Training: Theater Directing
The Alpha Animals of the Stage

Das Theater in der Garage

“The task of the director consists in producing works for the stage”. This is the lapidary beginning of the German Theater Association’s job description of theatre director. But what skills does the job require in particular? These would be, for example, the ability to analyze texts, spatial-dramatic imagination, an all-round education and soft skills such as empathy and assertiveness. In addition, a director should have the ability to infect not only his artistic colleagues but also general directors and cultural decision-makers with his ideas.

Not everything on this by no means complete list can be learned. Nevertheless, it has become common in recent years even in West Germany for future directors to study directing instead of climbing the career ladder through internships and assistantships. This has in turn posed new questions: Is the student inclined to text-based or post-dramatic theater, to multi-media, image or actor-driven theater? And does he even know that at this stage?

Directing schools have various emphases, and because most accept at most two to three students pro semester or academic year, they all have a multi-level entrance examination in which previously submitted directing concepts are discussed and drama exercises and conversations are held to provide information about the motivation, imagination and exceptional artistic aptitude of the candidates. Mastery of the German language and a high school degree or the equivalent are generally required. (Exceptions to this rule will be mentioned in the following.) 

This is also the case in the theater and cultural studies programs at Hildesheim and Gießen, which do not offer courses in directing but have spawned many directors and performance groups. At a time in which the concept of the theater is subject to constant change, taking up impulses from other art forms, the capacity for reflection, flat hierarchies and multi-purpose personalities have become increasingly important. We have therefore included these two schools in our list.

At Essen the student of directing spends one and a half years in the drama course, with additional courses in theory. The school for theatre directing with the longest tradition in West Germany (founded in 1959) thus particularly emphasizes the partnership between director and actor.

The topic of the first written application task is announced to candidates only after the registration deadline. The program starts in the summer semester and only one student per year is admitted, from whom a correspondingly high degree of personal initiative is expected. Students are relatively free, especially in the second, project-oriented half of their studies, to find their “style” and to cooperate with other students of drama or of other subjects (music, dance, live-art/performance, musical, etc.). The program attaches particular importance to interdisciplinary discussion of the significance of the director’s profession.

The strongly practice-oriented program cooperates with several festivals, the theaters in Essen and Bochum, and universities in German-speaking countries (Zurich, the Ernst Busch School in Berlin, the Theater Academy in Munich) and abroad (for example, Columbia in New York, Glasgow, Amsterdam and Brno/Czech Republic).

Folkwang University of the Arts: Acting | Directing – Artist Diploma
Students at directing at the Bavarian Theater Academy is also enrolled at the University for Music and Theater and has access to additional courses at various departments of the University of Munich and the University for Television and Film, and so make a well-connected start their profession.

Beginning in 2013, the program will start in the summer semester and admits only students who are no more than 28 years of age at the beginning of their studies.

Since training is designed for future opera as well as theater directors, and specializations are chosen only in the fourth year of studies, students are taught piano, singing, Italian, musicology and opera history, and examined in these subjects for their intermediate diploma.

The first two semesters of basic studies are a probationary period. Especially in the first semester, directing students attend many practical courses together with acting students. Beginning in the second semester, each student develops five practical projects; thereafter, in the third semester, an internship in a technical or artistic department of one of the Bavarian State Theaters (Prinzregententheater, Bavarian State Theater/Residenztheater, Bavarian State Opera) is required and followed by a directing internship and, in the fourth year, a directing assistantship at the same institution.

Bayerische Theaterakademie August Everding: Ausbildung zur Regisseurin / zum Regisseur für Theater (Schauspiel und Musiktheater)
Practical trial and error and the focus on current trends in the theater and society are central to training at this school, which already presents students in their first year with a staging task with professional actors. Experiments “on a secure foundation”, individually variable study options and intensive supervision are watchwords of the Ernst Busch School of Dramatic Art, the first German drama school, which was founded in 1905 by Max Reinhardt. The subject of theater directing has been part of the curriculum since 1981.

Applicants should “normally” be at least 21 and no older than 28 years of age, again “normally” have a higher education entrance qualification, and absolutely have practical theater experience.

