Tag Archive: Rehearsals

Lois’ Grand Adventure – Day 15 (Zurich)

The clear day view from the rehearsal venue parking lot

I woke up this morning to brilliant sunshine and clear skies. What an amazing start to our first day with maestro, the pianist, and the soloists!

Rehearsal went really smoothly – we ended up finishing early and doing more than we were originally scheduled to do. I’m still getting used to the opera version of rehearsing: sing through a couple of times with Maestro giving notes, go over blocking with the director, put it all together once, see you at dress rehearsal. That seems like an exaggeration, but it is exactly what is happening with some numbers and some performers. I was nervous about today, mostly because I didn’t know what to expect. I had been talking to a friend in the morning and mentioned this and they laughed a little. Then mid-day I sent my friend an email that said, “I’m not nervous anymore. I’m too busy being awesome.” Which maybe is an exaggeration, but it’s how I felt. Today was the day that I sat in the room and couldn’t help but wonder how this is my life. I am half-way around the world, doing what I love to do, in ac company of great people, and getting paid for all of it. Amazing. Let’s just hope that sense of wonder and gratitude holds as the days get longer and the work gets harder.

Maestro giving his speech at the reception

Tonight after rehearsal was our special “meet and greet” which was really a get-to-know-everyone reception. There were speeches. There was wine. There were many introductions. Lotfi Mansouri gave a great speech about how his goal is to show that opera is “cooler than Lady Gaga” and that he’ll be happy if some audience members who are not regular opera goes leave saying, “you know, that was actually okay. Maybe I’ll go see some opera sometime.”  We also were given a tour of the costume room, and got to see one of the costume pieces on a performer, which is a treat because the costumes for this show are GORGEOUS.

They also gave us each a Viva Verdi t-shirt at the reception. I’m not sure I really have room in my suitcase (while staying under the weight limit), but I’ll put it to use here in Zurich for sure. And hey, it’s another black shirt for my remaining months on the road requiring blacks.

modeling the new T-shirt

Lois’ Grand Adventure – Day 9 (Zurich)

Schedule for Day 1

First day of rehearsal. At 8:50am we loaded the bus with all twenty of the actors and the six of us from the creative team that are currently at the hotel and off we drove to Hüttwilen. The drive takes about 35 or 40 minutes in good weather so we arrived with time to spare for our 10am rehearsal. It was great fun to see the actors see the stage for the first time. They had been rehearsing in a small room in Mexico City that was probably 1/3 the size of the actual stage. A couple of them came and asked if the stage was really this big. I told them that what they were standing on was the actual stage and their eyes widened.

Cue in Hüttwilen.

We worked on the overture to La Forza del Destino all day today and my music reading ability is coming back to me. By the end of the day I was reading faster than I was at the beginning of the day. Like any skill you don’t use for a while, it sits somewhat dormant until you really focus on it. By the end of the week I’ll be whizzbang at it.

Tonight the actors all headed downtown for an adventure, but I am much too tired to take on any sort of adventuring. We had a brief meeting after returning to the hotel from rehearsal and then I headed up to my room, finished some work, ate something, and now I’m going to go to bed. It isn’t glamourous or exciting, but it’s the way to make sure I do my best work these next two and a half weeks.

The actors on our stunning stage – full of ramps and mirrors.

Is there an ethical way to teach & make theatre?

The university where I earned my BA, Trinity Western, has just been approved to start offering a BFA in acting this fall and I’m very excited about this. I think it will do two things for the school: first of all, it will allow them the opportunity to expand their training and secondly it will, in my opinion, expand their credibility as a theatre education option in the Vancouver region. In preparation for this new program, Trinity hosted a two day session with the staff, faculty & a handful of former students to discuss what an ethical BFA program looks like and what sort of best practices will come into play there. I was honoured to be included in the sessions and was so pleased with the conversations that were happening.

