“All the real work is done in the rehearsal period.”
~ Donald Pleasence
So many actors focus on the final product, the performance. Really, it makes sense: that’s what everyone is looking forward to… it’s when everything all comes together and the “magic” happens. But really, the “magic” happens every day during rehearsal. People tend to discount the hours and hours spent rehearsing, practicing, perfecting, experimenting in the rehearsal room. It’s where actors spend the majority of their time. As such, it should be treated as a sacred space: a safe haven where you can learn and experiment and grow as a performer.
In order to create that sacred space, here are some tips you should follow.
1. Be there, and be on time.
I read this on Twitter today: “Early is on time. On time is late. Late is cut.” This is so true. Be respectful of everyone’s time. Theatre is a collaborative medium, and you can’t collaborate when you’re rushing in at 7:06, out of breath and digging through your bag to find your script — or not there at all. It’s rude, disruptive, and stressful.
If you know you are going to be absent or late, let your stage manager know as soon as possible. For example, if you’re sick and staying home from school, you’d call the school first thing in the morning to let them know you wouldn’t be there. Call your stage manager right after you call the school. That way, your castmates and crew can be informed and prepared to deal with your absence. (This goes for both actors AND crew members!)
2. Come dressed for success.
Comfortable clothes are essential, especially if you are doing a very physical show with lots of movement or dancing. Think about what you’ll be doing onstage — for example, if you’re doing stage combat, I find close-fitting, yet stretchy clothes are good to wear, so you don’t get your weapons or yourself tangled in your clothes. Appropriate footwear is a must — athletic shoes or dance shoes. Never wear flip-flops or Crocs to rehearsal — they’re noisy and easy to fall off your feet, and provide no support. If you’re not sure what to wear, ask your director.
While you’re at it, tie your hair back out of your face. Your director can’t direct you if he/she can’t see you!
If your character wears an unusual type of clothing or footwear, start wearing it early in the process so you get used to it. In The Rocky Horror Show, I had to wear 5 inch tall stilettos. I’ve also had to wear long rehearsal skirts for shows before, since you move differently in a skirt than you would in trousers.
3. Be prepared (Part 1).
Not just for Scouts anymore. Make sure you have all your necessary materials with you — ESPECIALLY YOUR SCRIPT. It absolutely sucks for directors to hear the words “I forgot my script” at the beginning of rehearsal. I wrote a comprehensive list of what young actors should have in their toolkit, and it works. You could even print it off and use it as a checklist!
4. Be prepared (Part 2).
Many stage managers and/or directors will provide the actors with a rehearsal schedule, laying out when you rehearse, and what you’re going to be working on that day. It’s not just for them to know what’s been worked on and what hasn’t — it’s for the actors to prepare in advance. Read over the scene, review previous work on that section, memorize your lines for those pages = impressing the crap out of everyone there.
5. Ask questions — at the appropriate time.
There’s asking for clarification, and wasting everyone’s time. Know the difference. Directors are happy to answer questions, but realize that there are others in the rehearsal as well, and respect their time. Ask questions before rehearsal, during break time, after rehearsal (either in person or via email). There’s no such thing as a stupid question — but there is a right and wrong time to ask it.
What are some of your rules for successful rehearsals?
I’d love to hear them… share them in the comments!
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