Directing

What Type of Director Are You?

What type of director are you?
Written by Lindsay Price

There are a variety of styles when it comes to taking the helm of a production. Which type of director are you? Which 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 many opportunities to offer suggestions.

Does this help or hurt students?

Sometimes students need specific and narrow direction. 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” doesn’t mean cruel! I have seen dictator directors succeed in high school scenarios. Having said that, I’m never fond of the ‘no input at any time from anyone’ scenario.

‘Let’s make it up together!’ — The Improviser

This type of director comes to rehearsal with little to no blocking, and 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 of the actor is key 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 actors and directors, 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 or miss. Great if they’re independent, 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 rehearsal 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, and 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 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 their 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 right 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 or pushes back. But unfortunately, Pushers can stretch actors 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 over a character or a moment. That can be an exciting part of the process. But pushing students emotionally just to get a certain type of performance is 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 and the situation, may bring out the best in everyone.

Click here to download a free Teacher Reflection on the different director styles
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About the author

Lindsay Price