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Marissa Marcus
Advanced Placement Language and Composition
Mr. Rhodes
February 27, 2014
Directing as a Career
Spotlights begin to glimmer as a curtain suspensefully rises to reveal a tableau of actors,
ready to convey a powerful story through their intricately developed characters. As the audience
sees it, all of this occurs in perfect harmony, from the set to the lighting, none of these theatrical
elements clash; they flow together beautifully. However, in a little black box above the theater, a
director sits nervously praying his show runs according precisely to plan. The director has spent
months on end, in some cases years, performing the difficult task of weaving together every cue,
dance step, line, and set placement into a production that provides appealing visuals and brings a
written plot to life. The career of a director, whether for stage or film, requires one to assume
many roles, including an executive, producer, and artist, and through these, communicate his
ideas to actors and crew, attract a mass audience in order to achieve a profit, and leave his mark
on the industry.
Like any career, the road to professional directing begins with an exceptional
education. Countless universities offer classes to enrich one’s knowledge of the fine arts, but
few have the ability to properly kickstart a professional directing career. The most renowned and
accredited schools for directing reside in the theatrical capital of the world, Manhattan, New
York. Marymount Manhattan College, “where future Broadway stars get their start”, offers
directing as a major immediately following enrollment (“About Us”). In this intricate program,
one will learn everything he needs to know about directing, from text analysis to acting

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approaches (“Directing”). Other universities offer similar programs, some include unique
opportunities, such as the option to tour globally, in addition to what Marymount offers.
Pace University, also located in New York City, offers directing as an undergraduate
major as well. At Pace, students actively collaborate with fellow classmates studying in other
departments, such as technical theater, the aspect of theater involving visuals and effects, and
acting majors, to produce shows and even tour internationally with musicals and plays; a handson experience helping pupils acquire a true feel for the field. These programs assist students in
discovering what makes unique artistic directors and where to pursue their career after college
(“Undergraduate Majors”). Not every directing student can realistically live and thrive in a New
York City theater school, but some less populated and more suburban campuses, such as North
Carolina School of the Arts or Greensboro College, provide programs and courses akin to those
of top notch city schools and just as effectively aid students in launching careers as professional
directors (“College Search”).
For students majoring in theatrical production and directing, every school has different
course requirements, but typically offers and recommends a similar set of classes and programs
(Ellis 2). Regardless of course selection, the job requires a common core education, particularly
a strong background in English as interpretation of written script drives the performance of a
director’s cast (Eddy 2). Furthermore, one must go beyond studying the aspects of a
performance that appear on the stage and delve into every intricate department of the behind-thescenes crew. He enables himself to communicate his ideas more efficiently with his team
members from different areas of expertise by enriching his knowledge of each production
department (Ellis 2). These college directing programs and specific sets of coursework
adequately prepare aspiring directors to participate in various areas within the theater industry,

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allowing them to work as actors or tech theater directors until they gain recognition and the
ability to launch their own production.
During the process of initiating any production, directors usually do not have immediate
access to a creative team or even a complete script, but a single idea; a story or vision they wish
to bring to life, a process that requires patience, and more importantly funding. (Vogel & Hodges
36). Money fuels all productions, and for all the risk investment involved, any payoff may take
years to earn back. A production team must allot specific amounts of funding towards key
aspects of the show such as rights to the selected script, copies of the script, a venue to use for
rehearsals and performances, and any necessary scenery and costumes. The director’s choice to
coordinate a play rather than musical or vice versa will always alter the overall cost as musicals
typically require a greater sum of money than plays. On Broadway, a non-musical play can cost
around 2 million dollars, whereas a Broadway musical, depending on the number of actors and
staff members, can cost between $10 and $15 million (Lane 30). Basically, directors must
consider finance above all else when initiating a production.
To obtain this necessary funding, directors rely on several sources. Through successful
ticket sales, the director will have the capability to pay off any loans, however this income alone
cannot cover everything a director has dealt out for his production (Lane 7). Directors can seek
out companies that wish to sponsor their show, specifically companies that firmly believe in the
morals or ideals of the production. For example, the show Hairspray uses hundreds of bottles of
hairspray over the course of a performance season and inherently promotes the use of the
product. Thus, in any production of Hairspray, the advertisements throughout the playbills
usually involve a company that manufactures various hair care products. Product placement,
another popular form of advertising, allows directors to go beyond putting advertisements in a

