Monday, July 13, 2009

Welcome to the rehearsal hall

During my time as a stage manager I have come to strongly believe that the atmosphere of the rehearsal hall is one of my key contributions to the rehearsal process. This contribution takes a few different shapes.

First of all, it is important to maintain an atmosphere of respect and safety - a place where actors are comfortable being vulnerable and are able to do their best work. In and of itself this charge takes numerous forms. It can mean covering over a mirror in a dance studio so that actors aren't checking themselves out instead of looking at their scene partner. It can mean silencing a group of actors waiting for their scene or asking them to wait in another room while scenes are being worked. It can mean talking to the director and encouraging him/her to give more positive notes after running scenes & acts to keep spirits up. It can mean being the listening ear for an actress who has just found out that her costume is essentially a spandex cat-woman suit. Each of these things help to create a safe environment.

The second part to creating a good rehearsal hall atmosphere has to do with the room itself. Most rehearsal halls are dark and dingy. Rooms rented out for this sort of thing that never get cleaned. I've been lucky on my current show to be rehearsing in a dance studio that is closed for the summer. We have separate rooms for each show, so we can put things on the wall and not have to worry about taking them down at night. We also had access to a kitchen, so I didn't set up a coffee station in the room as I usually would. But our walls are full of show related things.

When costume designer Bonnie Pavlovic did her design presentation for Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead she had renderings for the three main characters: Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, & The Player, but instead of individual renderings for our 6 ensemble members who play all of the Hamlet roles as well as creating the ensemble of travelling players, she created these collages of 60's icons Each ensemble member, she explained, would be dressed as one of these icons, but she was waiting to see them to pick their inspiration. We hung her collages in the rehearsal hall so whenever the actors had questions about their look it was easy to check the photos, but it also gave the room a bit more warmth & some of the flavor of the show.Our rehearsal schedule began with a week of working just with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and one of the excersises the director did that week was a series of tableaus: waiting, hopeful, hopeless, etc. Of each tableau we took photos and hung them on the wall. These photos became inspirations for blocking moments, as well as something else about our show to have on the wall, making the room feel like it was ours.

One of the complications of doing Hamlet & Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead in rep is that the cut of Hamlet we are doing doesn't always line up with the Hamlet lines that have been inserted in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. In an effort to make that transition easier for people who have the same speech in both shows except in one show there is an added line here and a removed line there, I created text comparisons. Providing the dialogue for the scene from each show side-by-side so that any confusion could be quickly cleared up.

This sign is compliments of the director, and I think is as much for her own benefit as for that of the company. However, we all need to be reminded, especially during the rehearsal process, that we need to "Keep Calm & Carry On".


Dr. Notto Nefarious said...

Hear hear! Good advice indeed. Now if I can afford to rent a real rehearsal hall some day, instead of rehearsing in living rooms and the back rooms of pubs ... ;D

Anonymous said...

Heh, I keep forgetting it comes up as that account ... anyway, that comment (and this one) was from D.J. -- ;)

SMLois said...

That's the thing - I have been very lucky on this show to have access to this type of space. More often its living rooms and back rooms, but then you find ways to make the room yours for the time you are there. Even simple things like pitchers of water, signs for stage left and stage right & as much quiet as you can gather.

SMLois said...

I knew it was you by the rehearsing in pubs comment - we've talked about your habit of doing that.