Theory of Directing 1

I have three documents for you to download (right-click, save-as). Two are scenes for directing workshops.

1. ‘Objectives’ (chapter)
Extracted from A Sense of Direction: Some Observations on the Art of Directing by William Ball. Drama Book Publishers New York 1985, pages 70-92. ECU Library has two copies: 792.233 BAL.

A Sense of Direction-Objectives

This covers, in a lot of detail, the theory and practice of directing actors with objectives. He writes,

The only reason a director is needed in rehearsal is to perform the following function: persistently to draw the actor to a more meaningful and appropriate choice of objectives… (page 81).

I think this ties in nicely with the approach that Tamara introduced last week. It’s not essential reading but you might find it interesting and useful.

2. Scene from Closer by Patrick Marber

I have extracted the first two pages of Patrick Marber’s play, Closer (Guardian review). The play was turned into a film starring Natalie Portman as Alice and Jude Law as Dan (imdb). We will use this scene in next week’s class, following the same process we used with the neutral scene. Please download and work out the units and beats in the scene.


3. Scene from Wolf Lullaby by Hilary Bell

I have extracted a page and a half from the Australian play Wolf Lullaby by Hilary Bell (read from Scene Four onwards). The section I’ve chosen needs three actors. The roles are Lizzie, a nine year old girl, Angela her mother and Warren her father. If we get time next week, we will analyse and direct this scene following the same process. Having three characters in the scene makes it a bit more challenging. Please download and work out the units and beats in the scene.


4. Names

Acting theory: Constantin Stanislavsky (Russian actor/director)

American acting teachers: Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, Sanford Meisner. Strasberg developed Stanislavsky’s early theories into “the Method”, influencing a generation of leading actors such as Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, James Dean.

Elia Kazan: great American theatre and film director (New York Times obituary). Worked in theatre with Lee Strasberg, directed Tennessee Williams plays and films (such as A Streetcar Named Desireimdb)

Alternative approaches to directing actors:

  • David Mamet (American film & theatre writer & director): developed “practical aesthetics.” imdb
  • Mike Leigh (British): improvises social realism film dramas. imdb
  • Christopher Guest (British, works in USA): improvises comedies. imdb
  • Tina Landau and Ann Bogart (American theatre directors): uses the ‘Viewpoints’ system (New York Times article.

There is a fantastic book titled Handbook of acting techniques edited by Arthur Bartow. Nick Hern London 2008.

The introduction summarises Stanislavsky’s contribution to acting technique and then recounts in chronological order the development of actor training and acting techniques in America over the past 100 years.


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