Learn about Theatre Directing

Looking for advice on theatre directing? Keen to build your career but not sure where to start? We're here to help!

The following links provide some helpful hints, tips and opportunities for directors across the UK. This section is continuously developing, so keep checking it regularly!

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JMK Award Workshops:

The JMK Award, founded in memory of James Menzies-Kitchin, is open to emerging directors under the age of 35. For an insight into the application process, sign up to one of our free workshops at our partner venues:

Platform, Joan Street, Southwark, London, SE1
Thursday 24th January: 7 - 9pm
Sign up: email jo@jmktrust.org

25 - 30 Jan - Submission Window for the JMK Award 2019

We will be accepting applications for the JMK Award 2019 via our website from 10am on Friday 25th January to 11.30pm on Wednesday 30th January 2019. Before applying, candidates must first select a play from our 2019 play list. Please email jo@jmktrust.org to request a copy of this list. 

Other JMK Workshops:

(click the deadline date for further information on how to take part in these free workshops, residencies and opportunities)

29 & 30 JanJMK, Traverse & The Envelope Room present Directors & Designers Residency

We are pleased to be working in association with The Envelope Room to host a 2 day residency at the Traverse Theatre, which will bring Directors and Designers together to practically investigate this working relationship.

31 Jan - JMK Directors' Q&A with James Dacre at the Royal & Derngate, Northampton

Join us for complimentary tickets for Made In Northampton production of Our Lady of Kibeho followed by an exclusive Q&A for Generate and JMK members only with Artistic Director James Dacre on directing his current play.

8 March - JMK Workshop at the Royal & Derngate, Northampton - Devising Children’s Theatre

With Dani Parr.

Email katherine@jmktrust.org for further information on your nearest JMK Directors' Group and how to take part in our programmes.

Other Opportunities For Directors/Makers:

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 Funding:

28 JanCOMMON and the Pleasance Theatre have joined forces to present the COMMON Award, which will offer support to an exceptional theatre or children's show made by an artist or theatre company from a working-class or socio-economically disadvantaged background to be presented at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2019.

31 Jan - The Pleasance Theatre's Charlie Hartill Special Reserve fund are taking applications until the end of the month for their Theatre Reserve. This fund provides a young theatre company with the opportunity to present a fully produced performance at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The selected company will receive £10,000 from the Pleasance towards the cost of the show, plus a guaranteed prime slot in Pleasance's Edinburgh programme and a potential transfer to their London venue, marketing & pr support, travel & accommodation, rehearsal space, mentoring and more.

4 FebEclipse and Summerhall are offering The Eclipse Award to help UK Black artists who make boundary-pushing performance work to undertake an Edinburgh Fringe run ("Black" is used here to include anyone marginalised by their ethnicity). The Award includes a £10,000 cash bursary, a run at one of Summerhall’s venues on a 70/30 box office split in favour of the company, marketing support and mentoring.

Other Directing Roles, Support & Commissions:

23 Jan - The Bush Theatre are looking for an Associate Director (Talent) and an Associate Director (Community).

28 Jan - Paid opportunity to showcase your work as part of the Festival of Audacity in Birmingham next July - a varied, exciting, risky festival of socially engaged art. They are open to any genre & medium, including film, exhibitions, circus, digital experiences, theatre, unusual events, craft, print work as well as music, dance, poetry, protests, direct interventions.

31 Jan - Know any writers, or have you got a script in development? Send it to Talawa's script reading service before the end of January. You will either receive a detailed script report or, if your script is selected for further development, you will be invited to come in and meet with them.

31 JanIASH and the Traverse Theatre are accepting applications for their Creative Fellowship, which includes the commission of a play on or inspired by any aspect of the Institute’s current interests. The stipend will be £10,000 and the recipient will have a private office and full Fellowship at IASH, and receive dramaturgical support from the Traverse’s Literary Department. The recipient must be Edinburgh-based for the duration of the residency.

31 JanOffbeat Festival (a collaboration between Oxford Playhouse and Arts at the Old Fire Station) is entering its fourth year. They are seeking applications of theatre, dance, comedy, music and spoken word ready to be performed. The festival takes place at the Old Fire Station, in the BT Studio and outdoors on Gloucester Green.

3 Feb - Saltmine Theatre Company are looking to recruit a diverse Community Cast of around a hundred people to participate alongside Saltmine’s growing professional team for The Birmingham Passion Play 2019. Applications can be made via the online form on their website and there will be an introductory workshop on 3 February.

