A theatre director oversees and orchestrates the mounting of a play by unifying various endeavors and aspects of production. The director's function is to ensure the quality and completeness of a theatrical product. The director works with the key individuals and other staff, coordinating research, stagecraft, costume design, props, lighting design, acting, set design and sound design for the production. The director may also work with the playwright on works in progress. In contemporary theatre, the director is generally the primary visionary, making decisions on the artistic concept and interpretation of the text. Different directors occupy different places of authority and responsibility, depending on the structure and philosophy of individual theatre companies. Directors utilize a wide variety of techniques, philosophies, and levels of collaboration.
The director, as a position in and of itself, is a relatively new innovation in the history of theatre, with the first examples appearing in the late 1800s and widespread popularity only being achieved in the early part of the 20th century. Prior to that, it seems that actors or the playwright were responsible for presenting the show and coordinating efforts. Though some individual productions and groups still operate without a specified director, the director is now considered a vital figure in the creation of a theatrical performance.
Once a show has opened (premeired before a regular audience), a director is generally considered to have fulfilled their function, and typically from that point forward the stage manager is left in charge of all essential concerns.
A limited list of key visionaries in the area of theatre directing includes Konstantin Stanislavski, Gratofski, Brecht, Straussberg, Artuad, Robert Benedetti, Boal, Peter Sellars, Harold Prince, and Julie Taymor.