In the six weeks since attending the two day session, I’ve had a lot of conversations with others about the direction TWU’s BFA is heading, and the people I’ve talked to are fascinated and encouraged that the conversations about these subjects are happening. Many theatre practicioners with whom I have discussed the goals of the program made comments like, “I wish someone had done something like that when I was a student” or “I am so glad someone is finally taking steps in that direction.”

While we talked about a lot of things those two days, one of the sessions that I found most interesting came out of the idea of power in theatre & teaching. The basic premise was that the system of theatre and of education often causes harm because of the power relationship between director/cast & teacher/student. Of course, this is true in all systems where there is an imbalance of power. The goal is to be professional about it, by which I mean to recognize the harm that you do despite your best efforts because of the system. It requires you to ask, “How can we avoid harm to foster healthy, creative growth?”

In a response to this, we spent time in small groups discussing times when we had observed or experienced harm being done and created from those conversations a list of things that would have prevented those situations from occurring.

Here is the start of the list that we came up with that afternoon:

Do not indulge in self-flagellation

Do not condone bullying because it furthers “art”

Do not push an actor too far to serve your ego or because of our idea of “art”

Do not be offended by an offer of help or if your offer of help is refused

Do not fight dirty or avoid disagreements or let disagreements fester

Do not avoid the responsibility to speak for fear of rocking the boat

Do not sabotage

Do not treat women differently from men

Do not confuse the role & the person

Do not disrespect any person’s role in the process

Do not fail to take responsibility for your choices & actions

Do not quash creativity

Do not triangulate

Do not use emotional manipulation

Do not disempower a colleague

Do not shame another

Do not disrespect your part of the contract

Do not evaluate by unclear criteria

Do not use theatre as an excuse for your inappropriate behaviour or being inconsiderate of others (ie “Well I’m just a theatre person, so…”)

Do not dodge scrutiny

Do not adhere to double standards

Do not disrespect process/judge too soon

Do not teach by humiliation

Do not think you have all the answers/the only answers

Do not ever speak in absolutes

Do not put your own personal artistic fulfillment ahead of the learning opportunities of the students

Do not use teaching as compensation for a failed theatre career

Do not create scapegoats

Do not justify undisciplined artistic behaviour due to wounded pride

Do not demand trust, it must be earned

Do not create a culture of mistrust

Do not contribute to a culture of defensiveness

Do not put anything before the student’s needs

Do not privilege one role above another

Do not contribute to a culture that divides “artists” & “technicians”

Do not step outside your scope of practice

The school is in the process of converting all of these into positive statements which will become a set of guidelines that they will hand out to all students, staff & faculty. I have a draft of this new document sitting in my e-mail inbox and look forward to spending some time reflecting on it and offering some further thoughts.

Can you think of a time where you saw or experienced harm being done in a theatre education or rehearsal situation? Is there a guideline that would have prevented it? Please share your thoughts in the comments. I will happily pass on additions to the university.

Welcome to the rehearsal hall

During my time as a stage manager I have come to strongly believe that the atmosphere of the rehearsal hall is one of my key contributions to the rehearsal process. This contribution takes a few different shapes.

First of all, it is important to maintain an atmosphere of respect and safety – a place where actors are comfortable being vulnerable and are able to do their best work. In and of itself this charge takes numerous forms. It can mean covering over a mirror in a dance studio so that actors aren’t checking themselves out instead of looking at their scene partner. It can mean silencing a group of actors waiting for their scene or asking them to wait in another room while scenes are being worked. It can mean talking to the director and encouraging him/her to give more positive notes after running scenes & acts to keep spirits up. It can mean being the listening ear for an actress who has just found out that her costume is essentially a spandex cat-woman suit. Each of these things help to create a safe environment.

The second part to creating a good rehearsal hall atmosphere has to do with the room itself. Most rehearsal halls are dark and dingy. Rooms rented out for this sort of thing that never get cleaned. I’ve been lucky on my current show to be rehearsing in a dance studio that is closed for the summer. We have separate rooms for each show, so we can put things on the wall and not have to worry about taking them down at night. We also had access to a kitchen, so I didn’t set up a coffee station in the room as I usually would. But our walls are full of show related things.

