Continuing the series on theatre education for high school students…
Here’s a simple little bit of advice: If you’re directing a show, even just a short one-act, find yourself a reliable assistant director.
Assistant directors can serve several invaluable purposes:
1) When the actors first go off-book, the A.D. can follow the script for anyone who needs to call “line.” This frees you, the director, from having to divide your attention between the page and the live scene.
2) If an actor misses a rehearsal, you have someone handy to read the lines.
3) It never hurts to have a second set of eyes on the blocking. While the actors can certainly make their own good suggestions and additions, the A.D. would be the only other person focused entirely on the big picture. If you try out some new blocking and you’re not quite sure about it, you have a second opinion right there.
4) Similarly, you have someone else to help you brainstorm about matters such as props and set pieces — and to help you find these items.
5) If an actor quits the show, you might have a willing understudy who’s already familiar with the script. (Of course, you only have a 50/50 shot of the A.D. being the right gender.)
You can direct a one-act without an assistant, and some people may prefer it that way. I’ve done it both ways and have found that having an A.D. makes life easier.
It’s not a glamorous position, so it may not be easy to find the right person for the job, and it’s not the end of the world if you can’t find one. But if you can, the process should be smoother. You just have to make it clear (politely) that you, the director, always have the final say on all matters related to the show.
If you do find an A.D., respect this individual by making sure you use his or her time well and consider any ideas shared. It’s easy for an A.D. to feel useless, and if that happens, you run the risk of losing this person and all his or her ideas.
Collaboration is a key ingredient to theatre, so bringing in extra eyes and an extra mind can be a huge help.