“There was a change in my mid-thirties from acting to directing. I wanted to try and find something that helped me engage in the bigger picture of theatre making, not just the one role of acting.
I was very aware I was becoming interested in the way plays were put on and the aesthetic and the way other actors’ performances were forming, not just my own. So directing seemed to me to be the one job that might fulfil that ambition.”Michael Grandage
An Artistic Director leads a theatre or, in the case of MGC, a ‘building-less’ production company. They are responsible for the creative vision of the theatre/company and its artistic programme – i.e. what work (plays, films, etc.) it will produce.
The Artistic Director will direct some or all of this work, often inviting other directors to direct productions, thereby nurturing the next generation of theatre makers.
A building-based Artistic Director also works closely with the Executive Producer and General Manager in the running and staffing of the venue.
- Establishing and developing the creative vision of a theatre/company over several years
- Planning its artistic programme of work
- Engaging writers, directors, actors and other members of the Creative Teams
- Directing some or all of the productions, depending on the number of shows within the repertory
- Leading a group of people, from the Creative Teams on individual productions, to administrative staff
The role of Artistic Director is a natural progression from that of director, although not all directors have the additional skills necessary to lead an organisation. A typical career pathway is to have directed productions for many different theatres and to have been an Associate Director at one, which – when a vacancy becomes available – you then apply to lead. Starting out, there are many directing courses available.
These are often post-graduate courses and students have already studied a first degree, directing productions at university as part of a drama course, or separate to their studies as an active member of a drama society. Early productions might be staged at festivals, such as the Edinburgh Fringe in the UK, or small fringe venues. Assisting established directors or getting a traineeship within a theatre is a good way to progress to the next level, learning from experienced practitioners whilst developing a network of contacts.
Other courses are available. Those above represent a sample from various drama schools and universities.
- Directing a Play – Phaidon Theatre Manual by Michael McCaffery, 1988
- So You Want To Be A Theatre Director? by Stephen Unwin, 2004
- The Director’s Craft – A Handbook for the Theatre by Katie Mitchell, 2008
- Theatre Craft – A Director’s Practical Companion from A to Z by John Caird, 2010