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Theatre directors must have a passion to learn

Published on Thursday, 17 May 2012
Lindsey McAlister
Photo: Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation

Having directed more than 120 productions in the past 30 years, Lindsey McAlister, founder of the Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation, sees a passion to learn as the key requirement for a theatre director.

 “There is no specific requirement for the job. The challenge is that you can’t learn this craft without doing it – yet no one will engage you unless you’ve already proved you have some aptitude for it,” she says

A theatre director is the leader of a production and its creative team. He or she must bring together a group of talented individuals to create magic for audiences. Directors are responsible for the overall practical and creative interpretation of a dramatic script or musical score, taking into account the budgetary and physical constraints of a production.

“They are involved at all stages of the process, from the design, pre-production and rehearsal, right through to the final performance,” says McAlister.

“Directors work closely with their creative and production teams, the performers and the producer to create a performance which connects with the audience,” she adds. “You can’t direct all on your own. You need actors and a script and a theatre. So you have to have excellent observational skills and be a good listener.”

Some directors are also writers, designers and performers and may write, devise, and act in their own works.

For McAlister, directing is all about what one sees. “I am a very visual person, so directing a show is like creating a painting to me. I have a very strong artistic vision and build up the layers over the rehearsal period,” she says.

“I work a lot with dancers and physical theatre performers, and so my pieces are very movement-orientated. I believe that every element of the show is equally important and every person involved is integral to the finished product. I am extremely demanding of the people I work with – I demand high standards, and 100 per cent commitment to my vision from the production teams and the performers,” McAlister adds.

Theatre directing is not a nine-to-five job and there are no “regular” hours. But one attraction is that one can create one’s own schedule of auditions, rehearsals and meetings. “Like any job, you have to meet deadlines and so you and your team have to be highly organised. The busiest time is right before the opening of a show as you have to make sure all the elements are coming together at the same time,” says McAlister.

It can take years to break into the business, requiring stamina, persistence and sheer optimism. “I advise anyone who wants to be a director to see as much theatre as possible, meet theatrical people and share ideas, apprentice with someone whose work you respect, form your own company to stage productions, work in any capacity in a theatre and observe the world,” says McAlister. 

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