Thinking Like a Director A Practical Handbook

Michael Bloom

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

256 Pages



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Michael Bloom draws on nearly twenty years of directing and teaching experience to convey the full experience of directing for the stage, as well as the mindset that all successful directors possess. More than a mere set of guidelines, Thinking Like a Director details a technique that covers every facet of theatrical production, from first reading to final rehearsals. The key to directorial thinking, Bloom asserts, is a dual perspective—an ability to focus on both the internal lives of the play's characters and the external elements of the play's structure. In this illuminating, engaging, and accessible handbook, the art of dramatic interpretation and the craft of working with actors are integrated into a single, unified method.


Praise for Thinking Like a Director

"More engaging than a textbook, Thinking Like a Director is a concise and highly practical guide to the craft. It's a required reading for young stage and film directors, students, and anyone who wants to know what a skillful professional director does."—Gilbert Gates, Producing Director of the Geffen Playhouse and Producer of the Academy Awards Show

"Like acting and designing for the strange, directing is a job one can only learn through actual experience. Unlike acting and designing, however, directing remains one of the more mysterious professions in the theatre. When the curtain goes up, it is pretty clear that the actors are responsible for playing their individual roles, that the set designer is responsible for the set, the lighting designer for the lights, and so on. But what exactly does the director do? There are numerous books on the market that seek to answer this question, and of course there are as many answers as there are directors and books. Some of these books focus on theory and are very stimulating on an intellectual level, but never get into the practical nuts and bolts of how to read a script, structure a rehearsal process, or run an efficient technical rehearsal. Michael Bloom's Thinking Like a Director successfully addresses these and other basic tasks in the average theatre director's job description, and in the process manages to clear up some of the mystery surrounding the job . . . Bloom [discusses] text analysis, the audition process, working with designers and actors, rehearsals, and finally opening night and beyond. Along the way he offers specific tips (set apart on the page in boxed texts) that elaborate on the issues discussed in the main body of each chapter. These tips not only feature practical advice, they also serve to further illustrate and clarify points raised in the main text . . . Bloom's writing style is clear, informal, and easy to digest without over-simplifying what is truly one of the most complicated jobs in the theatre. Ultimately, only so much of the mystery of directing can be unraveled by any book on the subject, since each new production comes with its own demands, problems, and surprises. What is particularly helpful about Bloom's book is that his advice is specific while simultaneously acknowledging a need for openness and flexibility. He is ever mindful of the fact that one cannot plug every play into the same formula. Thinking Like a Director provides an excellent model that can be adapted to productions of all genres and styles, and at theatres from academic to community and professional settings. Of the many choices out there, Thinking Like a Director is a worthwhile handbook for aspiring directors as well as theatre students and teachers."—Mark Jackson, Dramatics

"It's rare for a 'how-to' book to be at the same time so practical and so literate."—Robert Brustein, Artistic Director, American Repertory Theatre

"Thinking Like a Director helps fill the void of practical handbooks that are available to theater directors. It is smart and lucidly written and should prove to be an invaluable guidebook for students and emerging directors."—Donald Margulies

"Bloom's deeply instructional and encouraging primer takes the mystery out of the art of directing without taking out the joy. I've never seen anything quite like it."—Mariette Hartley

"A lucid, concise, and admirably undogmatic manual for aspirant directors, from which writers, actors, and ordinary theatergoers will also learn much about the complex business of putting on plays."—David Lodge

"With a relaxed, informal style, Thinking Like a Director captures the experience of stage directing as well as any book I can think of. Its section on working with living playwrights is a welcome addition to the literature, useful to playwrights as much as directors, and Bloom's writing on language will be highly informative for actors, too."—Arthur Kopit

"I very much enjoyed Michael Bloom's Thinking Like a Director. A taste for directing is like a taste for pickled herring—those that like it seem to like it a lot. For those who've tried it and liked it, I think this book has some pretty good ideas."—David Mamet

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Michael Bloom

  • In addition to directing throughout the United States and Japan, Michael Bloom is head of directing at the University of Texas at Austin. His writing on the stage has appeared in The New York Times and American Theatre magazine. Bloom directed the premiere of Donald Margulies's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Dinner with Friends at the Actors Theatre of Louisville, and he also directed premieres by Don DeLillo, Ariel Dorfman, David Hare, and David Lodge. He won the Elliott Norton Award for Directing for his production of Gross Indecency, and was nominated for a Drama Desk for Sight Unseen at Manhattan Theatre Club and the Orpheum Theatre. He lives in Austin, Texas.