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What do you look for in a Director?

Printed From: Community Theater Green Room
Category: Producing Theater
Forum Name: Acting
Forum Discription: Q&A about auditions, character development and other aspects of the craft
Printed Date: 5/18/24 at 11:01pm
Software Version: Web Wiz Forums 8.05 -

Topic: What do you look for in a Director?
Posted By: NDTENOR
Subject: What do you look for in a Director?
Date Posted: 2/21/11 at 11:03pm
   I've been to quite a few auditions. And I've done more than a few ( more than 40 ) productions.

   Just wondered what you look for in a director? ( The auditions go "both ways" .) I look not just for the role but for the director. Oh yes, I have my own answer.... but I'll wait for what others have to say.

Posted By: KEB54
Date Posted: 2/22/11 at 10:31pm


Posted By: Spectrum
Date Posted: 2/23/11 at 10:05am
I personally look for a director who approaches a show as a collaborative effort, with enjoyment of theatre as the primary motive.  The director who believes he/she is the only one with good ideas and doesn't want to hear anything from an actor except the dialogue is the one I steer clear of, even if I had planned on working tech for the show.  I am the first to recognize the director has the final say on every aspect of a show, but when he/she goes into a production closed to cast and crew SUGGESTIONS, there is an ego and/or a personal security problem with that director and the show suffers because of it.

Growing old is mandatory. Growing up is optional.

Posted By: edh915
Date Posted: 2/23/11 at 8:35pm
Reputation, yes.  Plus all that Spectrum outlines.  As an actor, I'm looking for someone who is the kind of director that I try to be.  If I've seen other plays that he's directed, I'll have a pretty good idea whether or not he knows what he's doing - from a technical standpoint at least.  "Collaborative Effort" are two of the most beautiful words in my actor/director lexicon.  I want a director who respects my opinion as much as he expects me to respect his.  The best directors (and actors) leave egos at the door and work together to do the best that they can do to make the production the best that it can be.  And a director should create a kind of creative atmosphere during rehearsals; an environment that encourages you to take risks and allows you to make a fool of yourself in the process with no fear of ridicule or condescension. 

Posted By: NDTENOR
Date Posted: 2/24/11 at 12:47am
What should ACTORS look for in Directors?:

     I would say that , for better or worse, directors account for 80% of a show ….. Meaning how “good” the show will be and also how “enjoyable” the show will be to participate . For a multitude of reasons, the two are sometimes quite different. But having done many years of community theater “ good” shows are “nice” to do but “enjoyable” shows are “better“. And “good “ and “enjoyable” shows are the best combination. And again…. It usually comes down to the director.

    Sometimes we have the luxury of having a lot of information about the director that we are going to audition . I absolutely agree, as some have expressed , that good directors view the process of putting a show together as collaborative. But , my experience is that we usually don’t have that much info on a director , many times, when you audition . You don’t really know if they can “collaborate” until you have started rehearsals. So what do we do? Overall, I would say that the directors audition process will reasonably give you some idea of the talents and traits of the director. It's not a perfect "thermometer" but I find it to be pretty good.

     How organized is the audition? Does it start on time? Does the director have the proper materials for the audition? Was it clear in the audition announcement what was to be done? Does the director clearly communicate both verbally and in written information at the audition his or her intentions such as when the show will be cast and when and how you will be contacted and other information . Does the director make clear rehearsal requirements? If it an audition for a musical is there an accompanist and piano and/or is the music director also at auditions? Can the accompanist actually play reasonably well? Is there call-backs or not? Is the space that is used for the audition adequate? Does the audition run efficiently or does it seem to be a big waste of time or very poorly organized ? That is , just sitting around twiddling your thumbs most of the time. Does the director seem to know what he’s doing or just fumbling ?. Does the director introduce the other people that are sitting helping him or her make decisions? Does the audition “make sense” in terms of what is evaluated and how? For instance, if it is a musical do you receive a reasonable opportunity to demonstrate your vocal abilities with music from the show. Do you get to read a reasonable amount? What is the general demeanor of the director? Does he or she put you at ease or do they seem somewhat abrupt or even condescending? In the end, do you feel that you have been given the opportunity to demonstrate your abilities individually and fairly or are you feeling like because of the way the audition was run you were kind of rushed through or you really weren’t evaluated fairly.

