A Must Read Book for ALL Directors

Notes on Directing

I have officially started directing my first show!  To help prepare me for my directing debut, my dad gave me a book to read called Notes on Directing.  Now this book isn’t very long, so its a pretty easy read but basically it is a bunch of different short paragraphs about a various of topics that every director will need to know about.  The authors Frank Hauser and Russell Reich take their years of experience directing and give you notes on the subject to help you when directing your own show.  This book is great for beginner directors, like myself, to those to have been directing awhile.  It helps to remind you about things they might have forgotten along the way or give you new ways of doing things.  I believe that all new and seasoned directors need to give this book a read, you never know what you might learn.  Below are some key points from the book that I feel are sometimes forgotten about, good reminders, and just overall helpful for new and experienced directors to take note of.

“Keep in mind that what is new is not necessarily good because it is new.  What is old, however, is worthy of our respect, attention, and study because it is old, because it has lasted.”

39. Rehearsals need discipline -It’s not your job to be everyone’s friend all the time.  Jump on lateness (an actor must phone through if humanly possible when he/she is going to be late), chattering noticeably as others are working, reading newspapers where the rehearsing actors can see…

46. Always read the scene by yourself just before rehearsing it with the cast -You will learn something every time you look at it.

47. Don’t bury your head in the script. -Watch as much as possible  When you’re running an act, and even more the whole play, don’t sit taking notes all the time.  A good method is to watch the first half without taking any notes at all.  During the break, go through the text; you’ll find that you can recall how and what they all did and make your notes then…..During a single run-through late in the rehearsal process, don’t watch the play at all.  Just listen.

51. Every scene in a chase scene -Character A wants something from Character B who doesn’t want to give it.  If he did, the scene would be over.  Why does A want it?  In order to…what?  Why does B refuse?…..When you have learnt to see it, blocking becomes much more obvious and (still more important) a false move more glaringly apparent.

63. Always sit and read a scene before blocking it -Even before you run any scene that was blocked the day before, sit round with the cast and read it again.  Then your question like, “Do you know what that word means?” or “why does she say that now?” are easily asked and easily replied to Once the actors are on their feet, the interruption can become confrontational: “He thinks I’m doing it badly!” “She’s trying to catch me out!”  Ten minutes spent reading a scene or section before acting it can save hours later,  There’s always time.  Make time!

70.  Please, PLEASE be decisive -As the director, you have three weapons: “Yes,” “No,” and “I don’t know.”  Use them.  Don’t dither; you can always change your mind later.  Nobody minds that.  What they do mind is the two-minute agonizing when all the actor has asked is, “Do I get up now?”.

72.  Give actors corrective notes in private  -This will not only prevent damage caused by embarrassing them in front of others, it will make them feel good to get individual attention.  Let them feel as if they are sharing a secret with the director.  If you can’t give a critical note privately or skillfully, don’t give it.

73. Know your actors  -Some like a lot of attention; others want to be left alone.  Some like written notes, some spoken.   Get to know them.  It doesn’t have to take long.  It’s a good investment that will pay enormous benefits later.

77. Include every single member of the cast in your note sessions  -Surely you know that in the theatre, silence in invariably taken for disapproval.

119. Listen for overzealous vocal entrances -When actors enter with full voice or on a high note, they can’t go anywhere as the scene progresses except to take it down.  Scenes tend to be better when they build, so do vices.  Unless the script clearly calls for something different, start low and then build.

125. Watch for and value happy accidents -Mistakes like a hat falling off or a missed entrance are sometimes extremely valuable.  They are not simple mistakes, but welcome bits of reality entering into the pretend situation of rehearsal or performance.

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