oscars ceremony academy awards

My Experience as a College Student Theatre Director

For the last ten years, theatre has been an integral part of my life. Acting taught me how to explore the minds of others and how to create and deliver an artistic vision. Theatre gave me a supportive community as a teenager which manifested into the confidence I have today.  The routine and adrenaline of auditions, rehearsal, tech week and show after the show became a familiar feeling over the years. I am comfortable on stage. But I didn’t realize how quickly that comfort could change.

Around five months ago, I was given the opportunity to direct a play. Completely shocked and humbled, I accepted the opportunity with enthusiasm and anxiety. After the excitement and shock subsided, self-doubt took over in the three months before auditions. How in the world was I going to direct a show? I’ve never done this before…what if I completely ruin the vision of the show? What if the actors don’t like my style of directing? What even is MY style of directing? I constantly questioned my capability as I created my vision. I was going to direct Leaves by Lucy Caldwell. This is a small play about a family living in Belfast, Ireland. It takes place days after their eldest daughter, Lori, attempts suicide in her first year of college and returns home to her parents and two little sisters. The plot itself worried me. Dealing with mental illness is intense, to say the least. As a director, it was my responsibility to make sure the material was delivered in a respectable and sensitive manner. The more I put myself down, the more I hindered my growth as a director. I had to find the confidence in every decision I made as a director from little things like props to big things like character breakdown. I slowly learned to trust and be certain in my decisions.

After returning to school at the end of August, the show process began very fast. Auditions and callbacks tested my ability to work under high levels of stress. There was no time to doubt my decisions. I had to have confidence in the fact that I planned extensively and knew what I wanted. Once we pressed send on the cast list, it became very real. I had a cast. I was doing it.

Rehearsals moved very fast in terms of a “theatre timeline.” We had the show blocked in under two weeks, reviewed for two weeks and fully ran the show for the last two weeks. Naturally, the beginning of the rehearsals was more challenging. I stumbled through giving direction but had to quite literally “fake it till I made it.” I never understood the aspect of moral support a director has in a show. Cast members look to you for your opinion and feed off of your level of confidence. I admit there were times where I let my own insecurities get the best of me and I didn’t deliver the support as I should have. Slowly but surely I learned not to be so hard on myself. I had to give myself a break at some point. Before I even realized I did, I found my voice and beat as a director. I lead with greater confidence and found myself making firmer decisions.

I kept reminding myself why I chose to direct a show in the first place. Theatre brings an immense amount of value and joy in my life. I truly couldn’t imagine my life without it. I would not allow my anxiety to distract me from this fact.

It became very rewarding to see my vision come to life. My cast and production team were incredibly talented which made my job a lot easier. If you’re reading this, thank you for your patience with me as a director. Looking back, directing tested my character and confidence. I learned it’s important to be uncomfortable sometimes. We don’t grow as a person otherwise. So, if you’re out there deciding to do something out of your comfort zone, please do it. What’s the worst that could happen? You fail? We learn from venturing from the familiar. Directing was one of the most challenging but most rewarding experiences I’ve had and it was the best decision I’ve made for myself in a while. Whether it’s small or big, find something each day to step past your limits and learn something new.