So you want to be a theatre director? Here’s how to get started

The world is full of aspiring theatre directors. Some of them are young, some not so young. Some are already working in the theatre, others have yet to break into it. They all know, or think they know, that they want to try their hands at directing. It can take years for a director to break into the business – years that require stamina, persistence and sheer bloody-minded optimism. It’s a sort of apprenticeship by attrition. The trick is to keep learning. But how do you do that when all doors seem barred against you?

1. Read

However literate you think you are, keep reading. Read plays and novels and adaptations and screenplays. Read social histories and biographies and diaries. Read all around the plays that most interest you.

2. Go to the theatre

All sorts of theatre. Whatever you can afford. See everything – the National, the RSC, the Royal Court, your local rep, the school play. The latest blockbuster musical may be expensive, but if you can get a ticket, go and see it. You might learn more by watching a rough theatre production in the upper room than anywhere else.

3. Travel

The world is your oyster – and there are theatres all over the world. Broaden your view about what constitutes good theatre by seeing it in its myriad traditions and cultures. If you speak another language, don’t let it slide. Practise it, study its theatre literature, translate from it. Make it a special corner of your expertise.

4. Meet playwrights

Directors don’t have anything like the authority you might imagine. Playwrights are the primary creative force in theatre. Get to know them. Read their plays. Help them develop their work. Set up readings with actors. The more playwrights you know and who trust you, the more likely it is you will be asked to direct one of their plays.
5. Work in the theatre
Any job will do. Directors should understand how every other department in the theatre works. Get a job in the wardrobe department or with the stage crew, or in the lighting or sound departments; or as a dramaturg, a box-office clerk, usher or dresser. The more you know, the better you will be at the directing game.
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