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program and use a product as set pieces or a prop and have characters mention brand names
within song lyrics or dialogue (11). In one production of Ain’t Misbehavin’, the director
instructed his creative team to design lamps made out of Jack Daniel’s beer bottles for the set
(11-12). When a director decides to approach a particular company, he should provide specific
details of his show, especially the target audience’s age and number, the genre, and important
themes the show addresses. He should also provide evidence his show will reflect the company’s
product and views in a positive, promotional way (8).
Individuals, rather than companies, also readily donate money towards a given director’s
production. Referred to as patrons of the arts, they support all forms of the fine arts and all its
contributions to their community (Lane 9). Some of New York’s wealthiest families began this
method of funding in the early 1900’s, now Broadway shows seldom reach success without first
receiving a contribution from a patron or two. Directors can organize a patron program which
gives the donors various honors and benefits in return for their generosity. For example, a patron
would receive “platinum status”, the highest level of recognition in a performance program,
along with free tickets to the show after donating $1,000 or more (Lane 10). A director has
many sources for funding if he looks in the right places.
Having calculated the costs his project demands and sought potential funds, a director
must now wisely select a performance space, which largely depends on the director’s choice of
residence in relation to his project. In order to guarantee himself a hearty profit, he must select a
region of the country with the most suited, well-balanced cost of living, and average annual
income. California and New York top the scale with an average salary of $110,000 - 120,000
per year, with Washington D.C. ranking second at around $90,000 (“Explore Careers:
Directors”). Working in Idaho, one will barely earn $40,000, and Montana, even less at $38,000,

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providing the lowest pay in the U.S. (“Explore Careers: Directors”). Once a director finds secure
residence in a state with promising wages, he can begin to search for his specific venue.
Whether he finds the venue through an advertisement or by word-of-mouth, he must
ensure the theater has any assets his production will need: dressing rooms adequate for his cast
size, proper lighting and sound, and enough space for full-scale executions of all blocking and
set changes involving pieces not easily maneuverable. Musicals, such as Oklahoma!, which
consists of an extensive cast and crew as well as several major dance sequences, require even
more space than non-musical plays as choreography will involve dancers traveling and crossing
the entire stage along with the set (Lane 49). Plays, which rely purely on character development
to create a spectacle, need smaller theater spaces to provide intimacy with the audience (50 - 51).
Everything needs to meet a director’s expectations as closely as possible, but none of this matters
unless the venue allows him to yield a significant profit. The director must confirm the costs of
renting the location will not exceed his expected income. The area of the venue can alter the
predicted ticket sales as the audience may expect a certain price when attending particular
theaters and refuse to pay any higher (52 - 53). The large amount of time and serious decision
making involved with finding a performance location may seem tedious, but acts as a vital
stepping stone for the director’s journey to a complete masterpiece.
With a secure, profit-promising location selected, the director can confidently begin to
put together his creative team, as a director will never achieve this ambitious undertaking
alone. If the director has already selected a location and created a budget plan, one can infer the
he already has access to a producer, the chief executive officer figure of a creative team (Lane
61). A director next seeks out his stage manager, someone with an assertive tone of voice and
profound organizational skills as they handle any scheduling manner, as well as communicate

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rules and regulations of the stage and ensure proper handling of all of the production team’s
property backstage and onstage (62 - 63). A director then hires his technical team, consisting of
a technical director, who presides over all other directors of subsections of the technical
department such as the lighting, costume, sound and set, whom attend to exactly what their titles
imply. Any individual assuming these positions should obviously have a strong technical
theater background in their specific area of production and general technical directors need
organizational skills as they will coordinate these different branches of work simultaneously (66
- 67). Musical productions require two additional job positions: musical director and
choreographer. A music director must have a thorough choral background and understand how
to properly train singers to achieve the most powerful vocals on stage (63 - 64). Musicals also
need movement and dance direction provided by the choreographer, who will need skills
reflecting the style of dance that best expresses the director’s vision (65). These necessary team
members will all contribute their unique skills to improve the director’s show.
Together, the creative team can work towards a common goal, but first the director must
decide on the end product he aims to achieve. Selecting a show requires him to assess many
needs which the chosen script should fulfill: cast size and type, his budget, target audience,
approval of authority figures, and overall purpose for the production . A director with a cast
consisting of mostly young adult males will have a difficult time casting Annie, a musical about a
group of young girls in an orphanage. The same applies to a director trying to cast a small group
of people in The Man Who Came to Dinner, a show that requires an abundance of actors (Lane
15). When working with younger children he should invest in the junior version of a selected
musical or play so his actors can more easily interpret and show comfort using the material in the
script (16). Aside from cast availability, the director must take into account his true purpose for

