Director's Craft - Focus Course Profile
This course requires students to experiment individually and collaboratively with forms and conventions of both drama and theatre from various cultures and time periods. In this course, students will learn about theatre practice and stagecraft by directing theatre pieces. Students will also interpret dramatic literature, media sources, and other texts while exploring various theories of directing. Students will examine the significance of dramatic arts in various cultures and will analyse how the knowledge and skills developed in drama are related to their personal development, social awareness, and long-term goals.
This course provides students with an opportunity to learn about theatre through the eyes of the theatre director. Students will focus on the stages of theatre production and explore various approaches to directing through text analysis and practical application. This course is designed for senior students who have an understanding of, and experience with, acting techniques and who are ready to explore artistic leadership within the theatre production process.
Scope & Sequence
Unit 1. Director as Professional
Students will explore the role of the director and how s/he fits into the overall production. They will explore the emergence of the director from the work of George II, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen, in Germany and Konstantin Stanislavski in Russia to the powerful forces in the emancipation of theatre directing in the modern era. To gain a full understanding of the discipline of directing, students will go through the rehearsal process from the director's first reading of the play to the point where the show is turned over to the stage manager. This unit culminates in demonstrating what the student-directors have learned from the exploration of directing styles. This unit is the foundation for the director as a professional.
Unit 2. Director as Interpreter
Students will explore how the director brings the script to life. They will develop critical literacy skills for analysis, interpretation and assessment of directed work. They will review the elements of a play, dramatic structure, types of plays and styles of performance to gain an understanding of the relationships between the director and the playwright, director and acting company, and director and audience. Students will explore the themes, imagery, symbols and metaphors of the play, and how these elements guide the director's decision-making process. Ultimately, the student-director will gain an understanding of what influences the choices a director makes. Through this understanding, the connection between these choices and their effect on the audience will become clear to the student-director.
Unit 3. Director as AnimatorStudents will learn how the director translates interpretations into physical actions. Students will review the areas of the stage and techniques of blocking. They will explore composition and the process of creating pictures on the stage that contribute to telling the story. They will use tableau and storyboarding as foundations and include an exploration of focus, balance and rhythm. Students will then examine floor plans and stagecraft, review script notation and learn to keep organized and clear notes. Students will learn stage positions, making entrances and exits, upstaging, countering, and using groupings (i.e., triangles). These tools will allow students to engage their imaginations as they begin to explore, plan and revise their role as animator. They will learn how to serve the needs of the character(s) and the script through the choices they make. Students will examine scenes from various stage productions and interpret directorial choices. A study of theatre spaces will also help students choose the space that best suits their directorial vision as well as the needs of the play.
Unit 4. Director as Collaborator
To help fulfill their artistic vision, students will gain a fundamental understanding of the technical components of theatre so that they can communicate effectively with members of the production team. This unit touches on Lighting, Sound, Set Building, Costumes, Hair, Make-up, Special Effects, Props--the key areas that directors must engage in for effective collaboration with others. The unit also includes the relationship with the stage manager and a brief overview of the arts management side of a theatrical production, including producing, marketing, tickets and box office, in order to develop the director as collaborator.
Unit 5. Director as Guide
Students will explore the director/actor relationship. They will learn the various components of an effective rehearsal i.e., warm-ups, rehearsal decorum, creating an ensemble, games, activities and the use of improvisation. They will learn key concepts in the Actor/Director exploration that include given circumstances, beats, the action, obstacle, tactics, moment before, transitions, super-objective, the arc, dramatic conflict, motivation, scattering and gathering, backstory, key word, inner dialogue, making choices, and subtext. The unit includes "stage business" and how important it is for the director as guide to ground a performance in reality.
Unit 6. Director as Artist
This unit is the culminating activity for the semester. Students will direct a scripted scene or a one-act play. This will require full use of the creative process, bringing all the components of the course together. Scene work can be accompanied by the creation of a prompt book and directorial notes to show the director as a creative artist.
1. Directing a Scene or One-Act Play
Students will direct a scripted scene or a one-act play using the creative process and bringing all the components of the course together.
2. Prompt Book
A prompt book is an essential tool used in building a theatrical production. It is used by the director, stage manager, technical director and the actors. It contains copies of script and records the thinking, interpreting, staging, costumes, props, lighting, sound effects and all other technical aspects of the production. An essential component of the prompt book is "choice," which must be supported by the text and the student-director's vision. S/he must make choices regarding how lines are to be delivered, the staging, and the technical elements of the production i.e., lights, props etc. and how they will serve to create the impact the director is aiming for.
Note for teachers: Although this assignment focuses on a scene from a play, it still involves interpreting the entire play.
Audition (Paperback) by Michael Shurtleff ISBN: 139780553259797
Backwards & Forwards: A Technical Manual for Reading Plays by David Ball ISBN: 0809311100
Break A Leg! An Introductory Guide to Stage Directing by Andrea Gibbs ISBN: 1566081637
Between Director and Actor by Mandy Rees & John Staniunas ISBN: 0325004323
Directing A Play (Paperback) by Michael McCaffery ISBN: 0714825131
Directing for the Stage: A Workshop Guide of Creative Exercises and Projects: A Workshop Guide of 42 Creating Training Exercises and Projects (Paperback) by Terry John Converse ISBN: 1566080142
Fundamentals of Play Directing (Hardcover) by Alexander Dean and Lawrence Carra ISBN: 003014843X
Notes on Directing by Frank Hauser & Russell Reich ISBN: 9780802717085
On Directing (Paperback) by Harold Clurman ISBN: 0684826224
Play Directing:Analysis, Communication and Style by Francis Hodge and Michael McLain (Hardcover) ISBN: 0205419232
NTC's Dictionary of Theatre and Drama Terms by Jonnie Patricia Mobley, PhD. ISBN: 0844253332
Theatre Directing: the Basics (Hardcover) by Thomas de Mallet Burgess ISBN: 0415429242
Thinking Like A Director (Paperback) by Michael Bloom ISBN: 9780571199945
Tips Ideas for Directors by Jon Jory (Paperback) ISBN: 9781575252414
Educational Theatre Association: http://www.edta.org/professional_resources/links.aspx#technical Resources for building, lighting, costuming, running your show
Article: "Directing Theatre" by Debra Bruch http://www.danillitphil.com/base.html
Justin's Theatre Links: http://www.theatrelinks.com/directing/
The Life of a Female Theatre Director: http://womenandhollywood.blogspot.com/2008/12/life-of-female-theatre-director.html
Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia: http://www.canadiantheatre.com/
The Directors Table: http://www.artsvivants.ca/en/eth/director/
Stage Directions: http://lecatr.people.wm.edu/stagedirections.html
www.amazon.com for The Broadway Theatre Archive - a great video selection of Broadway Plays
Shurtleff on Acting from Michael Shurtleff the author of Audition: ISBN: 9781565521292
Christie Lites: www.christielites.com
(Stage lighting business that offers rentals and services.)
Jack A. Ltd. Frost: 3245 Wharton Way Mississauga, ON L4X 2R9 Canada
(The company is a provider of lighting, sound, scenic technology and effects.)
Educational Theatre Association
INSTED (International Network for Students in Theatre Directing): http://www.insted.eu/
Structured Overview (graphic organizers, powerpoint)
Viewing Videos and interpreting directing choices
Reading testimonials from famous directors
Compare & Contrast
Reading for Meaning
Building Set Design Models, Props, Costumes etc.
Mantle of the Expert
Field Trips with reflective discussion
Alternative Scenarios - watch a video of a scene from a play and create alternate blocking
Writing in Role
Whole Group Discussion
Create a Word Wall
Glossary of Terms Specific to Course
Action - The physical pursuit of an objective.
Arc - A journey or pathway experienced by a character usually resulting with change or evolution.
As If - A convention used by actors to meet the emotional needs of a character. The actor invents a situation that will evoke the required emotions.
Backstory - The history behind a situation or circumstance in a story. A good backstory will support the playwright's intentions and provide the actor with background that can help to create a more fully realized and in-depth portrayal.
Beats - A unit of action that marks shifts, could be a change in topic, tone, emotion, or action. Beat is also defined as a pause to a count of one.
