5 Tips for Rehearsing for a Play

By ,June 19, 2018

Whether it’s your first time entering the rehearsal room, or you are well set up in your routine – rehearsing a play can be an arduous process.

Regardless of your experience in the theatre world, everyone struggles at some point in learning lines and working effectively in the creative process. You may be a lead role for the first time in a full-length play, or part of an ensemble in a smaller production, but the elements of a rehearsal and bringing a show together are relatively similar.

In saying all this, it’s not as difficult as you first may think! Being successful and helpful actor in the rehearsal room is easy if you put in the work.

Here are 5 things you can do that will help you make the most out of your rehearsal period:

#1 Learning Your Lines

We have all been there. You are over the moon to receive a larger part in a play, and you cannot wait to get started, you’re handed the script… and it’s longer than you expect.

“How am I ever going to learn all these lines in 4 weeks?”

The key here is to break everything down the text into achievable chunks. Split your scenes into sections so that you’re able to learn them with ease.

For example, a Shakespeare play can be broken down by stanzas and line numbers, making it more approachable to rehearse by yourself, rather than just relying on rehearsals to learn your script.

However, approaching a scene with multiple actors in it may hinder your learning time, but being able to learn dialogue without another person there is an especially valuable skill, especially with such a short turnaround.

A handy tip around this is to use the Voice Memo app on your phone, either recording your own lines, the opposite character’s lines, or both. You can then listen to them on-the-go! Practice is always key with here.

Being off-book for a rehearsal not only gets your head out of your script but allows the director and other actors to work on your character and line delivery, rather than halting rehearsal when you forget a line.

#2 Character Work

Stemming from line learning, doing the work on your character outside of the rehearsal room is extremely beneficial. Making sure you have researched your character allows you to play around with them when running scenes with other actors, as well as making you more believable overall.

A good way of doing this is keeping a diary (a blank A4 visual arts diary will do) that is specifically for your character work. This can help with remembering thoughts and feelings that your character has, whilst showing how far your character has come throughout the acting process.

You can also use this diary to act as background knowledge of the character:  what are some memories this person has of other people, of the space they are acting in, or even of their childhood? These little details will all inform your acting, and help make the character real, and the more of this you do before rehearsals, the easier it will be to play around with it in a practical setting.

#3 Warming Up (in and out of rehearsal time!)

Warm ups are some of the most important aspects of your time in rehearsals –  if you are not warmed up vocally and physically, you are going to have a difficult time, especially for some of the more absurd pieces of theatre.

Breathing is a crucial aspect of vocal projection and confidence on stage and practicing is crucial, even if it is for a few minutes each day.

A good breathing exercise is as follows:

  • Breathe in for four counts
  • Hold for four counts
  • Breathe out for four counts
  • Hold for four counts

If you keep doing this, increasing how long you breathe out for each round, and do this circuit a few times each day, can increase your lung capacity tremendously.

Warming up in rehearsals is usually run by the director in charge of the session, but make sure you are all warmed up before beginning the performing, as you don’t want to injure your body or your voice.

#4 Taking Direction

Of course, it is a given that you are going to be given direction from the person running the rehearsal, but it is crucial that you are willing to be flexible with their advice. You may come in with some pre-conceived of what you want to do in the scene, but you must remember that the play is in the hands of the director, and most of the time it is surrounded by their over-arching concept.

A good way is to practice a variety of scenes is with different direction. Say for example, you had to perform the ‘To Be or Not To Be’ soliloquy from Hamlet; you could try practicing it with different emotions (happy, ecstatic, angry or anxious), motives (to provoke thought, to intensify, to generate hopelessness), or even actions.

These things are all sorts of ways that this text can be read, without going into even weirder scenarios (which you are bound to encounter!). There are so many ways that a director could interpret a scene, and it is so important that you are able to be flexible and fit in with what they have in mind.

Keep in mind, as much as the character is yours, the director is there to steer you in a positive direction. They are there to help, not hinder you (if they are good at what they do!).

#5 Rehearsing Blocking/Staging

The last step of the process of rehearsal is blocking. This can also be referred to staging, or in more simple terms, where you are and where you go on stage.

While you are in the session, you will be told where to stand, where to move, where to laugh, where to cry, and so on and so forth. It is of paramount importance that you remember this information, especially if you are in multiple scenes in the play.

An easy way to do this is to draw it on your script as soon as you finish the rehearsal. Try not to do it during, but the sooner you can, the better. This then allows you to practice this outside of the rehearsal room and remember it for the next time you go over the scene. Remember, you usually don’t get much time to re-visit a specific scene in detail, so take down everything that you can.

Your script should look like you have been studying the text for university, with all sorts of diagrams and annotations that you can draw from.

To bring it all together…

Practice, practice, practice. Doing all these things before and after you go into the rehearsal room will increase your productivity threefold and will make the experience so much easier for not only the person in charge, but for you as an actor. However, everyone has their own ways of doing things, directors will want varying things and give vastly different advice. Practice, practice, practice.

Hopefully these tips have given you some things to at least think about and will make you consider how productive you are when cracking open a new script.

Author Charlie Fielke

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