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Directing

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Definition:Directing, the art of leading dramatic performances on the stage. The modern theatrical director is in complete charge of all the artistic aspects of a dramatic presentation.

It is the director's first task to discover a central mood or idea in the text of the play to be performed that will serve as a unifying determinant for the interpretation of individual scenes and characters. Then he or she must work out the movement of the actors on stage and the pacing of each line and scene. Finally, the director helps plan the lighting, scenery, sound effects, and musical accompaniment for the production (if a musical director isnt already in place). All the director's efforts are aimed at creating a fully unified aesthetic experience.

The beginning of modern directing is commonly associated with the Meiningen Players, a German acting troupe organized in 1874 by George II, duke of Saxe-Meiningen. Under the direction of Ludwig Chroneg, the group worked as a unit, setting an influential example of effective ensemble playing. Leading realistic directors of the late 19th cent. Included Andr Antoine in France, Otto Brahm in Germany, and Constantin Stanislavsky in Russia. The most innovative of these was probably Stanislavsky, who stressed ensemble acting and the importance of actors' absolute identification with their roles.

Almost as soon as realism gained ascendancy, various antirealist theatrical movements developed, beginning with Paul Fort's Thtre d'Art (1890). The theories of Adolphe Appia in Germany and Edward Gordon Craig (here in the UK) encouraged European directors to experiment with symbolic settings. Even conservative directors such as Harley Granville-Barker and Jacques Copeau soon realized that a realistic setting was not essential to the true rendering of a play's meaning.

In addition to producing increased artistic possibilities for directors, the rise of antirealism made the director's practical task of coordinating scene design, lighting, and acting even more essential. A director who experimented successfully with both realism and antirealism was the German Max Reinhardt. Noted for his extravagant productions, he tried to remove the barrier between actors and audience by projecting the stage into the audience and scattering actors among the spectators.

During the 1920s there were several important antirealist directors working in Germany and the Soviet Union, notably Vsevolod Meyerhold, Alexander Tairov, and Erwin Piscator. A disciple of Reinhardt, Piscator worked with the playwright Bertolt Brecht, whose theories have greatly influenced 20th-century theatre. In order to emphasize the social and intellectual content of Brecht's plays, Piscator utilized stylised settings and mechanical devices such as motion pictures. Brecht wished to insure the intellectual receptiveness of his audience by making it continually aware that it was watching a play, not reality. To this end he and Piscator took the opposite of the Stanislavsky technique and schooled their actors to alienate themselves from their roles.

During the 19th and early 20th cent. the American theatre was dominated by directors specializing in elaborate surface realism, with David Belasco as their prototype. A break from that tendency was made by the Group Theatre (193141), with Cheryl Crawford, Lee Strasberg, and Harold Clurman directing plays of social significance and promulgating Stanislavsky's theories of acting. Strasberg's Actors' Studio produced a generation of theatre and film actors devoted to the Stanislavsky technique.

During the 1950s and 60s the emergence of the theatre of the absurd and the theatre of cruelty granted directors more scope than ever. Many directors began incorporating music, acrobatics, dance, film, and mime into their productions, whether the plays being performed were by Beckett, Stoppard, or Shakespeare. Theatrical happenings and orgiastic productionsreplete with audience participation!may be viewed either as giving the director unlimited freedom or as eliminating his function altogether.

Amateur directors must obviously take note of the historical development of their role as described above, because an amateur director must aim to emulate the skills, knowledge and successes of his/her professional equivelent.

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