Roles in Oxford Drama
This is an outline of the primary roles in Oxford productions. Other roles, such as choreographer and stage manager, may be required depending on both the size and nature of the production, and it is not unusual for each of the non-acting roles to have a number of assistants. For more information as to how to get involved in these roles visit our section on how to get into Oxford Drama or contact one of the OUDS committee here.
The director is usually the driving force behind a production: they find a script for which they have a ‘vision’ of how they want to put it on, and then, with the help of the producer and the production team, put together a bid for a venue. Once a venue is secured the director leads the casting process to find actors for the project. In the run up to the show the director runs rehearsals to help the actors develop their characters and realise their vision. The director also coordinates with the designers and producer to ensure that the vision for the play is coherent across all departments.
The producer is predominantly responsible for the administrative, financial and marketing sides of the production, but also has a role to play in the creative process. They are responsible for putting together the bid to the venue, sourcing funding for the project, creating and maintaining the budget, and liaising with the marketing manager to ensure that the show is marketed to the right audience. They find and manage the production team, making sure they keep to schedule and design and run their own departments ready for the show, a role which may be delegated to a production manager for larger shows. Through meeting with both the production team and the director the producer is responsible for making sure all design elements tie in well with their director’s artistic vision, which includes assisting with the audition process.
An actor is responsible for working with the director to realise their vision and enact the character that they have been assigned. Actors are recruited onto productions through the audition process which usually involves a 10-15 minute initial audition followed by a callback. Depending on the format of the production, actors may be asked to learn lines from a script or memorise lines that have been devised by the company. If the actor has been successful in getting a part in a musical production then they will also probably be required to learn songs and choreography.
Depending on the size of the production the design team can be made up of a number of people usually encompassing set, lighting, sound and costume, but which can also include projection, pyrotechnics, make-up and a number of other areas, depending on the creative requirements of the show. For more on these roles, visit TAFF's website, Oxford University's society for technicians and designers. All designers should meet regularly with the producer, director and each other about their design visions to ensure that it matches the overall vision of the production. It is also their responsibility to find feasible ways of achieving the eventual vision given the restrictions of time, money, venue size and crew capabilities.
The marketing manager is responsible for marketing the production to other students and the general public. The marketing manager must create a comprehensive plan of how they plan to persuade people buy tickets for the production, usually through discussions with the producer. The size of this role is greatly dependent on the number of tickets that have to be sold, but it usually includes the printing and distribution of posters and fliers, effective use of social media, utilisation of the OUDS Newsletter and faculty mailing lists as well as publicity events. You can also advertise your show through the OUDS Termcard.
While some directors choose to put on productions already in existence, others prefer to work with student writers within the university. OUDS offers a number of opportunities for those who want to write plays through the year to perform their work and have it judged by others. Cuppers is a drama competition for Freshers in Michaelmas that actively welcomes student written plays of no more than 30 minutes in length. If writers have longer scripts that they would like to share, the New Writing Festival in Hilary produces one-hour scripts as well as shorter scenes. The most prestigious new writing opportunity is at the North Wall in Hilary term, the only student slot per year at this professional venue. Moreover, there is always the opportunity to bid for other venues in Oxford throughout the year or at the Edinburgh Fringe during the summer. Many writers choose to also take on the role of director for the performance of their writing, while others prefer to hand over to a separate director, who may interpret their writing slightly differently. It is generally advisable for a team to pick one of these options, rather than some combination of the two, which can lead to creative tension between writer and director, as well as causing problems for actors and designers, should the script they are trying to realise be changing right up to the last minute.