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al charlens

A.M. Charlens
Knight of the Theatre

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and related talent (directors, stage managers, set designers, costumers) to hone their skills through continuing education and live performances.
We staff educators to help professional and novice talent increase their skills.
We want to increase public awareness of the benefits found in the pursuit of theatre arts. Included is a "free to the public" performance troupe. We take theatre arts to public venues, schools, hospitals, nursing and convalescent homes and others. We want to grant scholarships to disadvantaged youngsters who may otherwise be prevented from participation in theatre arts.
Parents have approached us with thanks and expressions of wonder that their children have sat enthralled. We have been told that we are the children's first exposure to Shakespeare.
With schools' cutbacks in funding for the arts, our productions are in many cases, the only opportunity many families will have to see high quality theatre, with no strain on their budget.

What is a director?

The director creates a work of art. The play must have the elements of beauty and inspiration present in any art. As such, the director must have the personality attributes associated with the artist.

  • Imagination. The director must be imaginative. The playwright has provided a cold printed page for the director to bring to life. Every situation, every character, indeed, every line may be treated in many different ways. The director must use his imagination to select the new and different, the varied and colorful, the inspired and powerful means of transforming the dead page into radiant life.
  • Sensitivity. The director must be sensitive to the meanings and beauties of life. He must be able to respond easily and deeply to the joy and sorrow, the good and the evil, the beautiful and the ugly in human life. If he is to be an interpreter of life, he must be deeply sensitive to life. One of the standard jokes in the theatre suggests that suffering is necessary to great art. In a sense, this is true. The depth of the awareness and responsiveness of the director will be enhanced by his having experienced profoundly.
  • Visualization. The director must be able to visualize. When the director reads a play, it springs into action before his eyes. He sees the conflict acted out before him. If he cannot picture the action as he reads, he will have trouble transforming the two dimensions of the printed page into the three dimensions of the stage in action. The lack of the ability to visualize is one of the great problems of the beginning director.
  • Vitality. Since play direction is a group endeavor, the director must have a vitality and energy not always required of other artists. He must be able to stimulate others. Play production demands a great expenditure of energy on the part of the director, the actors, and the craftsmen. The director, in particular, must have the vitality to direct and control the energies of his group of artists.

Most artists are poor critics.

  • They become so engrossed in their personal imaginative flight that they are unable to restrict it within carefully defined boundaries.
  • The director must have the qualities of the critic.
  • The technical aspects of direction require keen analysis and calculating evaluation. Every action, every sound must be carefully weighed in terms of the effect that it is to have upon the spectator.
  • The director must create, then step back from the creation, and apply cold critical judgment. It is not enough that he be pleased with his work. It must stand the test of the spectator.
  • Since it is a group art, dozens of co-workers will be unhappily affected if the director's judgment proves to be wrong.

Since drama is derived from human conduct, the director must be a student of life.

  • He must be a keen observer. Every experience, whether overt or vicarious, must be carefully stored for future reference.
  • The wealth of his knowledge of the human being in any and all situations can be used again and again to bring the playwright's meanings to the audience.

Several studies have shown that actors are more imaginative, more sensitive, have less emotional stability than the average person.

  • All of these qualities are important to the actor who portrays human conflict upon a stage. At the same time, these qualities make the task of cooperative work more complex.
  • The director must be able to handle his players so that the best rather than the worst is stimulated.
  • He must handle each actor and technician as an individual, understanding the personality differences of each.
  • He must be a master of human relations.

The audience is an integral part of any production.

  • The director must have complete knowledge of audience characteristics. He must be able to calculate audience response to varying types of stimuli.
  • General knowledge of audience behavior has been discussed in the preceding chapter, and additional information can be obtained in any book on social psychology.
  • The specifics of audience behavior in the theatre can be gained only by careful observation.
  • The audience is a dynamic force, and every director must learn how to deal with it.

Obviously, the director must be a student of drama and dramaturgy.

  • His background of plays must be broad. He must know the history of drama and its development; moreover, a knowledge of play structure is imperative.
  • Only by intensive study of all types of plays from every period can this knowledge be acquired.
  • Thorough understanding of why the playwright did as he did and how he went about it will make direction of the play more meaningful.
  • To make an intelligent selection of plays for production, the director must be well read in the drama of every period.
  • The director's ability to evaluate the drama he produces will increase as his background in drama increases.

The director need not be a superior actor, though some acting experience is very helpful.

  • The director who has been a successful actor will understand and have greater sympathy for the problems of the actor.
  • On the other hand, success as an actor does not in any way guarantee the ability to direct successfully.
  • A complete knowledge of the theory and technique of acting is essential to good directing.
  • Since most directors must train their actors, they should have a knowledge of all facets of acting.
  • The director must be skillful in the handling of line, mass, color, must be able to paint beautiful and meaningful pictures.
  • In order to accomplish his purpose he must have a complete knowledge of the denotative and connotative meanings of all of the factors that make up design.

The process of play directing requires a number of strangely assorted and, in some ways, widely separated abilities. The director must be artist, critic, student, and teacher. Normally, these attributes are not found in full complement in any one person. Very few, if any, directors will perform superiorly all the tasks required of the director. In other words, the following list is not set down to frighten the beginning director but rather to suggest the ideal qualifications toward which he may strive.