The Assistant Director works with the director, who designates the AD’s duties. Every director works differently. However, in general, the Assistant Directors responsibilities may include the following:
- Research (historic periods, literature, playwrights, prisons, torture) – quite often the AD can become the ‘go-to’ person for any information pertaining to the text in question. On the plus side, you quickly become an expert on one or two topics.
- Character Development – after researching the script, discuss character background and motives and how that causes their actions in the script, with the Director and possibly direct with the cast.
- ‘A second pair of eyes’ – this is the biggest part of being an AD. To know and understand the vision of the Director for the production (obtained through discussion and attending as many preliminary meetings as possible) so that you can monitor the show in rehearsal and performance and help it remain true to that first idea. This can require questioning certain decisions in rehearsal, and it’s important to learn how to ‘take’ being shot down with an idea you may yourself think is really good – but isn’t liked by the main Director. An AD needs a thick skin!
- Taking notes during rehearsal – usually on such areas as specific problem areas, character and relationship problems, actor-related blocking and acting problems, line notes, and so on.
- Working with the ensemble or chorus on blocking or scene work, while the director works with the principals.
- The Assistant Director sometimes takes on some of the responsibilities of Stage Manager or ASM such as being on “on book” during rehearsals, taking blocking, or acting as liaison for the Director.
Fundamentally, the AD is the Director’s ally. The person they can turn to and say ‘this is crap, isn’t it?’ or ‘this is great, isn’t it?’ and receive positive, constructive feedback. You are utterly on the Director’s side.
Assistant Stage Manager / Production Assistant
The Stage Manager is assisted by the Assistant Stage Manager (ASM) and Production Assistant (PA). There may be several of these, as needed, and determined by the size and complexity of the show. They customarily take on such responsibilities as prompting in rehearsal, props tracking, assisting in set changes and technical cues backstage. In some cases, the First ASM may call the lighting and sound cues from the lighting booth while the SM runs the show from backstage with the assistance of the other ASM’s and PA’s . Or the SM will call the show and the ASM will run it from backstage. In most cases, it’s a decision that is made by the SM. ASM’s may also be asked to run the lighting or sound boards or take small onstage roles.
The set carpenter/builder is responsible for turning set designs into a physical set and deciding what materials will be used such as 2×4′s, luan, plywood, sheet rock, plaster, doors, etc and how they will be assembled, based on budget and time availability. They then perform set construction/building and subsequent strike, at the direction of the master carpenter. This may involve sawing, drilling, etc., in the construction and painting of the sets, acquisition or building of properties, shifting, repairing and striking of the scenery and props, and the work of all set build crews. The set carpenter is ultimately responsible for the budget relating to the set construction.
The Set Dresser may assist with implementing the Set and Scenic Designer’s visions and also works with Carpenters/Builders. They are responsible for bringing life to the Set & Scenic Design and actual constructed set. They may paint walls, panels, floors, etc. or implement scenes, textures, etc., and obtain and place furniture and household/set items, as per the Set and Scenic Designs.
Lighting Board Operator
After the Lighting Designer completes his/her plans and lighting setup, the Lighting Board Operator is then responsible for operation of the control board during Tech Week and the actual Performances. He or she may also be asked to help during Dress Rehearsals. The Lighting Board Operator may also function as Sound Board Operator.
Sound Board Operator
After the Sound Designer completes his/her plans and sound setup, the Sound Board Operator is then responsible for operation of the control board during Tech Week and the actual Performances. He or she may also be asked to help during Dress Rehearsals. The Sound Board Operator may also function as Lighting Board Operator.
Prop Coordinator – Master
The Prop Master (or Properties Coordinator or Prop Mistress) supervises the acquisition or building of hand props. S/he may also run props backstage during rehearsals and performances, setting props on the prop table(s) and tracking their positions on and backstage during the show, or this job may be done by an ASM or Production Assistant.
The Costume Dresser/Wardrobe is responsible for being behind stage during technical rehearsals and during the performances – to ensure that costumes selected or created by the Costume Designer, are where they belong and that actors can find them. They may also help the actors change their costumes, during a performance. They also solve any issues relating to costumes, which may occur during the production (tears, stains, fitting issues, etc).
This person attends Dress Rehearsals and Live Performances and is responsible for determining what wigs and/or makeup each performer should wear. They may also assist the performer with applying the hair and makeup. The best makeup effects may be determined during dress rehearsals.
Stage hands wait on the sidelines, and perform any misc tasks asked by the Assistant Stage Manager or Production Assistants. This may include being responsible for or moving props, helping with lighting/sound issues, helping with wardrobe and changes, etc.