Breath Bars - A forward slash used to divide dialogue into thoughts, or places where an actor would take a breath.
Choices - The decisions of an actor or director as to how a character in a play will be interpreted. Choices of tone, gesture or meaning must be specific and followed through with.
Composition - The visual imagery created by the combination of the staging and design elements.
Countering - The movement of an actor to re-balance the stage in response to a partner who has has moved to his or her other side in front or behind them.
Cue - A word or action that signals a response from an actor. A cue is also a signal that the stage manager uses to call lighting, sound, set changes, etc.
Dramatic Conflict - Desire + Obstacle. Dramatic conflict is established when the character comes face to face with an obstacle.
Dramaturg - A specialist who does research on the play and assists the director in the preparation of a production. S/he may assist the company during the rehearsal process answering questions about the text, the language, the period, etc., and also may provide feedback to the director through the rehearsal process.
Focus - To listen and concentrate. Also, the place on stage where the director and actors wish to have the audience's attention at a given moment in a scene.
Found Theatre Space - A stage can be improvised wherever a suitable space can be found. The integration of space and presentation can provide for an exciting theatrical experience.
French Scene - Scenes that begin and end with a change in the number of characters on stage. It is a technique used by directors to separate the play into discrete sections for script analysis and rehearsal scheduling.
French Scene Chart - A chart that shows which characters are in which scenes.
Gathering - Referring to a piece of dialogue that an actor says for herself or himself or 'under their breath'. This is in contrast to a scattering line.
Images - The visual conception or representation of something.
In The Moment - A term for actors describing when they are fully immersed in the character and living the experience.
Inner Dialogue - The thoughts that are constantly running through the mind of the character. Some of the thoughts are spoken and some are not and remain inner dialogue. The inner dialogue means that the character is listening and reacting - this provides realism and a sense of being in the moment.
Intention - What the character wishes to get out of the situation. An intention asks "WHAT FOR?" Characters with intentions use tactics and are faced with obstacles.
Key Word - The word in a sentence or phrase with the most emphasis. Changing the key word can altar the meaning of what is being said.
Masking- Creating a visual barrier between the audience and a space, object(s) or person(s).
Metaphor - A form of comparison between two unlike things that actually have something in common.
Moment Before - The circumstances for a character prior to his or her entrance or starting point in a scene. The actor and director invent or determine what has just happened that the audience has not seen. This gives a scene energy and gives the character a clearer entrance or launching point.
Motivation - The reason behind a character's actions.
Objective - A concrete outcome a character is working to achieve. This may be conscious or unconscious. It asks essentially, "WHAT DO I WANT TO ACCOMPLISH?"
Obstacle - An obstacle is a roadblock. It may be either internal or external, and it may be something or someone that prevents the character from achieving his or her objective. Characters will employ a variety of tactics to overcome obstacles to achieve their desired outcome.
Polar attitude - A character's emotional attitude to other characters and situations.
Presence - The ability of the actor to be "in the moment", ready to respond to stimulation and bring life to the character.
Prompt book - Generally organized in a three-ring binder, this book contains the script, contact list, costumes, props, blocking notes, set drawings, lighting and sound cues, and anything else necessary for the production to run smoothly. The prompt book is typically prepared and maintained by the stage manager.
Rule of Three - The belief that comical behaviour and events designed to make the audience laugh are only funny three times in a row.
Scattering - Referring to a piece of dialogue (thought) that an actor delivers for all to hear - this is in contrast to a gathering line.
Script Notation - A type of shorthand used by actors to make notes in their script, particularly to document blocking, and timing and delivery of lines.
Stakes - In acting when we say to "up the stakes," it means to increase the risk or importance of something. It represents the consequences for each character of achieving or failing to achieve their objectives.
Stage Business - All of the little things an actor does on stage to appear naturally busy i.e. eating, playing cards. These actions must not distract from the scene but make the character appear more realistic.
Substitution - A convention used by the actor to meet the emotional requirements of the character in a specific situation. The actor would draw feelings and awareness from a parallel experience of their own. Note: the situation may not be specifically the same but there may be parallels that can work for the actor. Derived from Stanislavski's system of using emotional memory.
