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 2020

Applications for the JMK Award 2020 will be accepted via this website from 10am Friday 10th to 11pm Friday 24th January 2020.

We are thrilled that the JMK Award is continuing its partnership with the Orange Tree Theatre, with the winner’s production forming a core part of the theatre’s annual programming. The JMK Award will offer one director the opportunity to direct a full-scale Orange Tree show with the production values and nurturing guidance the building is famous for. The winning director will receive a fee of £4,000 for their work as director on the production. Further information and criteria can be found here.

FREE National Programme Workshops:

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

7 Feb - JMK Workshop at Wiltshire Creative (Salisbury Arts Centre): The Writer-Director Relationship with Carl Grose

A 3-hour workshop with writer and director Carl Grose, exploring the relationship between the writer and director when developing new plays. The workshop will draw upon Carl’s extensive experience, to explore how this relationship can work when generating and shaping new work.

22 Feb - JMK Workshop at Reading Rep: Reclaiming Working-Class Identity with COMMON

Join COMMON’s Founder and fellow working-class director, David Loumgair, for this supportive and personalised workshop exploring ways of reclaiming your working or under-class identity. Through a combination of open discussion, written exercises and responding to provocations, together we’ll seek to change personal narratives from “disadvantage” to one of strength, pride and confidence, and identify what your lived experiences enable you to offer arts organisations that they can’t find elsewhere.

6 March - JMK Workshop at Traverse Edinburgh with Claire Birch, Royal Shakespeare Company

This workshop will be led by Claire Birch, Assistant Producer at the Royal Shakespeare Company. It will offer an insight into how the RSC produce, work with directors and recruit assistant directors.

7 March - JMK Workshop at Wiltshire Creative (Salisbury Playhouse): Movement as Play with Dan Canham

Dan Canham is performance-maker and choreographer. Through his company, Still House, he makes performance events that span across dance, theatre, short film and audio recordings. His works for Still House include SESSION (LIFT festival) and Of Riders and Running Horses (Dance Umbrella) and have toured extensively throughout the UK and internationally. As a movement director, Dan’s most recent work includes A Monster Calls (Old Vic), The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (Elliot Harper/Bridge Theatre) and Jane Eyre (National Theatre).

28 March - JMK Workshop at Nuffield Southampton Theatres: Storytelling Poetic Texts (Textual Breakdowns & Direct Address Work) with Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu

Led by Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu, winner of the JMK Award 2019, this workshop will look at various verbose direct address texts and unlock how a director can use the words as a vehicle to stir an audience's imagination.

8 April - JMK Workshop at Reading Rep: Opera-Curious? with Adele Thomas and Tim Anderson

Having recently moved into opera, Adele Thomas is a director who wants to break down the barriers and preconceptions that make many directors feel that they can't do the same. This is a playful and immersive introduction to working with operatic music, exploring what it means to work with opera singers and the relationship with a conductor. No in depth knowledge of classical music required, just a desire to explore making theatre through singing. Adele will be joined by conductor Tim Anderson, a brilliant theatrical mind in his own right. This is a unique opportunity to dive into the rehearsal process of an operatic scene.

2 May - JMK/Papatango Event at Wiltshire Creative (Salisbury Playhouse): Meet SW Writers, Producers and Directors 

Marking the culmination of their WriteWest programme to support emerging playwrights and producers of new writing across South-West England, Papatango will be partnering with the JMK Trust to host an event to connect these artists with directors. Over drinks and nibbles, this will be a chance to meet other makers of new writing and discuss potential new projects.

23 May - JMK Workshop at Nuffield Southampton Theatres:Working with Actors, with Nik Partridge

Through practical exploration and discussion with 2 professional actors, this workshop will focus on the collaboration between actor and director, reflecting on how a director can set up a safe, creative and explorative atmosphere in the room and considering how the relationship can function in order to support new and fruitful discoveries being made through rehearsal.

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:

27 Jan - Tamasha are accepting applications for their Directors Programme: a year-long pilot focused on the professional and artistic development of Directors of colour, who are at the beginning to mid-stages of their career and who demonstrate exceptional promise.

31 Jan - The Pleasance Theatre have opened applications for the Charlie Hartill Theatre Reserve. Each year the Theatre Reserve provides a young theatre company with 4 of more cast members, the rare and extraordinary opportunity to present a fully produced, financed production at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

2 Feb -  The 2020 Papatango Prize is open for entries! The UK's only playwriting award to guarantee: a month-long premiere in London; a month-long UK tour; royalties; publication; £6,500 commission and feedback for all entries, it is assessed anonymously and open to all residents of the UK and Ireland. All you need is a story.

2 Feb - The British Council is offering bursaries for minority ethnic artists and producers to attend IETM (Informal European Theatre Meeting) in Tromsø, Norway, from 30 April 2020 – 3 May 2020. The IETM  is a network for the contemporary performing arts with over 450 members from across the world. Attending IETM is the ideal opportunity for creative practitioners who want to make international contacts and broaden their understanding of the global challenges facing the performing arts community in the 21st century.

10 Feb - The Old Vic are searching for the next group of exciting artists to become The Old Vic 12. This scheme provides access and insights into top-level theatre-making, mentoring from industry experts, opportunities to deliver masterclasses to emerging artists and collaborate with each other to create brand new work.

14 Feb - 45North have launched their 2020 commission scheme for theatre-makers. The commissions are open to all female-identifying and non-binary creatives. Submissions are open to writers, directors, designers, devisors – anyone who wants to be lead creative on this project. If you are commissioned, you'll receive a bursary of £1,000-£1,500 depending on the predicted length of the process (3-6 months), desk space, studio space, monthly meetings with the 45North team and a semi-staged reading/staging of your first draft for 45North and invited industry professionals.

28 Feb - Applications close for the John Fernald Award, which was set up in 1988 in honour of the late Theatre Director and RADA Principal John Fernald, with the aim of funding or part-funding a maximum of two successful applicants in directing a play or site-specific event. A total of £5K is distributed annually. It is open to theatre makers and directors from the UK or Republic of Ireland with some professional experience in the field.

9 March - Applications open on 22 Jan and close on 9 March for the first round of Jerwood Bursaries 2020. The bursaries provide funding of up to £1,250 to help you explore and develop your practice by enabling you to gain new skills and knowledge.

Blogs for Directors:

Check out our JMK Blog, with posts written by former Award winners and JMK Assistant Director 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.

The British Council's blog includes 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 regularly updates their website with opinions, blogs and reviews.

WhatsOnStage also has a blog, 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.

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.

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

Quick Reads:

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!).

"If I were 22" - advice from David Jubb, Artistic Director of Battersea Arts Centre, and producer Tobi Kyeremateng for those starting their careers.

Interviews with Michael Longhurst, Lynette Linton, Suba Das, Sean Foley and other incoming Artistic Directors in 2019.

"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.

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.

BBC Writers Room - moving from theatre directing to TV.

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, and this talk with Polly Findlay (former JMK Award winner) and playwright David Eldridge on their production Beginning.

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 resources:

Talawa Theatre Company has launched MAKE Online: an online community to give Black British theatre artists ownership and agency of their careers. MAKE Online provides a dedicated virtual space for artists at all stages of their careers to encounter each other and to change the shape of British theatre.

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 is a network of venues from across the North of England who are committed to supporting artists to create new work.

Venues South West - a network of venues and organisations in the South West who support artists, working together to enable quality work, better communication and touring in the region to develop the South West theatre sector, led by Wiltshire Creative and The Bike Shed Theatre, Exeter.

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.

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.

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 Artistic 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.

Opportunities to take your work to Edinburgh Fringe include  The Eclipse Award, New Diorama and Underbelly's Untapped Award, and the Charlie Hartill Special Reserve (for Theatre and Comedy), the LET Award, and the COMMON Award.

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. These events are free for those under 30, and 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.

The Genesis Directors Network allows directors, designers and producers to meet and form vital creative relationships, find job opportunities and events available at the Young Vic and other theatres.

Artsadmin runs Radar - a series of free sessions, talks and events offer different skills and tools for artists at all stages of their careers to build a more sustainable practice.

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. NST are also our partners for delivering the JMK Directors' Group with Salisbury Playhouse.

Bristol Old Vic - their Artistic Development programme, Ferment, runs festivals, residencies, and lots of other support. They are also our partners for delivering the JMK Directors' 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 Directors Group with Nuffield Southampton Theatres. They also run various Artistic Development opportunities.

Royal & Derngate, Northampton - in addition to their JMK 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. Also, check out this Open Doors guide of artist opportunities in the Greater Manchester area.

