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.
-BREAK A LEG!
Josh Ruben, M. Ed.
Fine Arts Head
Northwest Whitfield HS (dba, The Northwest Theatre Co.)
Tunnel Hill, GA
Sent: 01-08-2022 09:31
From: Jennifer Jordan
Subject: New College level Class
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!
[Director of Theater and Dance]
[Junior Class and Day Student Advisor]
[Miss Hall's School]