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.