Whispers from the Wings

The Assistant Director

February 14, 2012

Theatre Craft by John Caird'And what exactly is an assistant director?' is the usual response when I try to explain to people what it is I do 'for a living'.

In what seems like my annals of time spent assistant directing, I have had (possibly too) much time to contemplate the nature of that role itself.

As a young, aspiring director, one inevitably turns to the greats for guidance: John Caird's bible on Theatre Craft encourages the young assistant to make a pot of undrinkable tea very early on in the rehearsal process, so that from then on you will avoid being treated as tea-maid, and get more of a stake in the creative process. So you know it's bad, when, as with my first assisting job, you find yourself jealously guarding the tea-making facilities, lest anyone should bereave you of your one and only activity/role in the rehearsal room.

Since then I have performed all manner of assistant directing duties, thankfully incremental in their level of creative responsibility: from scheduling, to doing line-runs with actors, to leading warm-ups, directing parallel rehearsal calls, and noting performances.

It is a quite singular role, peripheral, with no clear allegiances - depending of course, on the project and the team. I have been lucky to work with Maria on a number of projects, so we have a developed a certain rapport, and a solid working relationship. But, when one of my peers told me that a director had recently 'shushed' his sneeze in a rehearsal, I was reminded that, when it comes to assisting, there is little you should take for granted.

When one finally arrives at the Pearly Gates of assistant director heaven, however, (that's the RSC for all you Muggles out there), help is at hand, as you are presented with no less than three pages detailing your role and responsibilities. Yes! At last! Someone has been explicit about what is expected of me in this bloody job! So here goes!

by Sophie Ivatts  |  2 comments

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Feb 14, 5:55pm

would love to get my hands on a copy of that crock of gold list...... I am one of those out there still bemused and mystified by the assistant director's role.... no-one up until now has managed to pin it down concisely and precisely; even after being both a director with and without an AD and also AD-ing myself!! :))

Feb 15, 2:15pm
Helen Hargest

I had the renewed pleasure of meeting John Caird again last week when he visited the RSC Archive here at the Shakespeare Birthplace. He is looking for images for his website and presented me winth two copies of his book Theatre Craft for our collections. It makes for fascinating reading!

Helen Hargest
Archives and Imaging Coordinator

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