5 books every directing student should read

Whether you want to direct in a community theater or be the next hit Broadway director, every directing student needs to have a solid educational foundation. While it’s always beneficial to learn from experience, there’s nothing wrong with taking direction (no pun intended!) from the directing pros. Here are the top five directing books that every directing student should read at least once in their life!


In this classic director’s guide, we are logically guided from play selection through all aspects of its production to performances and beyond. Harold Clurman, director of such memorable productions as A Member of the Wedding and Uncle Vanya, describes the joys and perils of working with such acclaimed playwrights and actors as Marlon Brando, Arthur Miller, Julie Harris and Lillian Hellman. He also presents his own directing notes for ten of his best-known productions.

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Sense of Direction: Some Observations on Directing by William Ball

5 books every directing student should readA sense of direction presents a lifetime’s work in the art and craft of directing. Bill Ball, founder and longtime general manager of the acclaimed American Conservatory Theatre, engages his audience in a wide-ranging discussion of the director’s process from first reading to opening night.

As director’s director, Ball offers a candid, personal account of his working methods, including choosing a play’s essential elements, pre-production homework, casting, and rehearsal techniques. His discoveries and insights guide the director as he builds and brings the play’s world to life.

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Thinking Like a Director: A Practical Guide by Michael Bloom

5 books every directing student should readBloom draws on almost twenty years of directing and teaching experience to convey the full experience of stage directing and mindset that all successful directors possess. More than just a set of guidelines, Thinking Like a Director details a technique that covers all facets of theatrical production, from the first reading to the final rehearsals. The key to directing thinking, Bloom says, is a dual perspective — the ability to focus on both the inner workings of the play’s characters and the outer elements of the play’s structure. In this insightful, compelling and accessible manual, the art of dramatic interpretation and the craft of working with actors are integrated into a single, unified method.

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Directing Notes: 130 lessons in directing from the director’s chair by Frank Hauser and Russell Reich

5 books every directing student should readA few years ago, Frank Hauser, then a retired freelance director, and writer Russell Reich, his former student, published Notes on Directing in hardcover. It was immediately hailed as “a gem of wit and insight”; “so reasonable, so complete, and so right;” and “amazingly enlightening” by the likes of Judi Dench, Edward Albee, and Terry Teachout. The 130 “Notes”, collected over Frank Hauser’s long career and updated by Russell Reich, cover a wide range of topics, from understanding the script and defining the director’s role to casting and dealing with a first Reading a script, rules for rehearsals, how to talk to actors, how to make them laugh and the most important elements of the staging.

Filled with consistently good advice, expressed in assertive, factual language, and supported by explanatory commentary, insightful quotes and examples, and six valuable appendices, this deceptively lean book has the effect of privileged training, offering deep insights into the hidden process of a live-together to create experience. For a student or professional pursuing a career in directing or acting, for an executive or manager looking for inspiring new ideas on leadership, or for an art lover wanting insight into the creative process, this book will be an invaluable experience . This reissue includes an interview with the co-author.

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Directing in Musical Theater: An Essential Guide by Joe Deer

5 books every directing student should readThis comprehensive guide from the author of Acting in Musical Theater gives aspiring directors all the skills they need to direct a production from start to finish. From the very first conception and collaboration with crew and cast to rehearsals and technical production to the final performance, Joe Deer covers the entire spectrum.

Deer’s approachable and compellingly practical approach uses proven, repeatable methods to address all aspects of a production. The focus at each stage is on collaborating with others and using the insights of experienced, successful directors to tackle common problems and develop solutions.

Conducting in musical theater not only conveys all the essential skills, but also explains when and how to use them; how to think like a director.

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