The Rehearsal Room: Who Let You In Here?
Zach Kaufer explains the importance of the rehearsal process.
I will start by saying that all the clichés are true. The rehearsal room is a sacred place. It's a workshop where we tinker with ourselves and our collected human faults while trying to shape them into some sort of workable form where an audience can come in, watch the madness, and leave changed. How is it possible? Hell if I know. What I do know is that there are some rules for the rehearsal room that seem simple but are often overlooked when actors and directors are in the process of making theater. The first thing we have to remember is that theater is a collaborative process. I know it's the most overused trope in the theater lexicon, but it's a truth that is so often overlooked that it bears repeating. More and more, I've experienced directors who pose the questions to the actor, forcing them to come up with their own business and motivation. William Ball says that a director is an editor and it is up to the actor to create the performance, which the director can then look at and mold into the final life of the character and performance. As much as a director is responsible for creating the world of the play, an actor is responsible for bringing their own ideas and preparation to the room so that there is material for collaboration. In our rehearsals for The Dead, the blocking work is based on editing secondary actions and creating a world that lives and breathes because of the way the piece is structured. There's constant noise and action. The cast has been encouraged to create life and justify reasons for filling the space. Stephanie Shroyer, the director, has created a logical world that the actors inhabit and they are entrusted with the task of fleshing out their characters and interacting with each other to create the story. The rehearsal period would be years instead of weeks if a director supplied every bit of the work. Secondly, respect other actors and their processes. Making rash judgments about an actor in the beginning stages of the rehearsal process is not only detrimental to their process and the energy of the rehearsal room but it removes the focus from an actor's own performance and will lead them away from the time that you need to spend working by themselves. Actors are inherently selfish; I'm talking about a vital self-awareness that draws attention inward to fill out and flesh out a performance. Actors must place this energy on themselves when they're working or they might as well just direct. I mean, that's why I'm writing this article. I will put this out there as a benchmark for any good actor or healthy rehearsal process: be supportive of your other actors without directing them. There's nothing worse in a rehearsal than actors directing other actors. I don't really have anything else to say about that; just don't do it. My final words of wisdom for the rehearsal process: remember why you do what you do and love it. It takes an immense amount of mental, physical, and emotional stamina to act. Probably more than anything else. There's a reason why you are in the rehearsal room to begin with. Is it the act of exploration? Do you love inhabiting other people? Do you want to wear a corset? Whatever your personal reason is, remember it and hold on to it with all your might. Maybe there is a quote or two that you can use as your rock that you come back to every so often for a recalibration? Whatever it is, make sure you have something that can keep you grounded and focused in rehearsal so that you remember why you're doing what you're doing. Knowing why will allow you to let loose and have the most fun you can. Of course, this isn't by any means a comprehensive list of rehearsal dos and don'ts, but this should give you some idea of what a healthy rehearsal should be like. I'm curious to hear what some of your rehearsal pet peeves are. What have you found useful and healthy in rehearsals? Write your responses in the comments field below!