Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse: Part III of a Series on Amateur Acting
by Neil Battinelli
You got the part! Now let's talk a little bit about the rehearsal process. Each production is different, so what I’m about to say may or may not apply. But here’s what you can likely expect as you get started.
We usually call the first day of rehearsal “the read-through”. You get a copy of your script and you meet the cast, the director and other affiliates of the production like maybe the costumer, the stage manager and maybe the producer. You’ll also find out your rehearsal schedule and other important information. Be sure to bring a pencil with you to jot down any notes or important dates like an “off-book date”, which is the date you need to have all your lines memorized by, or “strike date”, which is the day you tear down the set once the show is over. Then you and the entire cast will sit down together and read the play out loud. For much of the cast, it'll be the very first time they hear the play. So pay attention, these suggestions may sound trivial or obvious but it’s important that you know what goes on in your show. And that’ll be the end of your first day of rehearsal.
After the read-through, you can expect rehearsal to be approximately three days a week for the next couple of months. During that time, you’ll need to memorize your lines as quickly as possible. You’ll want to learn them so well that you don’t have to think about them and they just come out of your mouth when the time is right. If this is your very first community theater show, you'll probably have a smaller role with only a few lines -- which is great! I recommend highlighting your lines within your script.
There’s plenty of ways to commit your lines to memory and you’re going to have to figure out what works best for you. Some actors can read the script over and over again and commit the lines to memory that way while some prefer to record the lines on their phones and listen to them repeatedly. Some will even write their lines down over and over again. Whichever method works for you -- use that. I use a combination of all of them. Smaller lines of dialogue between characters, I find easier to listen to. Big long monologues I like to write out. Another tip is to have a friend quiz you on your lines.
The name of the game is: Learn your lines quickly and so that you can focus on building your character.
Always remember that you are playing a character. Who is this person? Where are they from? How do they talk? How do they feel about the other people in the scenes they’re with? These are all questions you should ask yourself and have actual answers. Think of other questions you can ask yourself about your character and have answers for them, too. Keep those answers in your mind -- it’ll only help you flesh out that character.
Meanwhile, as you’re studying your lines and building your character, the first few rehearsals will be dedicated to blocking the show. What's blocking? “Blocking” is a theater term that means the director will go through each scene and talk about where each actor will stand and move. You’ll want to write down where your entrances are, where your character should be standing and walking to. You’ll need to learn what stage directions are. As a quick overview - If you’re standing on the stage and facing the audience then “stage-left” is to your left and “stage-right” is to your right. No matter where you stand or face on the stage, stage-left will be the left side of the stage, stage-right is the right side of the stage.
“Upstage” will be to the rear of the stage and “downstage” is towards the front. If you want to move diagonally across the stage, you’ll move upstage left. Use these phrases to write down your blocking directions and always use pencil. Blocking has a tendency to change during the course of a rehearsal.As I mentioned, blocking a show usually happens within the first couple weeks of rehearsal and once all the directions have been outlined, you can consider a show “blocked.” And now, you just rehearse, rehearse, rehearse until “tech week", which we'll talk about in the next installment of this series.
Until next time my dear readers…