The following post was written by Literary Intern Maggie Rogers.
My name is Maggie Rogers
I am 24 years-old
I am becoming a professional director
This is not the end
This is the pain-staking middle
I am currently the Literary Intern at Seattle Rep and was presented with the amazing opportunity to assistant direct brownsville song (b-side for tray) alongside director Juliette Carrillo.
Before I give my top five tips for assistant directing, I think it is imperative to first explain what a director does. Directing is something fairly complicated to explain—so complicated in fact that most of my extended family thinks I am still an actor. (I just roll with the story.) A wonderful explanation a wise teacher of mine once told me was that a director is “the author of the action on the stage.” They are responsible for the physical storytelling. The director has a clear point of view about what they think the play is about, and then they craft the story and staging in a way to make their viewpoint as clear as possible.
Assisting for Juliette was a truly rewarding and amazing experience. During this process I was entrusted with many responsibilities, such as running all of the sound cues during rehearsals, finding the music in the show that has words in it, giving the actors notes from Juliette, being on-book, giving the actors line notes, and I even ran lines with actors after rehearsal hours so they were prepared for the next day’s rehearsal. I feel like when people think of assistant directors, they think of someone always running around getting coffee. And yeah, I have done my fair share of that. But if that is what the production and the director needs, I will be running to the store to get that coffee because I want to help the production in any way that I can.
I have done a lot of assistant directing in my theatre career. The extent to what I contributed to each production has varied by director. Some directors just let me be there to observe, and some let me give my own notes during rehearsals and let me run all of the understudy or put-in rehearsals—a rehearsal where we do the whole show with an understudy who will actually be going on. Assisting can be a very strange experience. You are there to aid the play, but sometimes you are not sure what that means. I have assembled a list of some things that may help a newer assistant director navigate the experience.
Tips for Assistant Directing:
- Find the comfiest chair in the room—your tailbone with thank you later! (You’ll most likely be sitting for 4-7 hours per rehearsal.)
- When you email your director notes after a run, pick four things you think are important and write a few sentences about each one. AND OFFER A SOLUTION! A note saying “this scene feels weird” is not an acceptable note. Why does it feel “weird”? Is it the character relationship? Pacing? Be specific!
- Never give an actor a personal note. I feel like this is pretty self-explanatory, but sometimes during tech, actors will tell the assistant director every insecurity they are faced with and ask you for notes. Reassure them they are doing a great job and that the director of the show would be more suited to help them with any specific problems.
- Sometimes you do not agree with the director’s point of view, or you feel a different way about a character than they do. And that is totally fine if you have those feelings, but it is not always fine to bring it up. You are there to be a support system for them, not to tell them what to do with their show. This is coming from someone who made that mistake when I thought I knew everything in college.
- Don’t ask the director anything while they have their coat on. They need to get settled and be ready for rehearsal. You can ask them your question another time when you can gauge how they are feeling.
See Juliette and Maggie’s work onstage now in brownsville song (b-side for tray), playing in the Leo K. Theatre through April 24.