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New College level Class

  • 1.  New College level Class

    Posted 01-08-2022 09:31

    I have been asked to teach (last minute) a hybrid college level class in Directing. Although I have had 25 + years as a Director, I have never officially taught a Directing class. I need your hive mind emergency plans, curriculum, and advice!

    Thanks All!

    [Jen] [Jordan]
    [Director of Theater and Dance]
    [Junior Class and Day Student Advisor]
    [Miss Hall's School]
    [Pittsfield] [MA]

  • 2.  RE: New College level Class

    Posted 01-09-2022 07:31
    Thinking back to directing classes I have taken,  I would assume this for Junior/Senior advanced students, possibly Senior only.

    You will want to be very detailed in what they will be learning, analyzing and conceptualizing productions and clearly determining their vision of the production, understanding the roles of the director, the processes that a director needs to perform, direction for theater and film styles, we used several directing texts when I was in college over 30 years ago. They will need to work on their communication skills to be able to express what they want from others in a proper manner. they will want to understand various multiple acting methods, and be able to understand the nuances or working to bring out what they are looking for. They will want to understand and begin to formulate processes and steps of directing productions. You should explore all design roles and how they interact with sets, lighting, costumes, props, stage managers and crews.

    This is a large task, hopefully it will be a year long process for your students to be able to do it proper service and not to short the students in their understanding

    I wish you luck in this endeavor

    Jerry Onik
    V.P. Theatrical Supplies and Equipment
    Heartland Scenic Studio
    Omaha NE

  • 3.  RE: New College level Class

    Posted 01-10-2022 05:19
    When I took directing, we used On Directing by Harold Clurman as our text. We used 19th century plays - Ibsen, Chekhov, or Strindberg- and were required to do research - sets, furniture especially- and costumes. We had to have a director's book which included all our research, pictures, and explanations that justified our choices. We had to identify the themes and  spine of the play and for all the characters. We had to explain our concept. We had to have a ground plan. We had to choose a 5 to 10 page scene and write out a prompt book of directors notes, following Clurman's style - with actions and adjustments- then rehearse and present that scene to the class. I still do a lot of this for every show, even when it is a contemporary one.

  • 4.  RE: New College level Class

    Posted 01-09-2022 14:56

    Here are some key points I like to stress when I teach directing and a short list of some of the activities that I use.

    1) There is a difference between a director and a drama teacher.
    This has become a key to my young directors understanding their role.  For most students, their drama teacher is also the director of the plays they perform at school.  We, the teacher/directors, are continually blending the two roles so that the actors put forth their best performance while also staying true to the vision we have for the show.  To this end, I like to have students function as teachers so they can see the difference:
    - On a rotating basis, have different students lead vocal/physical warmups.
    Also, student must lead a class in our Dramaturgy Unit:
    - Students research a play or musical
    - They must "teach" the class about: the story, the authors/composers, and the cultural/historical significance of the show

    2) Director as a positive leader.
    I go out of my way to model effective directing practices which include: NO TEMPER TANTRUMS! Too often, directors are depicted as maniacal bullies.  This behavior is justified by saying that it is "artistic temperament."  An effective director is a focused, rational and communicates with the team very clearly. 
    - Story-telling through Context: Every director must write a scene that leads into a song of their choice.  However, the emotional context of the scene is different from the original context of the song. In the past, I've had students do, "Bring Him Home" as a story about a girl adopting a new puppy from the pound, and "Feed Me" as a young dinosaur singing to its mother in a version of "Jurassic Park: The Musical."
    - Play improv games in which there is a "director."  There are dozens of such games on a Google search (names vary, so be sure to examine the description of the games.  One that I have found constructive is "Emotional Switch" (aka "Emo Switch").  Two performers begin an improvised scene.  The director composes a list of emotions and freezes the scene every 15-20 seconds and calls out a different emotion from the list.   After 3 to 5 minutes (or whenever you feel the scene is concluded), stop the exercise and have the director, actors, and others in the class breakdown the process.  
    - "Seeing-Eye Director"  Assign pairs.  One parter is blindfolded and their partner must lead them around the room/hallways/public space using only vocal directions.  No touching.  After a few minutes, have the partners switch.

    3) Movement and Staging
    In order to teach movement direction and stress that all movement must serve the scene/story, I do the following:
    - We revisit our acting units that included Mime and Stage Combat.  Directors must plan and direct a combat scene in which a clear story is told through the combat.
    - Using famous paintings and photographs, students examine how a story is communicated through the bodies in a scene.  You can choose to stress various principles of balance, tension, composition, etc.  

    Finally, throughout our rehearsals for our various public performances, I continually explain the process I go through.  

    Hope this helps.


    Josh Ruben, M. Ed.
    Fine Arts Head
    Northwest Whitfield HS (dba, The Northwest Theatre Co.)
    Tunnel Hill, GA

  • 5.  RE: New College level Class

    Posted 01-09-2022 17:07
    Thank you! Huge help. This is a one-semester class, so my thought was to have the process end and culminate with a showing of 10-15 minute scenes from plays. Any ideas for which plays to suggest?  I want them to choose a well-written play from a well-known playwright so that they can gather enough dramaturgical information to make it an enriching experience. This will be only one day in-person.

