an actor, during his or her career will more often-than-not deal with a bad director. Whether it be total incompetence, lack of vision, or... whatever; many times an actor can be literally left out to dry by bad, or inept direction. Of course, bad directors usually don't know they're bad...there lies the paradox.
Ironically, it is the better directors who are the ones that seem more inclined to not only be open to allow their actors' process and ideas to express themselves, but they also possess the quiet confidence to be available to consider the possibility that they may not have all the answers (or, that there may be answers that are more clearly defined, or perhaps...just better ones). All this openness they possess allows for building a solid ensemble and wonderful collaboration, while staying true to their clear, thought-out concept or vision. They never lose their ability to set aside ego, always keeping the vision in mind - allowing the journey and discovery process to bear its often unexpected fruit. We should be lucky enough to have the opportunity to work with such directors at least once, during our careers.
There are also other directors who know what they want, see it clearly, and the vision/concept is brilliant... almost savant-like. However, their skill in communicating that vision may be their short-coming. A smart actor should be able to pick out these types as well. These types of directors are also rare....but they are out there.
With the benefit of experience, an actor should begin to develop the skill of identifying what type of director with whom they happen to be working.
In addition, a smart, experienced actor should develop the skills for not only protecting oneself from the bad director, but you should also be able to remain open for when the good direction is presented to you (a broken clock is, after all, right twice a day!); even if it means taking their "bad" direction and translating into something "good" or "actable" for yourself.
Quite often this disconnect can be a mere conflict in communication, as stated before.
Said another way, some people express themselves differently; their vision and/or concept may be fantastic; they are just unable to express it clearly.
Lastly, there are those directors that can be so incompetent, so "bad," that it challenges the actor to seriously question, "Why am I doing this show?"
That can be a very valid question.
If you are at this point, you must consider it very carefully....very carefully.
A good director learns how to communicate with their actors - each one, individually.
A bad one - well, doesn't.
"So what do I do when I am working with a bad director?"
Good question!...so glad you asked.
The 1st thing you DON'T want to do is presume you have a bad director just because you disagree with him or her! We as actors must ALWAYS be open to the possibility that the issue may lay within us. Perhaps we're uncomfortable with the material? or the circumstance of a particular scene? Maybe it all hits too close to home?
It is a mistake to leap to the presumption that there is a problem with the director.
How do we know?
Well, here are some questions you can ask yourself:
1) Are rehearsals run in a professional, organized manner?
i.e. on time, breaks observed and respected, time not wasted
2) Overall attitude seems to be positive
3) Director is open and receptive to questions and/or ideas
*This does not mean an actor bombards a director with every question or concern that comes to them. Remember, they have a great deal to think about and account for. Babysitting insecure actors is not one of them. But when faced with a legitimate question, are they responsive? or does a glossed look of confusion cross their face? Or is there an impatient exhale of "why is this person bothering me?" let out? Big Difference
4) Are notes clear? helpful? If no, again, is the director responsive to clarification?
5) Does the director watch rehearsal?
*Sounds like a "duh" point, but I have encountered this
6) Is the director, directing?
See point 5
The list can go on....but these are some basic starter questions to help you diagnose potential concerns.
I'd say if your answers are in the negative for more than half of the above questions, you then have some serious things to consider.
Leaving a show should always be the LAST OPTION.
Unless one's personal safety is at risk, the professional actor must always seek to find a way to endure. Because if an actor leaves a show, the possibility of ever working with that company (or group of people) will become non-existent.
...so prepare yourself for those consequences if leaving a show becomes your decision.
Personally, I've never done it. I couldn't bring myself to do it...yet.
I've considered it, twice. Both times I found myself considering the people involved in the production and how my decision would effect their lives. Again, I found myself not wanting to risk severing relationships I had grown to appreciate.
All I'm saying, it's a big decision.
Perhaps there is something to be said for sticking it out and ending up with good battle stories.
As a wise cast-mate once told me, "Good shows open, so do the bad ones. Good shows close, and so do the bad ones."