Great theatre is never the result of a single individual's efforts. It always involves the dedicated contributions from a number of committed artists and craftsmen, from the actor on the stage to the seamstress who constructed the costumes. While some positions in the theatre, such as lighting designer and make-up mistress, have well-defined duties, others are a bit more fluid. The assistant director, for one, must be prepared to perform a variety of tasks, in both the artistic and technical realm.
Not every production has an assistant director, but for those that do, the AD should be one of the first members of the production staff enlisted by the producer. The AD should be present at all pre-production meetings, where the other production department heads, such as lighting, make-up, set design, props and publicity are selected. The AD might read through the script with the director, offering suggestions and insights into interpretation and concepts for staging the show. The AD will often be part of the audition and casting process.
The AD is typically the go-to person for cast and crew questions regarding rehearsal and performance schedules. She might provide observations and recommendations to the director regarding blocking and line interpretation choices. The AD often takes notes from the director regarding acting choices, adjustments and corrections, and communicates those notes to the actors. The AD is responsible for running rehearsals in the absence of the director.
Depending on the production, the AD might serve as the stage manager during the run of the show. In this capacity, the AD calls the show, typically from backstage. This involves calling light, sound and curtain cues, calling the actors to places, and overseeing the stagehands. If a stage manager is present, the AD will often observe the performance from the back of the auditorium, and take notes regarding any deviation from the script and established directions. She will communicate any corrections that need to be made to the actors.
In addition to all of her other duties, the AD is a jack-of-all-trades. She does whatever the director needs doing at any given time. This might include filling in for an absent actor during rehearsal, being on-book to give lines when actors need them, and even arranging for refreshments for the cast party. The assistant director typically participates in the production post-mortem. This is the time with the production is dissected and analyzed to determine what went right, what went wrong, and what could be done to improve the next production.
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