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staging his production and what audience he wishes to attract. During a stressful time of war, a
director may want to reach out to a mature audience and provide solace with an anti-war piece
such as Arthur Miller’s All My Sons (18 - 19). Performances provide a great way for people to
express a belief or inform, but can also lead to controversy. In 1998, Manhattan Theater Club
performed Corpus Christi, a play that raises an interesting, and arguably offensive, question of a
homosexual Jesus (19). In response to the controversial material, audience members issued
many threats to the Manhattan Theater Club representatives and boycotting attending future
performances (19). Directors should appreciate their freedom of speech, but use it wisely in
order to avoid such incidences and still convey themes that provide food for thought
(20). Taking all of these crucial factors into consideration, a director can confidently select a
show and begin to work magic; bringing the words on the script pages to life through his team.
The bulk of the job commences at this point, and a director begins to conduct a casting
call where he will make extremely crucial decisions that can make or break his show. When a
director casts, he chooses the perfect actor for each role, but more importantly, he chooses the
type of people he will work with cohesively. He needs someone professional with experience in
particular types of roles and specific physical characteristics. Sometimes an actor will walk into
an audition and nail a character, misleading the director to believe he found his star, but
oftentimes when an actor easily develops a character for an audition, he lacks the depth and
conviction of the character the director needs throughout the production. The best actors have
yet to establish a character to its full potential at this point, therefore, a director should never
seek out an actor with seemingly perfect character development. (Hauser & Reich 18). A
director cannot expect an actor’s best performance to occur in an audition setting, but by making
them feel as comfortable as possible, he enhances their confidence during their performance,

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allowing him to attain a better feel for the actor’s capabilities outside of the intimidating
atmosphere. With each audition piece, a director should closely observe and assess each actor
whilst maintaining a friendly, yet authoritative composure. After each performance, a director
should avoid providing any feedback suggesting anything positive or negative (19 - 20). Once
the audition process ends, a director thoroughly examines his selection of actors and begins to
officially cast.
Having completed the tedious task of pairing each actor with a suitable character, the
director can begin to bring his story to life. The director needs to conduct his story in a countless
number of ways based on how he decides to interpret the script. A director must devote as much
time as possible to read the actual play or musical because just as in literature, one discovers new
things each time he reads through a piece (Eddy 18 - 19). However, learning the script by heart
will cause a disruption in the flow of imagination. Lines provide guidance for actors, but the
director needs spontaneous ideas (Hauser & Reich 2). Complete immersion in the text, without
any distractions, will help channel one’s creativity (1). Sometimes directors have visions or
ideas prior to fully engaging in the actual script, and upon reading, realize the original text, the
playwright’s syntax and word choice, does not support the visual he developed in his
mind. This occurs often in pop culture, usually when a theater company attempts to produce a
dated show, such as a piece of Shakespeare. Directors prone to misinterpretation can skew the
playwright’s original purpose for writing a work if the piece in question uses some outdated
vocabulary or literary devices (Eddy 18). Analyzing the story’s key question and theme, the
aspect that will pull the audience in and keep them wondering, will provide the most groundwork
for the director to begin building his characters and visuals (Hauser & Reich 3). Essentially, the