     The bottom line of all this, of course , is three general things: 1) Does he or she communicate well? 2) Does he or she seem well organized? and 3) Are they respectful of the individuals that audition for them?

     Let me say finally that I know that directing is not any easy thing to do. And everyone has their own abilities and talents. . But some directors are good to work with and some are much less so. Some are REALLY good , some are OK, and some I would not work with no matter what role I was offered ( although this is usually after the fact) . And I have found that personal sanity a very precious commodity that should not be given up so easily .

So remember, the next time you go to an audition; it’s not just the director that has a choice to make.




Posted By: Majicwrench
Date Posted: 2/24/11 at 2:05pm
 The last time I turned down a role, the director was late for the auditions!!   Talk about underwhelmed. The only reason I stuck around was just to see the other actors work.
 Personal sanity is indeed a precious commodity.

Posted By: Rorgg
Date Posted: 2/24/11 at 3:22pm
My girlfriend (also an actor/director) and I have a saying that "it's the director's fault" for anything that happens during a production -- good, bad, or indifferent.  And while it's somewhat tongue in cheek (especially to call a great performance someone's "fault") there's more than a little truth in it.  So I tend to agree there.

I think you may be a little off base on all your audition watchpoints, however.  As a director, I've had a range of experiences with production staffs.  From good to bad and along the spectrum in between.   And I think that's helped me clue in that in the audition process, the director is usually less than in full control.  It's not unusual for a director to be brought into the process, sometimes with the show already selected, a month (or less!) before auditions begin.

Since rehearsals start almost immediately thereafter, as a director, you need to focus immediately on the show.  What are you doing with this play?  How are you interpreting it?  What's your idea for the look and feel of the show?  Do you need to assemble a crew yourself to get there?  What's your budget?  What's my vision for the characters?  Do I have the budget to do what I want to?  Will the theater space and/or production staff let me do everything I want, or will there be battles?  There's a lot to think about that clearly falls into the realm of what *I* need to do. 

And then I might give a thought to the auditions.

They've probably already been scheduled, with the space arranged and some staff on hand.  Ideally, the production staff will extend their arms and ask how you want to hold your auditions.

This rarely happens.  More likely, they have a way that they do things.  It's what they know.  It's what the usual group of auditioners know.  They have a process.  You want to do what?  Well... we've never done it that way before... but if you really think...

These battles CAN be fought, but it's not usually worth the effort, there's rarely the time available, and some (availability and quality of the facilities) just cannot be won.

I'm not saying you can't make a decision about the PRODUCTION from this, because if the company's that off-kilter in just having the auditions... chances are it's going to bleed in past that.  But that doesn't mean that the director is necessarily bad, which is what you asked.

I directed a show once for an organization that had a very involved director that virtually dictated every step of the process outside rehearsals themselves and even made some requirements on that.  Believe me -- not a situation I'll get involved in again.  But I had a professional obligation to fulfill, so I picked my battles, worked within the constraints I couldn't lift, and came out with a pretty good show at the end that I think the cast quite enjoyed.

That said, if I'd been there as an auditioner, it would have driven me NUTS.

But in another production (where the production staff really was just interested in giving me the assistance to accomplish what I wanted to do) I'd have been very happy as an auditioner.

Of course, yes, pay attention to the director him/herself, but don't lay everything that happens there at their feet.  First, I'd go with asking people who've worked with them before.  In fact, I've had a CT show audition on my schedule for months simply because it's a show I've wanted to do with a director I've heard nothing but good things about from friends.

(As a side note, I found it kind of funny how you worded your reply to your own OP -- not to mention, why you didn't just include it there.  But that's not really relevant, just interesting.)

Posted By: dramacorrect
Date Posted: 5/22/11 at 10:10pm
As an actor, tech person, crew person, or as a staffer, I look for a person who believes in teamwork.  The only real dealbreaker for me is someone who doesn't respect other people or understand the collaborative nature of theatre as an art form. 

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Posted By: Pquince
Date Posted: 10/10/11 at 5:32pm
Reputation is a big part of something I look for in a director. If I don't know the director, I look at how he/she handles auditions. When I direct, I make a little intro speech before we begin, outlining my directing philosophy (I very much welcome input from actors and tech). That way, they know where I'm coming from, and that my job is to create an environment where the actors feel safe to play and explore and create, trusting me to keep them from making an ass of themselves onstage (unless the person is playing Bottom). 

