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The Theatre Director: crafting productions for the stage

  • Module code: DA5006
  • Year: 2018/9
  • Level: Year 5
  • Credits: 30.00
  • Pre-requisites: Successful completion of Level 4 Drama or equivalent
  • Co-requisites: None

Summary

This module enables Level 5 Drama students to explore in detail a range of theatre rehearsal and production processes.  Students will develop knowledge and understanding of the role and function of the theatre director in relation to the other key members of the creative team: actors, designers and technicians, and apply the skills and competencies they develop to the independent creation and production of theatre performance.  The module's initial focus is directorial preparation and students will use Katie Mitchell's The Director's Craft as a template to explore, amongst other things, production-focused play analysis; interpretation and Dramaturgy; workshopping the text and ways in which to rehearse a scene.  This section of the module will culminate in the preparation and presentation of a rehearsal demonstration.  They will then be encouraged to think about the production more broadly and produce a director's book demonstrating that they are able to to consider carefully the perspectives and approaches of theatre designers and technicians whilst discovering effective ways in which to collaborate with the production team.

Aims

This module aims to:

  • Provide an in-depth, critical exploration of processes of theatre rehearsal and production
  • Extend students' understanding of concepts of dramatic structure, genre and style
  • Develop students' knowledge and understanding of the role and function of the theatre director in her/his relation to other members of the creative team such as actors, designers and technicians       
  • Develop students' confidence and skill in applying such knowledge and understanding to the independent creation and production of theatre performance

Learning outcomes

On completion of the module students will be able to demonstrate:

  • Developed skills in production-focused play analysis,
  • Understanding of the relationships between dramaturgical concepts, performance dynamics and theatre production
  • Ability to work confidently and effectively with actors in the rehearsal room
  • Understanding of how aspects of set, costume, lighting and sound design interact with direction to help generate meaning and dramatic effect
  • Knowledge and understanding of a range of 20th and 21st century approaches to theatre direction and production
  • Ability to reflect critically and productively on their own application of a range of directorial strategies and techniques      

Curriculum content

Teaching block 1 focuses on directorial preparation and working with actors, using the systems and processes outlined in Katie Mitchell's The Director's Craft as a template, but also bringing in alternative perspectives to encourage critical thought about Mitchell's model.

  • Production-focused play analysis including: key information from the text about time, location, character and subject-matter; inferences suggested by the text; additional research around subject-matter, playwright, historical period etc; organising information in useable ways
  • Interpretation and Dramaturgy: identifying key ideas within a play; genre, style, historical/social context; making your own interpretative decisions; dramatic structure and dynamics; editing the text
  •  Workshopping the text with actors: getting to know the cast, exploring key ideas and themes, establishing shared principles and vocabularies; establishing "the language of your process" (Mitchell); taking creative risks.
  • Rehearsing scenes: developing character, scene objectives, shape, rhythm and dynamics; giving notes and feedback; framing or highlighting key moments
  • Research into the rehearsal methods of other theatre directors, eg Anne Bogart, David Mamet, Declan Donnellan, Peter Brook, Deborah Warner.
  • Skills and strategies of leadership, organisation, communication

Teaching block 2 broadens the focus out to the production as a whole, enabling students to gain an understanding of the perspectives and approaches of theatre designers and technicians and to grasp how the director collaborates with the production team.

  • Set and Costume Design: interpreting plays visually; mood boards; storyboards; how set and costume shape action and contribute to meaning and effect
  • Lighting and sound design: basic information about how technical elements work and how they can be used to create meaning and effect; creative experimentation with lighting and sound.
  • Detailed critical analysis of live or recorded theatre productions in relation to direction, dramaturgy, acting and design
  • Creating your director's book

Teaching and learning strategy

This module has a practical focus and is thus mainly delivered in workshop form, although some elements of lecture-presentation might also be employed. In recognition of the fact that the directorial role is one that demands initiative, organisation and leadership, students are expected to take a good deal of responsibility for their own learning through undertaking extensive preparation, research and planning. The importance of creating a ‘safe' rehearsal environment where creative risks can be taken, failure is seen as a valuable learning opportunity and participants feel able to collaborate freely and offer constructive criticism, is reflected in the collaborative, discursive, student-led ethos of teaching delivery.  

Activities in teaching block 1 are focused around textual analysis, preparation and working with actors. A list of up to 10 suitable plays will be provided, from which students will choose a scene to direct for their summative assessment, Directed Scene, at the end of the year (they make this choice by about the middle of TB1). Tutors will use a range of scenes from these plays in order to introduce a variety of interpretative approaches and rehearsal methods. When working on workshops and scenes in TB1, students will function as ‘actors' for one another. They can also do so in TB2, but students may ask other Drama students to be ‘actors' for them in their final scene performances.

