Exploring Theater Directing Programs

Theater Directing Programs

For many theater artists, a directing career is the culmination of a long journey-starting as a performer or designer and working up to become a director. The best schools for theater directing offer rigorous training in multiple expressive modes.

Students study heightened language, synthesis and expansion forms, in addition to classical, contemporary, and devised plays. They also work closely with playwrights and designers.

Coursework

Taking theater directing courses can provide students with an expanded toolkit of tools for a variety of theatre productions. They can explore various ways of interpreting and staging plays, learn how to interact with actors and other theatre professionals in a collaborative environment, and gain an understanding of the director’s role in bringing a play to life.

A successful theatrical director has the potential to influence societal norms through thought-provoking productions that challenge society’s beliefs and values. They can also foster connections with diverse audiences and contribute to cultural enrichment.

Theater directing programs typically begin with foundational artistic training, including acting scene study and introductory directing classes such as Page to Stage, where students conceive and stage a full-length play in front of an audience. This is followed by a series of upper-level Directing Production Workshop classes that culminate in the directing of a fully supported main stage production. The curriculum also includes text analysis, acting, theatre history, and various approaches to directing contemporary plays.

Productions

Directoring requires a balance of academic preparation and intensive practical experience. MFA directors gain hands-on work through on-campus productions in BU’s Joan and Edgar Booth Theatre Complex and the state-of-the-art design studios, classroomship activity with professional theater companies, summer observerships and credit-bearing independent study.

Like many other artists in the field, directors tend to work in bursts: months of intense labor culminating in an arduous and exhausting performance, followed by downtime to recuperate, recharge and learn from their experiences. The program supports these cyclical work habits through its interdisciplinary approach to collaboration, including semester-long studies in socially engaged art, locative media and devising, along with traditional training in acting, design, theatre history, theory, text analysis, and classic plays.

The program is centered on nurturing the directorial imagination, with the flexibility to support each director’s unique artistic vision and goals. Directors are taught to shepherd the entire production process from start to finish and to use their understanding of directing methods to enhance the collaborative practice of other theater artists.

Thesis

The MFA Directing program at Temple University requires a thesis, which culminates in a full production supported by the Department of Theatre. Students also take part in a wide range of other class projects in areas such as performance theory, theater history, design and dramaturgy.

The program trains directors to move between the practical considerations of staging a play and its broader significance as art, exploring generative processes that lead to new work from collaborative partnerships with actors, designers and other artists. Successful candidates demonstrate a deep sense of artistic purpose, resilience, leadership and creativity.

The directing curriculum at UCLA is primarily studio based, with three major productions and interdisciplinary electives. Students practice collaborating on plays with other artists and gain experience through targeted professional residencies and ongoing observerships, including at the Soho Rep, Kitchen Dog and Southern Rep. A required internship within Los Angeles and nationally broadens the scope of their education. The program also supports creative research in diverse forms such as video, installation art and augmented reality.

Internships

There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes to make theatre happen. Whether you’re interested in artistic development, publicity or company management, there are internship opportunities to help you find the right fit.

In this internship, you will observe rehearsals and production meetings throughout pre-production, rehearsal, tech and performances. Your responsibilities will include being “on book” (taking director notes), attending performance meetings to incorporate design elements, and supporting stage management’s efforts to provide an appropriate space for actors to explore the play in rehearsal. You will also learn about box office operations, including patron services, ticketing software and inventory management. Internships are available Fall and Spring semester only.

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