SIMPLIFY. SIMPLIFY. SIMPLIFY.|
This is my directing mantra. The theatre is about what is essential. If it's not necessary, then it doesn't belong on the stage. I think there are a fair few young directors who think that good directing is about proving to everyone how clever you are. There's nothing wrong with being clever. Just don't do it at the expense of the script. Playwrights would do well to adopt this mantra as well. Characters should only say what is necessary and nothing else.
SERVE THE PLAY
My mentor, Davey Marlin-Jones, always stressed that the director must serve the play and not the other way round. The director is the steward of the text. It is to be safeguarded so that you tell the story that the playwright wants to tell. If you don't want to tell that story, then go and write one of your own.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Back when I was at Berkeley, Peter Sellars made it perfectly clear that you must direct for the audience you have. Shakespeare's plays and Mozart's operas were performed in contemporary dress because they were the popular entertainment of their day. They were not museum pieces bent on re-creating the mileu of another time and place. You must create a frame for the play through which your audience can understand and relate to the characters. If they are too foreign, out of thier reality, then they won't communicate and the play will flop.
THE WORKMAN'S MENTALITY
I think it's a good idea for director's to think of themselves as workmen. They shouldn't be afraid to get their hands dirty. Mounting a play is tantamount to constructing a building. The playwright has given you the blueprint. You are the general contractor and your collaborators (actors, designers and technicians) are the specialists (like laborors, plumbers, and electricans. Let them do thier jobs. Lead them by example and be prepared to pitch in to get the building built.
Another analogy I love is that directing a play is like sailing a ship. The playwright has built you that ship. You have to captain it to get to its destination. You hire the best crew you can find and trust that they will do thier job and sail that ship as many times as you can. Ultimately, if you've done your job well, they can sail it without you and have a glorious journey.