1.1 Background of the Study
Even though other aspects of the theatre are equally important, directing, which basically involves play analysis and visual expression, is one of the most important, if not the most involving. One of directing most brilliant minds, Inih Ebong aptly captures this perspective: Play directing is the behind – the – scene activity between the director and his team to create in the ‘private’ seduction of the theatre, away from the curious and prying eyes of the public, the three dimensional beauty that is seen on stage in production (27).
Simply put, the finished work called play production is the end product of a director’s creative effort.
Theatre is a multi-layered art and Directing, which is one of the areas of specialization remains one of its most influential if not the most tasking. This is partly due to the fact that the major preoccupation of every theatre director has always been the communication of his vision through artistic creativity at work in a theatrical production. He is regularly concerned with galvanizing his creative essence, vision and approaches in overseeing a play production that has the taste and capacity to stir the audience’s appeal and emotions. And just like every play comes with its unique artistic trajectory, every director comes with his or her unique style and approach of seeing to the externalization of such a play on the stage.
Historically, it was not until the 19th Century that the role of the theatre director was formally defined even though, there exists derivatives of this personality in the theatre right from time immemorial [Wilson and Goldfarb, 2004]. One of the best explanations for the sudden creation of the director’s job is that staging in past eras was highly stylized and regularized, as was acting and even set design. In other words, Greek tragedies looked and sounded almost the same for centuries (Wilson, 2001). However, with the advancement in technology and the plays started being created in an entirely new environment, there arose the need for a single, unifying artistic vision and as such the birth of the theatre director was activated.
Throughout theatre history, there had always, no doubt, been a figure who did some of the functions of the modern director. Either the company’s lead actors or the playwright himself, were on hand to make stage decisions where necessary. Costumes were left to the whims and financial resources to the individual actors, and one could say, financial, rather than artistic decisions dictated what theatre companies purchased. Wilson’s writing on the subject states:
From the seventieth century through the nineteenth, there was a long line of actor managers who gave strong leadership to individual theatre companies and performed many of the functions of a director, although they were still not given that title. Among the most famous were Thomas Betterton (1635-1710), David Garrick, Charles Kemble (11775- 1854), William Charles Macready (1793-1873) and Henry Irving (1838-1905) (119).
Later in the mid 19th Century, a German, George II, the Duke of Saxe-Meiningen is usually credited with the efforts at defining the director’s role and accelerating the formalization of the art among European and American companies (Brocket and Ball, 2004). The Duke is reputed to have produced plays with elaborately researched, historically correct details in scenery, set dressing and costuming. More importantly, he applied the same detailed approach to his work with the actors. He made the stage picture more dynamic and extensive, and stage action “off the sides” of the stage into the wings.
Wilson notes again:
…the theatre director did not exists before 1874 when a German noble man, George II (1826-1914), duke of Saxe-Meiningen began to supervise every element of the productions in the theatre in his realm. This supervision included rehearsals, scenic elements, and other aspects which he coordinated into an integrated whole. It is true that beginning with Saxe-Meiningen, the director emerged as full-fledged, indispensable member of the theatrical team… (118).
Wilson and Goldfarb also support this position by observing that: A major reason for his ability to organize such a successful theatrical venture was his enormous wealth, but this was not the only reason… He rehearsed for extensive periods of time, refusing to open a show until he believed it was ready… (316).
The early 20th Century saw the rise of Auteur Directors, or directors who viewed themselves as specie of authors, either writing their own texts or significantly altering a playwright’s text to fit into their own new vision. One of the most prominent of this era was the British director, Edward Gordon Craig, who not only radically adopted classical texts and designed his own productions, but also suggested that actors should be super puppets, responding entirely to a director’s vision, without displaying any ideas of their own (Brocket, 1974).