Directing for the Stage

Language, Literature & Performing Arts
Performing & Fine Arts
Course Code
PEFA 3020
Semester Length
15 weeks
Max Class Size
Method Of Instruction
Typically Offered
To be determined


Course Description
This course provides an introduction to the art of directing for the stage. Through lectures and seminars, students will learn about the elements of direction, including play selection, text analysis, venue selection, casting the play, overseeing the rehearsal process, collaborating with the design team and technical crew, and developing a working knowledge of the economics of live theatre production.

Note: Students who have completed the first year of the Douglas College Theatre Program are strongly encouraged to take this course. PEFA 3020 is also open to students seeking third year credits in order to apply for the Bachelor of Performing Arts (BPA).
Course Content

Students will become familiar with the internal and external resources available to a director of live theatre.  Students will explore the roots of the art of directing in theatre history and develop specific vocabulary and tools to utilize as potential directors of future independent theatre projects.  This is a writing-intensive academic course with a significant amount of experiential  in-class learning. Students will be expected to work as committed members of an ensemble, to participate in directing/acting exercises in class and to attend theatre productions in the local arts community outside of class time.

1. The Director in Theatre History

a)      Classical actor-playwrights and company leaders

b)      Medieval play masters

c)       actor managers

d)      The emergence of the modern director

e)      case studies in the art of directing


2. Before Rehearsals Begin

a)      “It all starts with a script”:  the art of reading a play

b)      text analysis: language and central image

c)       thinking on paper about structure: the Director’s plan

d)      casting the actors

e)      the economics of production


3. The Director's Role in Rehearsals

a)      “the buck stops here”:  leadership and communication skills

b)      structural terminology: acts, scenes, units and beats

c)       character and Intention:  super-objective, objective, strategy and tactic

d)      directing the audience: reinforcing the story with stage pictures

e)      a director’s toolkit: exercises for rehearsal


4. Contemporary Issues  in Directing

a)      directorial styles

b)      colour-blind casting

c)       bending gender:  inclusive casting

d)      accessible theatre: working across difference

e)      working with a living playwright: workshops and collaboration

Methods Of Instruction
  1. Lectures will introduce the concept of the director in theatre history and provide a framework for practical application of the art of directing.
  2. In the seminar component, students will be required to work in small and large groups in the preparation and performance of  in-class exercises, exploring rehearsal techniques for script analysis, image-work, character development and blocking of scenes.  
  3. Students will prepare and present group projects featuring a landmark director in theatre history, in the form of a collaborative lecture with performed sequences.
  4. Students will attend rehearsals of a theatre production and utilize that experience in a written reflection on the process of directing. Attendance at live theatre productions will be mandatory.
Means of Assessment

Attendance and Participation, including  In-class Directing Exercises (20 %)

Due to the fact that this is a studio course, full attendance and regular punctuality are mandatory. Please see the individual instructor’s outline for details on late and absence penalties. Students are expected to approach their work in a mature and professional manner. Out-of-class preparation and respect for the ensemble will be reflected in this mark.

Group Presentation on a Selected Director (10%)                                                                                         

The group presentation will include historical information on a selected director  and showcase some short examples of scene work to illustrate key concepts. All members of the group must be actively involved. A peer evaluation and self evaluation will be components of the assessment.  

Central Image Essay (10%)

This assignment is a carefully-crafted short essay of 500 words in response to a selected scene or short play.

Rehearsal to Final Show Reflection (20%)                                                                                            

Students will shadow a director through two rehearsals before attending a completed production. The written reflection will highlight the relationship between the rehearsal process and the final production. The reflection will include areas of contrast between the work-in-progress and the staged outcome.

Final Project:  Director’s Prompt Book (20%)

This capstone project  will include image work, text analysis, script breakdown, design elements and a coherent plan for producing a selected play at a specific venue and/or theatre festival, such as the Vancouver International Fringe Festival.

Two Exams at 10% each or Four Quizzes at 5% each (for a total of 20%)

Exams and/or quizzes will assess students’ understanding of course content, including lecture elements, in-class exercises and group presentation topics.                                                                 

Total (100%)                                                      

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the course, the successful student should be able to:

a)     apply appropriate terminology and vocabulary of directing for the stage;

b)      become familiar with specific historical turning points in the development of the art of directing for the live theatre;

c)      identify specific resources to the process of analyzing a script, with a focus on selecting a central image;

d)     apply skills that can be used in the process of casting, staging, rehearsing and producing a play;

e)      apply skills as a member of a collaborative group: dividing a topic into individual sub-sections, researching  the topic and presenting a focused lesson to peers;

f)       develop an introductory understanding of the artistic, financial and administrative aspects of directing a play;

g)      create a plan for directing a specific play for a specific venue or festival;

h)      be aware of the live theatre being  produced in our local arts community;

i)       apply interpretive and evaluative skills to the experience of witnessing theatre art.

Textbook Materials

A list of recommended textbooks and materials is provided on the instructor’s course outline which is available to students at the beginning of the semester. Students should budget approximately $50 to pay for tickets to current live theatre productions in the community. In addition, students will receive complimentary tickets to  Douglas College theatre productions.

Instructors will either use coursepacks or select from the following sample texts (or similar ones) in the most recent available editions:

Charles Marowitz. Directing the Action: Acting and Directing in the Contemporary Theatre. New York: Applause Theatre and Cinema Books, 2000.

Francis Hodge. Play Directing: Analysis, Communication and Style,  5th edition. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2000.

Gabriella Giannachi and Mary Luckhurst, eds. On Directing: Interviews with Directors. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1999.

Kahn, David and Donna Breed. Scriptwork: A Director’s Approach to New Play Development. Southern Illinois University Press, 1995.

David Richard Jones. Great Directors at Work: Stanislavsky, Brecht, Kazan, Brook. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986.

Harold Clurman. On Directing. New York: Collier, 1972.



PEFA 2220; OR THEA 1210; OR permission of the instructor.





Course Guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester / year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

Course Transfers

These are for current course guidelines only. For a full list of archived courses please see

Institution Transfer Details for PEFA 3020
Simon Fraser University (SFU) SFU CA 3XX (3)
Thompson Rivers University (TRU) TRU THTR 3XXX (3)
Trinity Western University (TWU) TWU THTR 3XX (3)

Course Offerings

Fall 2022

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Section Notes

PEFA 3020 050 - Students should plan to be available on-line at scheduled course times. This course will include synchronous on-line activities.

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