Directing a play, musical, or other theatrical showcase is hard work – no matter the scope. Juggling a variety of elements, tapping into your creativity, ensuring your cast and crew are healthy and happy, focusing on fundraising, getting marketing efforts out the door … the list of your tasks goes on and on. Before you embark on your first (or next) directorial journey, On The Stage offers a few things every new theatre director should know. 

1. Think long and hard before choosing a show 

The play, musical, or other theatrical work you choose will set the tone for the months ahead. Don’t jump into choosing a piece, especially for the wrong reasons – like personal preference, general popularity, or outside pressure (pssst – more on that last one later). As you’re reading through scripts, ask yourself pertinent questions, like:

  • Does my potential cast and crew have the bandwidth and skill to complete this show?
  • Is this content exciting to me, and will it be exciting to my cast and potential audience?
  • Will this show challenge me and my cast, allowing for creative problem solving? 
  • Is this show relevant to today’s societal landscape? Is societal relevance important to me?

2. Casting will take some time 

There’s no bones about it – casting your show will come with hiccups, but it’s also an incredibly exciting phase in the overall timeline. Before you open the doors to your casting call, you can make things a little less stressful by preparing adequately. A few ideas include: 

  • Clearly defining the vision of your show – Knowing what and whom you’re looking for are crucial elements to nailing down the perfect cast. 
  • Having some help – Don’t go it alone if you can help it! Have stage managers, choreographers, vocal directors, and other creatives on hand during auditions to get second (third … and fourth) opinions.
  • Having materials at the ready – Give your actors the tools they need to succeed during auditions. Let them know in advance what sort of materials they should have prepared, and always have back-up content at the ready should you need to swerve.
  • Creating a welcoming atmosphere – Your potential cast and crew will operate better if they’re feeling welcomed and relaxed. Make sure you’re creating an environment where people can do their best work. 

3. Don’t put off licensing

Before pulling the trigger on your show, remember that most copyrighted content has to be licensed before being produced. As with any legal agreements, you’ll need to give yourself ample time before auditions to get all the content licensed. 

In a nutshell, you should do the following to go about licensing correctly:

  1. Find and contact the correct licensing agencies 
  2. Review licensing requirements 
  3. Submit your application for a license 
  4. Once approved, carefully read and sign licensing agreements 
  5. Pay your licensing fees 
  6. Keep documentation on hand for reference 

Don’t worry – if you need help, On The Stage has you covered

4. Keep your eyes on stage parents 

As with any endeavor, your creative choices will likely come with some pushback … especially from highly involved parents. If you find yourself encountering lots of opinions from those outside the creative process, remember to: 

  • Operate with grace – While it may be frustrating, parents are typically working with their kids’ best interests at heart. Remember to stay patient, understanding, and above all else, kind.
  • Be open to suggestions, but establish yourself as the leader of the ship – This dynamic is a tough tightrope to walk, but not impossible. Don’t shut down others’ ideas from the jump, but ensure everyone knows you have final say on all creative decisions. 
  • Create an open door policy – The best way to deal with overbearing parents is ensuring their children feel heard by you from the outset. In short, make sure you’re creating an atmosphere where your actors and crew members feel comfortable coming to you with any issues. 

5. Prioritize budgeting and fundraising

We know, we know … the financial side of theatre can be a drag. But as a new theatre director, if you have your finances in order before a show’s rehearsals begin, you open yourself up to a whole new world of possibilities … possibilities that don’t include stressing over money or scrounging around for that last bit of funding. 

A few tips as you’re planning your budget and fundraising efforts include:

  • Approaching it from a comprehensive perspective – Consider everything (and we mean everything) when you’re planning your budget. This ranges from office supplies, phone bills and transportation costs to digital ads, social media campaigns, sound equipment, and royalty fees. 
  • Take your time – Taking the time to thoroughly budget ensures that no element is overlooked. This, in turn, gives you peace of mind and full preparedness for the journey ahead. 
  • Schedule fundraisers in advance – Fundraising is important to the success of any show. So, if you have any fundraisers on the docket – whether they’re car washes, bake sales, or galas – make sure you’re planning far ahead and marketing the events around town for as long as possible. 

6. Stick to your schedule 

Creating and sticking to a strict production schedule can make the difference between an average show and a great one. A few ways to stick to a schedule include:

  • Determining your production timeline early – Sit down long before rehearsals begin and think realistically about your production timeline. This will help you understand just how much you need to get done … and it can help your cast and crew to plan accordingly. After all, if your rehearsal schedule comes out the day before things start, you’re much more likely to have conflicts or no shows. 
  • Analyzing your show – Study your script to determine which scenes will be the most time-consuming to produce. These can involve technical requirements, dance, vocals, or other complicated elements. Focus on these large tasks first to avoid rushing through them in the end. 
  • Establishing a consistent rehearsal schedule from the get-go – Make sure your schedule remains consistent throughout your timeline. Avoid overly long rehearsals or jamming in extra practices – this will surely lead to burn-out for everyone involved. 
  • Always communicate with your team – Whether that’s your cast and crew, production team, marketing employees, or others working to make the dream a reality … have continuous discussions throughout rehearsals to make sure you’re hitting benchmarks and everyone is feeling confident. 

7. Tech week will be an exciting whirlwind 

Bringing together artistic vision and technical execution, tech week is the culmination of your team’s hard work. However, this whirlwind week often comes with some hiccups, so make sure you’re prepared for just about anything. A few tips to get prepped include:

  • Reviewing the script, technical cues, and your concept statement
  • Consistently communicating with the technical team and cast
  • Having all your cue sheets organized before the week begins
  • Running cue-to-cue rehearsals
  • Not shying away from the nitty-gritty as it pertains to problem-solving and troubleshooting 
  • Getting dress rehearsals will all tech done as soon as possible, so cast and crew feel acclimated 
  • Not shying away from repetition – practice makes perfect, after all! 

8. Post-production is paramount 

After the final curtain falls, you may think it’s time to sit back and relax. Not so! Post-production is an excellent opportunity to reflect, correct, and plan for productions ahead. A few things to focus on during your post-production period include:

  • Set strike – What props should be kept and tossed? Which costumes and set pieces should stick around? How should you organize your backstage? Set strike is a process you’ll continue to hone as a new theatre director, but we can help you get started with the basics.
  • Post-mortem – Fully dissecting a show after it runs is a great way for everyone involved to better themselves for the next show. If you need more information on nailing a post-mortem, download the Theatre Postmortem Demystified
  • Recognition – This is the perfect time to keep morale high and recognize the hard work of your cast and crew. Consider giving out awards or just giving shoutouts to people who deserve it.
  • Paperwork – Organize and file important documents such as contracts, licenses, financial records, and any other relevant legal paperwork after the curtains close.
  • Gratitude – Saying thank you goes a long way. Make sure to thank your cast, crew, donors, audience members, and community partners.

How On The Stage Can Help 

So you’re new to the world of theatre. Welcome! We assure you, you’re not alone! On The Stage is here every step of the way – from the initial discussions about creative aspects to fundraising, marketing, ticket sales, streaming, and everything in between. 

If you’re looking for a partner on your creative journey, book a personalized demo with our team today. 

Just got hired for your school’s theatre department? Download On The Stage’s Ultimate Guide for First-Time Drama Teachers eBook for everything you need to know to take the reins of your first project confidently.