A founding member in 2008 of the Global Alliance of Theatre Schools, the Ernst Busch School has partners on all continents. In the third year of study, after internships and projects at other theaters, comes the joint project of the directing and acting class, which concludes with a performance at the bat-Studiotheater.

Ernst Busch Academy of Dramatic Art: Course in Theatre Directing
The degree study program Acting and Directing at the Mozarteum divides into two courses of study only after the first semester (basic courses). It starts with training in the common technical elements. The interest in aesthetic, social and philosophical questions, and analysis of the media of film, radio and television, is also regarded as important and is constantly developed in the broad theoretical part of the program.

Applicants should be between 19 and 30 years of age at the beginning of their studies. In addition to a comprehensive theater theory and dramatic-practical training in the subjects of direction, dramaturgy, space, light, stage technology, costume design, etc., directing students develop their own dramatic exercises and study projects with acting students and in cooperation with other Salzburg cultural institutions.

Stage productions that have been realized outside the university within four years following the end of studies are admissible for recognition as a practical degree examination, which is supplemented by a written commentary.

Mozarteum University Salzburg: Diploma Programme Drama and Production
Founded in 2007, the Academy for Performing Arts is the youngest theater training institution in Germany. Its express purpose is to prepare its graduates for structural and aesthetic innovations in the area of theater.

The course of study in directing occupies a period of four years, starting in the winter semester, and annually admits the comparatively high number of up to five students. One year of previous theater or film experience is expected; a high school diploma can be waived in individual cases. The very extensive list of documents to be submitted for application currently (2012) includes a short video, a concrete proposal for casting a previously conceived directing project, and an essay on the question “Why Alpha Animals”?

Under the contrasting slogan, “Form Drama Gangs”, Ludwigsburg relies on teamwork, combined energies and ample time. This results, for example, in a three year joint project in which actors, directors and dramaturges cooperate to stage a performance. Teaching in theory and projects are largely geared to one another. Students may sometimes attend interdisciplinary and class-overlapping lecture series (for example, on culture theory or the theory and history of the theater)

Baden-Württemberg Academy for Performing Arts: Bachelor-Course in Directing
The Theater Director program of the Hamburg Theater Academy is taught in close cooperation with courses in opera direction, acting, singing and opera.

The eight-semester bachelor program is aimed at applicants who have at least two years practical experience in theatre. It begins each winter semester, includes basic training in theatre and literary studies, and ends in a practical-dramatic project.

The first semester also includes basic training in acting. Beginning in the fifth semester, the focus is on accompanying study projects and cooperation with other theater schools and theaters. Cooperation partners of the Hamburg Theater Academy are the Deutsches Schauspielhaus, the Thalia Theater, Kampnagel, St. Pauli Theater (all in Hamburg), and the Kiel Theater (Kiel).

Hamburg Theater Academy: Bachelor Course Acting Directing
This course of study in theater directing is part of the training and production network of the Hessian Theater Academy (HTA), with whose partner theaters the HfMDK maintains good contacts. Directing students at the HfMDK work closely together with students of acting, dramaturgy and stage design. Practical orientation and stage productions are central elements of the program, which occupies a period of four years and begins in the winter semester.

Applicants are recommended to have previous practical theater experience. Lack of a higher education entrance qualification can be offset by outstanding results in a multi-day artistic aptitude test.

Especially in the first and second semesters, the practical part of the program (treatment of characters, scene, role and the student’s own life) runs parallel to that of acting students. Mentors accompany the productions from the first improvisations in the second year to a studio performance at a partner theatre in the third year.

Frankfurt a. M. University for Music and Performing Arts: Bachelor Course in Directing
Students at the ZHdK study “Theater”, which is regarded as a kind of basic training for theater artists with the opportunity to major in one of five special subjects. In the first year the subjects directing, acting and theater education are largely taught in common.

Applicants should be between 21 and 30 years of age and have at least one year of previous theater or media experience. Various kinds of school education are accepted as qualification for admission; in exceptional cases, a particularly gifted candidate may be admitted despite poor command of German and English.

Part of the bachelor curriculum in the specialization of directing is a “Directors Forum”, where students discuss questions about their research and current performances. In the second year of study the focus is on the theory and practice of various acting methods. Cooperation with, for example, the departments of music, film and dramaturgy, workshops, student productions and a constantly alert eye for current developments in the theater are all considered equally important.

