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A well-organized rehearsal period will help ensure everyone on your production feels productive and efficient. You want to have a clear plan of how each person on the team is going to use the allocated time to bring the production to life. First rehearsals often set the tone for the entire process so you want to prepare as much as you can for a joyful and fulfilling rehearsal period. Structure frees up the brain and the heart to enable the creative process!
Begin to think about the rehearsal phase of your production well before the first day. You want to bring together your creative team with your Production Manager and Stage Manager to build the rehearsal schedule one to two months in advance depending on the duration of your rehearsals and run of performances. Circulate a rehearsal schedule for the period covering the First Day through to Opening Night, so that everyone is on the same page about how the time you have together is to be spent. Good communication around availability and conflicts demonstrate respect for everyone’s time.
Your Rehearsal Schedule should include as many of the following details as available: date and time, location, scene and type of rehearsal, company members called and specific call times if applicable. Once you have an overall schedule in place for your rehearsal period, the Stage Manager is responsible for coordinating and communicating any adjustments or revisions once rehearsals begin.
Some of the landmarks you may want to include in your rehearsal schedule include:
- First Day
- Designer Presentations
- Table Reading
- Music Rehearsal (if applicable)
- Blocking Rehearsal
- Dance/Choreography Rehearsal
- Fight Choreography/Intimacy Staging Rehearsal
- Off-Book date
- Tech Week
- Spacing Rehearsal (in venue)
- Technical Rehearsal
- Cue to Cue (Q2Q) Rehearsal
- Final Run-Throughs
- Media/Photography Calls
- Dress Rehearsal (Private, Invited Audience, Final)
- Opening Night
Once rehearsals have started, Stage Management is responsible for producing a daily rehearsal report. This form report contains notes that arise out of each days’ rehearsal that affect other departments (sound, lighting, costumes, set, front of house, etc). The template varies depending on the Stage Manager, but generally contains date and timings of rehearsal (including breaks), cast and team members present, what was worked on, design-related questions that came up, and any incidentals - such as injury or damage to production elements that need repair. After rehearsal, the stage manager checks in with the director to ensure all the productions notes that arose are included in the report. Then the report is circulated to department heads and posted in the space for the cast and production team.
Tech Week (Technical Week) refers to the week before opening night when all the technical elements of the production come together (set, costumes, props, lighting, sound, projections, etc) for the first time since rehearsals began. It is usually marked by the first day in the actual venue for the run of the production. At this point the technical elements should be fully constructed and the performers should be comfortable in their staging and memorization to incorporate those elements. It is also the time when the technical crew join the rehearsal process and practice their duties within the performance. A lot is being accomplished during tech week as practical challenges with technical elements are discovered and troubleshooted, it is critical that the entire creative team is available for this period.
Paper Tech is a technical cue-by-cue run-through of the entire show on paper without any actors or technical equipment. Heads of all the design departments (Sound, Lighting, Costume) will meet with the Director and Stage management as they go over every cue of the show. This is traditionally organized by the Stage Manager in advance of any technical rehearsals in the venue.
Dry Tech (also referred to as "Level Set") is a rehearsal in the venue with all technical equipment, props, and costumes, but without performers. Depending on the technical scope and scale of the show a Dry Tech could last a couple hours to a couple days. Each designer and department head will run their part of the show. This is also a chance for any stage hands to become familiar with the flow of the performance. Usually it consists of the lights and sound being cued in sequential order, fixing any problems along the way such as volume, speaker placement, brightness, angle, framing, or position.
In addition to preparing the rehearsal schedule, there are also important things to consider about your rehearsal venue:
- Is it located somewhere that makes sense for the people involved?
- Are there physical barriers that impact accessibility?
- What accommodation is needed by participants with disabilities?
- How similar to the actual performance space do you require it to be in terms of square footage and ceiling clearance?
- Will you need special implements such as a dance floor or rehearsal piano?
- Is it a shared space, where other people will be using it when you are not there? Will you require storage to keep all your rehearsal materials at the end of each day?
- Is there access to washroom and water facilities?
Once you have identified a suitable rehearsal venue, work together with the Stage Manager to determine what preparation of the actual space is required:
- Do you require tables and chairs for the director and stage management?
- Is the space accessible? (equipped with ramps, wide enough doors, an accessible washroom, etc.)
- Do you require a props table?
- Do you require rehearsal furniture?
- Do you require a clothes rack for rehearsal clothes or costumes?
- Do you need to tape down a ground plan for the set?
- Do you need a space to display set and costume renderings for reference during rehearsal?
- Is this an equity engagement that requires an equity cot?