Super-Objective - The character's objective for the entire play.
Synectics - a method of problem-solving that involves brainstorming ideas of how to solve a problem.
Table Work - Generally refers to pre-rehearsal work done by the director (usually around a table) to plan, discuss, reflect, share, and report in order to coordinate various design and production departments involved in the theatrical process. This helps align their work with the director's vision of a production.
Tactics - The different strategies used to overcome the obstacles to obtain one's objective.
Triangle Groupings - Composition of three or more actors generally results in triangular groupings. The person at the apex is the focus.
Upstaging - Drawing the audience's focus away from the intended target.
Examples of Activities
The Many Hats of the Director
Divide the class into smaller groups and have them brainstorm the many roles a director must play. Have them document this on a piece of chart paper and then post for presentation to the rest of the class.
Each student is assigned a role in a fictitious theatre company and engages in a role play where he/she has to be at a meeting to deal with an issue i.e. getting a poor review that could seriously jeopardize the production. Students use synectics to figure out a solution.
Famous Stage Directors from around the World
Students research a famous stage director and analyse his/her work, together with the contribution s/he made to the world of stage directing. Students then present their research to the rest of the class using available technology. Refer to Appendix B for a list of possible directors to research.
Students read a play and write an analysis of the script (see BLM #1 Play Analysis Worksheet).
Unit 3: Silent Scenes
Students are required to select a scene from a selected list (or one of their own choosing) and present it without any dialogue. The scene will be videotaped, if possible, to review and analyse their choices.
Students direct a short production in a space other than the theatre or drama room. This could be captured as a video to present to the class.
Unit 4: Hair and Makeup Designs
Students research hair and makeup styles from a variety of periods/decades and share the information with the rest of the class. The information can be compiled into a booklet to be used and kept as a resource. The students can prepare a powerpoint for a class presentation and prepare documentation to be added to the booklet.
Set Design Model
Students create the model of a set for a specific play.
This activity is a variation on the "Mantle of the Expert." The class is divided into different members of a production team. A script is chosen and each group goes off to prepare for the production meeting and the sharing of their ideas with visual aids and whatever information they have for the production. The meeting will allow for negotiation and collaboration and provide an authentic experience for the students. The teacher may go into role as the director or producer.
Elements of Scene Study
Based on the work of Michael Shurtleff in his book Audition. The students fill out BLM #5 Elements of Scene Study Worksheet using a scene from a play.
Assessment and Evaluation Strategies
Developed throughout the semester, the portfolio contains notes and all the work that is completed in the course. Refer to BLM#6 Director's Portfolio Rubric.
KWL (What I know/What I want to know/ What I learned) on the role of director
Discussion / brainstorming / observation
Research and Presentation on one of the famous stage directors and their contributions
Genre Presentation - small groups research and present different genres of theatre. Student work is assessed on the basis of research from theatre history and appropriateness and effectiveness of selected style of performance.
Play interpretation assignment - students are assigned a play and must report on themes, elements of a play and the structure of a play.
Ticket out the door
Observation of group work
Unit 3 - Sample Lesson: Script Notation
Students will learn how to organize and document information needed to direct a play. They will learn the value of organization as a life skill.
Students will review the information required to direct actors on the stage.
What notation methods help directors to get all the details down in a script?
How important is organization for a director? What methods are employed?
How might the organizational skills you have learned as director help you in your future?
A. CREATING AND PRESENTING
2.1 Use the elements of drama to achieve specific purposes in drama works
B. REFLECTING, RESPONDING AND ANALYSING
3.2 Identify skills they have acquired through drama activities and explain how they can contribute to success beyond the classroom
3.2 Demonstrate an understanding of the tasks and responsibilities involved in producing drama works
At the end of this lesson, students will be able to:
Students will link back to the stagecraft that they have learned in previous drama classes. Most will have experience with blocking but from the point of view of the actor rather than the director. Students will also link back to the discussion in Unit One about the role and responsibilities of the director.
Areas of the Stage
Positions on the Stage
9 Mats, squares of paper or masking tape
Overhead copy of the Areas of the Stage and Positions on The Stage. See BLM #7 Script Notation Handout
An overhead with a page from a script that is properly notated
BLM #8 Script Notation Worksheet - or the teacher can prepare one themselves. This contains exercises such as the example given in the handout.
