Directing the High School Play Part Five – Directing Styles

When it comes to directing the high school play, what type of director are you? There are a variety of directing styles to choose from when it comes to taking the helm of a high school production; the style you choose will depend on the students you’re working with. Which of these styles suits your students best?

‘Do As I Say’ – The Dictator

This type of director has a very specific (and occasionally narrow) view of how the process will unfold; they’re not looking for input. Rehearsals are well-defined, blocking is well thought-out, the vision is tightly managed. The actor in the dictator-directed show does not get a lot of opportunity to offer suggestions or changes.

DOES THIS HELP OR HURT STUDENTS? Sometimes students need specific and narrow direction. And when you’re working on a full length play and you’re running out of time, your lead is sick and your ensemble can’t remember the blocking – specific and narrow direction is a necessity. In this context, “dictator” is not necessarily defined as mean or cruel! I have seen dictator directors succeed quite well in a high school scenario. Having said that, I’m never fond of the ‘no input at any time from any one’ style.

‘Let’s Make It Up Together!’ – The Improviser

This type of director comes to rehearsal with little to no blocking, few notes, but a lot of ideas. They are keen on collaborating with the cast. They improvise scenes between characters, have actors improvise blocking, and use plenty of exercises. Everything evolves and changes over the course of rehearsal. The input and involvement of the actor is key and necessary to the success of the Improviser Director.

DOES THIS HELP OR HURT STUDENTS? Depends on the students. If your group has a lot of practice at improv, it might work as a wonderful transition into something more structured. It can be a thrilling experience for actor and director, as everyone works together in the creative process. As an actor I’ve been in amazing shows using this process and also some that were less than amazing: everyone needs to be on the same page and willing to do the same amount of work. You can run into trouble when you have an imbalanced cast. As a director, my experience has been that throwing students into an improv situation can be hit and miss. Great if they’re independent workers, but not so great if they’re not.

Issues also occur when the Improv Director can’t corral the creativity and move toward a completed product. Messy process doesn’t help anyone, and rehearsals can run in circles. In a high school, the Improv Director always needs a ‘Plan B.’

‘Let’s be creative, but I’m the boss.’ – The Visionary

This type of director enjoys the creative process, wants to hear from actors but ultimately is the one in control of the production. The best type of Visionary is able to effectively communicate their vision and bring everyone on board, so they don’t have to be ‘the boss.’ Everyone moves toward the director’s vision on their own steam. They bring their own ideas to serve the big picture.

DOES THIS HELP OR HURT STUDENTS? Creativity within a structure can be amazing. Problems usually occur when the director is inconsistent. You can’t ask for input from actors, then shut them off and refuse to implement their ideas. It’s a fast way to lose the actors’ trust. Problems can also happen when the director is wishy-washy in their communication of the vision. An actor can’t create effectively within your vision if they don’t fully understand it.

‘Fight me!’ – The Pusher

This type of director thrives on confrontation. They feel, rightly or wrongly, that the only way to get the necessary reaction out of a character is to push the actor. This can happen in a positive manner through question and discussion. The best Pusher doesn’t mind when an actor disagrees, when an actor pushes back. But unfortunately, Pushers can stretch the emotion too far.

DOES THIS HELP OR HURT STUDENTS? There’s nothing wrong with encouraging a student to move beyond their comfort zone. There’s also nothing wrong with debate and conversation over a character, or a moment. That can be an exciting part of the process. But to push students emotionally just to get a certain type of performance? Completely hurtful and unnecessary.

What’s “The Best” type?

So which is the best? Which is the worst? Depends on your students. A little bit of each type of director, depending on the play, depending on the situation may bring out the best in everyone.

PART SIX in this series on Directing the High School Play will focus on The First Rehearsal.

Source by Lindsay Price

Leave a Comment