- The rise of the modernist director began in the last decades of the 19th century. The actor-manager of the 18th century and first three-quarters of the 19th century slowly evolved into a dominant interpretive force who claimed artistic responsibility for every facet of production. As pioneered by Georg II, Duke of Saxe-Meningen, in the 1870s in Europe, the modern director guided actors, scene designers, and technicians to achieve an aesthetically unified production. At the dawn of the 20th century, American theatre practitioners had largely embraced this model, although program credit for directing did not become standard until after World War I. The prior control of actor-managers, particularly those who were star actors, continued into the 20th century as the star often remained the strongest presence in a commercial theatre production, while artistically inclined producers such as George M. Cohan (who often directed, while also producing, acting, and writing) or Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. (strictly a producer) employed directors as little more than glorified stage managers while they continued to control all aspects of production. Indeed, in England, the practice of directing continued to be ascribed to a "producer" for several decades after the term "director" became current in American theatre.The rise of realism in American drama, first evident in James A. Herne's social problem play Margaret Fleming (1890) and in the painstakingly detailed stage productions of David Belasco, along with significant advances in theatrical technology, increased the need for a strong director to guide actors through the intricacies of challenging plays and to supervise complex technical productions. By the 1910s, with the emergence of the little theatre movement and, after World War I, the formation of ambitious producing organizations (the Provincetown Players, the Theatre Guild, etc.), directing required a fervent artistic vision coupled with sensitive interpretive skills. The Russian-born theatre artist Theodore Kom-missarzhevsky worked in the United States from 1934 and was instrumental in demonstrating directorial artistry as distinct from producing or management.
The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. James Fisher.
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