When costume designer Bonnie Pavlovic did her design presentation for Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead she had renderings for the three main characters: Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, & The Player, but instead of individual renderings for our 6 ensemble members who play all of the Hamlet roles as well as creating the ensemble of traveling players, she created these collages of 60’s icons Each ensemble member, she explained, would be dressed as one of these icons, but she was waiting to see them to pick their inspiration. We hung her collages in the rehearsal hall so whenever the actors had questions about their look it was easy to check the photos, but it also gave the room a bit more warmth & some of the flavor of the show.Our rehearsal schedule began with a week of working just with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and one of the exercises the director did that week was a series of tableaus: waiting, hopeful, hopeless, etc. Of each tableau we took photos and hung them on the wall. These photos became inspirations for blocking moments, as well as something else about our show to have on the wall, making the room feel like it was ours.

One of the complications of doing Hamlet & Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead in rep is that the cut of Hamlet we are doing doesn’t always line up with the Hamlet lines that have been inserted in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. In an effort to make that transition easier for people who have the same speech in both shows except in one show there is an added line here and a removed line there, I created text comparisons. Providing the dialogue for the scene from each show side-by-side so that any confusion could be quickly cleared up.

This sign is compliments of the director, and I think is as much for her own benefit as for that of the company. However, we all need to be reminded, especially during the rehearsal process, that we need to “Keep Calm & Carry On”.

The Return of Friday Arts Quotes!

After a hiatus, Friday Arts Quotes are back!

“Rehearsing a play is making the word flesh. Publishing a play is reversing the process.” – Peter Shaffer

“I began my talk by saying that I had not written my plays for purposes of discussion. At once, I felt a ripple of panic run through the hall. I suddenly realised why. To everyone present, discussion was the whole point of drama. That was why the faculty had been endowed — that was why all those buildings had been put up! I had undermined the entire reason for their existence.” – Tom Stoppard

“If you want to help the American theater, don’t be an actress, be an audience. ” – Tallulah Bankhead

Timeliness is Next to Godliness

In her recent blog post on auditioning tips, Sabrina Everett gives her number 1 tip:

SHOW UP ON TIME. Seriously. If you can’t show up to an audition on time, what makes me think that you will show up to rehearsals on time? Please don’t waste my time (or anyone else’s for that matter).

And in her discussion of professionalism, BFG85 says:

You know, one really valuable lesson I learned at NYU that I’m fairly certain is taught at all theatre schools is that “early is on time and on time is late.” Heck, even Strasberg got that one right. No one likes having their time wasted. This one goes both ways, I don’t care who you think you are.

It seems like lateness is a big problem in indie/semi-professional theatre (I can’t speak to the large houses, perhaps someone can comment below). As a stage manger, lateness is my biggest pet-peeve. Sometimes, it can arise from miscommunication or misunderstanding of schedules, but more often than not it is something that can be avoided. And must be.

I once had a cast member who was reliant on carpooling to get to rehearsal as she didn’t have a vehicle of her own, and she lived over an hour away. When she slept in one morning because she forgot to set her alarm clock, not only had she missed her carpool, but it would now take her almost three hours to get to rehearsal on public transit. With a cast of 15 waiting to work and having to change their plans because of her, the decision to sleep an extra 20 minutes ended up costing a loss of 54-human hours or over 2 days of work (15 cast + 1 director +1 SM + 1 ASM x 3 hours). That is unacceptable.

When you are joining a show for the first time I’d advise planning a route and figuring out how much time it will take according to google maps (or google transit if you are taking the bus). But then add half an hour to that. That will give you a chance to see how long it actually takes you. And then based on that new information, still leave 10 minutes before you think you have to. It is always better to be at the theatre 10 minutes ahead of when you intended than it is to be late because traffic was more backed up than you expected or one bus was full and left you on the side of the road.

I am at the rehearsal hall an hour early getting things set up so that you can do your job. You being 15 minutes late matters. Be on time. Or, as Travis says, PUPPIES DIE.