5 Books Every Directing Student Should Read

Whether you want to direct in a community theater setting or be the next hit Broadway director, every directing student must have a strong educational foundation. While learning from experience is always beneficial, there is nothing wrong with taking direction (no pun intended!) from the directing pros. Here are the top five directing books that every directing student should read at least once in their life!


In this classic guide to directing, we are logically taken from the choice of the play right through ever aspect of its production to performances and beyond. Harold Clurman, director of such memorable productions as A Member of the Wedding and Uncle Vanya, describes the pleasures and perils of working with such playwrights and actors as Marlon Brando, Arthur Miller, Julie Harris, and Lillian Hellman. He also presents his own directing notes for ten of his best-known productions.

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A Sense of Direction: Some Observations on the Art of Directing by William Ball

5 Books Every Directing Student Should ReadThe Sense of Direction represent a life’s work at the art and craft of directing. Founder and long-time general director of the acclaimed American Conservatory Theatre, Bill Ball engages his audience in a wide-ranging discussion of the director’s process from first reading through opening night.

Speaking as a director’s director, Ball offers a candid, personal account of his method of working including the choice of a play’s essential elements, preproduction homework, casting, and rehearsal techniques. Throughout, his discovering and insights from him guide the director in building the world of play and bringing it to life.

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Thinking Like a Director: A Practical Handbook by Michael Bloom

5 Books Every Directing Student Should ReadBloom draws on nearly twenty years of directing and teaching experience to convey the full experience of directing to the stage, as well as the mindset that all successful directors possess. More than a mere set of guidelines, Thinking Like a Director details a technique that covers every facet of theatrical production, from first reading through final rehearsals. The key to directorial thinking, Bloom asserts, is a dual perspective–an ability to focus on both the internal lives of the play’s characters and the external elements of the play’s structure. In this illuminating, engaging, and accessible handbook, the art of dramatic interpretation and the craft of working with actors are integrated into a single, unified method.

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Notes on Directing: 130 Lessons in Leadership from the Director’s Chair by Frank Hauser and Russell Reich

5 Books Every Directing Student Should ReadSome years ago, Frank Hauser, then a retired freelance director, and writer Russell Reich, his former student, self-published Notes on Directing in hardcover. It was immediately acclaimed as “a gem-witty and full of insight;” “so sensible, so complete, and so right;” and “amazingly illuminating” by the likes of Judi Dench, Edward Albee, and Terry Teachout. Gathered over Frank Hauser’s long career, and polished to a sharp edge by Russell Reich, the 130 “Notes” address a wide range of topics, from understanding the script and defining the director’s role, to casting, how to handle a first read-through of a script, rules for rehearsal, how to talk to actors, how to get a laugh, and the key elements of staging.

Filled with enduring good advice expressed in assertive, no-nonsense language, and supported with explanatory commentary, insightful quotes and examples, and six valuable appendices, this deceptively slim book has the impact of a privileged apprenticeship, providing deep insight into the hidden process of creating a live, shared experience. For the student or professional engaged in a directing or acting career, the executive or manager looking for inspiring new ideas on leadership, or the arts lover wanting insight into the creative process, this book will be an invaluable experience. This new edition includes an interview with the co-author.

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Directing in Musical Theatre: An Essential Guide by Joe Deer

5 Books Every Directing Student Should ReadThis comprehensive guide, from the author of Acting in Musical Theatre, will equip aspiring directors with all of the skills that they will need in order to guide a production from beginning to end. From the very first conception and collaborations with crew and cast, through rehearsals and technical production all the way to the final performance, Joe Deer covers the full range.

Deer’s accessible and compellingly practical approach uses proven, repeatable methods for addressing all aspects of a production. The focus at every stage is on working with others, using insights from experienced, successful directors to tackle common problems and devise solutions.

Directing in Musical Theater not only provides all of the essential skills, but explains when and how to put them to use; how to think like a director.

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