How to be a student director who leads with confidence and encourage others is not as hard you may think! As a student director you get the chance to empower everyone in the production. As a leader, you set the tone of the rehearsal room and can inspire actors to do their best work.
Here are four ways to energize your rehearsal room and form a close-knit group. How to be a student director in four easy steps!

#1 – Start with a warm-up

Getting loose before you start rehearsal helps everyone relax. Directors often use different theatre games to help actors have fun before rehearsals, but these games also target different areas of performance, such as focus, diction, and improvisation. Vocal warm-ups are another great option to make sure that everyone’s voice is ready for rehearsal. Here are some fun tongue twisters everyone can try. Warm-ups only last a few minutes but give people enough energy to sustain them for that day of rehearsal.
We carry tension in the muscles of our bodies, even if we don’t always realize it. This can make actors feel stiff onstage. Physical warm-ups are helpful for both body and mind; these also help reduce stress. Try a 10-minute yoga exercise together (simple beginner stretches are great for everyone no matter their yoga skill level). Or have a dance party to your favorite song. You can also stand in a circle together and practice shaking out the stiffness in your arms and legs.
Picking someone new to lead warmups every day ensures that everyone feels like they’re a part of the process. The best directors make sure that all cast members have opportunities to speak their minds, even about small things.

#2 – Spend time together in real life

Sometimes the key to having high-energy rehearsals is having fun together outside of rehearsal. Spending time together as a company helps everyone get to know each other better and feel more comfortable while rehearsing. This doesn’t have to be elaborate! Something as simple as getting dinner together or just talking outside after rehearsal allows you to slow down and enjoy each other’s company. 

Photo credit Pexels RDNE stock project.

It’s extra special if the bonding activity relates to the play in some way. For example, if the play you’re directing takes place in the past, taking a trip to a local history museum can inspire new ideas for everyone on the team. If you’re directing a rock musical, sitting in the park and listening to similar-sounding rock albums gets you all in the right frame of mind. All that matters is making sure everyone feels included. And as a bonus, these hangouts often end up being some of the best memories from the entire production!

#3 – Encourage discussion

Directors should always provide space for the actors to explore the script. You might have one opinion about the story, and an actor might feel completely differently. Sitting down to talk about the script lets you hear everyone’s thoughts. As a leader, you want to make sure that everyone feels their opinion is valuable.
Casting the ShowYou can try directing scenes multiple ways so you can explore different interpretations. As an example, if you think an actor should deliver a line angrily, but the actor thinks they should deliver it sadly, try both versions a few times. You might find that an unexpected choice is the exact thing that the scene needs. Directors can empower their actors by leaning into discussions and encouraging them to make bold choices. When actors feel empowered, the energy level of the entire production is much higher.

#4 – Know when it’s time to take a break.

If you’ve ever tried to study for a test late at night, you know that it’s nearly impossible to learn while you’re tired. The same goes for rehearsal. Actors and directors alike need time away from work so they can recharge and refocus on the story they want to tell. Pushing people to work too hard leads to burnout. During high-intensity periods like tech week, when everyone is working for hours on end, directors need to be especially intentional about taking breaks. Try to sprinkle rest periods throughout rehearsal. This can be as simple as leading a short stretch exercise or organizing snack time.
You can also use breaks to check in with actors about how they’re feeling. During intense scenes, actors may experience a lot of emotions, and stepping away from the scene for a minute allows them to process how they feel. Earning the trust of your actors involves listening to their thoughts and providing support. Actors create their best work in a space where they feel free to express themselves!
Directors work to support the actors in their production by making the rehearsal room a positive place. You’re a leader both onstage and off!  ♦
Dylan Malloy is a regular contributor to Dramatics. Connect with her @dylan_writes.
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