Directing Guidelines for University Theatre
Faculty directors try to propose titles and “scope” reports by the end of Fall term, the year prior. At the start of winter term, faculty and student representatives begin discussion, weighing merits of opportunity for our student base and balances of design challenge. In recent years, our discussions have been helped by settling on a thematic linkage which tends to emerge from the first round of discussion.
Graduate Students are then invited to propose titles, and are given information about the faculty decisions which affect casting, theatre placement, and design.
Graduate Students present a report on scope, along with a full script.
Scope Reports: a brief introduction to the director’s intentions/attractions to the play being proposed, followed by a careful break-down of all design requirements, including number of female to male roles, estimated number of total costumes, effects required and any special effects desired/in mind which may not be in the script, any expected additional or “unseen” special costs (royalties, coaches, musicians), and some description of perceived “marketability” as well as “community outreach” potential.
Faculty select graduate proposals for production and assign, at that time,
Faculty Mentors. Once a graduate proposal is selected, it is up to the graduate director to give our office manager complete information regarding royalties and number of scripts to be purchased.
Faculty Mentor responsibilities include (but certainly are not limited to):
1. Discussion with graduate student directors prior to the first production meeting,
to assist preparation for the director’s first “concept” presentation.
2. Mentors should attend at least two early production meetings and give
feedback and advice to the graduate director on interacting with designers
and technical concerns.
3. Mentors should attend at least two “working” rehearsals, again to give the
director feedback particularly on how they are communicating with their
actors, and how they are adhering to their own schedule.
4. Mentors should attend at least one “run” – which may be an early
Dress rehearsal. Graduate directors should determine when and how
the faculty mentor attends and gives constructive feedback.
5. Mentors also have post-show responsibilities – see “Close Out” (p. 8)
Audition announcements and informational meetings about upcoming productions should (but not be limited to) the following:
1. An accurate expected schedule for rehearsing, including show dates and
Potential for “pick up” rehearsals or any other expectations in time commitment.
2. A character list, describing specifics about each character
3. Information on how or where to access a script
4. E-mail contact for the director (for questions)
5. The basic expectations or format for the audition
6. A reminder of the g.p.a. (2.5) rule as well as a reminder that
students already committed to production jobs in the same term
must check with their supervisor before auditioning to make sure
there is no conflict.
The Technical Director for University Theatre schedules production meetings in consultation with directors and stage managers. We have regular times “set aside” within the weekly schedule for production meetings: Mondays and Wednesdays at 4pm, Thursdays at 8:30am.
Directors are expected to make scripts available to the production team at least four weeks prior to the first production meeting. (Please be aware that photocopying scripts under copyright may be a violation of law via the royalties contract. Ordering scripts should be an immediate priority for each director as soon as a season is confirmed.)
Directors are expected to bring to the first production meeting a rough idea of the rehearsal schedule. The Technical Director and Design faculty will have set deadlines for production process, which should be understood by the director and stage manager as they move into the production meeting process. Timely directoral decision-making is vital to designers as they develop their ideas and shops as they build from those ideas. Directors are also expected to bring to the first production meeting a clear set of priorities, of stylistic aims, of “mission” in terms of the production’s value to our students and audiences could be.
Every director approaches the first production meeting differently, of course and each production will have very different needs in terms of theatrical development.
But for the first meeting it is important that the director has thoroughly thought through at least the questions he or she hopes collaboration with designers and technicians may answer. It is often helpful if the director can bring in an “image bank” – focused not on illustrating how he or she wants the show to look, or end “product” but on illustrating key questions, initial impulses regarding mood, atmosphere, ideas or themes from the play, special interests regarding character.
As designs develop, directors are expected to ask questions, to be part of a “give and take” that does not dictate design but offers direction to it, and avoids “micro-managing.” Certainly for the conceptual phase of early production meetings, the director must lead the meeting. In some cases, once the design is finalized and production meetings move on to technical problem-solving, directors may delegate leading the meetings to the stage manager – but such delegation should be made clear to the stage manager and design team early in the process. Technical challenges often require the director to make a decisive commitment in one direction or the other. Throughout, directors are expected to share in the need for flexibility, learning and making adjustments as things develop.
Directors meanwhile should also be posting a character description list, providing script copies for students to check out from the front office, and designing an audition that respects student’s time as much as it may challenge students in a variety of ways, differently for each production.
