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Theater Director: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a theatre director. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and necessary experience to find out if this is the career for you.

Essential Information

Theatre directors bring their vision of a playwright's script to life by leading the cast and crew through the production process. Most theatre directors hold a bachelor's degree in theatre production or a related field of media arts, which can lead to a master's program in directing and an entry-level position in the field, such as assistant director. However, extensive experience working in venues such as community theatre can also launch a potential director into employment consideration.

Required EducationBachelor's degree and/or extensive experience in the field; Master of Fine Arts (MFA) optional
Education Field of Study Theatre production
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)3%* (all producers/directors)
Average Salary (2014)$61,100* (all producers/directors working for performing arts companies)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Duties

Theater directors hold auditions to select the acting cast members. They collaborate with the technical crew, which may consist of lighting, sound, set and costume designers. Working with producers on large productions, there may be other supporting staff such as artistic directors and music directors to collaborate on extensive production designs.

The director blocks the play by adapting the actor movements to workable floor plans on the set. Leading rehearsals, he or she collaborates creatively with the actors and technical crew to make the blocking natural, changing it when necessary and allowing inspiration.

Actors draw out character motivations and relationships under the watchful eye of the director, who strives to develop these expressions over the performance's required transitions. Directors finish their work when they determine the final pacing of the play reverberates with the life of an artistic vision that is satisfying and complete.

Educational Requirements

Motivated by strong passions for theater and art, theater directors enter their craft from different routes. Aspiring directors may begin by accumulating experiences in school productions or community theaters as actors, crew members or budding playwrights. By assisting productions, it's possible to work toward a position as an assistant director and to begin building a reputation. A good resume of these experiences helps one advance along the more formal route toward a bachelor's degree program in theater.

The National Association of Schools of Theatre accredits degree and non-degree programs in the theater. Bachelor's degree programs serve to formalize theatrical experience by providing technical competence and enlarging one's fine arts background.

The bachelor's degree can be used to enter a Master of Fine Arts program in directing. MFA degree programs, typically lasting three years, prepare budding directors for entry-level positions as assistant directors or directing jobs in educational institutions. These programs are highly selective, some requiring qualifying experiences.

MFA programs may begin with production work and include courses in history, drama theory, and literature and criticism. Some of the programs guide students through direction of a classical play, such as one by Shakespeare, and an internship with a community play ensemble. Direction of a final full-length production may be incorporated as a culminating project.

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