The Artistic Director appoints the Director for a specific production. The Creative Staff is then responsible for creative development and management of one individual company production. Any of these roles may be combined by the Director, or new roles added, when necessary.
The Director is solely responsible for the artistic unity of the production, based on his/her overall concept or vision. His/hers is the final responsibility for every aspect of the show, including, but not limited to, the overall look, the specific characterizations and staging, the music, dance, set, props, costumes, lighting and sound – as long as costs are within a budget approved by the Managing Director. All design plans are created under his/her supervision, all actors are under his/her direction. The director’s work includes:
- when working on a new play, using his/her knowledge of theater to work with the playwright (and possibly composer and lyricist) to shape the play
- research and analysis of the play material
- interpreting the script through the use of actors and designers, defining the style, mood, pace and arc of the action
- holding auditions and casting the show with the advice of the musical director and choreographer, when appropriate, and the help of the stage manager
- coordinating and supervising the work of the musical director, choreographer, designers and performers
- planning the rehearsal schedule, with the help of the stage manager
- approving sets, lights, sound, costumes, props, make-up and hair styles
- rehearsing the performers, creating the blocking and musical staging, developing characterizations with the actors
The Director cannot be responsible for the administrative, financial and day to day workings of the production and still be expected to do his/her job well. It is the job of the Executive Producers, Assistant Directors and Stage Manager to make sure these details are seen to, efficiently and without bother to the director or performers, in order to assure the best possible show.
This is a position that really has no clear job description or job responsibilities. It tends to be whatever the specific Director decides it will be. The Assistant Director works with the director, who designates the AD’s duties. Every director works differently. However, in general, the Assistant Directors responsibilities may include the following:
- Research (historic periods, literature, playwrights, prisons, torture) – quite often the AD can become the ‘go-to’ person for any information pertaining to the text in question. On the plus side, you quickly become an expert on one or two topics.
- ‘A second pair of eyes’ – this is the biggest part of being an AD. To know and understand the vision of the Director for the production (obtained through discussion and attending as many preliminary meetings as possible) so that you can monitor the show in rehearsal and performance and help it remain true to that first idea. This can require questioning certain decisions in rehearsal, and it’s important to learn how to ‘take’ being shot down with an idea you may yourself think is really good – but isn’t liked by the main Director. An AD needs a thick skin!
- Taking notes during rehearsal – usually on such areas as specific problem areas, character and relationship problems, actor-related blocking and acting problems, line notes, and so on.
- Working with the ensemble or chorus on blocking or scene work, while the director works with the principals.
- The Assistant Director sometimes takes on some of the responsibilities of Stage Manager or ASM such as being on “on book” during rehearsals, taking blocking, or acting as liaison for the Director.
Fundamentally, the AD is the Director’s ally. The person they can turn to and say ‘this is shit, isn’t it?’ or ‘this is great, isn’t it?’ and receive positive, constructive feedback. You are utterly on the Director’s side, but – and this is important – not just a ‘yes’ man (or woman)!
The Musical Director is responsible for every note of music in a musical theatre production. His/her responsibilities include:
- recommending to the director the number and vocal range of singers needed
- holding singing auditions and advising the director on casting of singers
- deciding on the instrumental configuration of the orchestra
- assembling the orchestra
- supervising all singing and orchestra rehearsals, teaching the music, harmonies and dynamics to the singers
- may also act as rehearsal pianist and/or play, as well as conduct the orchestra for performances
The Choreographer is the heart and soul of the dance in any musical. S/he creates the style and form of the dance routines and teaches them to the cast. His/her responsibilities include:
- recommending to the director the number and type of dancers needed
- conducting dance auditions and advising the director on casting of dancers
- rehearsing everyone who dances
- assisting in additional musical staging at the director’s discretion
The Director appoints the Stage Manager (aka: Production Stage Manager) for a specific production, with the help of the Company Stage Manager; the Company Stage Manager may often be the same person as the Stage Manager. The Technical Staff is then responsible for implementing the Design Staff’s vision and are responsible for the technical management of one individual company production. Any of these roles may be combined by the Stage Manager, or new roles added, when necessary. The Stage Manager is the liaison between the Director, the Cast/Performers, and the Technical Production Crew.
The Stage Manager has complete responsibility for the coordination of everything that happens onstage and backstage in preproduction, during rehearsals, and in performance. In addition, s/he is the director’s right hand and the voice of the director in his/her absence, assisting him/her in preproduction planning (along with possibly an Assistant Director), auditions and rehearsal, and is the liaison between the director and the design staff and, often, between the director and the cast. All of the various technical staff including set design, lighting, sound, props and scenery, report directly to the stage manager. And once “tech week” is done and live performances begin, the directors job is done and it now becomes the stage manager’s show and they assume command.
In addition to the above summary, some of the Stage Manager’s specific responsibilities are defined below:
- assisting the director with research and all phases of pre-production planning
- organizing and running auditions, including preparing script samples, coordinating the audition location, posting audition notices, preparing audition registration forms, setting up an audition sign-in table, greeting performers at an audition, calling performers to the stage for their audition, etc.
- planning, preparing and distributing rehearsal schedules, cast lists, contact sheets, sign-in sheets and rehearsal reports, and maintaining contact with the cast and crew
- assembling and maintaining the Prompt Book, which is defined as the accurate playing text and stage business, together with such blocking, lighting, cue sheets, prop usage, costume changes and entrances of performers, etc. as are necessary for the actual technical operation of the production. Therefore, all script changes must go through the Stage Manager, as s/he is responsible for recording all technical and actors’ cue and line changes into the Prompt Book
- calling and running rehearsals, including taking blocking and technical notes; preparing the rehearsal areas; taping the floor (when necessary and possible) to indicate the scenery positions and playing areas and placing rehearsal chairs where furniture and props will be; prompting; taking and giving line and staging notes, and organizing and supervising any set changes, props tracking and technical cues
- ensuring that the cast has memorized their lines and are using correct grammar and are exacting with the lines (when necessary)
- assigning dressing rooms
- during performance, the Stage Manager is totally responsible for the running of the show, including lighting, sound and other technical cues; set changes; calling places and entrances, starting and intermission times and curtain calls
Generally during performance the SM inspects the preshow set-up for safety and accuracy, then watches the performance from the audience taking production notes for the cast and technical crew. In this way s/he acts as the director’s alter-ego while the show is in production, once the director has left to go on to his/her next job. The SM then calls the show and runs it during performance.