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5 Ways to Be a Better Director

Updated: May 13

Jim once directed a play that still lives in infamy: he made Spock cry. Not  Leonard Nimoy (though that would be a much better story) but a young middle schooler who was playing Spock.

Jim directed Spock to say a line in a funny way and had him try a few times to get it just right. But, this young Spock was extremely introverted, and all the attention from the cast sent him into embarrassed tears. Jim comforted him immediately, and after that, he learned to talk to Spock privately about any improvements to his acting.

Directing is hard. But, being a choir and theater director for a Madrigal Dinner is the most crucial role.  In addition to a good performance, your job is to hone your performers’ talents and foster loyalty and goodwill among the group.

Here are five ways to be a better director to your singers and actors.

5 tips for making your comedy acting a success

1. Build a Team

A team makes the details fall into place. Things like sets, costumes, ticketing, advertising, and catering, are enough to drown a person. Assembling a reliable team that can manage these things allows you to focus on the main event. As Helen Keller once said, "Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

2. Focus On What Matters

The Madrigal Dinner performance is more important than sets and costumes.

Having the most glamorous costumes and stunning sets won’t make up for a flat performance. Pour your energy into your singers to guide their talent. Pick musical pieces that highlight their range. Teach your actors to act with emotion, articulate, and move naturally on stage. Even if you run out of time and the performance space is spartan, the audience cares more about the performance than the aesthetics.

3. Set an Early Deadline for Memorization

Establishing an early deadline for having music and lines memorized will ease performance anxiety and will give performers room to experiment and develop their characters. When performers are still struggling with lines two weeks before the show, there’s no room for improving or developing the scenes. In the end, early memorization makes everyone’s job easier.

4. Give Balanced Feedback

Give good and bad feedback to your actors.

When giving feedback to your performers, be sure to address their strengths AND opportunities for growth. It is easy to fixate on what needs fixing, but too much negative feedback will demoralize your actors. For every area of growth, be sure to include how they are succeeding in their skills, attitudes, or behaviors.

5. Model Great Leadership

As the best-selling novelist John C. Maxwell once said, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” To elicit good behavior from your performers, you must model good behavior yourself. If you expect your singers and actors to be prepared, make sure you come to rehearsals prepared and organized yourself. If you want everyone to arrive on time, make sure you’re not late! Most of all, if you would like an environment of mutual respect and loyalty, you must treat your performers with respect and be there for them. Yelling, sarcasm, and shaming are big no-no’s. Be a leader everyone wants to follow.

Being a good director requires adaptability. Every cast is different, but respect for your performers never changes. All in all, striving to be the best director you can be will translate to your performance. And if you have to choose between directing and sets, choose directing. Remember, some of the most powerful Shakespearean plays have been performed on an empty stage. Nothing can replace a strong musical and theatrical performance.

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