German director Peter Stein says that the theatre director very existence is a sign of the weakness and decline of the modern stage. The irony, of course, is that he is not only one, but one of the most accomplished in contemporary theatre. There are countless actors such as Ian McKellen, for example, who back this theory.
The position of a theatre director is an official title created in early Twentieth Century, what it doesn’t mean that the task did not exist before. Shakespeare and Molière for example, were theatre directors in their own sense, what today we understand as actor-director, similar to what Konstantin Stanislavski also was.
When Peter Brook took his Conference of Birds to Iran in the 70s, the Persian actors had also their share of difficulty in understanding why a director was needed. So the question today is: Should the theatre director continue to exist?
I am for the cause not only because I have directed and still will direct plays in the future, but because I truly believe in the necessity of one. A theatre group is in the first place a group of people, and every group needs a leader – not necessarily an autocrat leader (although a certain amount of tyranny is welcome at times when chaos rules), but a leader who makes the planning when planning is needed, the one who makes the decisions when all the options were presented, someone who sees with the eyes of the audience and comments back to the troupe saving them possible future embarrassments in public. The director is also the one who brings egos down to earth, reminding every one that although they have the right and the duty to be brilliant, that they are not the only starts in the universe.
So, if especially actors think that having a director in the company is a sign of weakness, it is because they might be too weak to hear what must be heard, to organize what is in chaos, to see the reality and not the fantasy version of it. Directors bring order to the house, but also encourage imagination and once in a while even create exhilarating new approaches and styles that will put them down in the history books.
Luciana B. Veit