing, building and dressing the set. You should have a preliminary meeting with the set designer to discuss the set. The designer should be able to tell you what things are possible in the venue you are using. Please, both of you, be realistic. Remember that “less is more” (at least sometimes). Once you have discussed the requirements, the set designer should give you and the LX designer a ground plan ASAP to aid in the blocking of the action, and eventually a model.

He/she is responsible in conjunction with the stage manager and safety officer to ensure that the set meets the necessary safety standards.

The designer and stage manager should sort out necessary transportation of any furniture. The designer will order the necessary materials (wood, paint, nails etc.) and find somewhere to construct the set. If the designer requires a construction manager s/he can arrange for one with help from the technical co-ordinator.

Lighting Designer

The lighting designer will produce the design, rig the lights, focus them to the necessary area of the stage and then plot states for each scene. The following is an explanation of what goes on in the lighting process, but all designers work differently, so please, ask your designer how they are going to proceed and what help they would like. There is no substitute for good communication.

Issues that will concern the lighting designer when discussing the design with the director and set designer may include practicals, windows, masking flats and drapes, use of gauzes, other curtains that may be rigged, what flying bars may be used by the set, and anything else that may affect or interfere with lighting positions. If you have two back walls, i.e. a back wall of the set with doors/windows and a masking back wall behind this, there should be a minimum three foot gap between the set back wall and the masking wall (more is better). This is to allow the lighting designer enough space to put lights at the correct angles to produce the type of light needed.

What does a lighting designer do?

The lighting designer will oversee the rig of the lanterns according to their design. The next stage is to focus each of the lights individually, pointing the light in the right direction and controlling the exact spread of the light with shutters or “barn doors”. It is not uncommon to have more than 60 lamps in a rig.

Although it is a very boring job, if a few people can be present to stand in positions and be focused on, it helps the designer. It helps if the director, assistant director, stage manager or even any actors with extreme patience (anyone who knows the positions on stage) can be present, at the LX designer’s discretion. Bring a book to read. The lighting operator should be here as well to help. If for any reason the operator is not present, it helps to have someone operating the board. This involves putting up or down whatever number circuit the designer calls for (it can be someone who hasn’t been a lighting operator before), so the designer doesn’t have to keep running back and forth to the box.

Plotting, the process of determining which lamps at what levels of intensity will be used for each separate lighting state, takes place after the focusing is complete. Designers will obviously already have in their mind what the state should look like and what lamps it will use, but balancing all the lamps in each state can take some time. The more lighting states you have, the longer you must allow for this process to be completed. Again, this is a boring process, but the cast should be present for the lighting states to be set accurately. Some designers will, if there has been time, have tried to get some basic states pre-plotted into the lighting board in advance. Other designers may choose to build each state separately on the night because altering a complicated programmed state can take as much time as starting a new state from scratch. More experienced LX operators who can program the board under the direction of the designer will speed up the process.

Wardrobe

Discuss your costume requirements as early as possible and invite your costume designer to take cast measurements early in the rehearsal schedule so that where necessary they may start sewing costumes as soon as possible. Costume call should be two weeks before the get-in if possible.

Sound Design/ Sound Tape

It is preferential that your sound designer/tape maker attends the technical rehearsals to set the sound levels. The levels of sound appear different to any empty house and a house with an audience. Most sound designers are a very good judge of levels required for the auditorium when the audience is in.

A good sound designer is crucial in a musical as it will be his/her responsibility to arrange the amplification that may be necessary.

Lighting and Sound Operators

Operators will be needed from the get-in through to the strike. Additionally they should attend some rehearsals before that to become familiar with the play. New lighting operators should be trained by the lighting designer, sound operators by the sound designer if there is one, otherwise arrangements must be made to have new sound operators trained by another experienced sound operator.

[ ]

Every production relies on a small army of people who, although they don't appear on stage, are every bit as important to the success of the production as the cast. They build the set, design the costumes, provide for lights, and make sure the audience finds the show. Without them, the cast would perform naked, in the dark, on a bare floor, in an empty room. They are The Prodstaff.

1. "The stage manager is the director’s right hand man prior to performance. They keep track of rehearsal schedules, scripts, props, and actors during the rehearsal process. Once the run of the show has begun, the stage manager is in control of everything that happens backstage or onstage." © 2002 About, Inc.

2. "The person who oversees the technical aspects of an in-studio production. In theatre, the stage manager is responsible for everything that happens backstage: all other backstage personnel, including heads of departments, report to him. In the professional theatre, once the show starts its run, he takes complete control (including taking any rehearsals for understudies etc.), as the Director's job is finished once he has given his notes after the final dress rehearsal." © 2000 - 2002 Acting Depot

3."The Stage Manager is the designated liaison between the onstage and backstage elements of a staged or filmed production. When preparing for a production, the SM coordinates the rehearsal process, making sure that all goes according to schedule and that any foreseeable complications to the smooth running of the show are taken care of. He or she is responsible for communicating the daily events in rehearsal room to anyone who wasn't present, including the design team, the administrative staff, and the scene shop. The stage manager is also responsible for designing how the scene shifts are to be executed.

"In performance, the stage manager is responsible for maintaining the show in a manner consistent to its original state on opening night. This involves calling all technical cues, making sure that all props and costumes are accessible in the same place for every performance, giving notes to and re-rehearsing the performers when they make changes or "improvements" to the work, and in some cases, preparing understudies and replacements to take over for the original performers.

"In union settings, the stage manager serves as the chief watchdog for the Actors' union within the production setting. Responsible for scheduling, maintaining contact information, and keeping things running smoothly overall, the stage manager takes on one of the most crucial and stressful positions in the scheme of a performing arts company.

"Stage management is often referred to as a 'thankless task,' but those hearty souls who choose to make it their profession are some of the most dedicated and skilled practitioners of the performing arts.

"How did the position of stage manager come to be? Originally, the director of a play was also an onstage participant in the production, and as such could stay around to oversee the entire show in the manner that a stage manager does today. With the influx of technical elements such as electric lighting, sound effects, and union arrangements, it became far too complicated of a task for one person to handle both the technical and artistic elements of a performed piece. The role of the "stage manager" came into play to oversee the technical elements, leaving the director to concentrate on the creation of the aesthetic space. These days, in all but the most professional of environments, the director conventionally stays with the production only until it opens. The stage manager, on the other hand, remains with the play until its final performance and through strike." ©2001, R. Cleaves and SMNetwork.org

4. "One person backstage sees a production through from beginning to end: the Stage Manager. Long before opening night, the Stage Manager has been at work, and by show time, there is no single person who knows the workings of a production, inside and out, as well as the Stage Manager.

"In the professional theatre, the Stage Manager does more than call cues. Duties include: carefully notating stage movement and scene tempos, organizing a master schedule and keeping the director up-to-date, providing daily communication lines between the director and designers, and making sure that each production area is running on schedule. The Stage Manager must also know all Equity rules, and therefore, looks after the best interests of the actors. The Stage Manager is always the first to arrive and the last to leave the rehearsal, because the Stage Manager runs the show. Good Stage Managers are not frustrated actors or directors, but highly skilled and disciplined theatre specialists." ©2003, Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University

http://www.aact.org/people/stagemanager.html

Areas of Responsibility (“Who does what?”)

Some aspects of the production may be ambiguous in terms of who is ultimately responsible for them, or they may legitimately be the concern of more than one person. Who does what obviously depends on the show and the people involved; there is not a defined set of rules. However, we have attempted to identify some areas where people have been unclear in the past, to provide some suggestions, and to bring these grey areas to everyone’s attention so that they do not get overlooked or done twice unnecessarily. Again, there is no substitute for good communication.

PART I: PRODUCER ISSUES
1. Who or what determines the amount of time scheduled for development of a production? Does it vary with each venue, with the complexity of the playscript, or is it a contractual matter?
2. Who or what influences the selection of the playscript to be developed by the theatre group? Is the decision the producer's?
3. What differences in acting skills appear at auditions for professional, regional, and academic theatre venues? Are the acting skills (as aside from singing or dancing) of actors auditioning for musical roles comparable to those for legitimate theatre?
4. What is the difference between acting a text and acting a lyric?
5. What are the major physical requirements for theatres housing musicals as opposed to nonmusical plays?
6. Does the producer need to provide the singing actor special coaching to make use of the physical, emotional, and vocal systems that enhance performance--breathing, projection, intelligibility?
7. Are significant limitations encountered by regional and academic theatre teams when musical theatre is attempted at facilities without choreographers or music directors? Are such limitations surmountable?
8. With an academic or community theatre, as opposed to a professional venue, would the director need to place more emphasis on perfecting the musical performance than on acting skills?
9. Established musicals like Fiddler on the Roof may by contract require use of their original, accepted choreography and staging. Is this at all practical or necessary?
10. How does the producer distribute responsibilities to the staff? How does the producer handle extra responsibilities for the staging of musical numbers?
11. What determines the size and nature of the orchestra or musical group--whether it will be full-sized or limited to the bare bones? (Is its size determined by the type of score, or the size of the budget, the size of the stage, the availability of musicians?)
12. Are producers' jobs made difficult by pay-scale differences for players at different venues?
13. Do scripts that require singers and/or dancers ever have straight acting roles? If so, is the pay scale a problem, and do the actors in each category interact easily--mix well?
14. How much is the structure of musical theatre appearing to alter from its earlier form (re: character development, setting)? How do choruses now serve the musical play?

