The Director

                DirectingThe Director is more than a technician, but there is much more to directing than just yelling at actors.

First, the Director has to break down your script. You cannot direct from the keyboard - tell the dirctor the ONE TRUE WAY to define each character. This is where the writer uses lots of parentheses to show how to read a line - (TENDERLY), (THREATENING), (ANGRY), (WOUNDED). That actually means the writer did not do the job of telling the story with voice, sound effects, and music.

PUT IT IN THE WORDS, and then the Director translates your words into the performance of the actors, mixed with sound effects and music.

Actors really want to

The Director needs to determine how many voices are there and how many actors are actually needed. Sometimes a character with only a few words can be played by the same actor who only says a few lines later in the script. It is called "doubling" and some radio shows had shows with a dozen roles performed by five or six actors.

When the Director goes through the script they try to get the qualities of voice required for each character in your radio play. Strong, frightening, vulnerable, eager… and how is each character distictive enough that listeners will know who is speaking without the characters have to say each others names repeatedly.

"Bob, is that you?" "Yes, Diane." "Well, Bob, what should we do?" "I don't know Diane." "What do you think Steve?" "I think Diane should leave you, Bob. You're a jerk"

The director must leave behind his or her prejudices at the door. The voice is the ONLY thing, regardless of age, sex, body type, or ethnicity. Voice is the only thing that matters. Any actor can be anything their voice says they are. We have had adult women playing little boys, men playing old ladies, short guys playing big tough warriors LISTEN to your auditioners, ignore how they look.

When the Director know how many actors are needed - with some flexibility of one actors playing several roles through doubling.

The Director may already know who will be in the performance, so casting isn't necessary. But if you have open casting, we'll show you how to handle that.
After the Casting Auditions, the Director (with the Producer and/or assistant, if one is available) decides who has the right voice for which role(s). Always make a second choice in case the first choice isn't available. This isn't special for radio, it is how all casting is done for radio, stage, television, movies, or commercials.

When you have the cast, the director leads them through four phases, three of which include the actors:

READ THRU - Just sitting around a table, actors making notes while everyone reads their parts together;

REHEARSAL - At least one, the one just before you record is called the "On Mike Rehearsal". It is the equivalent of a "dress rehearsal" for stage.

PERFORMANCE - whether you record your show or do it live in front of an audience, it's curtain up and the real show.

MIX - The Director normally sits in with post production/mixing to add the music and sound effects, if they were not recorded as part of the performance before the audience, or performed live for recording.

If everything has gone well, you might be looking at the next play in the radio series. Or just the next Directing gig. 49:00


Casting sessions are part of the process and how you handle that will effect how professional you actors will feel they have to be working with you. You set the tone with preparations;

Is your Casting space separted from the other people waiting to audition?

Did you provide "sides" (pages from the script you want to hear) or are auditioners expected to do a 3 minute dialogue.

Is there a bathroom available to auditioners?

Aution NotesDo you want to build good will by providing some water, coffer or other things appropriate to drink? Snacks? (Suggestion: one sweet, one salty, one fresh - let them pick. Don't throw a bag of potato chips at them and tell them to share.) Feeding actors will improve their mood, level their blood sugar, and result in a better performance. It's part of actor wrangling, not just courtesy.
When someone auditions, LISTEN. Make notes while not looking at the actor. A page of suggested casting shorthand is provided.

Call Backs

When your Director decides on the cast, the Director (or the Producer, or an Assistant) contacts the actors to ask them to take the part. At that time you should have the day and time set for 1) THE READ THROUGH, 2) REHEARSAL (you only need one with a professional crew, but since very few professional radio actors are available these days, we strongly suggest more than one Rehearsal), 3) the ON MIKE REHEARSAL (this is the radio equivalent to Dress Rehearsal), and 4) the PERFORMANCE (whether before a live audience or in a studio for recording the show).

First Read Through

At the First Read for a half hour show, plan on three hours, including a break in the middle. As mentioned earlier, if you provide snacks, your actors will think you are a wonderful human being, and we can think of no reason to disabuse them of that fantasy.