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director must allow the script to speak for itself while simultaneously fabricating a live visual of
the text in his own unique style.
The script provides the story and characters, but the actors bring it to life. For the
director, getting to know his actors as people will help him to properly approach them; some
actors need more time than others to perfect a scene, some actors prefer written notes over
spoken notes (Hauser & Reich 46). Before a director attempts to further develop a character or
give any acting notes, he must ensure the audience will not have difficulty hearing the
performers. Actors have no use for character development if they deliver their lines as unclear
whispers. After establishing a basic theater presence within each of his cast members, directors
should encourage actors to complete a character analysis, a thorough timeline of the character’s
life, quirks, and deeper feelings towards events or people. For example, the audience will never
need know about the main character’s deep hatred for his roommate, but this tidbit of
information may help the actor develop his character further (39). Sincere appraisal prefacing
any constructive criticism helps to boost an actor’s confidence, but also pushes him in the right
direction. When director begins with telling an actor what portion of his performance impressed
him, it can help him fix the lacking portion of the scene (40). When an appropriate time for
criticism arises, a director should never speak in a sarcastic or demeaning manner; making any
enemies during a production will only cause more dispute and frustration in the future as these
group of actors and their director must work alongside each other for months on end. An
exceptional director must have a great deal of patience in his work as actors require a great sum
of time to reach their full potential. If an actor does not immediately adjust their performance
after having received a note, a director should not contribute anything more than a gentle
reminder for at least a few days (42). Directors provide actors with proper understanding of their

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character from day one of rehearsal until the final bow, but directors can only help them to a
certain extent, the play belongs to them in the end; the characters can only reach full exploration
if they choose to dig deep enough (Sokolove 5).
With actors to guide, an entire script to convert from written word to reality, several
believable settings to construct, and dozens of rehearsals to conduct, directors have a load on
their plate. Each element of his show must artistically accompany each other in order to convey
a common message without overlooking key aspects of production. Unfortunately, in some
cases, even the most remarkable sets, heart-felt scripts, and promising casts fail to complement
each other in order to properly portray a director’s vision. When this happens it occurs, it leads
to great financial loss and harsh critical condemnation of a director and his team’s abilities. In
early 2011, Julie Taymor, a recently established Broadway director, personally experienced the
consequences of creating a show that lacked consummating stage elements (Bernstein 1). The
team decided to fire her from the production crew of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark after the
show fell utterly short of expectation regarding its profit as well as content. Taylor failed to
allow critics to view the show in early development which meant the version of the show
premiering on Broadway lacked necessary revisions and second opinions; a crucial aspect in
theater as one can only achieve a masterpiece through trial and error of ideas (2). On opening
night, audience members deemed the songs unmemorable, the dialogue confusing, and found
themselves impatiently waiting in the dark for the next scene to begin while the technical team
struggled to coordinate flying mechanisms and other special effects. These dangerous flying
stunts caused severe injury to several actors, and even some casualties. Along with poor creative
coordination, financial dismay led to the downfall of the production. The death of the show’s
producer, Tony Adams, resulted in even more complications with the creative process. Without

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him, funding became a responsibility of one of the co-producers, David Garfinkle, who had little
experience in the industry. With scarce money, around $30 million, and a rookie producer, the
show suffered serious consequences (3). Despite this failed attempt at greatness, Taylor
continues to direct and recently began work on development of two motion pictures as well as a
piece of Shakespeare for the stage (4). Some pieces fail, others succeed, but all directors must
take risks such as Taylor has in order to see their productions gain recognition.
A director’s work provides much more than self-fulfillment; it enhances the theatrical
arts, a field that touches lives and spreads culture in miraculous ways. Director Kate Powers put
this transformational power to work in the town of Ossining, New York at the state’s
Correctional Institution Sing Sing prison. Here, she coordinates productions through the
organization Rehabilitation Through the Arts (RTA) which helps inmates to cope with their
meek state of confinement and allows them to see through other’s eyes by portraying characters;
this provides them with a new outlook on life, one with immense meaning and passion (Eddy
1). She notes that her purpose for directing has changed since her work at Sing Sing prison;
whether she makes an impressive, entertaining masterpiece does not matter as much anymore as
she merely hopes to change the course of lives. Powers clearly displays this ideal through her
casting as she never selects the most suitable man to play a role, only the one whom she feels can
readily take on an opportunity to positively alter his lifestyle (2).
Similar to Powers story, in Levittown, Pennsylvania, a revolutionary acting teacher, Lou
Volpe, helps a struggling town gain inspiration and hope through the theatrical arts. Cameron
Mackintosh, a member of Music Theater International, selected Volpe and his students to
produce the trial version of Les Misérables for high school students, a very risky, but honorable
feat to take on. Some of his students over the years have offered some insightful explanations as

