Director’s Diary: Rehearsing in “Layers”

Director's Diary: Rehearsing in "Layers"

We’re approaching crunch time in Nancy Drew rehearsals: only two more rehearsals until March Break, then a week off (eek!) and then two final rehearsals before tech and dress. Now is the time to be doing full runs of the show and working with props, costumes and furniture.

That being said, it’s not always good to introduce everything all at once. It’s hard enough to remember your lines when you aren’t worrying about what prop you’re supposed to be using, what costume you’re supposed to be wearing, and remembering what comes next in the show. So what I like to do is add “layers” to my rehearsal schedule. Rather than going right from book-in-hand rehearsals to using ALL THE THINGS, I use my calendar to figure out what layer to add when.

Here’s how you do it!

First layer: Figure out when off-book day will be.

Off-book means that the actors must have their lines fully memorized and are not holding their script onstage. Depending on the show, I usually make off-book day halfway to two-thirds of the way through the rehearsal process. For Nancy Drew, we had 21 rehearsals before tech rehearsal, so I made off-book day on the 14th rehearsal (exactly two-thirds of the way through!).

Second layer: Figure out when you will add furniture, props, and costumes.

I usually add these in the order I just wrote them: furniture first (to assist with blocking and transitions early in the process), props second, and costumes third. The exception to this is if the actor is working with a specific prop or costume piece that is vital to their character or that they need to get used to (for example, high heels!), you should add those items as soon as possible.

Third layer: Start planning your tech early.

If you know you’ll need sound effects or scene transition music, start planning that earlier rather than later. That way, it won’t be a total surprise when your actors get to tech rehearsal and get totally distracted by the strange sounds they’re hearing for the first time.

Making your schedule:

For Nancy Drew, our schedule looks like this:

  • Week 1: Auditions, casting, first read-through of the show
  • Weeks 2-4: Blocking the show & character work
  • Week 5: Add FURNITURE
  • Week 6: Furniture + OFF-BOOK
  • Week 7: Furniture, off-book + PROPS
  • Week 8: Furniture, off-book, props + COSTUMES
  • Week 9: Running show off-book with furniture, props, costumes
  • Week 10: March Break
  • Week 11: Running show off-book with furniture, props, costumes
  • Week 12: Tech rehearsal (add lights & sound)
  • Week 13: Dress rehearsal + opening weekend!
  • Week 14: Shows + closing weekend

Adding show aspects in layers allows your actors time to adjust to each new aspect of the show. It can be overwhelming to actors (and the crew!) to have everything thrown at them at once. Help your actors by making the process as easy as possible!

Directors, how do you plan your rehearsal process?
Share your thoughts with me on Facebook, Twitter, or in the comments below!

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