Howie, Solomon, and Diwata of Speech and Debate fame! We're in the depths of rehearsal right now.
I'm sitting outside Taper Hall 203, our rehearsal room. The first thing on the schedule tonight is "Review, Scene 2." Scene 2 is something we've already blocked and worked so why is it on the schedule again so soon in the rehearsal process? Could it be that there were class conflicts with the cast so we had to pick whatever we could to use the time? Perhaps. The scene is blocked. What more is there to do? Most inexperienced directors would stop there. The scene is blocked and we can move on. We'll come back to it at our first run-through. Although blocking the scene is the first step in getting on your feet, review time is just as important if not more. Once the scene is blocked (blocking (n) - the movement patterns given to an actor in the preliminary stages of rehearsal, for those of you who don't know), there is a set form.
You'll know all about my opinions about the set form in my previous article and how there's nothing that can happen without it. Anne Bogart says in her book A Director Prepares that she was so scared by making decisions and giving blocking that the actors eventually had nothing to push against and the performance fell flat. The form and the skeleton are necessary to push against and live within for the performance to truly live and breathe.
"But Zach," you're asking yourself, "if there's such a rigorously set pattern that we follow, how can it ever be organic?" Calm down, I'll tell you.
Once the director sets the pattern, it is then the job (and the joy) of the actor to justify, intensify, and extrapolate from the choices made in the first blocking rehearsal. This review time is when we can finally begin to "play." That word is thrown around so often that it's important to step back and examine what that really means. When we are in a rehearsal and you have a skeleton of blocking to work with, there's no need to worry about whether or not the additional moments that are added by the actor get in the way of the overall trajectory of the scene. Because the blocking rehearsal was meant to outline the precise beats that the scene was to take, the review period is to flesh out those beats and fill in the space between so that each rehearsal gets closer and closer to the final product and, eventually, we will have explored a myriad of options and paths. It's just another drop in the bucket.