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to how theater can act as therapy and how it immensely benefits their lives. One student
enthusiastically explained how acting makes her feel more alive while another discussed
theater’s therapeutic qualities. He claimed that when he performs, he cannot remember a single
problem he has occurring in his actual life; theater provides escape. Many believe studying
theater can have a positive effect on one’s intelligence. Volpe actually taught a special education
student whose IQ began to increase after having to memorize lines for shows. Based on other
case studies involving similar students, scientist have concluded that any liberal arts studies can
enhance the firing of neurons within the brain which strengthens the brain’s thought process and
memorization (Sokolove). Theater requires students to put down the electronics of a
technologically savvy era and learn the art of communication simply through body language and
facial expression.
“In an age when people can watch anything at a moment's notice on the
computer, live theater is necessary to help us remember our roots and where we
came from. There is such value in the memorization, the enjoyment of watching
your fellow man evoke and promote emotion. It is a way we can share life, be
transparent and grow together as a society” (Stone).
Performing on stage provides different benefits to each student but most importantly, according
to Volpe, pursuing theater allows each actor to take different chances that reveal their inner
selves as well as learn life lessons in a more capturing way than any redundant lecture could
Theater has transformational power as seen in these two stories, but it also spreads
culture globally. Joe Dowling, the artistic director of Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, believes
theatrical artists offer the world more cultural experiences and idea expression than any other
fine art. Having originally directed in Dublin, Dowling personally experienced this when he
began his work in the United States; he decided to direct an Irish play and found the experience

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thought provoking for himself, his actors, and audience. He firmly believes American directors
should travel overseas whenever they have the opportunity because they not only learn more
about their craft, but the rest of the world through their theater. Until recently, the flow of
theatrical arts has mostly gone one way with American scripts and directors had always traveling
across the sea, but now the nation can see the transaction beginning to flow in both
directions. The country sees more British, Irish, and other works of the like blooming in
America’s theater industry. Directing now defies geographical limits which means a whole new
era of theater for directors to pursue (Dowling 1).
Directors take on a financially demanding, artistic, and time-consuming task all in order
to and turn fictional tales into a visible splendor which can transform individuals and unite

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Works Cited
"About Us." Marymount Manhattan. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 February 2014.
Bernstein, Jacob. "Julie Taymor Roars." Newsweek 28 May 2012: 52-55. MAS Complete. Web.
20 January 2014. <>.
"College Search." Naviance Family Connection. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 February 2014.
"Department of Theater Arts: Directing." Marymount Manhattan. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 February
2014. <>.
Dowling, Joe. "Both Sides Now." American Theatre December 2002: 8. MAS Complete. Web. 1
January 2014. <>.
Eddy, Kathleen. "The Power of Theatre : Director Kate Powers Talks About the Transformative
Power of Theatre, and the Enduring Power of Table Work." Stage Directions December
2013: 17-19. MAS Complete. Web. 2 January 2014.
Ellis, Rafaela. "Setting the Stage for Life." Stage Directions October 2005: 66-69. MAS
Complete. Web. 28 January 2014.

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"Explore Careers : Directors- Stage, Motion Pictures, Television, and Radio Wages." Naviance
Family Connection. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 January 2014.
Hauser, Frank, and Russell Reich. Notes on Directing. New York, NY: RCR Creative, 2003.
Lane, Stewart F. Let's Put On a Show! From Raising Money to Creating an Audience. N.p.:
Applause Theatre & Cinema, 2009. Print.
Sokolove, Michael Y. Drama High: The Incredible True Story of a Brilliant Teacher, a
Struggling Town, and the Magic of Theater. New York: Riverhead, 2013. Print.
Stone, Holly. "Pride Paper Interview." e-mail interview. 26 February. 2014.
"Undergraduate Majors: Directing, BA." Pace University. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 February 2014.
Vogel, Frederic B., and Ben Hodges. The Commercial Theater Institute Guide to Producing
Plays and Musicals. New York: Applause Theatre & Cinema, 2006. Print.