Breakdown of Teaching and Learning Hours

Definitive KIS Category Indicative Description Hours
Scheduled learning and teaching 22 x 2hr practical workshops 44
Scheduled learning and teaching Supervised workshops and rehearsals 100
Guided independent study Research and rehearsal preparation 156
Total (number of credits x 10) 300

Assessment strategy

In keeping with the practical focus of the module, the assessments allow students to demonstrate their achievement of the learning outcomes in practical, creative ways.

Formative Assessment 1, Observed Rehearsal Exercise, helps students to evaluate their progress towards the end of TB1 and prepares them for the work they will undertake to direct their Scene in TB2, by focussing on how to work effectively  with actors in the rehearsal room. It also helps to prepare them for their Director's Book because they will need to have studied their play and scene in some depth in order to prepare an apt exercise. As students will watch at least some of each other's exercises, they will learn through peer observation and feedback.

Students' learning about overall theatre production is assessed by Summative assessment 1: a Director's Book, in which they present their ideas for the direction and production of their chosen dramatic text. This ‘book' can take a range of forms, including images, materials and notes, as well as more formal written work. Students can choose to give greater focus to particular elements, eg set design, but the book should provide a coherent overall vision, informed by appropriate research. Students should begin building this book as soon as they have chosen their play and scene in TB1 and can gain formative feedback on it from their tutor as it develops. The material within the Director's book should relate to Summative Assessment 2, the presentation of a short scene.

Summative Assessment 2 is the presentation of a short scene directed by an individual student. This scene can be from a playtext of the student's choice. The director should not act in the scene. This assessment draws together the students' learning from both teaching blocks. The Assessors' understanding of the students' directorial aims and methods is informed by their reading of Summative Assessment 1, the Director's Book.

Mapping of Learning Outcomes to Assessment Strategy (Indicative)

Learning Outcome Assessment Strategy
Developed skills in production-focused play analysis Formatively in Observed Rehearsal Exercise and Summatively in Director's Book and Directed Scene.
Understanding of the relationships between dramaturgical concepts, performance dynamics and theatre production Formatively in Observed Rehearsal Exercise and summatively in Director's Book and Directed SceneIn Director's Book and Directed Scene.
Ability to work confidently and effectively with actors in the rehearsal room Formatively, in Observed Rehearsal Exercise andin Rehearsal, summatively in Directed Scene
Understanding of how aspects of set, costume, lighting and sound design interact with direction to help generate meaning and dramatic effect Summatively in Director's Book and Directed SceneIn Director's Book and Directed Scene.
Knowledge and understanding of a range of 20th and 21st century approaches to theatre direction and production Summatively in Director's Book
Ability to reflect critically and productively on their own application of a range of directorial strategies and techniques Summatively in Director's Book and Directed Scene

Breakdown of Major Categories of Assessment

Assessment Type Assessment Name Assessment Weighting
CWK Director's Book 50
PRC Directed Scene 50
Total (to equal 100%) 100%

Achieving a pass

It IS NOT a requirement that any major assessment category is passed separately in order to achieve an overall pass for the module

Bibliography core texts

Mitchell, Katie (2009), The Director's Craft: a Handbook for the Theatre, London: Routledge

One or two playtexts to be decided each year

Bibliography recommended reading

Bogart, Anne (2001) A Director Prepares: seven essays on art and theatre, London: Routledge

Braun, Edward (2000) The Director and the Stage: from naturalism to Grotowski, London: Methuen

Brown R (2009) Sound: A Read in Theatre Practice. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Cole, Toby & Krich Chinoy, Helen (eds) (1970) Directors on directing: a source book of the modern

theatre London: Owen

Delgado, Maria & Heritage, Paul (1996) In Contact with the Gods: directors talk theatre, Manchester: Manchester University Press

Donnellan, Declan (2013) The Actor and the Target. NY: Nick Hern Books

Ebrahimian, BA (2006) Theatre Design: behind the scenes with top set, lighting and costume designers. Hove: Rotovision

Eyre, Richard (2001) Changing stages: a view of British theatre in the twentieth century, London: Bloomsbury,

Innes, Christopher and Shevtsova, Maria (2013) The Cambridge Introduction to Theatre Directing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Innes, Christopher and Shevtsova, Maria (2009) Directors/Directing: conversations on Theatre, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Mamet, David (1998) Three Uses of the Knife: on the nature and purpose of Drama. London: Methuen

Mangan, Michael (2013) The Drama, Theatre and Performance Companion. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

Palmer, S (2013) Light. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

Schneider, Rebecca & Cody, Gabrielle (2002) Re: direction, a theoretical and practical guide, London: Routledge

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