Tips: Directing for 711

So, your playwright has handed you copies of the script hot off their printer and now you are about to have your first read and rehearsal … what should the Director focus their energies? Well – here’s a list of possibles. Most of these are what judges may be evaluating your play upon:

  1. Remember – less is more. Keep it simple. Simple can have sophistication … Don’t overwhelm yourself creating an epic when the script only calls for 4 actors. Don’t design a lot of light and sound cues for a 10-minute play when a simple lights up, shift and lights down might do with a low background sound filler loop throughout. Make sure to note where and what kind of cues you want in the play – get those notes back to the playwright to add them into your script for when it is time to submit it.
  2. Are you using the required elements? Did your playwright give you the right elements? Are you directing for the genre you have been given – or are you trying to make the genre fit your direction? Your time will be used more effectively if you do the former, not the latter.
  3. Consider your performance space – proscenium, thrust, round, arena … think about how the space helps you direct the movement and blocking of your actors. No straight lines (unless it is for a dramatic effect). Also – don’t just sit downstage center to watch your rehearsal. The director should sit in various areas of the audience during rehearsals to see what the other folks will see … and hear.
  4. Does the play’s rhythm have peaks and valleys? Does it have good pacing or are the holes where a train could charge through? Variety in timing and tempo of action should be used to help establish the mood. Beware the monotony or the melodramatic (unless you drew melodrama for your genre … )
  5. Are you using the stage effectively? You don’t have to use every square foot of the stage and every set piece. But don’t just have your actors blocked in one location for the entire play (unless they are meant to be tied up or frozen somehow – and even then … figure something out).
  6. At the same time, don’t just have them moving around to just be moving around. Action should have believable motivation – whether it is movement or facial or other gestures.
  7. Have the correct actors been cast in the correct roles? Or should you shuffle a couple around after the first table read and rehearsal? Cast your actors responsibly for characterizations. It will make your job as a director much easier with such a short time to rehearse.
  8. If you are costuming beyond modern street clothes or bringing in your own props beyond what is in the theatre – are they in harmony with character, period, mood, style? If something looks out of place, it can take the entire audience (and judges) out of the play and looking at their watches.
  9. If you are using more than normal daily make-up – don’t overdo it. Consider that the 711 is more intimate than the main stage of the Civic Center. Don’t put so much make-up on your actors that they end up looking like clowns – but don’t make it as if you are doing a close-up on a film. Also, make sure it is adequate to suggest character and style, if you do go ‘above and beyond’.
  10. Does the overall performance have unity, a cohesive style? Your playwright worked hard on the script – have you remained true to it?