Guidelines & Best Practices for Directors

By Debra Grannan

Directing a theatrical production with Cary Players Community Theatre can be an exciting and rewarding opportunity. The Board of Directors also has high expectations for people who take on this role. We have developed the following Guidelines & Best Practices for Directors that we hope you will find helpful as you submit request to direct a project with us or prepare to direct a current project.

How Are Directors Selected?

Often, Cary Players stage directors are also active members of the Board of Directors. In addition, Cary Players typically selects one or two guest directors each season. These individuals have been a part of Cary Players by either serving on a committee, teaching a workshop or volunteering with a show. Being an audience member and having solid resume as a director is certainly helpful, but having a deep understanding of how we operate is essential to joining the team.

Submitting a Project

If you have a show you would like us to direct, submit a proposal to any of the board members including:

  • Show title and author
  • Cast requirements (number of men’s & women’s roles and ages)
  • A synopsis of the plot
  • A brief statement of how you would envision staging the production and what special challenges if any the script or set demands might have
  • General idea of the time of year you would be available to direct

Scripts will be vetted by the Play Selection Committee and, if determined to be appropriate for the upcoming season, submitted to the board for final approval.

If you are selected, Cary Players Directors are asked to exemplify our Core Values which are:

Respect the Player the Player
A “Player” is any person who actively participates with Cary Players , and as such deserves honor respect and appreciation of the time devoted to that purpose, whether paid or volunteer.

Inspire the Patron
Cary Players seeks to develop productions that inspire those who attend with simple joy, internal reflection or a desire to make a positive change in their own lives. Productions that degrade offend, or leave the audience feeling uncomfortable are not our goals.

Uplift the Community
Cary Players seeks to be a positive influence for the good in the community, and looks for opportunities to provide charitable contributions through service or monetary means.

Educate, Enlighten & Entertain
Cary Players provides education, enlightenment and entertainment on a diverse range of topics deemed appropriate by the board of directors and that benefit all who take part in its activities and events

(Source: by-Laws of Cary Players, Inc. Article I, Section 5)

With this in mind, there are a few standard practices we encourage directors to apply to each project.

The Production Team

Cary Players is a predominantly volunteer organization and directors are encouraged to help recruit volunteers to participate as part of the production team for their show.

Auditions & Casting

Clearly communicate your vision for roles in terms of age, race, gender or physical type prior to auditions. State if flexibility is an option. While you may encourage anyone you wish to audition, pre-casting is strongly discouraged and all roles should be open at the time of auditions.

Double Casting: Casting more than one person in a role should be avoided unless working with young children with limited availability, a role that is a rotating cameo, or an extensive run and the schedule is clearly defined at the time of casting.

Understudies: Whether or not to cast understudies is the choice of the director but is supported by the board if handled with sensitivity. If you ask someone to understudy, please let them know this may not create an opportunity for a performance.

Notification: Announce a cast list in a timely manner following the auditions. Ideally, the cast list should be posted within three to four days following call backs.

Schedule

  • Work with the producer and stage manager to establish a general rehearsal schedule. This will be posted on the Cary Players web site prior to auditions so that potential actors can note conflicts.
  • Taking conflicts into consideration, work with the stage manager to develop a comprehensive rehearsal schedule for the entire rehearsal period. Ideally, this should be presented to the cast at the first rehearsal.
  • Start and end rehearsals on time.
  • Be mindful of the actor’s need for breaks and ask the Stage Manager to remind you.
  • Off-Book: Set a date several days prior to tech week when actors are to have lines memorized.

Rehearsal Process

Orientation: The first night of rehearsals Cary Players provides dinner for the cast and crew. This is a time for the team to get to know each other.

Contracts: All crew positions with a stipend will be asked to sign a contractual agreement. Cary Players will ask each actor and volunteer to sign an artists’ agreement. The agreement explains Cary Players code of conduct serves as a release form of publicity photos and protects Cary Players from any legal claims if there is an accident. Please become familiar with and support this agreement.

Table Work: Consider scheduling at least one rehearsal to allow actors an opportunity to discuss characters and explore relationships. You may also wish to give them an assignment to create a more in depth history for the character beyond what is provided in the script.

Warm Ups: Consider allowing a few minutes prior to the start of each rehearsal for actors to warm up, focus and prepare. Directors may also instruct the cast to warm up prior to rehearsal. In that case, it will be important for the director to offer suggestions for less experienced actors as to how to prepare.

Fight Calls: Should be mandatory for any project involving stage combat or intense physical blocking.

Notes & Debriefing: Allow a few minutes at the end of rehearsals to respond to questions from cast and give notes, but be mindful of the scheduled end time. You may wish to consider sending individual notes via email or with a phone call if necessary.

Problems: If problems arise that you are unsure how to handle, please talk to your Producer or a board member before they are allowed to grow. The Board of Directors is serious about upholding the Core Values, and will offer help in how best to address given situations.

Support: Volunteers appreciate support and positive reinforcement, especially from the Stage Director. Once the show opens, we encourage you to attend as many performances as possible. We’ll make sure you have a seat available!

Summary

Yes, Cary Players wants our director to help us put on a great show but it is also important to remember to have fun. Please know that you are selected to direct a project, you will have the support and encouragement from the Board of Directors project as well as our appreciation for your time and talent!

 

Interested in serving as a director, or finding out more about how you can help? Contact us!