I’ve run rehearsals in the past for very small projects; I’ve been an assistant director sitting in on rehearsals and taking notes, giving feedback and providing all manner of support. But nothing is as terrifying as when it hits that you’re a young director about to lead rehearsals for a group of experienced actors, in a professional setting, to be showcased as your directorial debut to your peers, colleagues, mentors, industry and the public. And that’s exactly what I felt as I headed towards my rehearsal venue (the fabulous Theatre Delicatessen!) one a Monday morning.
The reality is quite different. Actors and directors are both human beings, and together, through trust and support, fears and anxieties are allayed. Once in the rehearsal room, I found myself much more relaxed and all set to go. If you’ve done your research, know your text and have planned your rehearsals then the door is truly open for collaboration, teamwork and the generation of ideas. There is a common goal shared by everyone in rehearsal room: to create a piece of theatre.
As a director, the key is to be prepared, to have faith in your ideas and to trust in your approach. If you have nothing, or very little to go on, how are your actors meant to put their trust in you? If you have no idea how your day will go, what units of text to work on and what point you want to be at by the end of the day, how will you get there? My own rehearsals involved a few hours preparation during the weekend before, allocating a rough amount of time to chunks of the text – it allowed us to focus on everything from language and subtext to character development to movement around the space. But what that planning also gave us was the freedom to break from it, to ask questions and to explore uncharted territories. With preparation comes freedom and openness.
Openness also relates to your approach in the rehearsal room throughout the whole process. It’s unlikely that any production will benefit from a solely Stanislavsky-based approach, but nor will it flourish with a wholly physical, movement-based approach. Being open to bringing a variety of techniques and exercises to the process is beneficial to all involved, and it will only help with keeping things fresh and moving the production onwards. With a text like Thirst by Eugene O’Neill, it was absolutely necessary to have a balanced approach, very much text and movement, and I found myself discovering new ideas and techniques as I went along, not least Chekhov’s ‘Psychological Gesture’, peacocks, Agwe and Degas’s dancers. Otherwise, we might all have drowned in weighty, dense language…
With all this coming into play, the process constantly moves forward, with discoveries and excitement pulsating through. Our final rehearsal, a day of Points of Concentration to keep things alive and fresh whilst consolidating and building on all the work we had done, was a fantastic and inspiring day as we could see all our hard work coming to fruition.
From the initial, pre-rehearsal thoughts to the final day, through trust, sharing, collaboration, preparation and openness, what once seemed terrifying becomes pure, indescribable magic.