Travis Preston CalArts

Tips for Those Hoping to Direct Theater Productions

travis preston

The role of directing a live theater production is one of the most exhilarating and rewarding opportunities one in the arts may ever experience. So, if you’re hoping to get into the director’s chair soon, Travis Preston is ready to give some tips he’s learned during his more than 40 years of directorial experience. 

Find A Work Location You’re Comfortable In

Shortly after graduating from the Yale School of Drama, Preston made his directorial debut in Poland, where he directed Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound. 

If you’re going to begin a career in directing, finding a work location for which you are interested and comfortable is essential. You cannot work efficiently if trying to fit into a culture or customs that are not suited to your needs and level of attention. 

For Preston, moving to Poland proved itself worth the risk, as his experiences there went on to influence much of his future career. However, even if you stay close to your roots, it’s better than the risk of being unfamiliar with your surroundings and uncomfortable in your work. First and foremost, you should be able to direct within a trustworthy and comfortable environment. 

Find A Project You’re Passionate About

As important as the work setting can be, it’s even more vital for a new director to be sincerely passionate about the project they are directing. Don’t agree to a new project if you’re unsure of the content, team, or other variables.  It may take a while to find a project which fits your specific directing style, and that’s okay. In the long run, it’ll be worth the wait. The more important thing anyone can teach you is this: If your heart isn’t in it – it won’t go anywhere.

Don’t Be Afraid To Try New Avenues

As a novice director, it may take a while before you’re able to find which style of directing you prefer, or which genre of art you enjoy directing. Throughout his career, Preston has directed everything from theater productions like plays, musicals, and operas, to full feature films such as Astonished and Revolution

You might start directing in theater and find out it’s not your style. In this case, be brave enough to venture out and try commercial, television, or film. There are no rules to how many different types of directions you give before you find what works best for you. Don’t be afraid to try new avenues and remember to give yourself the grace of learning. 

Never Stop Learning

Throughout his esteemed teaching career, Preston continued directing in an independent capacity. This goes to show that you’re never too old to keep learning and growing as a director. We live in an exciting digital time which provides far more resources to continue your education then there was available 40 years ago. You can easily access these tools from anywhere – whether it be through virtual learning to earn more college credits or online webinars and lessons through third party education sites such as Udemy or Masterclass. Even when you do begin your directing career, remember to remain humble and never stop learning. 

While there are always more aspects of directing to learn, Travis Preston understands that it’s never too late to start and he hopes this article proved to be a beneficial resource for anyone interested in the wonderful experience of directing theater productions. This quick list only includes a few insightful tips, so be sure to follow Travis for more exciting theater-related content coming soon!

By Travis Preston

Official blog for Travis Preston of CalArts