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A New Guide

How to run effective rehearsals

‘I wasted time and now doth time waste me’

William Shakespeare

Anyone involved in amateur theatre productions will know that there never seems to be enough time to get everything done.  That means that we need to be as organised as possible.  

 

If may be useful to read ‘How to plan rehearsals’ before reading this guide

 

Having a plan of what you want to cover is key but we all know that last minute things can happen that get in the way so you need to remain flexible.  Here are some tips to make the rehearsal room effective

 

  • Make sure that you are always on time and prepared
  • Start on time even if there are people missing – this will avoid latecomers still expecting to have a chat before getting started
  • Communicate to the cast in advance what you are planning to rehearse and ask them to familiarise themselves with those pages of the script
  • Be realistic about how much you are going to be able to cover. Sometimes that may be 2 pages and sometimes 10 – it depends on the complexity of what you are doing
  • Be clear with the cast when books are to be down – bring in a prompt from then on to make the transition – holding onto scripts inhibits natural movement and eye contact
  • Rehearsals are not the place to learn lines – if someone is struggling, ask how you can help them outside of rehearsals – perhaps someone else in your club can help out
  • At the beginning of the rehearsal reiterate the aims and hopes for the session
  • Check whether anyone has any questions before you start – there may be some basic things that you can address saving time later on
  • Have a check-in before you start.  This is time well spent as it brings focus into the room.  If you are not comfortable doing a drama warm-up, you could choose a question – best thing that happened today, best thing you have eaten, most surprising thing etc…  Limited to one word or one sentence answers avoids long stories, save them for the tea break!
  • If you are lucky enough to have someone else in the room, get them to record decisions about blocking, props or character decisions leaving you free to work with the actors
  • Break the text down into chunks and resist the temptation to just keep running.  Allow enough time to work on the tricky moments even if they are a small section – not everything needs equal time and attention
  • Avoid ‘telling’ people what to do and lead through questions.  Finding out why an actor is doing something or saying something a certain way can be much more helpful than demonstrating or telling them what to do.
  • Be clear with what you want and with your feedback.  Avoid overtalking or long explanations which can be confusing
  • Avoid whole cast directing, particularly by people not involved in the scene you are working on.  There may be a time to have a group conversation but this is not while actors are trying to focus on what they are doing and need a single voice of direction
  • The clue is in the word ‘play’ there is never just one way of doing something so allow time to be playful
  • If you need props, bring in something that can be temporarily used as early as possible until you have the actual prop so that people get used to handling something
  • Similarly, you may not be able to replicate the exact space you are performing in but you should try to make it as close as possible from as early as possible
  • Allow enough time at the end to process the rehearsal together, embed decisions and celebrate what you have achieved.
  • Make sure people write things down! Everyone should have a pencil with a rubber on the end.  A clean script is a worrying sign that someone is going to have to be told the same things over and over.

 

Having a plan is great but be prepared to be flexible.  This is everyone’s hobby and having fun is a big part of why we all do it.  A bit of structure will give everyone more opportunities to enjoy the whole process.

Related resources

SCDA resources

Workshop

Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail

This workshop aimed at Directors, looks at the preparation required including rehearsal planning.

 

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Playlist

In this playlist you will find some useful videos. Sam Mendes talks about his rehearsal process.

Video Playlist
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Sam Mendes on his rehearsal process
Sam Mendes on his rehearsal process

Additional Reading

Book

How to Rehearse a Play

Damon Kiely

ISBN 9781138483811

 

 

Website

Theatrefolk blog

 

Here you will find some top tips and also links to  other related subjects on their site

 

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