Prior to first rehearsal, the Marketing Coordinator will provide the director and design team with a marketing schedule and promotion schedule, including forms for shops and stage manager to complete for the production program. Please submit requested materials by these deadlines! Usually just after the previous show has opened, the director and poster designer (in many cases the Marketing Coordinator, but not in all cases) should be meeting separately from production meetings basic design aims for the poster.
The following Casting Policy was approved by the faculty on October 27, 2009:
Auditions for University Theatre productions, including New Voices and all other special UT projects, are open to all University of Oregon students. While our primary responsibility is to offer as wide a variety of opportunities for our theatre majors and minors, university students who are not majoring or minoring in Theatre Arts are not to be regarded as “outside” the normal casting pool for any production.
Actors from outside the university may be cast in roles requiring attributes or skills not found or expected in the normal pool, especially actors of particular age, ethnicity, or special ability. For any University Theatre production, casting outside the university student pool should be limited to filling a maximum of three supporting/secondary roles.
Casts fewer than ten should not cast from outside our university student pool without faculty discussion prior to casting based on exceptional need. With such faculty permission, directors of productions with ten roles or fewer may cast only one role from outside the normal student pool. Directors of casts over ten but less than twenty may cast one or two from outside the student pool. Casts over twenty may cast to the maximum cap of three outside the student pool. In every case, directors should look ahead when proposing play titles and be able to guess where there may be need to cast outside the university student pool – and if needs only come clear through the process of auditioning, directors should bring their wishes to the full faculty for discussion and approval or compromise.
Two exceptions to this cap of three from outside the university student pool may be in casting for workshop productions of winning plays in Earth Matters On Stage, as the priority here is to reflect the playwright’s vision as closely as we can. Too, on special occasion, and with prior consent from the faculty in selecting the season, we may hire a professional actor to take a leading role, as guest artist and in conjunction with other educational access for our students. For both exceptions, Theatre Arts faculty or staff, when available, may be preferred over a professional hire or community member’s assignment.
The season selection committee should keep in mind, for both Robinson and Hope productions, available roles should be no fewer than eight, and we have an agreed (ideal) aim for the season’s balance of roles to come close to 50 roles, half available to women, half to men, from our University of Oregon student pool.
For the sake of assessment, audition forms must all have the same set of survey questions, which include current g.p.a., race/ethnicity, year in school, etc.
Students with lower than a 2.5 g.p.a. should not be called back or cast.
AUDITIONS AND REHEARSAL
Auditions are scheduled by the faculty, typically following or between performances of the production two slots prior. Auditions may not always be possible to slate in the theatre space your production is scheduled for – depending on set construction or special events. Along with possible auditions in the Hope or Robinson, rooms 202 and 104 are available for reservation. To reserve 202 or 104 for auditions or rehearsal, directors must be responsible for filling out the appropriate form (front office) at least two weeks in advance of the dates requested.
Rehearsal periods, including Tech/Dress week, should not extend beyond 8 weeks. Typically, our productions rehearse for five weeks. Rehearsals that may cross Week Ten or Finals Week must count these two weeks as one (that is five rehearsals across the two weeks) in consultation with the students involved, so as not to disrupt their final projects or exam-study needs.
Directors should check with the department head, prior to auditions, to know if there are potential auditioners who do not have the required g.p.a. of 2.5.
Directors (or stage managers) must give the Costume Shop a complete cast list with current contact information as soon after casting as is humanly possible.
Rehearsals for University Theatre productions typically run Sundays through Thursdays. Some directors choose to hold their Sunday rehearsals mid-day.
Most rehearsals, however, are scheduled between 6pm and 10:30pm. Directors and stage managers are responsible for making sure students (actors and crew) have rehearsal schedules that are followed at least in basic time commitments. For example, UT directors shouldn’t be adding rehearsals at the last minute or keeping students past 10:30pm. This is mainly to safeguard our students study-time and to encourage good rest habits. But it is also to respect production needs – for lighting, set construction, painting often happens during the day over the weekends, and sometimes at night after rehearsal.
For large casts, every effort by the director (and stage manager) should be made to call actors only when needed. Sometimes it is unavoidable that students have to be present and ready – and at these times students should be encouraged to bring homework they can do while they wait.
For UT productions only, directors can allow actors to practice or study in the Miller Lobby, but should be very careful to make sure Lobby doors are shut and locked before going home each night. Directors and Stage Managers are responsible for making sure the lobby is not mistreated and any mess left behind is cleaned up.
No food or drink other than bottled water is allowed in either theatre at any time.
Please instruct your actors to use our green room or lobby for any coffee or food breaks.
Rehearsals should not be held in the adjoining theatre space during Thursday night performances in either the Hope or Robinson Villard 202 can be reserved for rehearsal on Thursday night performance dates.
For productions requiring extensive movement or dance, one cast member is typically designated to lead warm-ups devised by the director or choreographer. Stage managers and directors should see to it that these warm-ups are a routine limited to an agreed upon time frame. Actors who are ill or injured should be allowed to “sit out.”
All staged combat, with and without weapons, should be choreographed and well-coached by someone with expertise in this area, preferably with certification or many years of qualified training. Directors should not stage their own “fights.”
Even a basic “slap” can do real harm. Initial play proposals and the earliest production meetings should lay plans for the specific stage-violence needs and a proposal for departmental funding to hire an expert to stage these moments.
Stage Managers should know where the first-aid kits are and have the proper keys to get to them.
In the event of serious injury, the director is responsible for arranging transport to the Hospital and staying in close contact with the student’s progress.
Stage Managers will have keys to the prop box, to the theatres, and will supervise with assistants the sweeping of floors and setting of props. Stage Managers also call breaks or at least hold their directors to them! The usual pattern, for a three-hour rehearsal, is to break once mid-way, for about 10 minutes. (This can be negotiated case by case with the director.)
SEATING IN THE HOPE THEATRE
The minimum seating for audience members is 120. This does not include seats for ushers, the director, or actors.
The production team should determine the seating arrangement at least four weeks before opening. The seating arrangement will be drawn as part of the Scene Designer’s floorplan.
Fire, occupancy, and A.D.A. regulations must be adhered to when determining the seating arrangement. They include, but are not limited to the width of open pathways to the exits, acceptable sightlines of exit signs and fire alarms, width of seating rows and aisles, and placement of wheelchair access areas.
The U.T. Technical Director will approve the seating arrangements and make the final determination of whether scenic elements or furniture are unsafely placed in egress paths.
Traditionally, the first technical rehearsal is held on the Saturday before opening. At that time light, sound, video, scenic and effect cues are specifically incorporated into the production. If not already completed, props should be done by this time. The designers or supervisors are responsible for having their work and crew persons ready for first tech.
Each production is unique and should schedule what is expected to be accomplished at first tech and the following Sunday based on its needs.
The weekend should be planned in a way not to over-burden the production staff.
It is understood that due to the complexity of productions it is desirable to incorporate elements such as sound, finished props, and special effects earlier than technical rehearsals. Requests for early components should be discussed at the beginning of the production meeting process. Directors should recognize students’ schedules and the time needed to create the components may preclude easy accommodation of requests. As with so much else, Directors should be planning ahead, recognizing and prioritizing needs as far in advance as possible. Even if the project is an original work or devised work and must include ongoing development as part of the rehearsal process, it is still important for the director to be planning ahead.
DRESS REHEARSALS AND PERFORMANCES
UT productions typically have a run of four dress rehearsals leading to opening night. Call times must be determined by both the director and designers. For musicals, Shakespeare, and other vocally demanding productions in the Robinson, some productions have scheduled for one night off in the week leading up to opening.
Photo-call is scheduled on the Wednesday prior to dress rehearsals and opening. Photographers usually arrive at 6pm, actors are selected by the costume designer and director and called at 5:00pm. Generally photos include no more than 3 characters and set-up should be prepared and led by the director. This may involve acting out scenes or key moments – but sometimes these are completely invented set-ups for the sake of a dynamic image for publicity’s sake.
Videotaping performances should be limited to just two performances. Special consideration should be given to audience members in the Hope, as cameras can be distracting and should not be in the way of fire exits.
Frequently, “talkbacks” are scheduled after the Sunday matinee in the second weekend of the run. Directors should coordinate with our Marketing Coordinator, stage managers, and technical director, well in advance of opening week.
Lobby Display should be planned well in advance by the director and dramaturg or directing assistant. Lobby Display should be in progress during dress rehearsal week, so there are no last minute surprises. (See Lobby Display Guidelines at end of this document.)
