Directing a Play at HTC

So you’ve joined the company, maybe taken a few roles in plays – or maybe you want to get stuck straight into the director’s chair! How do you go about it?

First Things First

Even if you have directed a play with another company before, we do things differently at HTC, so we always recommend that you assist a seasoned member in co-directing a play before taking control of a production yourself. If you approach the committee to express your interest, they will help to set this up for you.

The Play’s the Thing…

Before a play can be staged by the company, our rules say that it has to have been read by at least four members together at a play reading, and comments written in the playreading book (aka, ‘The Book’). This is to make sure it suits our tastes, it’s a quality show, and it can realistically be staged in our theatre.

If you just want to direct, and don’t have a specific play in mind, you can browse The Book (kept behind the ticket desk) to see what has been read already, or you can approach the committee and ask to be matched with a play.

If you want to see a specific play put on but don’t want to direct, you can propose it and ask to be paired with a director.

Programme Selection

The Committee meets once a year, usually late November or early December, for a special ‘selection meeting’ to consider proposals for plays people would like us to put on. Once they have agreed a balanced programme of comedy, drama, musicals, etc., this draft programme is ratified by a vote of the membership at the December business meeting. It’s helpful if you can provide a written proposal describing the play and how you’d like to stage it, and/or attend in person to answer any questions members have.

We now have four slots a year for plays (in addition to the pantomime, and two youth productions): Spring (late March), Summer (early July), Autumn (early September) and Winter (late October). The exact dates are set in advance by the committee but can be negotiated.

Assembling a Team

So you’ve successfully got yourself a slot – what next?

You need to assemble a team who will help you stage it. You might even like to do this before you submit your proposal to the committee. There are a wide range of roles in a production team, not all of which are necessary depending on the scale of your production and how much you are comfortable taking on yourself.

The Company do our best to organise training and shadowing opportunities for anyone who wants to take on any of the more in depth roles!

The Director

The Producer

Assistant Director

Stage Manager

The Prompter (or ‘Prompt’)

Lighting Team


Set building and design

Properties Master

Front of House

Publicity Designer

Musical Director



Auditions are open to anyone – even non-members – and should be advertised as widely as possible, and as far in advance as you can. It’s usual to hold at least two auditions, one on a weekday evening and another during the day at the weekend, so that everyone has a chance to attend. You can hold them in the theatre or elsewhere.


You’ll need to get your publicity organised as soon as you can after the membership approve your play for production, and make sure there is a ‘gash’ or temporary poster ready for immediate display on the website and social media, and in forthcomings leaflets. You can speak to the publicity manager about organising photo shoots or finding a designer for your poster – or you can take on the whole job yourself. You’ll also need to provide a very short ‘blurb’ of the play to get people interested.


Although it’s (strictly speaking) up to the director to schedule rehearsals, the convention is that they will be held every Tuesday and Thursday in the six to eight weeks between the previous production and your performance week. Occasionally, you may need to put in additional rehearsals on Wednesday nights, or even Friday, or Saturday afternoon in dire situations.

This is considered a short and intense period of rehearsal by the standards of some companies who prefer to rehearse for as long as six months, and if you’re staging a musical, there is a much longer rehearsal period available before the July slot (by design). The pantomime usually rehearses from November to late January, with the expectation that attendance may be poor during the festive period. For straightforward shows, however, we recommend resisting the desire to rehearse for too long as you risk cast fatigue and may peak too soon!

The cast are expected to be ‘book down’ – have their lines learned – by a couple of weeks before the performances.

Rehearsals should start promptly at 7.30 (with all cast to arrive by 7) unless otherwise agreed, and the cast will expect to be in the pub by 9.30 or 10 PM at the very latest!

Tech and Dress

Although elements of lights, sound and costume may be introduced in the last couple of weeks before the show is staged, we have a single dedicated ‘tech’, most usually on the Sunday afternoon before opening night. Curtain up should be around 13.00 or 14.00, so there’s time to iron out practical problems, but everyone can still be home by early evening (in theory!).

The dress rehearsal always takes place on the Monday evening before opening night, and is run as though it were an actual performance as far as possible – with no stopping. This is also your final opportunity to thank your cast and give any last minute notes on the performance.

After the dress rehearsal, the director should relinquish full control of the production to the stage manager, and some people would say you shouldn’t even step into the Green Room during performances – although you can watch from the back of the auditorium!

Opening Night

Performances at the Lion Theatre run from Wednesday to Saturday, usually for one week – but sometimes (in the case of a musical or the annual pantomime) for two. Saturday matinees are usually only run for the pantomime. Curtain up is at 7.30 PM (3PM for matinees) and you should be out of the theatre by 10 PM (a legal requirement if there are children in the cast).

After Show Party

The after show party takes place immediately after the end of the last night and should be arranged (or delegated) by the director or producer. For small casts it might happen in the theatre bar (it’s usual to provide refreshments – there is a budget for this) or for larger productions, you can hire one of the venues in town with a bar (the Masonic Hall, the Community Centre, etc.).

Before the party, directors often like to go to the dressing room to thank their cast and crew for their hard work on the production and congratulate a job well done.

Set Break

Set break usually takes place the Sunday morning immediately after the last night, and anyone who has participated in the show is expected to be there to help with dismantling the set, packing away props and clothes, giving the back stage areas a thorough clean, drink lots of coffee and tea, and helping to eat whatever is left over from the after show party the night before (or in some cases, from the play itself!)

We find that many hands make light work, and this is usually a very social occasion – running from 10 AM to 2 PM at the latest, members of the company who haven’t been involved in the show are invited to come and lend a hand.

In exceptional circumstances set break may be held on another day, by special arrangement – although sets always need to come down as soon as possible so the next production can begin rehearsing the next week.

Things to Remember

If you’re in doubt, ask – there are many seasoned members who have decades of experience putting on shows at the theatre who will be happy to advise you on how things are done.

There are no hard and fast rules – just because this is ‘the way we’ve always done it’, doesn’t mean you can’t innovate or introduce best practice you’ve learned elsewhere. You’re the director!

Remember that at the end of the day, this is a hobby! Your cast, and even your crew, are there at worst to do you a favour, but mostly (we hope) to have a good time, socialise, and express themselves. They all have lives outside the theatre – including day jobs, other volunteering responsibilities, and families.

Your duty as a director is not only to put on the best show possible for our audiences. You need to balance this by making sure that everyone involved has lots of fun and wants to come back in the future.

And last but not least, don’t whistle in the theatre. Oh, and break a leg!