The Samuel French sponsored everything-theatre website Breaking:(Character), recently posted an article (originally from Dramatics Magazine) discussing the “dos & don’ts” of working with a Director. As varied as directors can be in personality, style, & taste, there do exist some basic theatre etiquette truths that actors (young & old) would be keen to observe when working with the old head honcho in the theatre space.
Key tips from this article include:
- Do the basics. Be on time. Know your lines. Be a pleasant as well as creative part of the room. Listen carefully. Contribute. Directors notice all this. They will give more to those who are readily helpful to the process.
- If you have a complex question or issue that will take some time to hash out, ask to see the director after rehearsal or before the next one. Directors would rather not bring the rehearsal to a screeching halt for an endless discussion.
- Do compliment the director when you feel a compliment is richly deserved. […] (However) we don’t like being buttered up when we know it’s butter. Real interest in what’s being done is always a pleasure for the director. We are in this together.
- You can, and should, ask for more time on a moment or scene when you are sure that the time will improve the work. However, don’t do this too often (unless you are playing Hamlet or Hedda), lest you be thought a rehearsal hog. Say, “Could we run those eight lines again?” or “Sometime could we have another work session on this scene?” But keep in mind that directors never have enough time. They may not be able to do what you wish immediately. The phrase “whenever you have time” helps.
- Discuss with the director—don’t argue. The rule of thumb is that directors always win an argument, but everybody wins in a discussion.
- Don’t say that something the director proposes “won’t work” or “can’t be done” until you’ve tried it three times. Then “discuss.”
- Learn your lines on time. If you are playing a smaller part and the guy playing Hamlet knows his lines before you do, the director will notice and make negative judgments about your work habits. Remember, when you need work or want more casting, you’ll wish you had been noticed positively.
- Please, please, please, please do not say, “My character wouldn’t do that.” First, it’s not “your” character; it’s the playwright’s character. Second, the shape of the character is a coproduction between you and the director. You don’t own it. Discuss the moment but do not say… you know what.
- Be sensible about the time you demand from the director. Everybody wants and needs her attention. […] Remember that there is never enough time. Have a sense of proportion. And don’t keep asking, “How am I doing?” It’s annoying, and it’s an unanswerable question. Basically, if you are in rehearsal, you are “doing” and it’s getting better. That’s how you’re “doing.”
Hope this helps! Wishing you a happy theatre life!