9 Feb - Donmar Warehouse are recruiting for two Resident Assistant Directors (7 month contracts). Each successful applicant will get the opportunity to assist on three Donmar productions, as well as offering insight on casting, scheduling, fundraising and education. The role is responsible for supporting the smooth running of rehearsals, tech and previews, and many other aspects of the production process.

11 FebArtHouse are accepting applications for residencies up to 2 weeks in length between 11 Feb - 6 March 2019. They support artists of all disciplines to make bold new work. The residencies are generally held at Chateau Vermont in Jersey, Channel Islands, which they share with the Jersey Academy of Music.

26 Feb - In Good Company and Derby Theatre are offering one artist/company (from anywhere in the UK) the opportunity and support to develop a piece of theatre, culminating in a performance as part of their Departure Lounge Festival line-up. The successful company or artist will receive 1 week’s free rehearsal space at The HopBarn (a beautiful artistic retreat in the heart of rural Nottinghamshire); accommodation; a performance fee of £500; support on funding applications and an opportunity to share their work with the In Good Company and Derby Theatre’s artistic and programming teams. Artists of colour are particularly encouraged to apply.

11 March - The ETPEP Award 2019 is a playwriting prize for new UK playwrights who work in the theatre industry, run by the Experienced Theatre Practitioners Early Playwriting Trust (ETPEP) in association with the Finborough Theatre. It is open to UK residents of any age who have not had a play professionally produced, and who have worked in a non-literary capacity in theatre for at least two years.

29 April - The Tron Theatre (Glasgow) offer development time in their Changing House space to one artist each season. This LabWeek is a one-week residency with a £3,000 budget to support the artist in their activities.

Directing Articles and Blogs:

Check out our JMK Blog, with posts written by former Award winners and JMK Regional Bursary recipients. They give brilliant advice for directors starting out, as well as an insight into different directors' rehearsal process.

See more theatre without breaking the bank - this blog by Paines Plough lists venues' ticket offers, schemes and deals both in London and regionally.

Some basic top 10 tips in this Guardian article.

Simple points to help for the First Time Director.

Take career tips as suggestions - find your own path and think outside the box.

Putting salaries into perspective.

Remember these methods for work-life balance as a freelancer.

Also remember that you're still a director when working another day job (and that it's ok to have another job!).

This blog on flexible working within the arts.

The British Council's blog has lots of useful articles, such as a list of theatre and dance festivals in 2018, a piece on the pros and cons of being an 'emerging' artist and interviews about the need for better diverse representation of UK artists sharing their work internationally.

The Stage opinions, blogs and reviews.

WhatsOnStage blogs, including this one on theatre as a process rather than a product.

The blog section for Unlimited has loads of advice on marketing, invoicing, fundraising, making your work accessible and forming artistic collaborations.

Advice from David Jubb, Artistic Director of Battersea Arts Centre, and producer Tobi Kyeremateng for those starting their careers.

"There is no right and wrong, there is only interesting, and less interesting" and 24 other 'rules' from Sam Mendes.

Advice from Emma Rice, Rufus Norris and more, on what they wished they'd known starting out.

Tips on setting up a theatre company from an industry panel.

Stage Directors UK have launched their blog - with interviews and opinions from within the industry.

This Younger Theatre blog on how to find and work with a designer.

How to make auditions easier from actors' perspective.

If you're looking to take your work to a Fringe Festival, this is a great list of which ones occur in each month.

Check out Devoted and Disgrunted - their events are gatherings that discuss creative practice and problems within the industry, in a flexible open space manner (rather than key-notes speakers and set agendas). The outcomes of these discussions are complied into reports by participants, which are added to a library on their website. This library is a great resource of more than 2000 reports - offering advice, ideas, dreams and issues within the industry. You can add to and use it for free.

BBC Writers Room - moving from theatre directing to TV.

The Michael Grandage Company also share weekly Associate Director diaries on their productions, which you can find on the MGCFutures site. These are a useful read to understand how the rehearsal process can work, from first read-through to previews and press night.

Directing Podcasts:

Listen to interviews with leading directors through the Young Vic Off Book podcast. Many of the interviews are with former JMK Award winners (including Josh Roche, Roy Alexander Weise, Joe Hill-Gibbins and Natalie Abrahami). Their conversations are a great insight how they became a director, their experiences (including the JMK Award), successes, failures and tips for those entering this career.