And, I hope, here is a play fitted.

Posted By: falstaff29
Date Posted: 10/12/11 at 7:27pm
Looking back on my worst directors, the one quality they shared was that they wasted our time:

1. by rehearsing a scene ad infinitum without being able to satisfactorily explain to the actors how to give what the director wanted (I spent two and a half hours repeating an entrance where I walk in on two characters kissing passionately because the actors didn't want to get that intimate and it was inconceivable to the director to have blocked a convincing stage kiss)

2. by wasting weeks in table work on utterly pointless questions (for instance, what my character thinks about other characters in the play with whom my character doesn't even share an existence on earth, as the play bounces between two time periods)

3. by having risible and pretentious visions (do I really need to give an example?)

4. by insisting that actors indicate the meaning of their dialogue in a broad manner like one would expect of a fifth-grade choral concert (e.g., "He wants money [rub fingers together].") with the mantra that "This isn't Friends."

5. by vomiting all over the stage during an outdoor performance

6. by fawning overtly over the young, attractive, but underwhelmingly talented and miscast female lead

7. by caring so much more for his set design that we had a working fireplace and constantly falling "snow" (strike was a bitch) but we rarely got any constructive notes

8. by casting a show in a way that made actors uncomfortable (including by having inappropriately young actresses in what was a naughty production), showing up late (up to a half hour) on a regular basis, populating a musical with a cast who could largely not read music and had no rhythmic sense, having no clue who has supposed to be at rehearsal, not caring one way or the other when there were no-shows, running through a scene once instead of rehearsing it, not enforcing the off-book date, and when tech week came and the show still sucked cutting large swaths of it, pasting or taping crib sheets all over the stage, and having the world's most obvious prompter SPEAKING the lines from the audience.

Yeah, that was a bitter experience.

Posted By: SamD
Date Posted: 10/18/11 at 7:16pm
I look for a director that's smarter and better than I am — and the wasting time thing really bugs me, too!

Posted By: Majicwrench
Date Posted: 10/18/11 at 11:23pm
 I am dealing with a director now, we are working on Nutcracker, which is a first for me. Anyway, I like her personally, but jeesh she wastes sooo much of our time. I recruited some of my regular acting gang for this project, and am having a hard time with all the delays, waiting, and tardiness.  Am going to let her know.

Posted By: JoeMc
Date Posted: 10/25/11 at 3:02am
G'day Kieth!
Might it work if you have a tech meeting with her?
Also it may be a good clue to do some simple Production form sheets, including running sheets for the show & add a time based element. It might be she has fallen into the old trap, of we have plenty of time.Embarrassed
Pad up your oars, so you do it gently gently; I did it years ago, but the director spat her dunny & pulled the pin 'n evaporatedOuch
I got lumbered with the lot!Angry

[western] Gondawandaland
"Hear the light & see the sound!
{may you always play to a full house!}

Posted By: Majicwrench
Date Posted: 10/25/11 at 5:56pm
 Yeah, I wouldn't want to get lumbered with the lot, that's for sure :) Thanks for the advice.
 To add to the misery, she is having some minor surgery this week. Give me strength....

Posted By: JoeMc
Date Posted: 10/25/11 at 11:23pm
Let's hope the surgery is just cosmetic?
Or you might hear the shout of 'timber'!Ouch

[western] Gondawandaland
"Hear the light & see the sound!
{may you always play to a full house!}

Posted By: Theatrepalooza
Date Posted: 3/29/12 at 11:11pm
I have found myself at least partially kindred to virtually every response so far, so I am going to just list one small pet peeve......I cannot, cannot, cannot STAND a director who uses his or her audition or rehearsal table as a PICNIC table for his or her FREAKIN' DINNER! As an actor, I do NOT want to hear my director chewing and belching and I really do not want to smell his or her gazpacho while I am trying to rehearse.

Give me your full, undivided attention, and stop shoving a meatball sub down your throat while I am performing!

Just one small subject, but one that REALLY gets my goat!

Jim - Check Out THEATREPALOOZA, my online gift shop for theater people!

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