From the Practice Room to the Rehearsal Room
From the Practice Room to the Rehearsal Room
‘And So Forth Productions in rehearsal for Damsel/Wife/Witch’.
You've survived the audition and got the role: congratulations! Now what?
Director Laura Attridge, Artistic Director of And So Forth, shares her top tips for surviving the big shift from the practice room into the rehearsal room.’
Yes, I know, this is the obvious one. Preparation not only shows respect for your colleagues, but also allows you to hit the ground running once you're in rehearsals. Furthermore, the more familiar you are with every aspect of the role, the more you will have to offer to a director and conductor, and the more freedom you will have to explore the role within the context of a particular production.
2. