Principles of Directing

Course Details

Course Number: THEA 3433  Section Number: 101

Fall 2013

Location: Fain Fine Arts Center

Classroom Number: C111

Days & Times:

11-12:30 TR

Course Attachments


MSU Faculty Member
Laura Jefferson   
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Course Objectives

To identify and begin to develop the knowledge and skills necessary for successful directing. (theoretical/conceptual knowledge and application)

To investigate and experience the role of the director in the theatrical process. (professionalism)

To identify the dimensions of theatrical style and to consider how they translate into directorial choices. (theoretical/conceptual knowledge and application)

To consider the artistic, economic, social, and ethical issues involved in choosing and interpreting a play for production.  (professionalism)

To define a variety of methods of play analysis and t consider how each contributes to the question “What is this play really about?”  (theoretical/conceptual knowledge and application)

To sense, analyze, and help actors communicate a play’s dynamics implicit in the playwright’s intention and the characters’ superintentions, intention/relacoms, obstacles, tactic, and expectations.  (theoretical/conceptual knowledge and application)

To sense and help actors communicate a play’s rhythms, its high’s and low’s, its loud’s and soft’s, its “moments,” and its tonalities.  (theoretical/conceptual knowledge and application)

To develop a working comprehension of the basic tools for directing actors:  blocking, pacing, physicalization, movement, business, vocal delivery, organic composition, and picturization.  (theoretical/ conceptual knowledge and application)

To define “concept” and to begin to explore what is involved in establishing a conceptual throughline for a play.  (theoretical/conceptual knowledge and application and professionalism)

To adopt a professional, collaborative working style in carrying out directing exercises. (professionalism and employability)

To begin to develop an effective, individual directing style.  (professionalism and employability)


Course Expectations

Other Requirements:

Thorough reading, re-reading, and analysis of scripts from which scenes to be directed are drawn.

A panel presentation on an assigned topic---for example, the emergence of the modern director, direction involving psychological realism, direction involving unrealistic styles, directing in the postmodern theatre, a leading contemporary director.

Students are required to attend, or participate in, the MSU Theatre’s fall productions:

  • The Diary of Anne Frank

Wednesday, October 9 at 11:00 a.m.

Thursday, October 10 at 11:00 a.m.

Thursday through Saturday, October 10-12, 7:30 p.m.

Sunday, October s13, 2:30 p.m.

  • Wiley and the Hairy Man

Thursday, November 21 at 11:00 a.m. & 7:30 p.m.

Friday, November 22 at 11:00 a.m. & 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, November 23 at 11:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

Sunday, November 24 at 2:30 p.m.


Students are also encouraged to attend the DTC’s production of Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris, October 4---October 27.

There will be several short written assignments and occasional quizzes.

Two test covering class discussions and experiences, as well as textbook assignments, will be administered.

Each student will participate in a 20-minute panel presentation on an assigned topic.

A paper will be required reacting to the MSU Theatre’s production of The Diary of Anne Frank.


Each student will direct two scenes, the first 3-5 minutes long, the second 3-4 minutes long.  The first scene will be drawn from a play studied in class.  The second scene will be chosen by the student director with the approval of the instructor.  Neither scene would require more than two or three actors, preferably two.  The student director may do a scene from their one-act if they choose to do so.  The individual directors will be responsible for casting their scenes.  If actors are drawn from the class, no class member should be required to perform in more than one scene per round.  Because of time constraints, auditions for the scenes will not be held unless a student director elects to arrange private readings.  Each scene should be done with workable props and costume items necessary for character development.  The props and costumes used need not be authentic, and sound and lighting effects need not be used.  Makeup will be used for the scenes.  The goal is to keep the emphasis on directing and performance and to avoid getting carried away with technical concerns.  Both scenes should be staged for a proscenium stage environment.  If the student director is directing a scene from their chosen one-act, they may stage in the L-shaped configuration of student-produced one-acts.  For each scene the director should prepare both as a tool for rehearsal and as an assignment to be evaluated, an analysis and promptscript including the following:

I.  FIRST SECTION OF PROMPTBOOK:    The playwright and the play.

     A.  Notes on the playwright

            1.  Dates

            2.  Background

            3.  Extent and nature of writing

            4.  Playwright’s thematic concerns in general and themes explored in the play

            5.  Playwright’s intention in writing the play (spine of the play)

            6.  Dramatic style (realism, expressionism, surrealism, absurdism, etc.)


            NOTE:  Information taken from the Internet is acceptable, but the student director

            should mark it to indicate points that “speak” to the work being rehearsed and make

            notes that show that the information has been understood and processed.  SIMPLY



       B.  Notes on play as related to the scene.

            1.  Synopsis putting the scene in perspective and illuminating its importance and function in the plays as a whole.

            2.  Images (scripted and/or directorial)

            3.  Description and analysis of character in the scene

                 a.  Physical characteristics (dress, appearance, grooming, carriage, movement, gesture,


                 b.  Psychological characteristic (introvert/extrovert, intelligence, philosophy of life,

                 likes, dislikes, aspirations, fears, phobias)

                 c.  Social characteristics (feeling toward, and interactions with, other characters)

                 d.  Superintentions (spine or overall objective of each character in the scene)

                 e.  Intentions (for the scene being directed)

                 f.  Obstacles faced by the characters

                 g.  Tactics, active verbs, employed by the characters in the scene in attempting to realize their intentions (tactics should also be noted at appropriate points in the script, i.e. the beats)

                 h.  Answering of Uta Hagen’s “Nine Questions” for each character in the scene: 

                 (1) Who am I?, (2) What time is it?, (3) Where am I?, (4) What surrounds me?, (5) What are the given circumstances?, (6) What is my relationship?, (7) What do I want?,

                 (8) What is in my way?, (9) What do I do to get what I want?

     C.   Special performance problems within the scene and ideas for solving them.



      A.  Props list denoting careful and accurate placement of props for performance

      B.  Sound effects notes, if necessary (generally, none need to be used)

      C.  Costume notes for each character (sketches are most helpful)

      D.  Scaled ground plan  of set of ¼” graph paper with explanatory notes (the ground

            plan for the first scene will be provided)

      E.  Special technical problems within the scene and ideas for surmounting them.



      A.  Rehearsal schedule

      B.  Division of scene into beats with noted indicating tactics, obstacles, subtexts,

            Cutbacks, telescoping, hooks, arguments enders, trail-offs, builds, climaxes, transitions,

            Discoveries, and moments.

      C.  Blocking notes and symbols

      D.  Special interpretations



            The student director should maintain a rehearsal diary.  At the end of each rehearsal, he/she should record the date of the rehearsal.  He/she should then write a few statements concerning problems he/she encountered, breakthroughs that were achieved, problems that remained unsolved, and things he/she learned about the process, the actors, or himself/herself.  These observations can serve as a springboard for class discussion or for an exchange of ideas when the instructor visits rehearsals.



Grading Standards

Attendance/participation ………………………………………………………………100

            0 misses=         100 points

            1 miss=            95 points

            2 misses=         85 points

            3 misses=         75 points

            4 misses=         60 points

            More than 4 misses= 0 points

Quizzes and/or short written assignments………………………………………………100

Test 1  …………………………………………………………………………………..125

Test 2  …………………………………………………………………………………..125

Rehearsal schedule for scene 1…………………………………………………………. 25

Ground plan for second scene…………………………………………………………....75

Scene 1 (50 for analysis/promptscript, 100 for performance …………………………..150

Scene 2 (75 for analysis/promptscript, 100 for performance …………………………..175

Paper on MSU Theatre’s production of The Diary of Anne Frank....................................75

Panel presentation ……………………………………………………………………….50

                                                                                                                        *Total     1000


Final grade:   895-1000 = A, 795-894 = B, 695-794 = C, 595-694 = D, 0-594 = F


Scale for grading daily work (grades assigned to nearest percentage point):

A  (96-100%)              B+  (87-89%)              C+  (77-79%)              D+  (67-69%)

A- (90-95%)                B    (83-86%)              C    (73-76%)              D    (63-66%)

                                    B-   (80-82%)              C-   (70-72%)              D-   (60-62%)

F   (below 60%)


*Note:  The instructor reserves the right to adjust or cancel assignments as the course progressed.  If, for some reason, assignments administered total somewhat more or fewer than 1,000 points, the method of obtaining the final grade will remain essentially the same:  the total points achieved will be divided the total points possible to obtain a percentage, and a grade will be assigned according to the scale outlined above.