Building on the three-year bachelor program or another course of university studies, students can take a masters degree in the specialization “Guiding Artist / Profile Director” at the ZHdK. It is based on an expanded and experimental concept of the theater, works in cooperation with the Institute for the Performing Arts and Film (ipf), and aims at deepening the student’s artistic style, communication and team skills.

Zurich University of Arts: Bachelor of Arts in Theatre
Zurich University of Arts: Master of Arts in Theatre
Founded in 1929 by Max Reinhardt, the Seminar for Acting and Directing today still stands for the largely joint training of directing and acting students and a view of the theater that focuses on the text and above all on the actor and his craft. According to the current study regulations for the “Degree Study Program in Performing Arts”, the graduate is expected to be qualified “not only to develop” professional theater, “but also to counteract its crisis”. The applicant’s general university entrance qualification must be confirmed by an Austrian university entrance certificate.

In addition to a large number of required theoretical and practical courses and electives in the humanities and social sciences, training includes several directing internships. It lasts eight semesters and ends with the awarding of the Magister/Magistra atrium, an academic degree now abolished in Germany. A stage production outside the Max Reinhardt Seminar can be accepted as the practical part of the final thesis.

Drama Programme of the Max Reinhardt Seminar
The Otto Falckenberg School, which is closely associated with the Munich Kammerspiele, is a professional academy. In addition to accompanying the school’s own projects, directing students gain early practical experience as guest students, assistant directors and interns in various areas of the Munich municipal theatre.

An intermediate school leaving certificate suffices for application. The candidate should be between 21 and 28 years of age and already have “life and training experience”.

Training is divided into school years, beginning in autumn. Final admission is decided during a probationary period that lasts until May 15 of the first year of study.

At the beginning of their studies, directing students learn about the actor’s means of expression and how to describe them, to develop concepts and to carry out dramatic exercises with professional and student actors. In all this they receive intensive supervision and are equipped with theoretical tools. Individual style is already the focus of their first independent productions in the third school year.

After passing the final examination, graduates receive a qualifying certificate that certifies their ability to practice the profession of theater director.

Otto Falckenberg School: Course in Directing
The program in Applied Theater Studies at the University of Gießen, founded in 1982, offers a two-year bachelor’s degree or a two-year Master of Arts, building on a previous degree. This “research laboratory for the theory and practice of contemporary performing arts” combines courses in theatre studies with courses in dramatic practice. It is based on the idea of theatre that is open to influences from neighboring artistic disciplines and other cultures. The Gießen program steadily focuses on dramatic work in its cultural, intellectual, historical and social context.

Whereas the bachelor degree is aimed at students with broad interests in theater, performance and life art, the student pursuing the master degree focuses on either theatre practice or the theory of theater and concludes his studies with his own theater production or a practical project.

The artistic aptitude test for both courses of study tests less the knowledge and skills of the applicant than his or her personal views and artistic sensibility.

The ATW is a founding member of the Hessian Theater Academy (HTA) and cooperates with students of the Contemporary and Classical Dance program and all Hessian municipal and state theaters. Students take part in international exchange programs and organize their own festivals.

In addition to courses in, for example, art history, musicology, philology, classical studies and philosophy, the program also includes internships (in the B.A. courses) and an assistantship (in the M.A. courses).

Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen: Institute for Applied Theatre Studies
Applied Theatre Studies at Justus Liebig University Giessen
The Institute for Media and Theater at the University of Hildesheim is committed to “learning through practical experience and in a personal atmosphere”. The bachelor program Cultural Studies and Aesthetic Practice (KUP) occupies for six semesters and begins in the winter semester. It is aimed at applicants who want to develop their artistic practice and at the same time submit it to scholarly reflection. There is an aptitude test that tests both skills of artistic production and the ability to reflect. The program includes material from the visual arts, literature, media, music, theatre, cultural policy, cultural management and cultural education, and is aimed at students with a wide range of interests, whose professional plans are still open.

Students gain practical experience in two fields of art. One focus of the program is on cultural and artistic developments and phenomena of the present. The program cooperates with over 1,500 cultural institutions in Germany and abroad and includes several required internships.

University of Hildesheim: Bachelor Course Cultural Studies, Aesthetics & Applied Arts