Theatrefolk - The Drama Teacher Resource Company

Top Tips for Directing Your First Show

Directing a show can be a challenge. Directing your very first show can seem overwhelming. So we asked drama teachers: What are your top tips for someone directing their first show?


Material matters!

Jessica L. says “Consider a vignette play. It helps break down everything into smaller sections. It keeps everyone from feeling overwhelmed.”

Jeremy B. suggests “Pick a show that you know you can do, but that you also can be challenged by.”

Ryan K. recommends “Pick something small, short and do-able.”

Diana B. says “Know the play and characters, inside and out.”

Set the stage

Mollie W. recommends “1. Get a good stage manager. 2. Get a good stage manager. 3. Get a good stage manager.”

Grant R. says “Pick a stage manager you can trust and collaborate with who can take the reigns once blocking is done so you can step back and see the big picture.”

Matt B. says “Think out the tech before you fully decide the show. Often people choose a show but don’t think about the tech.”

Trust the team

Jessica L. suggests “Ask the kids to show you their ideas.”

Kait GW. recommends “Surround yourself with a team of people who have the experience to help you in everything, and that you trust. A good team is absolutely invaluable.”

Jessica S. says “Sometimes you need a fresh set of eyes to take a look at your work and that’s totally fine. Don’t be afraid to bring someone you trust into the rehearsal room.”

Porter J. suggests “Recognize and celebrate your artistic collaborators. It doesn’t weaken your authority.”

Pam K. says “When you pick a show make sure it fits the people that you know you will have to cast. Good casting is a huge part of success.”

Lu Lyn J. says “When choosing between actors in the casting process, always cast the person with whom you prefer to work.”

Steven Z. shares “Cast the show as if you were going to be onstage with them.”

Arielle R. says “Make sure the cast feels like an ensemble, create that environment.”

Marly M. suggests “There are times in casting where an actor will be exactly what you want. There are other times in casting where the opportunity arises for an actor, through your leadership and guidance, to grow into a role. Both are beautiful experiences to behold.”

Mario S. says “Get help!!! Don’t be a lone wolf.”

Kylie S. recommends “Get people on your side. That means a good team of parents and volunteers involved, it means the admins and athletic directors, it means the community for sponsorship and marketing. It’s a big job, but it becomes easier if you have people supporting you!”

Carol G. says “Do not estimate the power of an early style meeting with all designers. Discuss production and rehearsal expectations with your stage manager. Make prop and costumes lists and earlier than you think you should.”

Mario S. shares “You pick the actors for a reason. Get out of their way. Let them take the characters places you would never think. You can always pull it back.”

Porter J. says “Pay attention to the actors’ physical impulses to move. The movement may not be right but the impulses almost always are.”

Plan your work and work your plan!

Shelby S. says “Plan your rehearsal schedule backwards from opening night.”

Pam K. suggests “Have your blocking written in although it may change. Have a rehearsal schedule and try to stick to it as best you can. You don’t want to sit around at rehearsal and figure out what you’re going to do.”

Dan R. says “Know the venue – acoustics, entrances and exits, backstage possibilities, wings, fly space, dressing rooms, restrooms, lightning and sound options, backstage communication choices, sight lines, front of house, parking, location (if you’re near railroad tracks or airport or a highway overpass), nearby amenities (restaurant, bar, fast food joint).”

Anne W. says “Make a maquette and move the furniture and figurines around, with all entrances and exits, before blocking with real people.”

Holly A. says “Plan, plan and then be ready to change the plan…”

Carol E. suggests “Do as much of the director’s homework as you possibly can. Assemble your director’s book, design your floor plan and block the show, lighting and sound plots, costume notes, theme of the show, audition scenes.”

Jeremy W. recommends “The list as a director keeps changing. Make a list. Check it all before the day is done. The list can be daily and weekly and monthly. The faster you can check off your list, the more time to enjoy the experience and your cast and crew experience as well.”

Mario S. says “Make a rehearsal schedule – stick to it.”

Marly M. suggests “Study blocking and how to use it effectively as well as artistically.”

Go with the flow

Jessica L. says “Accept that it’s okay to cry. A lot. Especially if theatre wasn’t your major and you’re 33 years old and you haven’t directed a show since you were 17 years old in your senior year of high school!”

Porter J. suggests “A rehearsal without at least one good natural laugh is usually not what it should and could have been.”

John L. says “Prepare everything but be ready to change everything.”

Kathleen M. suggests “Expect the unexpected. You’ve got this!”

Brenda W. recommends “Cast well, be flexible, enjoy the process.”

Iverson W. suggests “If something isn’t working go back three pages.”

You’ve got this

Tony P. says “Trust in yourself. Failing that, trust your team. Failing that, trust your cast.”

Christian S. says “Know what your vision for the show is, be strong enough to stick to your convictions bit not so narrow-minded that you won’t take on the advice of other people’s suggestions.”

Jessica S. suggests “Remember that the process is collaborative but you are ultimately in charge.”

John L. recommends “Listen to your actors, but remain the final authority. If you make a mistake or something just isn’t working, admit it and move on. The show is more important than your ego (or theirs).”

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The Student Director's Handbook

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Help students take their show from first audition to opening night with The Student Director’s Handbook. This easy-to-use ebook is full of guidelines, tips and templates designed to help students create a vision, circumvent problems and organize rehearsals on their way to a successful production.

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You’ve chosen the play, paid the royalties, done the script analysis, held your auditions, and cast the show. Tomorrow is the first rehearsal. Are you ready? Really ready? The Rehearsal Companion can help!

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