"The work of a director can be summed up in two very simple words: Why and How. The two words do not sit easily together.
Why be a director?
How can I make theatre?
In fact, How and Why are inseparable.
It is essential to understand the history of the director. The early pioneers could not help feeling, like any inventor, that the new world belonged to them, and two myths evolved from this: the first is that the director is a dictator; and the second is that, although dictators are unatractive in all political spheres, the director of a play or film, the conductor of an orchestra, is entitled to be the supreme boss. Historically this is understandable, but today life has changed, and the art of directing has changed. Any director who sees the theatre as an enormous palette existing only for the production of their own personal conceptions, who views the whole complex machinery of theatre as the pen in their hand and the opportunity to write their own fantasies, is a loser.
This is a view which belongs to the past.
Today we perceive that if the director has a search, this search is animated by an undying sense of Why in relation to ever-changing human experience. That search is made real by the need of an appropriate craft, and this means recognizing constantly changing means. And because the means of theatre are always changing there can be no systems or schools of directing that last forever.
The established twentieth-century understanding of the director's role is conventionally traced back to the court theatre of Meiningen in Germany in the late nineteenth century. Here Ludwig Chronegk formed a partnership with Duke Georg II and founded an ensemble company that became legendary. As artistic director, the Duke gave the overall interpretation and visualization of the play, and Chronegk ran the company, conducted rehearsals and translated the Duke's ideas into stage action. The Meiningen Company productions broke radically with tradition in the emphasis on the rehearsal period and the importance of process: for the first time was invested in researching design and costumes. Chronegk's rehearsal techniques and the new theatre aesthetic that resulted from them were a radical turning-point in the history of theatre practice, and it was not long before figures such as Konstantin Stanislavski and André Antoine were exploring them in their own theatrical experiments. From this point on, rehearsals acquired a central role in theatre-making, rehearsal and acting methods began to multiply, and the director was placed at the top of the theatre-making hierarchy.
The twentieth century has seen an explosion of directing practices; these include: the precise 'sciences' of directing as propounded by Stanislavski, Antoine and Otto Brahm; Vsevolod Meyerhold's theories of biomechanics and constructivism; Adolphe Appia and Gordon Craig's radical ideas on design and space; the 'epic theatre' of Bertold Brecht; Antonin Artaud's 'Theatre of Cruelty'; Jerzy Grotowski's 'poor theatre'; Peter Brook's explorations of the 'empty space'; Augusto Boal's 'Theatre of the Oppressed'; the 'Living Theatre' of Julian Beck and Judith Malina; the Wooster Group's avant-guarde multimedia work; Robert Wilson's formal aesthetic; Ariane Mnouchkine's 'Création collective' and the dance theatre of Pina Bausch and Meredith Monk. These are just a few famous names and there are many others.
They overturned received ideas about the locus and duration of a performance, the privileging of rhetorical delivery over physical agility for performers and the hierarchization of written narrative above narratives of space, time, visual effects and the body. Many sought to combine different art forms and experimented in performance art. Many were consumed with, and otheres entertained, questions of political activism, seeking to galvanize audiences through events and actions. Many turned to issue-based theatre, others to community projects. At the base of this multi-scale interrogation there were fundamental queries surrounding the nature and purpose of theatre itself. The processes of theatre and performance making were scrutinized, alternative practices from abroad gained increasing influence, and many practitioners explored models of working that rejected the old-guard notion of the director as the person who simply 'explained' the text to the actors and issued a set of instructions on how it should be delivered.
Ensemble work is common in continental Europe where the collaborative process of theatre and performance are understood to underpin productions.
Nonetheless, there is still much that can be expressed and understood. Romantic myths of impenetrable sublimity have given way to ideological inquiry, and the omnicreative director exists no more that the omniscient narrator."
Peter Brook/Gabriella Giannachi + Mary Luckhurst