Theater Director

By TACP Staff on July 21, 2021

Not to be confused with a director working directly with theater actors; a theater director is an individual who oversees the implementation of all aspects of the production. Theater directors are responsible for making sure each element of a play, opera, ballet or musical event is developed, manufactured and presented in a cohesive and professional manner. From storyboards to final curtain call, these skilled artists ensure the quality of the theatrical production.

What Is a Theater Director?

Imagine yourself sitting in a darkened theater. You watch as the actors in the play flawlessly deliver each of their lines and hit their cues every time, without fail. You’re captivated as the story unfolds before your eyes.

To most audience members, the production of a play often appears to be effortless and seamless. However, there are a number of elements needed to put on an amazing production. For example, the sets and lighting need to be perfect, and the actors need to be at the top of their game. It doesn’t stop there, though. Each of these elements must mesh perfectly with each other to result in a seamless production. Theater directors are the professionals that are mostly responsible for pulling these types of productions together.

Theater directors are responsible for overseeing nearly every part of a theater production, from beginning to end. Being a theater director is often a very difficult job, and it requires excellent communication skills and the ability to work under pressure.

What Does a Theater Director Do?

While other theater professionals typically focus on one or two elements of a production, a theater director typically needs to concern himself with nearly all aspects. They will often be responsible for supervising and overseeing other members of the cast and crew, for instance. The majority of theater directors will usually work very long hours, acting as a leader for other members of theater production. In many cases, a director’s work will begin before rehearsals begin and before rehearsals even begin.

One duty of a theater director might be to choose which plays will be performed. In order to do this, he will usually read through several scripts before choosing the best ones. A theater director might also be in charge of auditioning and hiring actors and assigning parts. In small theaters, directors might be in charge of this entire process, but in larger theaters, they may have help. For instance, they may be assisted by an assistant director or even a casting director. In some cases, a theater director may be responsible for discharging or replacing an actor that is unable to perform his duties.

Rehearsals are also a major responsibility of a theater director. It is often the theater director that is charged with organizing regular rehearsals. These rehearsals are extremely important because they give the actors chances to practice their lines and act out their parts. A theater director will also usually try to make sure that every actor shows up for every rehearsal that is scheduled for opening night. During these rehearsals, a director will often help guide the actors in their roles and possibly instruct them on their lines, movements, and facial expressions.

Among all of his other duties and responsibilities, a theater director might also have a number of other jobs and responsibilities. These professionals, for instance, will often approve set and costume designs. Small theater companies might also place the director in charge of promoting a play or performing other unrelated tasks, such as keeping the books.

Many would think that opening night is finally a chance for a theater director to sit back, relax, and enjoy the fruits of his hard labor. In some cases, this might be correct, but not always. It is often up to the theater director to try and fix anything that goes wrong on opening night or any other night that a production is performed in front of an audience.

Learn More: How to Become a Theater Director

Theater Director Education & Training Requirements

The majority of theater directors typically start their careers with a bachelor’s degree in theater or a related field. There are a number of quality drama and theater schools across the country. In general, theater directors should have a good grasp of every aspect of theater, from playwriting to acting to set design. Because of this, many aspiring theater directors will usually take as many different theater courses as possible.

Some performing arts schools also offer master’s degree programs in directing theater productions as well. These usually take a few additional years to complete, and they enable students to focus on giving actors and theater crew members instructions and guidance.

Those pursuing theater director careers should also make sure that they have plenty of “hands-on” experience in a theater setting. For most, this means being involved in their schools’ theater programs or community theater programs. While a sound education is a great way to start a theater director career, nothing beats real-world experience. Look for acting schools to suit your needs.

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Theater Director Salary & Job Outlook


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary of theater directors in 2018 was $71,680. There are several different elements that might influence a theater director’s salary, however, such as the size, location, and popularity of the theater where the director works. For instance, a theater director working in a Broadway theater house that is packed every night will usually make much more than a theater director working in a community theater in a rural area.

Job Outlook

Not surprisingly, a theater director usually works in places like community theaters, school theaters, opera houses, and performing arts centers. Some might also work for traveling theater troupes.

However, if you’re looking to pursue a theater director career, keep in mind that this position will not usually be rewarded to you overnight. The majority of theater directors actually started as other types of theater cast and crew members. They may have been actors, playwrights, or set designers, for instance. In general, it usually takes theater professionals several years to work their way up to theater director positions.

Related Careers in Drama and Theater

Consider these related careers in Drama and Theater.