What do you do when a director wants to be in the booth?


Active Member
I am a freshman in high school, this is my first time production with the high school.

At out theater, there is room for two people in the booth and still have room to breath, but the director thinks that they should by in the booth with both me and the light/sound tech. (At our theater there is only one booth.)

What should I do? Am I wrong? Is it ok for the director to be in the booth?
Well, it depends. Sometimes directors like to sit in the booth and help you out to become a better tech or sometimes they like to be in a location that they can still see the show and not be bothered by others. As long as they dont keep telling you to turn up the volume, I don't see a problem. Good luck with your show.
Depends upon how satisfied the director feels with the production and most importantly their role in it. This might not be you or the crew, it can be this person is an emotional hurricane of emotions and fears that out of some sense of last minute “saving the show” or common sense of getting him or her out of the audience, this is a more wise way for the director to feel comfortable in being able to solve the little fears he or she has.
I certainly have had my share of directors in the closet of the booth, much less those lobby pacers going out of their mind alone in the lobby. Some of them try to make last minute improvements and modifications over the stage manager, or directly on the lights and sound, some directors are a silent bag of nerves but don’t touch a thing.

Depends upon the person. By theater unwritten law, once the show opens, the director is done. It is now in the hands of the cast and crew, but that’s unwritten and certainly not unknown for the director to make major changes after opening night to the driving crazy of all crew, cast and especially the stage manager. This is art however keep that in mind. It’s never done, just gets to a point the influence on it can walk away.

Could be a fear you are going to screw the show up, could be a last grasp for straws for the director to have some way of yelling at the stage manager and saving “his” show. Just some way to have a control over the show until it’s all worked out and everyone learns their job to his or her expectations. In the end, it’s probably not you unless there is some well founded rational for being there should you encounter a problem. Could also be that there needs to be a staff member in the theater in some way able to take over for the students should there be an emergency. It’s by far better for the director to chew his or her finger nails inside the booth than to be on stage offering last minute advice and bad luck nerves to the talent than to you the pro tech person.

In the end, it’s the school’s rules for a start, than more just the director and his or her trust in the production and staff. This is not you, do your job as if the person were not there, be glad even someone really involved with the production would choose to be with you during the first show and not on stage creating pandemonium, than be respectful and proper because this person no matter how out of place just might be able to help if there is a problem. Take it down to the tech level. Would you kick me out of your lighting booth? Heck no, all the guns available even if not used is all the more fire power for getting stuff done well. The director is not talent therefore at some level this person is staff just like you. You have a problem, perhaps this person in the booth might be of help. Might be of hinderence but somewhere in the panic, there might be the idea that saves the show.
Welcome this director, just ensure there is only two sets of headsets in the booth. The director can watch from the booth, even listen to the monitor, but should not without purpose be allowed on the hooks for the show unless he or she wants to totally undermine the stage manager and cause even further intimidation of that crew leader. If the director wants headsets, you must ensure that yours are available but because the stage manager has to be given freedom, someone on line who has been around the block a few times clearly recommended that they stay off the headsets. Grab yours when necessary but stay out of the way of the show. You are very welcome to be in the booth and we are honored, but unless there is a major problem the stage manager has to be the primary problem solver - give them a chance your not being on hooks will allow.

And I mean this all. Be it designer, TD or director, they have no real place in the booth, they are a guest and need to remind themselves of that. But also a guest you have to and had at best be honored at the presence of. You don’t have a choice, so you might as well make the best light of it. Show him or her what you really do during a show. Can only lead to good things for your entire group.
I our director/td sits out in the house and yells at the actors, I gave him coms and put him on channel b so he dosnt hear or conversations yet if need be can reach so through the SM or by the call buton
Come to think of it im never quite sure where our director is during the show.... I think shes in the audience, but im not sure.... I've never acutely seen her....
When its actully running or director is in the house laughing like no other try to get the crowd hyped up. Kind of like what comedens do.
I try to lock the door buy the problem is when I am running sound he comes and directs them (They cant see him because he is stainding directly the 10 dergree source fours nounted on the fromt of the booth) abd theb he will think he cant hear right and try to adjust my faders and all you can do is either ask him not to do it, swat his fingers away, or re adjust when he turns his back. If we lock him out of the lighting booth he will stan in the sound booth and use his fingers to indicate what dimmer he wants turned up, we pretend to not understand.