A short scene from a stage production to watch and record blocking.
Prepare the "ticket out the door" which is a script notation to be written out in long form.
|Approximately 10 minutes|
Pause and Ponder
With masking tape or paper, create 9 areas on the floor that represent the 9 areas of the stage. Identify the direction of the audience. Divide students into two teams with one caller per team. Select which team starts and ask the caller to name someone on their team and a specific stage area they are to occupy i.e. UC. If the caller makes a mistake or the person he/she identifies on the team goes to the wrong square, the team loses a turn. The best 3 of 5 games is acceptable.
Assessment for Learning (AfL)
Observe students' ability to quickly move to named stage positions. Exit Card - Ticket out the door reveals the level of understanding and may indicate further instruction if needed.
Assessment as Learning (AaL)
Group check and self -assessment
Use Graphic Organizers to help illustrate blocking. Repeat information. Instead of using a video,have students physically block out a scene, working together to record the blocking. Use different technology i.e. smart board or graphic tablets.
Create a handout with blocking notes in longhand that students then have to write in shorthand.
Highlight the organizational advantages as they apply to life situations.
Link and Layer
Add the stage positions to the minds on activity.
Students may be asked to compare the organizational methods of the director with other systems they may be familiar with in other contexts.
|Approximately 60 minutes|
Whole class > Review
Place BLM #7 Script Notation Handout on the overhead and do a quick overview of the areas of the stage and the positions on the stage. Assess for understanding.
Whole class > Script notation
Look at a script page that has been properly notated. Discuss what the students see and compare this to the same page done in longhand.
Individual > Script notation
Review script notation symbols and hand out BLM #8 Script Notation Worksheet or a handout that you have prepared. Students complete the handout for practice. Watch a short scene on video and have students note the blocking using proper script notation.
Whole class > Discussion
Discuss the importance of organization when working on a production and why it is so important to record the blocking. Make connections to students' lives.
|Approximately 5 minutes|
Ticket Out The Door
Students hand in their blocking notation for your assessment.
Unit 3 - Sample Lesson: Fill in the Blocking
In this lesson, students will learn how texts can be staged differently according to a director's interpretation, vision, and intended impact on the audience. Students will take on the role of director in making creative decisions regarding the blocking of a scene and will learn to articulate the reasoning behind their choices.
How does movement reveal character?
How are power shifts emphasized through blocking?
How does stage business impact blocking?
Why do directors block scenes?
What is the most important consideration when blocking a scene?
How do directors guide the audience's attention or focus?
A. CREATING AND PRESENTING
3.1 Demonstrate and understanding of how different acting and staging techniques reflect and support different purposes in drama.
B. REFLECTING, RESPONDING AND ANALYSING
1.1 Use the critical analysis process to reflect on and justify or revise decisions in creating drama works.
1.3 Analyse and evaluate the aesthetic and technical aspects of a variety of drama works and or theatrical productions
1.2 Use correct terminology for the styles, components, processes, and techniques of drama in creating and critiquing drama works and theatre performances
At the end of this lesson, students will be able to:
Students need to be familiar with the text. (For unit 3, it is recommended that a specific text be used to carry through all explorations.) They should have a knowledge and understanding of blocking.
Composition in a scene
Areas of the stage
A video of a stage play plus accompanying scripts. The teacher will need to select scenes.
Performers, probably classmates, will serve as actors for the director to guide through the scene.
Blank 8"x11" Paper
Chart paper, white board, or chalk board
|Approximately 15 minutes|
Pause and Ponder
Whole Class > Sharing and Discussing
Write the name of the play on the board or on chart paper and ask each student to select an object, image or phrase that stood out for them from the play. Students write or draw the object on the board, explaining to the class the relevance of what they have chosen. These shared details will activate schema related to the play.
Assessment for Learning (AfL)
Circulate, observe and provide support when needed to encourage rich discussion. Question to check for understanding.
Assessment as Learning (AaL)
Provide opportunities for feedback from students and teacher. Use questioning to help students expand on ideas.
