Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)

First Advisor

Dr Lyndall Adams

Second Advisor

Dr Danielle Brady

Third Advisor

Associate Professor Peter Standen

Fourth Advisor

Associate Professor Andrew Smith


The esteemed position that a director holds in the creative process is a recent phenomenon. It emerged towards the end of the 19th century. Then, the role of a theatre director encompassed the idea of a single, creative force, coordinating and controlling the elements of a production. Not much has changed. Despite the significance of the role, the literature is largely silent on how a director directs and how a director leads. The paucity of research on the director’s leadership style reflects the way in which the practice of directing occurs — behind closed-doors. Its private nature can deter and even exclude researchers from gaining access to the rehearsal room.

Rehearsal studies have allowed us to peek inside a director’s workplace and gain insight into the creative processes that occur there. What has been overlooked is an examination of the manner in which a director leads. Directing through Dialogue: A theatre director’s exploration of leadership illuminates the uncontested power relations that occur between a director and their company. The study draws on three different leadership models and throws light on the way in which the director’s leadership style can influence the rehearsal process. Given the centrality of the director/actor relationship to the creation of a performance, the research explores the question: How does the leadership style of a director impact upon the directing process?

To investigate how leadership influences directing praxis I have used a practice-led research methodology. As a director/researcher I practiced my way through the investigation and experienced the relationship between directing and leadership. During the initial phases of the research I was an observer in the rehearsal rooms of five directors, where I focused on establishing what their leadership styles were. I then adopted the role of assistant director in four productions and experienced first-hand the influence a leader has on a follower and conversely how a follower can affect a leader. During the final phases of the study, I used an autoethnographic approach and applied a shared style of leadership to my directing practice. This activity revealed that dialogue was a useful tool to harness the shared intelligences of the cast and crew and assisted in establishing a non-hierarchical structure in the rehearsal process.

My experientially acquired knowledge of leadership underlined for me the critical role of power in the rehearsal process. Interrogating the role that power plays in the rehearsal room led me to re-conceptualise the director’s position.

My thesis is, that for the director, leadership is a relational process that can be shared amongst all members of an artistic company. A dialogic approach to directing can enhance actor agency and significantly enrich the manner in which a director and an actor lead each other in the creative process.