Rock Springs Wy.
Since this is high school theatre, play it by ear. In a university or professional setting, the director would not be allowed into the booth even in rehearsal, much less during a performance. If they want to watch the run, they can sit in the house or watch a monitor backstage.

Actually, the show I am opening tonight has such a high-strung director that we didn't even let him have a headset for tech - if he wanted something, he had to lean over and speak to the SM, who was on headset in the house. As of tonight, he doesn't even get a guaranteed seat in the theatre - the show "belongs" to the SM staff now. (There's a lot more to this story... send me a private message for more info on dealing with difficult directors if you feel it is necessary.)

I suggest that you play this one by ear. If the director is wearing multiple hats - i. e., designing the lights, sound, FX - then letting him/her into the booth might work. If you are confident calling the show from the tech rehearsals and do not actually need the director with you, then you don't need to let them watch the show sitting next to you, especially if space is an issue. And, since I assume you have a handle on the director's style, if you know they are going to bother you in any way during the show, do not let them in the booth just to appease their nerves.

As I think about now reading everyone's comments when I'm working at our highschool the director is ussually in the booth with me, but there is no sound equipment in at to this date and there is a good amount of room in there without any. The guy who directs the school musical production is also the auditorium 'manager' if you will and we have a basic understanding built around the fact that I know more about the technical stuff, how the board works, etc and I have been teaching little bits here and there. At the community theatre it is much more cramped however, there is rarely a director in the booth, in fact I think the last show I did the director had wanted to be in the booth and the TD said she shouldn't be so we gave her a headset to compensate. I suppose, without considering the amount of space you are working in it really comes down to your relationship with the director.
I'm also a freshman in high school. The key is, appeal to the directors vanity. Tell him/her that they should prepare a speech before the show for when it opens. Also, use your connections with actors, ask them to tell the director that they would be so appreciative if he/she watched them on one of their few performances. ;)
I know that from experience that a director in a booth of hinders what needs to be accomplished. while directores often have valid suggestions, in panic situations they can make things worse.
i know that when things go wrong the best thing is to keep a clear head and be rational. a director adds a large peer preseure that can only be distracting.

Now, this makes directors seem like big bad people, and yes there will always be those who are annoying, distracting, idiots, whatever, but the director ultimately has overall artistic control over the show, and are often awesome peopel.
As a former High School Drama Teacher, I have to remind you that it's not your theater and it's not your booth. Somewhere there is a staff member who is your supervisor... unless your school is really screwed up. Policy about who is in the booth or not isn't yours to set it's your supervisor's decsion. If that supervisor is also the director you want to keep out of the booth, suck it up and deal with it. Even the best High School theater program doesn't operate 100% by the same rules as professional theater. They can't. In the end you are a student and there is a teacher who is responsible for everything you do. Hopefully that teacher is knowledgeable and appreciates your work. But remember if you screw up, their butt is on the line. So if they want to be in the booth to make sure you are doing your job, sorry, that's just the way it is.

My advice is to show them by your dedication and focus that you can be trusted. In time, they will learn that they aren't needed in the booth. That might take a few years.
gafftaper, just a quick question out of curiosity, how would you suggest I (SM) would deal with a director who sits in the house during the show with a headset, get's lost in the script, continues to think she calls the show, and gets my entire crew screwed up because she's undermining the cues I'm calling? I don't mean it to sound like I'm disagreeing with you, but just am intrigued. Also, this person is renting out the theater and we (the techies) are being paid for our work.

As a side note, I tried talking with her to not call the cues from the house, but she dismissed me as a stupid student (i was a junior at the time). We wound up having a yelling match, and neither one was satisfied.

Since I want to do this for a living, how would you suggest handling this situation?
Eboy87 said:
gafftaper, just a quick question out of curiosity, how would you suggest I (SM) would deal with a director who sits in the house during the show with a headset, get's lost in the script, continues to think she calls the show, and gets my entire crew screwed up because she's undermining the cues I'm calling? I don't mean it to sound like I'm disagreeing with you, but just am intrigued. Also, this person is renting out the theater and we (the techies) are being paid for our work.
As a side note, I tried talking with her to not call the cues from the house, but she dismissed me as a stupid student (i was a junior at the time). We wound up having a yelling match, and neither one was satisfied.
Since I want to do this for a living, how would you suggest handling this situation?