PART II: DIRECTOR ISSUES
1. With what does the director begin the process of producing a new play? How much discussion with producer or with playwright occurs? With well-established plays (either recent or those in the public domain), how much will previous productions influence the present staging?
2. What or who determines the possible style of production--the use of conventional backdrops, sets, props, or the use of a more abstract and stylistic setting? How much might your choice hinge on whether the playscript was a new or an established production?
3. What or who determines a script's performance tempo--its "flow"? Is it the script or the actors or the director who slows down or speeds up the tempo? To what extent do actors set the tempo naturally by picking up cues, reacting to others' words or actions, slowing down or speeding up?
4. How can the director amplify or modify the author's stage directions for setting, lighting, costumes, properties, characters?
5. Does the director need a scale model of the set before rehearsals begin? before blocking? What use is made of a scale model in rehearsals, before actual set construction is completed?
6. How much can directors add to sound in staging--wind? storm? slammed doors? weeping? screaming? incidental music? an extra waltz for the dance scene in Williams The Glass Menagerie?
7. Given a choice of facilities (stages) for a new play, how would the director determine the form (type) of stage it should have--traditional, arena, or thrust? Would aesthetics or economics or previous staging determine the choice? (At the Alley's arena staging of Angels in America, the director chose an arena staging though the play's Broadway premiere had been on a proscenium stage.)
8. Casting: What role does the director play in selecting the cast? Is it a shared function with producer and playwright?
9. Is it actually possible at auditions to select actors who will fill the script's roles exactly--or is it a long shot? Does a director (often or seldom) need to replace his first choices? How soon might the director be able to realize that his choice had been unfortunate? ( Alan Schneider, in Entrances, wrote of the tact and trouble that came to him from unfortunate choices of his or of producer/playwright input into casting.)
10. How is the choice of the specific play to be produced usually made? Is it based on budget, on projected audience, on the theatre organization's purpose?
11. Does the financial backer have a part in the decision? In regional theatre, do the artistic director and the managing director have total input?
12. Directors and playwrights frequently resort to the same actors over the years--Mr. Albee has used George Grizzard, Kathleen Butler, Jessica Tandy; Tennessee Williams often used Colleen Dewhurst. Why might a director (and playwright) often choose to work with certain actors again and again? Is it totally from the actors' artistic presence, or perhaps from familiarity with the actors' learning style, concentration span, readiness to accept suggestion (direction?), responsibility, similar concepts of what theatre can or should be, or other considerations? Would it be a money matter?
13. Are the titles "designer" and "draftsman" equally accurate for the responsibility of the persons holding the positions? Do the titles connote the same level of creativity? At what point in production do designers (lighting, sound, costume, set) enter staging?

The Director's Interaction with the Theatre Team
1. 1. What major differences in the sets of circumstances at commercial, regional, or academic theatres might influence the selection of the par- ticular play and the nature of its production (re: size of budget, theatre space, audience complexion)?
2. How much do differences in time allotted for development of script and for the projected run of the play affect the director's necessary adjustments to staging?
3. Would the director be tied more noticeably to text at professional venues (as in New York City, where the playwright might often be in attendance during negotiations and rehearsals) than at regional or academic theatres?
4. At different types of theatre, are actors usually similar in what they consider appropriate or inappropriate regard for text (re: "duty" to script versus freer interpretation)?
5. At regional or academic venues, can the director make necessary economic adjustments or modifications to scripted stage directions (omit brief lines or scenes) without violating the authority of the text?
6. Is casting handled similarly at various venues, with the same intricacies of contracts or mixes of Equity and non-Equity actors?
7. Is the director's length of commitment to performance after opening somewhat uniform at all venues?
8. Do actors' expertise levels vary discernibly, so that time and extent of direction are factors in the organization's selection of a play and in the probability of its success?
9. Does a director need to be a teacher at one level more than at another, helping actors with tempo, focus, climax, perception of author's characters, and embodiment of that perception for audiences?
10. Does blocking offer more challenge (opportunity for innovation) at one category of theatre than another? How much do factors like size or sophistication of the facility (stage) and the nature of the lighting or of the acoustics predetermine the producer's and director's staging options, complicate their jobs, or limit their artistic drive?
11. How does the availability of support staff (management, technicians, designers) and the extent of consultation with them on set, lighting, sound, and costuming differ at particular venues?
12. With regard to marketing, public relations, and other business matters, to what extent would differences in their handling at a venue alter the preparation of the chosen play?