Also check out the National Theatre's podcast for discussions with leading artists on themes such as 'Epic Fail', 'Edinburgh', 'New Work' 'Masculinity', etc. There are also regular Platforms held at the National Theatre - an eclectic programme of talks, discussions and interviews, offering the chance to learn more about the National's work and the arts in general. Their live Platforms are often uploaded as podcasts, such as this conversation with Roy Alexander Weise (JMK Award winner 2016) and Natasha Gordon on developing and rehearsing Nine Night.

WhatsOnStage have launched their Shows That Shaped Me Podcast, which asks leading theatre actors and makers about their most memorable productions, the production they wished they'd seen and the person, dead or alive, that they'd most like to work with.

The Telegraph's Much Ado About Shakespeare podcast includes a feature on JMK Award alumna Polly Findlay's Macbeth at the RSC, including conversations with her, Christopher Eccleston and Niamh Cusack on rehearsing the play.

Manchester's Big Theatre Podcast gives you an insight into Manchester's thriving theatre scene. It includes interviews with many of the most exciting people currently working in Manchester, from all parts of the industry. Previews interviewees include Matthew Xia (former Associate Artistic Director at the Royal Exchange) and Chris Lawson (Associate Director at the Oldham Coliseum).

Not a directing specific podcast, but How to Fail interviews creatives such as Pheobe Waller-Bridge and Sebastian Faulks about their failures and how they've made the most of them. Useful for when you need a cheer up.

Useful resources:

Stage Directors UK - the professional trade organisation for stage directors across the UK.

Common - works with theatres and arts organisations to eradicate the barriers faced by working-class artists and audiences. They specifically focus on off-stage creatives (like directors) and host events such as common:ground platform discussions at venues across the country.

ITC - for a membership fee, you can receive support and assistance setting up your theatre company. There is also a free resource to check rates of pay (for directors, writers, actors, etc).

Venues North have created this Guide to Scratch Nights in the North of England if you're looking for somewhere to show your work (2018/2019).

Theatre Deli London - has launched a membership scheme, giving access to cheaper rehearsal space, free workshops, online resources (including help on ACE applications and producing) and industry events. Cost: £50 per year.

Directors Charitable Foundation - the Foundation's missions are to celebrate the art and craft of directing in all media and to support directors in need. Their Directors' Support Scheme offers financial assistance to working or retired directors and their families with acute needs (e.g. through poverty, old age or ill health). Future Projects include lectures and live events featuring top directors, a History Project, a Blue Plaques scheme, and training initiatives in collaboration with DUK and SDUK. They also run a Directors in Schools scheme, enabling school pupils from deprived backgrounds to receive in-school workshops on film, TV and theatre directing from volunteer directors, who are paid expenses and a small optional fee. If you would like to take part in this impactful and rewarding scheme, you can contact by email.

Awards / Schemes:

RTST - the Royal Theatrical Support Trust's Sir Peter Hall Directors Award enables an up-and-coming director to direct a fully-funded production of a play as part of a main season of productions at a British regional theatre. It is designed to benefit directors with significant experience who are ready to direct for the main house of a regional theatre.

RTYDS (Regional Theatre Young Directors Scheme) - brings together emerging directors with the UK’s leading regional theatre companies. They are particularly focused on directors who live outside London and are from communities presently under-represented in theatre. Opportunities span career experience - including an Introduction to Directing course, 3 Month Placements, 18 Month Residencies (applicants must have no less than 18 months experience directing) and Associate Director scheme (preparing established directors for artistic leadership).

The Oxford Samuel Beckett Trust Award - is for a company or individual to create either a show to be performed in The Pit, Barbican, or a site-responsive, non-traditional show to take place in East London or in the City of London. Applications re-open in the Autumn.

Genesis Future Directors Award - the Award is aimed at emerging directors who have demonstrated a talent for, and commitment to, directing but have had limited opportunity to make work. The production is part of the Young Vic's programme and is staged in their Clare Theatre. There are two Awards per year and these opportunities will be advertised through the Genesis Directors Network.

Free Events & Training Resources:

Masterclass, Theatre Royal Haymarket - runs talks and on-stage workshops (regularly with leading theatre directors and industry figures). Recent Masters include Iqbal Khan, Damien Lewis, Jessica Swale, Indhu Rubasingham, and Simon Stevens. Free for under 3os, over 30s can attend by signing up to their Friends Scheme.