Final Exam12/10/2013  1-3 p.m.

Submission Format PolicyNote: You may not submit a paper for a grade in this class that already has been (or will be) submitted for a grade in another course, unless you obtain the explicit written permission of me and the other instructor involved in advance.

Plagiarism Policy Plagiarism is the use of someone else's thoughts, words, ideas, or lines of argument in your own work without appropriate documentation (a parenthetical citation at the end and a listing in "Works Cited")-whether you use that material in a quote, paraphrase, or summary. It is a theft of intellectual property and will not be tolerated, whether intentional or not.

Student Honor Creed

As an MSU Student, I pledge not to lie, cheat, steal, or help anyone else do so."

As students at MSU, we recognize that any great society must be composed of empowered, responsible citizens. We also recognize universities play an important role in helping mold these responsible citizens. We believe students themselves play an important part in developing responsible citizenship by maintaining a community where integrity and honorable character are the norm, not the exception. Thus, We, the Students of Midwestern State University, resolve to uphold the honor of the University by affirming our commitment to complete academic honesty. We resolve not only to be honest but also to hold our peers accountable for complete honesty in all university matters. We consider it dishonest to ask for, give, or receive help in examinations or quizzes, to use any unauthorized material in examinations, or to present, as one's own, work or ideas which are not entirely one's own. We recognize that any instructor has the right to expect that all student work is honest, original work. We accept and acknowledge that responsibility for lying, cheating, stealing, plagiarism, and other forms of academic dishonesty fundamentally rests within each individual student. We expect of ourselves academic integrity, personal professionalism, and ethical character. We appreciate steps taken by University officials to protect the honor of the University against any who would disgrace the MSU student body by violating the spirit of this creed. Written and adopted by the 2002-2003 MSU Student Senate.

Students with Disabilities The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal anti-discrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights protection for persons with disabilities. Among other things, this legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their disabilities. If you believe you have a disability requiring an accommodation, please contact the Disability Support Services in Room 168 of the Clark Student Center, 397-4140.

Safe Zones Statement The professor considers this classroom to be a place where you will be treated with respect as a human being - regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, political beliefs, age, or ability. Additionally, diversity of thought is appreciated and encouraged, provided you can agree to disagree. It is the professor's expectation that ALL students consider the classroom a safe environment.

Contacting your Instructor All instructors in the Department have voicemail in their offices and MWSU e-mail addresses. Make sure you add your instructor's phone number and e-mail address to both email and cell phone lists of contacts.

Attendance Requirements

(1)        Students should follow the syllabus to keep track of assignments and should take notes    during lectures and discussions.  Keeping up with reading and notes is imperative to     doing well on written assignments, quizzes, tests and directing projects.

(2)        Attendance at class sessions is expected.  Upon his/her fifth absence, excused or

            not, the student will be dropped from the class by the instructor.

(3)        The instructor will not be held responsible for recording attendance for a tardy student.     The instructor reserves the right to disallow counting a student present who is extremely   tardy.

(4)        Make-up work may be given if---and only if:

            (a)        The student notifies the instructor before the missed class or presents a

                        doctor’s excuse upon returning, and

            (b)        The student takes responsibility for scheduling a make-up test (or other missed

                        graded assignment) with the instructor on the first day of return.

Other Policies

Required Texts and Script

Jim Patterson, Stage Directing:  The First Experience

Frank Hauser and Russell Reich, Notes on Directing:  130 Lessons in Leadership from the Director’s Chair

A. R. Gurney, What I Did Last Summer, Dramatists Play Service


Supplementary Readings

Supplementary reading will be provided from Stuart Vaughan’s Directing Plays:  A Working Professional’s Method

Writing Proficiency Requirement All students seeking a Bachelor's degree from Midwestern State University must satisfy a writing proficiency requirement once they've 1) passed English 1113 and English 1123 and 2) earned 60 hours. You may meet this requirement by passing either the Writing Proficiency Exam or English 2113. Please keep in mind that, once you've earned over 90 hours, you lose the opportunity to take the $25 exam and have no option but to enroll in the three-credit hour course. If you have any questions about the exam, visit the Writing Proficiency Office website at, or call 397-4131.