In the first 15 minutes, everyone gets to meet each other and the part(s) they will play. They sit down and read through the script as the characgters they will play. This is when they make notes on their script to help them deliver their best performance. After this first read through, the Director can give the assembled cast the overall tone and goal of the performance.

After a few minutes for actors, give them two lessons needed for working on radio. Radio is a different set of skills, and two skills were used in all early shows to allow radio drama to be cranked out like factories. These two skills are: SCRIPT HANDLING and HAND SIGNALS.

Script Handling

Performing on radio means you have your full script in hand during your performance. This can be good because you can see notes written on the script to improve performance, but it also introduces the possibility of noise as actors turn from one page to another.

The best technique is to keep the script loose - no binder, no paper clips, and no staples. One sheet at a time, the actor performs and must lift the page they are reading to see what comes next. The original page is then, silently, moved to the back of the script while you continue.

Some actors use mark their scripts to warn themselves when they have a line in the first line of the next page. A bright highlight mark in color is very useful to avoid missed cues.

Although it has been shown in some instructional films, please do not drop your script pages to the floor. Other people step on them, they get out of order when you have to pick them all up for a retake.

Do not use music stands. They actually introduce a new threat for accidental noises that interrupt recording sessions.

Hand Signals

The most important signals will be "Speed Up", "low Down", "Louder", "Quieter" and "YOU'RE ON!".

Go! You're ON. Louder More
              Energy Build Get Closer Slow Down Speed Up Slow Down
Courtey Yuri Rosofsky

Demonstrate the hand signals you will use. We have some hand drawn guides on a page in the hand-outs from the late Yuri Rogofsky. They are simple, quick to learn and allow communication with the actors during performance.

After these two bits of new information, give the cast a 10 minute break to run to the bathroom, eat snacks, and possibly talk with the people who will be doing scenes with them.

Then everyone comes back to the table and reads the script again. We suggest they read with their script in hand to practice silently turning pages while they perform. You may want to have them stand, since the whole performance will be standing (or nearly all).

After this first session, the calendar given to them is confirmed or changed,
The Director will have to decide how many additional Rehearsals are needed, if any. Those must be added to the calendar. 54:00

Tips for Working with Actors

Some Directors think their job is to decided in their head and make everyone do what they think they heard. And then they wonder why their show was not very good.
The job of the Director is to Direct. Not to Pre-Act.

NEVER GIVE LINE READINGS unless the first eight or night attempts to “Direct” did not work. Lead the actor to ‘discover’ what you want - it becomes stronger.
Sometimes Directing means suggestions that control the build of tension that will make the listener sit up and take notice, and if you are writing Horror or Terror, you want them sitting up and on the edge of their seat waiting for the next thing to happen.
Sometimes you can get what is needed for the performance by telling an actor “That is a LIE! - The character is trying to control this other character…” or “Is this new information?” or “Is that what they want to happen?”

Other times it works best to take one actor aside, and quietly tell them some specific bit of business about the delivery of a certain line, which will give the other actors something new to respond to. There is an old saying that “Acting Is RE-Acting” and helping the other actors to react can result in a much better listening experience.
But stay off to the side when directing. Let your actors act.

Above all, LISTEN to your actors. Some of them may have years of experience you don’t have. But this does not mean you automatically do whatever they come up with. You consider it. Often actors just happen to come up with suggestions that will give them more lines and inflate their character’s time at the center of everybody’s attention. “But it’s more about MEEEE…”

Your job as director to deliver the best show you can, and if someone has a suggestion that strengthens the performance, it is YOUR decision whether or not it works for this script. It is YOUR decision not to, but if you make a weaker choice because it is YOURS, the show will suffer.

Ideally, with a good cast, a good script, good direction, good performance, and good engineering you can benefit from the total number of years involved in the production. And your name goes on the show as “Director”.

Make sure you know how to give the hand signals you taught your actors so you can adjust performances during the recording or live performance of the show. 56:00


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