One Goal Per Show

Note: This is a repost of something I wrote a couple of years ago. I’ve just started the run of a show and I think it bears repeating. 

Actors have so much to think about during a show: lines, blocking, timing, music, choreography, finding the light, not falling off the edge of the stage, entrances, exits, and so on. And somewhere in the middle of that, they have to do some acting, too.

To keep my nerves in check, and my focus honed, I like to focus on one goal per show. I usually come up with the goal when I arrive at the theatre and base it on what happened the night before. My goals range from mastering single beats, to an overarching understanding of the play.

As a director, you can assign one goal to the entire cast, or give each actor an individual goal. Here are some examples of goals that I’ve used in the past:

  • Focus on telling the story as clearly as possible.
  • Be word perfect in that monologue I’m struggling with.
  • Get the choreography perfect in a single song.
  • Don’t lose the sense of play and discovery.
  • Try to recreate a discovery made the night before.
  • Have a “clean” show.
  • Make a connection with the audience.
  • Hold a certain beat a moment longer to see what happens.
  • Give focus.
  • Be selfless.
  • Trust the script.

Obviously, you’ve got to think about all the other stuff, but if you accomplish your one goal, then everything else is gravy

About the author

Craig Mason


  • This is great.  I think I’d like to start doing this for my actors.  Thanks for the suggestion.

    In the past few years, I’ve given myself one director’s goal per show.  Obviously by performance time my work is mostly done so the timeline is different, but at the beginning of every process I choose something I want to work on.  Once it was staging in the round for the first time, once it was helping a particularly young cast feel like a strong ensemble as quickly as possible. Now I sometimes choose shows with my “one goal” in mind–next I want to do a piece that requires a Greek chorus for the first time.

    As with actors, you of course actually have to accomplish ALL the goals with every show–design it, schedule it, stage it, sell the tickets, make the programs, etc–but having that one extra goal helps me feel I’m contributing deliberately to my own artistic growth.  And on days when everything else feels like it’s falling apart, remembering that one goal helps me stay motivated.

  • I think at the high school level the “one goal” would probably have to be more director-driven rather than self-imposed.

    Yeah, that would totally work for a director, or anyone else involved in the production (SM, board ops, designers, etc.)