PART III: PLAYWRIGHT ISSUES
1. Stage directions were often sparse in scripts from past centuries, perhaps because playwrights were expected and welcomed at rehearsals. Today, with playwrights less often present at rehearsals, their scripts tend toward more-explicit stage directions. How might the tendency toward more-explicit stage directions affect our directors, actors, designers?
2. Today, how do playwrights see their role in rehearsals? How far into rehearsal might the playwright wish to attend? How much revision of text would be acceptable with a playwright present?
3. Should today's directors regard scripted stage directions as fixed components of text or as the playwright's "suggestions" for interpreting and performing the script? From the phrase "artistic integrity in production," what might playwrights expect from directors in addition to close adherence to text?
4. After a new play's premiere and first run, might the playwright less often than before approve modifications by the director and team for subsequent productions?
5. How closely do playwrights work with directors and designers on setting? Could a director or designer shift a scene's backdrop and fixed stage pieces from a realistic to an abstract style--or from a simple setting to a busy, involved one?
6. For actors' delivery of dialogue, to what extent are a playright's scripted cues intended as aids for actors? How much might an actor's disregard of scripted cues in favor of his own subjective approach to vocal tone, body language, even dialogue itself, lose the essence of the playwright's intended dramatic experience for the audience? (Can actors be inventive and still simulate and embody the role scripted by the playwright?)
7. With blocking, how vital is the playwright's scripted intention for positioning actors? Can the director move an actor downstage nearer the footlights or further upstage than the text indicates? Would the shifts mar the playwright's intended stage picture?
8. Can stage business or bustling activity not prescribed in the text take away from what the playwright intended for a scene, perhaps spoiling the silent moment during which the audience was to be deeply reflective? Could such shifts mar the rhythm of the scripted lines?
9. Theatre philosophy through the ages has said that playwrights believe that theatre's ultimate worth rests in its arousing and/or redeeming effect on the audience (re: Artaud's wish that it "drain abscesses collectively"). Which elements of production (designers' settings, actors' delivery of lines, or directors' focus on rhythm, sound, and movement) most often fulfill a dramatist's wish to arouse and/or redeem the audience?

PART IV: DESIGNER ISSUES
1. Is it possible to give designers carte blanche with design, or do the director and playwright usually have their visions of the setting, lighting, sound, and costuming pretty much in hand at the outset of production sessions?
2. 2. How much does the playwright's script (through its dialogue, stage directions, action) tell the designer about the appearance the set and costumes should take--whether they should be complex and elaborate or plain and simple?
3. If abstraction rather than realism is the director's choice in staging style, can a designer's costuming or scenery still have a dynamic part in furthering the playwright's intent for his script's staging?
4. Would a designer's work be basically the same for a play staged on a proscenium stage as on an arena stage? Would adjustments be easy or difficult?
5. How interrelated are the single components (light, costuming, color, sound, shape) of the plays design? To what extent does each depend upon the other? For example, how might lighting and costuming be interrelated?
6. Today, scenic design can be realistic and solid, abstract and fluid, or a combination of the two. When might a set designer suggest adjustments to a director to enhance or adjust the scripted style?
7. How can lighting serve artistic purposes without becoming a "spectacle" that detracts from the unity of the whole staging?
8. How much does the size of the production's budget limit the designers' tasks? How much can a designer use imagination to solve budget difficulties in staging?
9. In essence, does the designer serve the playwright rather than the director? Can dialogue between designer, director, and playwright help correlate design intents?

PART V: ACTOR ISSUES
1. What assists an actor most in making inferences about the playwright's characters and their situations, expectations, traits, standards?
2. Does aid in apprehending the character's nature appear explicitly in the script? in its subtext? from the director? from the interaction on stage during rehearsal? from the actmr's imagination?
3. How does the actor decide which actions in the play are major, to be emphasized more strongly than others? (Does the feeling of priority [need for emphasis] come when actors first read the play or first interact with others, or when the designers fix the lighting on them [or on some stage property]?) Or does this sense of priority come through the director's placement of actor in relation to audience, or to someone or something else?
4. How does interaction with the director or with other actors assist each actor in noting changes in mood, tempo, character--or in the play itself?
5. What expedients help actors "get into a role"? Do they devise aids like eye contact and gestures (shrugs, nods of the head, facial expres- sions) on their own as they read and memorize lines in the script, or a bit later, with help from the theatre team?
6. How does an actor stay "in character" from start to finish of each separate performance so that the viewers perceive the actor as the character? How do actors maintain the integrity (consistency and continuity) of their characters throughout a long run of the show?
7. From whom do actors seek help if they think the lines they must speak don't ring true to them--sound unnatural or awkward on their tongue--or if the lines don't give them sufficient clues to the person's character, style, and thoughts?
8. How much should actors know about their character? Should they know as much as the director knows--and even more?
9. How can an actor keep a role "fresh"? ( Stanislavsky [ ] spoke of the need before each performance "not only of a physical make-up but of a spiritual make-up" [].)

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