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

Birmingham Rep - as well as our JMK 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 Directors' Group.

Nottingham Playhouse - support East Midlands based artist through their Amplify programme of ticket discounts, space and opportunities. They have also recently joined us as a JMK Directors' Group venue - our recent free workshops at Nottingham include sessions with James Grieve (co-Artistic Director of Paines Plough) and Claire Birch of the RSC.

Theatre Royal, Plymouth - offers various artist development opportunities, including Practitioner Development (paid training and development opportunities in workshop facilitation), Lab Associates (year long artist attachments) and a regular Ideas Lab scratch night.

Dukes Theatre, Lancaster - their Talent Development page lists regular opportunities for directors. Including workshops, artist meets, and open R&D space.

York Theatre Royal - offer an Ignite artist development programme, providing financial, in-kind and mentoring support to artist and companies to create theatre in York.

Derby Theatre - 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.

The Lowry - has various artist development opportunities including workshops, an artists network, Developed With (year-long mentoring and support), and Class Of (an annual cohort of Greater Manchester-based artists looking to build their understanding of the business of theatre). All these opportunities are detailed in this guide. Also check out this Open Doors Greater Manchester Theatre Guide for Artists, detailing the support and opportunities available in the area.

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

Hull Truck Theatre - have opportunities including residencies for the development of new work, showcases, professional development workshops and an annual Grow Festival.

Chichester Festival Theatre - Assistant Director roles listed when applicable.

Cambridge Junction - their Artist Development strand includes Troop, a network for local theatre-makers, WATCH OUT (an annual one day festival of experimental performance), residencies, and Masterclasses with visiting companies.

Scotland

Traverse Theatre - host our Edinburgh JMK Directors Group and host informal Meet & Greets for artists and companies to meet their Artistic Team.

The Lyceum, Edinburgh - runs practical workshops around their current productions, as well as post-show discussions.

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 - offer an 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 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, commissioning and R&D.

The Other Room, Porter's - recruit a Trainee Director and an Associate Director as part of their Professional Pathways Programme. Open to 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 - Their Genesis Directors Network includes paid assistant director roles (Jerwood Assistant Director), shadowing opportunities (Boris Karloff Trainee Assistant Director), skills workshops and peer-led projects.

Donmar Warehouse - recruit annually for two Resident Assistant Directors. This opportunity is 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.

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. They also recruit regularly for a Baylis Assistant Director (via their Work with Us page) to work on production in their season and offer a Florence Kleiner bursary to support a female identifying director based outside of London to undertake a one year attachment with the theatre,

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. They also run an annual Headlong Origins development scheme, designed to support emerging directors across the UK.

Pleasance Theatre - the Pleasance Futures have support for emerging artists taking their show to the Edinburgh Fringe, as well as opportunities throughout the year.

Yard Theatre - have opportunities for artists including Live Drafts (a chance for ideas to be developed and tested in front of an audience) and you can send them invitations to see your work (please give at least 4 weeks notice).

Bush Theatre - offer artist development including an Associate Artist scheme, an Emerging Writers Group, and Project 2036 (a three year programme that will offer a Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic and Refugee (BAMER) playwright, director and producer a £7,500 bursary each year).

Gate Theatre - take invitations to see your work. Please include information in your invitation explaining why you want a member of the Gate team to come and see the work you are making (please give 6 weeks' notice to give them the best chance of having someone in the team available to attend). They are particularly interested in seeing work from diverse, international backgrounds, and work that is formally inventive.

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.

General Tips: The Edinburgh Fringe's guidance includes many useful suggestions (whether you're bringing a show to the festival or not), including tips for securing business sponsorship.

Crowdfunding: Have a read of this article on how to successfully crowdfund - part of a series run by Theatre Bubble based on interviews with small-scale theatre companies.

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

Travel and Research Grants: 

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).

The Jerwood Arts offer Bursaries between £250 - £1,250 for independent artists, curators or producers who have identified a clear, specific learning opportunity.

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

Other Funding Awards:

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.

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 annually. 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.

Jerwood Arts provide a New Work Fund between £5,000-£25,000 for artists, artistic groups and artist-led organisations to undertake the research, development and creation of new work that enables a step change in their practice and profile.

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.

Public Funding Bodies:

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.

Check out this article on applying for Arts Council Funding for the first time as an artist.

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

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

National Lottery - search for funds that match your criteria.

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