What does a Stage Director do?

Lily Ruha

A stage director manages all of the creative aspects of a theater production. The director’s responsibilities include interacting with script writers, auditioning and hiring performers, conducting rehearsals, overseeing the production crew, and making all other creative decisions. A stage director may work with a theatrical production, a dance company, a musical group or any performing arts group that performs on a stage. Most stage directors have prior experience as performers, have worked in various aspects of the theater, and/or have studied theater in an academic setting.

A stage director hires and directs the performers in a theater production.
A stage director hires and directs the performers in a theater production.

The stage director of a production is tasked with pulling together all of the creative elements of a production. If it is a new play, for example, the director might work closely with the playwright, adapting the script as needed. Auditioning, hiring and rehearsing the actors are usually responsibilities of the stage director. Giving post-performance feedback is also part of the stage director’s job, to keep performers aware of the production’s strengths as well as areas in need of improvement.

A stage director may handle the creative aspects of a theater production.
A stage director may handle the creative aspects of a theater production.

Stage directors also work closely with the production crew. Costume designers will usually report to the stage director, who has final say on the effectiveness of the costume design. The stage director also gives instructions to the lighting crew, who makes adjustments based on the director’s specifications. In productions where music is present, stage directors ensure proper placement of the musicians on the stage, determine the appropriate volume for the music and assess the right musical mood for the overall production. If choreography exists, stage directors are involved in determining the timing of entrances and exits of the dancers and the location of the performers on the stage.

A stage director might give instructions to a lighting crew.
A stage director might give instructions to a lighting crew.

Most stage directors have to be willing to travel, since there are not many permanent professional director positions. Some directors are required to travel with the cast and crew, as is the case with a stage production on a cruise ship. Some directors work in local productions in their nearby communities. In many cases, the high level of competition for directing jobs demands that a director be willing to relocate to a new city, state or country.

There are many different routes that individuals can take to prepare for a career in stage direction. Many directors start out as performers. Others study closely with seasoned directors in local or community settings. Another common path is to study theater in a university program, where all aspects of theater production are taught. Some stage directors have no formal academic training, but have completed independent theater workshops that teach basic to advanced directing skills.

Stage directors may sit where the audience will to give tips on blocking.
Stage directors may sit where the audience will to give tips on blocking.

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