Theatrecraft - the largest non-performance careers fair in London, Theatrecraft is a full day of workshops, advice sessions with industry leaders and Marketplace networking opportunities. Free and open to anyone aged 16-30.

Opportunities Outside of London:

England

Nuffield Southampton Theatres - the Laboratory (Artistic Development) department offers as annual Associate Director position. This is a paid role, where the Associate works as an Assistant on NST productions and then stages their own production at the end of their attachment. There is also a Graduate Associate opportunity and the Laboratory network regularly runs scratch nights, tenancies and other opportunities. NST are also our partners for delivering the JMK Regional Group with Salisbury Playhouse.

Bristol Old Vic - their Artistic Development programme, Ferment, runs festivals, retreats and residencies, as well as producing support for projects that really excite them. They are also our partners for delivering the JMK Regional Group for Bristol.

Tobacco Factory Theatres also delivers our JMK Bristol Directors Group and they have an Artist Development programme of masterclasses, scratch nights and residencies.

Salisbury Playhouse - are also our partners for delivering the JMK Regional Group with Nuffield Southampton Theatres. They also run various Artistic Development opportunities, including their annual Theatre Fest West.

Royal & Derngate, Northampton - in addition to their JMK Regional Directors Group, Royal & Derngate offers opportunities such as Generate to promote the creation of new work and strengthen artistic collaborations in the region.

HOME Manchester - delivers our JMK Directors Group,  including workshops and Assistant Director opportunities.

Leeds Playhouse (formerly WYP) -  offers extensive artistic development support through their Furnace programme, including scratch nights, summer sublets, trainee director residencies, and hosting our JMK Regional Directors Group.

Birmingham Rep - as well as our JMK Regional Directors Group, they develop new artists, writers and theatre makers through The REP Foundry scheme.

Reading Rep - we are thrilled that Reading Rep has joined us as a partner for our JMK Regional Directors Group.

Theatre Royal, Plymouth - offer an annual Assistant Director opportunity, a paid role with a 9 month attachment (applications open in the summer). Other ways to take part include their LAB company (an early-career artists company open to writers, dramaturgs, actors, directors, etc), Reach Out (with the Young Vic) and Introduction to Directing course.

Dukes Theatre, Lancaster - their Artists Hub page lists regular opportunities for directors.

Derby Theatre - upcoming In Good Company opportunities include an artist photoshoot day to help you take high-quality publicity photos, and workshops on producing, money management, social media and building partnerships.

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry - lists trainee Assistant Director opportunities when available.

Chichester Festival Theatre - Assistant Director roles listed when applicable.

Cambridge Junction - their Artist Development strand includes Troop, a network for local theatre-makers, View from the 'Bridge showcases, WATCH OUT (an annual one day festival of experimental performance), residencies, and Masterclasses with visiting companies. In 2017, they launched the Stobbs New Ideas Fund.

Scotland

Traverse Theatre - host our Edinburgh JMK Regional Directors Group and run Hothouse, a showcase for home grown theatre companies and artists.

The Lyceum, Edinburgh - runs Masterclasses for directors, and other opportunities.

Glasgow Citizens - runs various community workshops, projects, CPT and Educational training.

Tron Theatre -  through their Creative programme, artists can become members of their Maker scheme (benefits include networking opportunities, rehearsal space and early booking for their workshops). Tron Creative also run Outside Eyes scratch nights, and have opportunities to direct through Progressive Playwright and Tron Lab residencies.

Dundee Rep - opportunities are advertised through their Creative Pathways.

Scottish Theatre Federation - Assistant Director bursary to support a partnership between the applicant and host Theatre Company,  any submission to the programme via the application form must be jointly developed. Deadlines April and November.

Wales

Sherman Theatre, Cardiff - runs our Welsh JMK Regional Directors Group.They are dedicated to supporting new and emerging directors, offering opportunities both in English and in Welsh.

National Theatre of Wales -  their Creative Development programme includes opportunities for emerging directors, Professional Development Labs, Located Residencies and networking Huddles.

The Other Room, Porter's - recruit a Trainee Director and an Associate Director as part of their Professional Pathways Programme. Must be Welsh / Welsh based theatre directors. Full details here.

Northern Ireland

Lyric Theatre - opportunities are advertised through their Creative Learning page.

Theatre NI - runs a Freelancers Directory and extensive opportunities listings for members.

