What does a director do after opening?

A reader recently dropped me an email asking what a Broadway or Off-Broadway Director’s responsibilities are, after a show officially opens.

While it may seem like a Director’s job would end as soon as that opening night party kicks into high gear, in actuality, the gig just morphs into something different.

There are replacements to cast, and understudies to train, and Tony Award numbers to plan and stage.  There is (hopefully) talk of a tour or two.  There is press to do.

But one of the most important jobs a Director has after opening is making sure the cast keeps delivering their opening night performance night after night after year after year.

Because over time, without anyone even noticing, things have a way of shifting ever so slightly from where they started, whether you’re talking about a cast’s performances or a mountain range!  It’s no one’s fault.  It may not be on purpose.  It just happens naturally, whenever the same thing is done night after night after year after year.

Think about it like this . . .

In the morning, you put on a pair of shoes, and lace them up good and tight.  If you walk around in those shoes all day long, by the end of the day, those laces are going to loosen up some.  It just happens.

And at some point, before they become untied, you’re going to have to bend down and lace them up super tight again, right?

That’s what a Director does after opening.

He tightens up a show’s laces.

  • Emily Hayes says:

    If I may be so bold to disagree, is it not the Production Stage Manager’s job to preserve the show and rehearse understudies? While a director may check in from time to time and certainly be in communication with the PSM, it is responsibility of the PSM to maintain the integrity of the show and it’s actors.

  • Jesse North says:

    I’m so glad you addressed this question, which has been on my mind for so long. But what about when a show has a REALLY long run? Hal Prince isn’t checking in with PHANTOM on a daily basis.

  • LizG says:

    I agree with Emily, to an extent. In a production I worked on, a subtle twist occurred between two characters throughout the 4-week run, which may have led the audience to infer a relationship other than the playwright/director intended. The actors involved asked me (the SM) to bring this development to the director who, after I brought up the actors’ concerns, was comfortable with the natural direction the play was taking. I don’t think it went beyond what the playwright wanted, but it was a natural development. A play is a living work. My two-cents’ worth.

  • Ed says:

    I have to agree with Emily- in every Equity production I’ve worked on, the Director giving notes after opening was a big no-no; notes after opening came from the Stage Manager.

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