Introductory Directors’ Workshop

After a massive week hosting Todd Schroeder’s Master Classes in Brisbane (Theatre and Dance) and on the Sunshine Coast (Studio 2), on Sunday at Lind Lane Theatre, Sam ran a low-key Introductory Directors’ Workshop. The workshop was well attended and at just $10 per adult it must have been the bargain of the year! These are some notes from the day (and they are certainly not exhaustive but are clear indicators of Sam’s particular style and his approach to directing). As Director, Actor and President of the Sunshine Coast Theatre Alliance, Sam plans to offer another Introductory Directors’ Workshop and one or more advanced directing courses in 2012 so keep an eye out for details about registration.

Sam acknowledges that his approach to directing is his own.


A Great Director encourages


  • open minds
  • like minds
  • an ensemble approach
  • risk-taking
  • an ability to play well with others
  • fun
  • respect
  • an attitude of working hard without making it hard work
  • working towards a “win”




  • look for the ensemble – a school of fish who can swim together
  • look for people you can work with… play with
  • make it fun
  • open up the sandbox
  • open up
  • let go
  • what could it be?
  • trust – not only the cast who the director can trust but the cast who can trust the director
  • take a simple level of direction eg “everybody up on stage, thanks” … “why?”
  • get to know them
  • watch and listen
  • if a 70 year old doesn’t turn up who do you cast. don’t cast anybody. don’t do the play. (GREAT reaction – silence – something new?)




  • there is no wrong way to get the right cast for your play
  • no open pre-casting eg Mark Darin in Influence
  • a director has the choice. it’s the director’s call.


Creative Team


  • cast your creative team wisely eg Erotique
  • confer with the writer, composer etc and make the same decision – are they people (is it a play) you want to work with?
  • in a musical, of course the MD must be involved in decision-making but the director has the final say.
  • Communicate clearly and early with your creative team
  • respect for the people you’re working with and set the boundaries
  • set clear ground rules
  • get the vibe right and make a sacrifice if necessary eg La Ronde






  • Plan from opening night backwards (like an ECG, draw a graph of the shape of the rehearsal period)
  • feel the heartbeat. know where it is and how quickly it beats.
  • safer show comes from good breathing time
  • break for the night before opening night
  • planning will inform the energy of the piece (the highs and lows)
  • schedule the conversations and the first time you deal with tricky things eg nakedness in La Ronde, Erotique…


it’s not the ensemble and you but rather, you are  a part of the ensemble




give your cast and creative team a level of freedom with which you’re comfortable. and then make sure they’re doing everything the way you want it.



  • read scripts
  • see theatre
  • own style, own process
  • start somewhere.
  • visualisation (tell the story in your head) “painting an idea”
  • communicate your vision


Re-invigorate rehearsals by doing (or asking for) the unexpected


Every director has a different interpretation. let the seeds sow themselves.


if you run out of steam don’t force it. it’s not gonna happen.


“I will one day direct Pinter” is different to “I will one day direct Pinter’s Betrayal


Find the idea, seed the idea and find a way to make it work.


Don’t act and direct in the same play


The measure of a good play?

  • is it engaging?
  • are the characters believable?
  • whose opinion matters?
  • artistically satisfying that sells tickets


Simon Denver says get them laughing before the curtain goes up.


organic process between audience and performer


How do you get feedback?


Sometimes conflict is necessary.


Sometimes it’s better to let it go. stop rousing and let them go for a coffee.




find a different way of communicating


people respond differently to different approaches. read people and work out what works. directing is largely about reading people and managing people.


performers are vulnerable so set high standards at rehearsal. eg quiet in the space


don’t keep people at rehearsal if you’re not using them. eg call them for the hour for which they are required. respect.




As a producer, director or performer, Sam Coward has worked for the past fifteen years in the business. On both stage and screen, Sam has experienced all facets of stage production and has worked in more than a dozen Queensland venues.

In 1999 Sam produced a modern interpretation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber classic, Jesus Christ Superstar, in a Warehouse in Warana, which at the time broke all records for attendance at a Sunshine Coast production.

Shout! The Legend of the Wild One in 2008, clearly marked Sam as a director with the potential to produce exciting creative works. In close collaboration with The Events Centre, Caloundra, Sam re-cast, re-structured and re-directed this successful major musical production in just 8 weeks. In 2010, Sam co-produced and directed his original take on Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde and re-developed it further, as Erotique, for inclusion in the Sydney Fringe Festival. Sam is about to venture into the third creative development phase for Erotique, in preparation for its 2012 season. In 2011 Sam directed David Williamson’s Influence and conceptualised an original play So? Where Is It? written by Simon Denver, which has been seen this year at the Sunshine Coast Drama Festival and at the Queensland Short + Sweet Festival, where it won the overall Short + Sweet Award for Best Play. So? Where Is It? will be seen next in Sydney in 2012.

Sam is the President of the Sunshine Coast Theatre Alliance, which is “Raising Standards” and Co-Director of XS Entertainment, which aims to establish a functional network of Sunshine Coast artists and produce original theatrical productions in unconventional spaces, utilising new media and local resources.


BOOK NOW for The Sunshine Coast Theatre Alliance’s 2012 SEASON LAUNCH SOIREE

 All theatre lovers are encouraged to come along and enjoy this social evening celebrating local theatre, rubbing shoulders with local thespians and the likes of our special guest, playwright and Senior Australian of the Year 2012, DAVID WILLIAMSON. Enjoy a complimentary drink on arrival, and delicious canapes throughout the evening.

Each theatre group will have approx 5 minutes to perform/present snippets of their 2012 productions to the Media and theatre lovers.

The evening will be hosted by Channel Sevens Rosanna Natoli.

Tickets: $35 EARLY BIRD TICKET PRICE:  $30 per person.


When: Saturday 11th February 2012

Where:  On the deck, at the Buderim Tavern.

Dress: to Impress! (a prize for the most impressive)

Bookings (07) 5449 9343 or online 



3 Responses to “Introductory Directors’ Workshop”

  1. 1 Russell
    February 13, 2012 at 11:49 pm

    Hey guys I was unable to make the soirée but could u inform us what the companies on the coast are doing this year? What great shows are coming to audition for?

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