London Opportunities: 

Young Vic - as well as their Genesis Award, the extensive Directors Program includes paid assistant director roles (Jerwood Assistant Director), shadowing opportunities (Boris Karloff Trainee Assistant Director), skills workshops and peer-led projects within their Directors Network. Applications are made through the online form and supporting documents (click for more details).

Donmar Warehouse -  annual Resident Assistant Director opportunity. Advertised on their vacancies page.

Royal Court - when available, Assistant Director opportunities will be on the jobs section of their website.

NT Studio - the NT employ staff directors, who are managed by the New Works department. Invitations can be sent to New Works to see shows (but they are a very small team). The NT also runs regular Platform talks.

King's Head - two early-career trainees on a part-time basis per year. Unpaid. Application by CV and cover letter to info@kingsheadtheatre.com

New Diorama - dedicated to supporting new theatre companies, the New Diorama runs an extensive artist support programme.

Regents Park Open Air Theatre - lists Assistant Director opportunities when available.

Almeida Theatre - the Almeida Theatre’s Directors' Pool offers directors in the early stages of their career the opportunity to work closely with the theatre in all aspects of the artistic programme, to gain experience through access to the resources provided by the Almeida, and to widen their artistic network. Also runs a free Introduction to Directing 3 day workshop for under 25s.

Old Vic - run an annual Old Vic 12 scheme, bringing 3 directors, 3 producers, 3 playwrights and 3 collaborators from any other discipline. Applications open in August.

Headlong - regularly employ Assistant Directors. To be considered, send them a CV and a covering letter explaining why you would like to work with Headlong. If invited to a show in good time, a member of the team will try to attend.

Fund your Work

Please note, funding options vary depending on your location, your applicant status (i.e. whether you are an individual/company/charity, etc) and the form of your project. Read all guidance carefully.

Here are some advice tips that apply to all.

An article on how to successfully crowdfund (an option available for all, but difficult and time-consuming). This is part of a series run by Theatre Bubble, including interviews with small-scale theatre companies on their experiences and tips for crowdfunding.

Keep an eye on interim spaces and your local council for space in empty buildings made available to artists.

Edinburgh Fringe guidance includes many useful suggestions - including tips for securing business sponsorship.

Arts Council Funding - individuals and theatre companies can apply to Project Grants (previously Grants for the Arts). Competition is fierce and you still need to develop other sustainable ways to fund your work - e.g. for Project Grants, at least 10% of the money you're looking to get must come from other sources. ACE have also launched a Developing Your Creative Practice fund (open 4 times a year) that's designed to support individual artists who want to make a step change in their practice - listen to this podcast for more info on this fund. Be sure to also consult ACE's online advice and guidance information sheets before applying.

The British Council has a list of funding if you're looking to work internationally.

The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust's Churchill Fellowship fund is a travel grant for you to spend up to two months overseas, researching innovative practice on a topic of your choice (open to any career field).

If you're making work in Glasgow or Liverpool that benefits the local community, you can apply to the Awesome Foundation for a £500 grant.

Creative Scotland regularly list job opportunities and funding resources (Scottish directors).

Arts Council Ireland has this list of available funding and deadlines.

Dewar Arts Award - for creative artists in Scotland under 30 who lack the financial resources to achieve their potential.

Puppet Animation Scotland have a Creative Fund for Scottish-based artists (over 18) from any creative discipline to explore elements of their creative and technical working practices which relate meaningfully to puppetry, object manipulation, visual theatre and animated film.

National Lottery - search for funds that match your criteria.

O2 run a Think Big fund for projects by Under 25s that benefit the community.

The John Fernald Award (set up in 1988 in honour of the late Theatre Director and RADA Principal John Fernald) gives funding or part-funding to a maximum of two successful applicants, to direct a play or site-specific event. A total of £5K is distributed. Theatre makers and directors from the UK or Republic of Ireland with some professional experience in the field are eligible. Professional theatres may also apply on behalf of a director they wish to hire.

The Jerwood Charitable Foundation have application rounds for their Performing Arts Micro Bursaries (created from the legacy of the BBC Performing Arts Fund). Awards are made of between £250 - £1000 for independent artists / producers who have identified a clear, specific learning opportunity.

Press Releases & Publicity

Guide on how to write a press release.

Guide to promoting your show on social media.

Any suggestions/things you'd like to see on this resources page? Do you have a resource to share? Spot anything we can update? Email Katherine Rigg, our Fundraising and Marketing Administrator, on katherine@jmktrust.org