Every director has their own style, their way of approaching a text and working with their actors, so it is hard to give any kind of guidelines on how to rehearse or stage a show. I have been to Foyles and seen the multitude of books available about directing: The Essential Director’s Handbook, every director MUST read this. But I think if I read every book about directing I don’t think I’d ever time to actually put it into practice. I refuse to believe that a book will make me a good director, and you shouldn’t either. So I won’t even begin to try and tell you how to rehearse, but I will give you an insight into the kind of tricks and devices I have found to be useful.
Firstly, vitally important, is a good warm up. Warm ups are valuable for not only getting an actors’ voice and body ready for the rehearsal ahead, but also for mentally getting them into the right state of mind to rehearse. People come into a rehearsal room full of their own whirlwinds of thought, but as a director it is your job to make sure that in those few hours their mind is in that room, not somewhere else. Any theatre-bod worth their salt will usually have a number of warm up games and exercises up their sleeve. It is easy to get into one set routine for warm ups, but from experience I recommend mixing it up every now and then, for one thing to make sure a warm up is still being effective, also I like to keep actors on their toes. I have Zip Zap Boing fatigue, and I don’t even play that much, so maybe try out a few other things every now and again.
I always think a good warm up should address a few key things; obviously the body, an actor’s body needs to be loose and ready for whatever may come up in rehearsal. If you are doing a more physical piece, a more intense physical warm up is needed, otherwise there may be injuries later on. Stretching and yoga are usually safe choices, but also high energy more sports based ones are also good. Even if the piece has no movement, still warm up the body, it will prevent actors from become stiff, in their minds as well. The voice is also very important to warm up first. If a play is very text heavy actors may strain their voices if their vocal chords are not properly warm, and no one wants a hoarse actor on opening night. I am a big fan of tongue twisters, which you can do a lot with, and also less word based ones, like chewing or humming, always good for getting their tongues round those big monologues.
I also like to warm up the mind. I want an actor to be engaged and present in a rehearsal, and by doing something that makes them think early on will hopefully help them later on them I start questioning them about their character. Thought based games like listing categories or quick fire questions are usually good. Particularly if you are doing a more collaborative or devised piece, I like to also warm up the imagination, doing some small improvisation or storytelling exercise will make sure they are open to accepting new ideas and introduce the notion of play to a rehearsal. Whatever your rehearsal style, if you aren’t playing with a text, I feel it is hard to get any clear understanding or notion of the true breadth of a piece.
As I said, I am not going to try to dictate how to approach a text or rehearse in any particular way. But one thing I would say is trust your actors. Hopefully if you have cast well (which is half the work done) you will have smart, talented actors, who probably have some good ideas of their own. Although you are the one making the decisions and ultimately shaping the direction of a piece (you’re the director after all!) listen to your actors. If something feels unnatural, or uncomfortable for them that can usually be a sign that something isn’t working.
However long your rehearsal period is, you are always working towards some kind of final deadline. It is a real shame that it is only this end creation people get to see for that puts all the pressure on that final product. Making theatre is a process, and there are things and ideas that happen in a rehearsal room that an audience never gets to see. Never underestimate the importance of the process. There may be ideas that get discarded or bits that are never used, but I always think that it is those ideas and exercises that seem to have no real relevance that are all so vital in forming that final picture. So enjoy the process and take the pressure off that end goal, trust me, it will help.
That’s about it from the Gobstoppers, we hope you have enjoyed getting to know us and hearing about our theatrical exploits!
This blog was written by Young Director Camilla Borges. She will be directing Tender Napalm on Friday 20 February at 8pm.