UT productions devote the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday performances of the second weekend of the run to fundraising for charity. Faculty agree on a charitable organization or community service for the year. Directors must organize student actors to step forward after the curtain call and make a brief “pitch” to donate, as two other actors move into the lobby with baskets for collecting cash donations. These funds are collected by the House Manager and locked up – later transferred to our Office Manager for delivery to the designated organization.
KC/ACTF responses are scheduled by the faculty member who coordinates UT registration of each show. Directors should know ahead of the ACTF response which students in design and in acting may be eligible for nomination or commendation. Student-actors who are graduating before the next conference are technically eligible if they are registered students at the time of nomination.
But realistic concerns about that graduating student’s future plans should lead a frank discussion between director and student about eligibility for taking an Irene Ryan nomination. Due to limited resources and faculty desire to encourage students from a variety of areas, not just acting, our policy is to accept only ONE Irene Ryan nomination per show – and it should be the respondent’s choice, not the director’s. Directors should not try to sway a respondent’s decision, but can certainly offer information about academic standing or any other answers to questions of eligibility.
COMPLIMENTARY TICKET COUPONS FOR RESERVED SEATING
For each production there is a definite limit to “comps” being issued, as approved by faculty on September 20, 2011:
For Publicity/Marketing purposes: 20 for the Robinson and 10 for the Hope
For Directors: 10
For Student Designers: 2 each
These numbers are not per performance but per production run. Directors who wish for more than 10 “comps” for any reason must make their argument to the full faculty at least two weeks prior to the opening of the production.
Directors and assistants should remove lobby display items within a week of closing. Directors should also make sure stage managers and props coordinators have cleared out the props cabinets and cleaned up any refuse from the run back stage.
Actors should be reminded to help clean up dressing room and green room spaces immediately following the closing performance.
For Graduate Directors, the Faculty Mentor will schedule a discussion with student actors and crew sometime shortly after closing, to have a feedback session that then the mentor will summarize for the graduate student director.
Students should be assured of confidentiality, and faculty mentors should protect this in any communication between company and director.
Graduate student directors will hear from the Mentor a summary of student (cast, stage managers, crew) feedback, at a meeting convened by the Mentor that includes also any design faculty associated with the project and the graduate student’s dissertation or thesis adviser.
LOBBY DISPLAY GUIDELINES
a. Please consult with the director about the content of the lobby display and discuss how to best frame the material to effectively represent the production.
b. Consider the intent of the display, to enrich the audience’s experience of the performance, and to enlighten them about the background of the script.
c. As time is a factor for audience members, plan for your text to be absorbed in a few minutes.
a. The two screens on either side of the entrance to the theatre are the primary locations for lobby displays in the Robinson. There is a picture rail in the vestibule of the Hope for displays for that theatre. Clips for hanging items on the screens and picture rails are stored with other supplies for display in Villard 211.
b. In the lower lobby, there are three display cases for showing three-dimensional items. The cases may be used for featuring small models, related props or costume items, or a display of student work from the design classes.
c. If you would like to use any other area, please check first with Ariel. Please do not use any tape on any painted surface of the walls or columns in the lobby.
3. Materials and Printing
a. A kit of display supplies is stored in Villard 211. Please check there before asking to purchase other items. Do not purchase anything without clearing it first with Ariel.
b. There are frames available in the costume shop that can be used for mounting displays.
c. All items on display need to be mounted on a firm backing, so they will hang flat. Any cut edges need to be clean.
d. You may use the printer in the computer lab in Villard 300. Please be judicious in the amount of printing planned for your display.
e. Please use the appropriate quality of paper for your printing, such as photo paper for photos, or good quality print paper for other images.
f. Please make sure the color balance is correct on any color printing.
g. All images need to be large enough to be easily seen from several feet away. Consider 8” x10” as a guideline for the minimum.
h. Use of the tools in the scene shop must be arranged ahead of time. Anyone using power tools must be checked out on them first.
a. As lobby displays are in important part of our public face, please give the time needed to prepare an attractive and informative display.
b. Consult with your director early and often so that you can complete this project on time.
c. Installations need to be done by Wednesday of the week of opening.
d. Clean up immediately after you installation is completed.
e. ALL LOBBY MATERIALS MUST BE REMOVED WITHIN ONE WEEK OF CLOSING.