    [Jen] [Jordan]
    [Director of Theater and Dance]
    [Junior Class and Day Student Advisor]
    [Miss Hall's School]
    [Pittsfield] [MA]

  • 6.  RE: New College level Class

    Posted 01-10-2022 03:53
    Hi Jen,

    For what it's worth, I audited a class on directing, and we used "The Glass Menagerie." The teacher had broken it up scene by scene, and put us in groups of two or three, with one director for each group. (Everyone acted; everyone directed. e.g. I was an actor in one scene, and directed another.) It culminated in a performance of sequential scenes, which were performed over Zoom. (This was in the early days of the pandemic.) The instructor also gave us interviews with directors to read and reflect on, so that we were exposed to different approaches to directing. This was a two week class, but could easily have been expanded over the course of the semester, or have been one unit in a semester. I hope this helps! Best of luck!

    [Amanda] [Cadogan] [English and Theatre]
    [Maybeck High School]
    [Oakland] [CA]

  • 7.  RE: New College level Class

    Posted 01-11-2022 10:09
    Hi Jen - 
    If it's a one semester directing class and you want scenes, I might suggest Almost, Maine. We chose Almost, Maine as a vehicle for student directors the last time we used them and the scenes are a great length (there are 8 of them total) and provide a LOT for a young director to work with. I concur with the many great suggestions you've already received on texts, activities, etc. Good luck with this new adventure.

    Suzanne Maguire
    Associate Director,
    Lewis & Clark Tiger Drama
    WA State Thespian Board
    Spokane, WA

  • 8.  RE: New College level Class

    Posted 01-10-2022 08:23
    Sure thing!  Here are some of the plays/scenes that my students (High School and College) have had success:
    - The Odd Couple (either the original or all-female versions). The Act II opener is a really fun challenge (it's the infamous Spaghetti Scene).
    - Act I Scene I of "Steel Magnolias" provides a real staging/movement challenge.
    - Act I Scene 2 of "Steel Mags." is much easier from a staging standpoint (only 2 characters), but provides a wonderful character development challenge.
    - Anything in "A Doll's House"
    - Anything from "The Miracle Worker" (I encourage would-be directors and choreographers to try the Act I closing scene where the fight in the dining room).  The rehearsals alone are a tremendous workout!
    - Anything from "A Raisin in the Sun"
    - If you want your directors to work one-on-one with their actor, try "Anne Frank" or "Amadeus." There are great monologues and multi-character scenes.

    I've also had many students work with Shakespeare, some of those include:
    - Any of the "Kate/Petruchio" fights in "Taming of the Shrew."
    - "Richard III," Act I sc. ii - is a great scene to develop Intimacy between characters and it has very complex emotional layers.
    - The final "Mechanicals Scene" in "Midsummer."  It is a blast, and allows for a wide range of interpretations and character choices.

    If you want a musical scene to try (although this is PG-13):
    "Funny Honey" from Chicago is a wonderful challenge involving staging, timing, and a progression of emotional choices.

    Have fun!

    Josh Ruben, M. Ed.
    Fine Arts Head
    Northwest Whitfield HS (dba, The Northwest Theatre Co.)
    Tunnel Hill, GA

  • 9.  RE: New College level Class

    Posted 01-10-2022 18:41
    Josh--Thank you for such a detailed response. I will be squirreling that away!

    Please note: We're still in a global pandemic. Things are not normal. Your health and well-being are more important than anything. I'm going to do my best to teach, advise, and collaborate to the best of my ability. I understand that you are all doing your best given that there's a pandemic and nothing is normal. Almost everything is flexible. Just ask.

    Julie Benitez, M.F.A. (she/her/hers)
    Theatre Teacher/Performing Arts Dept. Chair
    Input-Learner-Intellection-Individualization-Achiever  [Clifton Strengths-Gallup]

    Monte Vista High 
    3230 Sweetwater Springs Blvd I Spring Valley, CA 91977I 619.660.3179  

    Monarch Theatre 2021-22 Season
    "Enriching our community through exceptional theatre with young adults."
    The Brother's Grimm Spectaculathon   Oct. 27-30 021
    Moana Jr.   March 24-April 1 2022

  • 10.  RE: New College level Class

    Posted 01-10-2022 21:45
    Glad to help out.  I'm sorry I don't have a more elegant lesson plan, but I like to adapt the material to the personalities and overall make up of the class.

    Break Legs!

    Josh Ruben, M. Ed.
    Fine Arts Head
    Northwest Whitfield HS (dba, The Northwest Theatre Co.)
    Tunnel Hill, GA

  • 11.  RE: New College level Class

    Posted 01-10-2022 09:08
    Hey Jen,
    I recently took a grad class in Acting & Directing, and I really enjoyed our text Directing with the Michael Chekhov Technique by Mark Monday. You may want to snag a copy and see if anything in it would work for you. When we did a directing guest artist session (8 weeks), she used Play Directing by Francis Hodge and All My Sons by Arthur Miller or The Last Night of Ballyhoo by Alfred Uhry as the study scripts.

    Cassy Maxton-Whitacre
    Theatre Department Coordinator
    Shenandoah Valley Governor's School

  • 12.  RE: New College level Class

    Posted 01-10-2022 11:25
    Hi Jen,

    I've taught a 1 semester directing class for about 20 years. I have lots of "stuff" I can share with you.

    I will send you my syllabus and my day-by-day plans. Maybe it will help you.

    In general I break things down into:
    Directing terminology
    Theatrical styles
    Script analysis & production considerations
    Rehearsal and presentation of a directing scene

    John Rutherford
    Groves Performing Arts Company
    W.E. Groves High School
    Beverly Hills MI