My actors in rehearsal. Look at them experimenting!
We're at that point in rehearsal for Speech and Debate. You know... THAT point. The one where we're still in the rehearsal space doing our final working runs and cleaning every last minute thing before we get into tech.
Sometimes, this place can be disheartening because it can seem like everything is falling apart rather than coming together. The actors are still making the same mistakes, the blocking is disintegrating, the tempo just isn't right. Even though we may not be having these problems with Speech and Debate, it's a valid concern and something that I know a lot of shows struggle with. At this stage in rehearsal, it's important to note that you're not done. Just because the show is blocked, the job isn't over. In fact, this stage in rehearsal is my favorite part. Table work is interesting but stagnant and blocking scares the hell out of me. Once that's all out of the way, it's time for the fun to begin. This week, we've been doing "working runs" of the show. A "working run" is when we run the show straight through while stopping to work any moments that seem funky or need to be cleaned/refined/straightened out.
Gregg Daniel, a director I worked with on Wedding Band, gave me a piece of advice that carries me through my work now: "rehearsal is never over." Even though when you think that you're cruising towards tech and performances, make sure that the cast and creative team don't stagnate. Change blocking to see what happens. If it doesn't work, change it back. Experiment. The rehearsal studio is a laboratory where you can experiment without the cost of time, energy, and resources that come during tech rehearsals. Use the last weeks of rehearsal time to refine the work that's happening on the stage and never get complacent.
I think the most valuable thing I've ever learned as a director is to never be satisfied. That doesn't mean that you can't be happy with what an actor is doing. On the contrary, being supportive and accepting of creative impulses is what will bring you the work you want. When I say "never be satisfied," I mean that there's always something that can be tweaked. Is there a moment that seems static? Experiment with a different movement pattern or secondary action. We had a great moment in rehearsal tonight where we discovered that one of the actresses could look around in a bookshelf for Lysol when she needs to be absorbed in a secondary activity in order to not hear something that another actor is saying. It's about respecting those impulses and taking care of your actors! You'll get the work you want, just keep teasing.
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