The director is an actor’s greatest ally and advocate and like it or not, from auditions to rehearsals, directors run the room. Having a positive relationship with your project’s leader can not only result in a final product to be proud of but can also lead to future gigs and long-term artistic relationships. So, we wondered: What do directors love in actors, and what do they loathe?
Bring positive energy.
“I love when an actor brings gameness and a sense of adventure to the room. The combo of generosity and rigor is unbeatable in my book. Every actor has the choice to bring positive energy to the room; it’s a choice we all make every day and many times within a day. The choice of kindness over self-absorption, and the choice of good humor even in the face of discomfort. I am obsessed with actors who make these choices; they make the rehearsal room better for everyone around them.” —Lear deBessonet, resident director at the Public Theater, founder and artistic director of the Public Theater’s Public Works
Put your phone away.
“The only thing that drives me truly nuts in a rehearsal room is when people use their phones when we aren’t on break. Theater is one of the few places left where we put our phones down and all exist in a room together, and I like to keep that space sacred. I love actors who come prepared, and that can look like a bunch of different things: off book, well-researched, full questions. I love to engage with actors as collaborators and an actor who has employed their imagination and brings those thoughts and their own humanity into the room is my dream kind of collaborator.” —Danya Taymor, director of “Pass Over” at Steppenwolf and Lincoln Center (also filmed by Spike Lee and streamed on Amazon Prime)
Have a notebook and use it often.
“I love it when actors keep a notebook handy to write down their notes and personal discoveries throughout the rehearsal process, but it truly drives me up a wall when an actor nods along to a note or cuts you off before you finish giving the note with an ‘Oh, yeah, I totally got it’ and then proceeds to forget it within 20 minutes.” —Srđa Vasiljević, resident director of Theatre for One
Don’t wait for permission or approval.
“I love actors who are excited to experiment and understand the need for improvisation. They energize a room and offer lots of opportunities to collaborate. Conversely, I am greatly disappointed when actors wait for every decision, every choice to be made by me. It is also frustrating when actors have ideas but resist actually trying them without prior approval. They drain me and the room.” —Valerie Curtis-Newton, head of directing at University of Washington School of Drama
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