Partner more experienced students with those less experienced. Reword and rephrase information. Consider having students create artwork or bring in artifacts to illustrate the object they have chosen.
Have students use the script notation handout as a guide to writing the notes in their scripts. See BLM #7 Script Notation Handout.
This lesson will take more than one period to allow students to present their pieces to each other.
Video and/or DVD stage productions from The Stratford Festival can be purchased from their gift shop.
Link and Layer
Students will use script notation in their script notes that are handed in. Build on previous learning of blocking and composition.
Consider taking students on a field trip to see a live performance of a play that they can study through this lesson.
Hyperlinks in the Lesson
The Broadway Theatre Archive - available through amazon.com has many titles including:
The School For Scandal
The Good Doctor
The Eccentricities of a Nightingale
The Skin of Our Teeth
Death of a Salesman
|Approximately 75 minutes|
Whole class > Film and discussion
Students watch the DVD of their selected scene(s) while the teacher guides them through the process with questions and highlighting key points.
Individual > Blocking the scene
Stop the video at a point of interest. Give each student a piece of paper and instruct them to recreate the floor plan of the filmed scene they were just viewing. Once completed, tell students to work out the blocking for the remaining French scene, making appropriate notes on the script itself.
Small groups > Blocking the scene
Once students have had time to work individually, divide into small groups to work through the blocking. The groups could be formed according to similar objects chosen earlier. Tell students to decide the best interpretation of the scene based on their shared ideas. Students then make the choices they think are the most appropriate to bring the scene to life.
Whole class > Presentations and discussion
Ask students to present one interpretation that the whole class will assess through descriptive feedback. Assess the presentation using this opportunity to highlight key ideas. Discuss and compare the students' blocking choices.
Whole class > Film and discussion
Watch the remainder of the scene on the DVD to compare and contrast to the students' scenes.
|Approximately 15 minutes|
Teacher prompts may include: Were there any choices made by the director that surprised you? How close was our interpretation? Did the different interpretations tell similar or different stories? Do you notice any style in the actors' performances? How can props help to make an actor's movement specific as opposed to generalized? What is the rhythm of the scene? How does the tempo impact the physical nature of the scene? What bits of business were the characters engaged in within the scene?
Ticket out the Door
Students hand in their original individual script notes for teacher assessment as a ticket out the door at the end of the class.
APPENDIX A - Examples of Director Training Activities
Unit 1. Director as Professional - Example Topics:
- List of Jobs in the Theatre (See Theatre Ontario's "Careers in Theatre" - http://theatreontario.org/content/careers_in_theatre.htm
- The Director's many hats: acting teacher, personal counselor, stagehand, cheerleader, critic, designer, actor, fan, disciplinarian, advertising executive, etc.
- Stanislavski's theories of directing and acting
- Education of Directors
- Styles of Directing - Drama and Theatre Studies at AS/A level (P.
- List of the process from first reading – get students to brainstorm a time line Reading Plays - Drama and Theatre Studies at AS/A level (P. 126)
Unit 2. Director as Interpreter - Example Topics:
- Aristotle elements of a play (character, story, language, idea, rhythm, and spectacle)
- Dramatic Structure
- Types of Plays – Everything about Theatre, p. 55
- Sentimental Drama
- Sentimental Comedy
- Black Comedy
- Theatre of the Absurd
- Comedy of Manners
- Musical Comedy
- Social Drama
- British Pantomime
- Styles of Plays - Everything about Theatre, p. 59
- (Representational vs. Presentational)
- Classicism or Neo-classicism
- Given Circumstances
- French Scenes
- Review of Directors notes - The Harold Clurman book, On Directing, has some great respources for this.
Unit 3. Director as Animator– Example Topics:
- Floor Plans
- Theatre Spaces
- Sight Lines
- Stage Positions
- Triangle Groupings
- Entrances & Exits
- Script Notation
Unit 4. Director as Collaborator - Example Topics:
- Set Design
- SFX (Special Effects)
Unit 5. Director as Guide - Example Topics:
- Improvisation for rehearsal purposes
- Creating an ensemble
- Given circumstances
- The action
- Moment Before
- Key Word
- Making Choices
- Stage Business