Where does the director sit in the house with respect to the audience? If it is near to paying customers then you could point out that calling the show is disturbing the audience. Also is the headset wired or wireless? Once again if she is in the audience the lead could be considered a safety hazard. Just some ideas? You could also try talking to her again and point out that if there are problems it easier for you to correct from where you are then her position in FOH.
Assuming that you have a dual channel base station, you might connect the director on channel B and the rest of the spots and crew on channel A. That way you have a continuity of chain of command during a show. The director can add comments but it’s to the stage manager directly without others listening in. This especially if only the SM and ASM have the dual channel belt packs.

Such getting yelled at on one channel and communicating commands during a show takes a lot of coolness under fire by way of the stage manager, but that’s also the mark of a good stage manager.

Most shows are better with the spots on channel B but it’s fairly easily coordinated by way of cues for the SM to control the spots on the main channel.

The new Clear Com belt packs otherwise would be especially useful. You can program them for a variety of uses and locking out. I’m sure by way of the manual there is a easy way to coordinate anything you need with them.

At work otherwise I make for shows a dual channel Main and Spare base station switch panel. Only thing that gets plugged into the dual set of base stations is this rack distribution/switching panel. There is a four pole dual position switch attached to the four A/B XLR cables fed from the main and spare base stations. They than after the switch get fed to the various A, B and even six pin dual channel outlets. Acts as a patch panel also so you don’t have to reach into the rack while installing, much less because there is a switch to go from the main to the spare base station, you don’t have to un-plug and re-plug each line should there be a problem. It has just as many male as female outlets - just in case some stage crew runs a line backwards.

Anyway, given this A/B distro, that switches between Main and Spare base stations, what if such a panel were what the stage manager plugged into? Everyone else plugs directly into their respective base station except the stage manager has the option of switching between say the director com system and show control system. Perhaps add call lights in line from the base station before the switch so if needed on one or the other base station, the stage manager can see the call light and hit the switch to get to that circuit. A ASM switch panel could also be made to run in parallel with that of the stage manager.

This would allow two completely separate com systems that might be useful not only for show control and director listening but also for actor warning cues. Say Main base station Channel A for talking with the lighting, sound and fly people. Channel B for controlling the follow spots. On the second power supply, channel A for the director to stage manager/ASM yelling at circuit, and channel B that goes over the intercom in both the dressing room and green room. Stage Manager wants to give the five minute warning, they go to Spare Power Supply channel B, Director wishes to give last minute changes, the director also can go onto the intercom without interfering with the production staff. Both can also Shush the actors while on the Clear Com.

Call lights between power supplies would be the key here. You would either need to see the call lights on the base stations or have some installed on the switch panel.

Still, if it’s theater policy the director or others not actively running the show are on the headsets, perhaps it’s a good solution. Granted all this would take some coordination and agreement by way of management. Perhaps if nothing else, give the director another Main/Spare switch so if they really want to hop onto the show control system they can, but otherwise dont confuse cues given and the rest of the crew. This where in the past, directors used to just take notes for the next show to work on.

Other ideas and concepts for such a system. Having both an indicator light for call light on the system the stage manager might not be on at the moment is very important. Also and perhaps even more important would be an indicator light for which position on the switch the stage manager is currently switched to. Don't want to give cue 102 to the director, realize this and have to call it late. Also in the past, I have done some foot switch clear com adaptors which have been handy for hands free switching between A/B channels. Perhaps some of the various rock and roll foot switches could be better adapted for doing this so the stage manager can still flip pages in the script or write notes. Perhaps not in loosing the foot switch in the dark.

Another thing I once created in the past was a AB belt pack adaptor that was belt mounted. Instead of having two sets of wires, much less a problem with feed thru, I once did a belt pack adaptor that was feed thru and did a single six pin plug to the dual headset. Made one, but nobody has really used it. I will have thought it a good idea where feed thru is a problem or there is just too many wires off the belt pack. Add a 6' whip to the six pin plug and the adaptor much less lots of wires feeding off it would not need to be mounted on the belt.
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Ahh...those people with bugets to do things....what a lovely world, lol
Rather then go for the really cool sounding high tech solution, it might be better to jsut talk to your director about your fears that they might be distracting...then they cn tell you their rational, and a friendly comprimise may be reached.
I really like all the directors i've worked under but i dont think i'd want any of them in the booth, just prove that your responsible and hopefully they'll be able to let go of thier fears, pre-show jitters, what ever....

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