Directing your first play- Phase 1

When you direct your first play, everything is new. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed at times. The best thing to remember is to “Keep It Simple,and Do It Well” . This motto I picked up from my mom is my mantra for all of my plays. This is even more important when your first starting out directing. This is because it’s easy to come up with all these great ideas and than not knowing what to expect, come performance time your only half done with all of them. You are in way over your head, and way out of time. I won’t lie, directing plays is not for the faint of heart. But if you keep it simple the rewards are great!

All of phase 1 needs to be done before you start practicing. This is your prep work as the director and you don’t want to be messing around with this stuff during your actual 4,6, or 8 week practice time.

“Plan the dive, than dive the plan”

scuba diving
“Plan the dive, and dive the Plan”

This is another of my favorite quotes, it came from my dad who as a scuba diver was trained to make a plan and than follow the plan. The same goes for a play, make a plan and than try to follow it. However, you need to be flexible enough to realize when there is a flaw in the plan and change it ASAP!

A plan helps you to keep going when it gets tough, and keep on track so you don’t run out of time. I’ve heard of instances where there was no specific performance date, it caused everyone to slack off and lose interest. Besides performance dates need to be predecided to even get the right to perform.

Because I want my family to be able to come to my plays I always try to give them a few months notice, after all they live 500 miles away.

The Play

First, choose your play. I usually do this before I even tell anyone I’m planning on doing a play. Look at your options for actors and actresses. Are they old or young? Can they sing? What are their interests? Try to choose a play that resonates with your cast and likely audience. Here is my page on what to look for in a good script and if you need ideas of where to find plays here is my list of websites and notes about the pros and cons of some of the companies.

When you do find a play you need to buy the scripts, performance rights and royalties. This can get a little tricky with the bigger play producers but they will usually walk you through it on their website. Most likely they will want to know where you will be performing, when, how many nights, expected audience size and ticket prices. This in turn helps decide how much you will owe in royalties. (don’t feel to bad, playwrights need to eat to!)

Usually you are also required to buy enough scripts for everyone in the cast or buy the right to print them. Be sure to check because different companies have different policies. I’ve never seen it happen with my own eyes, but publishing companies do like to make sure people aren’t using their stuff without permission,and the fines can be stiff.

The Stage

Now that you’ve found a play you think will fit your cast you need to decide where you will be performing the play and practicing. Make sure you choose a play that works with your stage.

If you are going to rent a stage, you most likely won’t be practicing in the venue (that adds up fast!).You might get to squeeze in a rehearsal, but check with the venue first. (by the way if you don’t know what a venue is, it’s the building you will be performing your play in) Don’t forget to ask the people you are renting from if they have any special rules and regulations you need to follow.
Low budget?

You don’t always have to rent, if you can think out of the box. Really all you need is a stage, a backstage, some lights, a backdrop, maybe a curtain, and a place for an audience. So far I’ve directed a play in a greenhouse, a garage and I’ve helped my mom with one that was in an unfinished basement and on a gym floor. I’ve even heard of someone pushing students desks together to form a stage.

Don’t think that you need a huge place for an audience. Some of the funnest plays to watch are the ones with 50- 150 people watching. Because, then you almost feel part the play. Not only that, with a smaller room you can often get away with not using mikes. The sound is SO much more real! (And saves a bundle on mikes)

Where to practice

I personally love to be able to practice where we will be performing. But we take what we can get. So, if you need to find a place to practice, don’t be afraid to think out of the box. You need to be able to store stage equipment, costumes and props for the whole practice time, and you don’t want people messing with your stuff when you’re not practicing. Look at your options, do you have a gym, church, classroom floor or even a large garage? One of these places might even work for actually performing the play.

When I helped with the play “Million Dollar Meatballs” they did all the practicing in a large unfinished room. The whole stage was marked out to the exact dimensions of the actual stage so they moved to the real stage seamlessly. This was so nice because they had the room all to themselves, and could leave their sets and props between practices.

Money, moneyFit your budget

Budget, you need to come up with some sort of budget, and some way to pay the expenses. This is something I’ve not had much experience with, because for the most part it’s out-of-pocket. But I still need a budget. At least try to get an estimate of what all the different things will cost, then you can come up with ideas of where to get the money. Here is an idea of the different things you will want to add into your budget.

  • Venue
  • play licensing and scripts
  • practice place (if it’s not where you’ll be performing)
  • costumes
  • props
  • backdrops
  • stage pieces and scenery

Last minute prep

You do need make sure you have scripts printed and bound for every, one if you’re printing. I personally love to put scripts in a 3 ring portfolio this make the scripts last longer. (this is an amazon affiliate link, the price does not go up for you, but I do get a small commission) Before you actually begin practicing you also need to decide on a time frame plan and what you will be accomplishing each week during practice. I will explain this in detail in phase 2.

Ready for phase 2?

This pretty much sums up phase 1. I consider this to be my go, don’t go stage. It’s my last chance to back out, or decide if I’m taking on too much. Truth be told, even though I try hard to keep it simple I almost always end up bitting of more than I can chew. But once you bite all you can do is keep chewing! So now is the time to decide if you need to reevaluate. But don’t give up, it may seem hard but it usually works out in the end!

I hope you this give an idea of what look into for directing your first play. I don’t pretend to be a professional, I only went to the school of personal experience and the college of trial and error! So if it looks like I missed something or you have a question ask me in the comments below.

Even if you don’t have a question, just a passing thought or comment, I would love to hear from you!


4 thoughts on “Directing your first play- Phase 1

  1. I love how you have set up this site, Mandy and it’s certainly a subject that is so dear to my heart!

    1. Thanks, for the comment,always need more of those. And thanks for being a Grandma who loves theatre and taking the time to check out my site! You’ve definitely influenced my life!

  2. I am really glad you have set up a site that teachers and people who want to draw community together can see a plan of action that will really work when they contemplating putting on a play.
    There is nothing like a “live” play that brings out magic in the air!
    Thank you for taking the time to put this site together. I am very impressed!

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