Engage & Learn

Unit 4: Rehearsing for a Show

From when the curtains rise and audience laughs, cries and applauses, until after the final performance day, the actors are still rehearsing. Theater is live, and unlike movies, if an actor misses his or her line, the director can’t yell cut and start over. Thus, rehearsals are crucial in making sure that the actors are entirely ready to perform a show in front of a live audience.

Rehearsals are also a period of experimentation for the actors and director.They use this time to find the best way to convey the story and meaning of the play to an audience. Depending on staging, voice, or movement choices, key ideas in the play may shift. Dramaturgs help guide and support the director in these choices. Another member of the rehearsal team, the stage manager,  they maintain order in the room, making sure that the rehearsal room is set up for the day, actors know their lines, and that any changes, technical or artistic, are notated in the script.

This group comes together 6 out of 7 days a week for anywhere between 4 – 8 weeks to rehearse the play and make theater magic.

The Rehearsal Process

The first day of rehearsal is different from every other day in the rehearsal process. This day is usually known as First Rehearsal. This is the first time every member of the creative team will meet the cast and the cast will meet each other. The designer will present their final designs for the set, costume, lights, and sound of the show. Then, the actors and director will go through and read the play together for the first time. The dramaturg will hand out a packet of information regarding the play, the time or place it’s set in, and background information on the playwright. This is known as an actor’s packet. They might also present their findings to the group as well.

Following First Rehearsal, the director and the actors will spend approximately up to a week doing tablework. They will go through the play and talk about each character and their intent, along with the intent of the playwright and director. This work helps both the actors and the director understand how to pursue rehearsals in the future and what is the story they are trying to tell.

After, the director will begin blocking the show, that is, showing the actors where they need to move at specific points throughout the script. Once the show has been blocked, the actor and director will begin rehearsing specific scenes, usually focusing on scenes that are more difficult to convey or have become problematic.

During this time, the stage manager is in the room for every rehearsal. They will arrive before the rest of the group to set up for that day’s rehearsals. They will notate what blocking the director has asked for and if that blocking has changed since last rehearsal. At a certain point, the actors will need to be “off-book”. They will need to have their lines memorized. The stage manager will also be in charge of letting actors know if they missed a line and what lines they should practice. These are known as “line notes”. At the end of rehearsal, the stage manager compiles a list of what scenes the director would like to work on tomorrow and lets the appropriate actors know if they are called into rehearse the next day.

In addition to the stage manager, the dramaturg is also in and out of the rehearsal room. They provide feedback about the production to the director and are also on hand to answer any topical questions from the actors.

Most of the rehearsal process happens in a rehearsal room. However, towards the end of the process, rehearsals are moved to the stage. This is known as technical rehearsals when all technical aspects – lighting, sound, set, props and costumes – are added to the production. This is the first time the actors will be working on stage will at the aspects. Tech rehearsals can last anywhere between 4 – 10 days. Depending on the production, this period can grow or shorten.

After technical rehearsals, the production goes into previews. Previews are full performances for an audience. However, while the actors perform in the evening, they are still rehearsing during the day. The director is making small adjustments to the performance after getting feedback from an audience. At the Goodman, there are 10 preview performances before a show finally opens.

Unit 4: Rehearsing A Show Table of Contents




Stage Managers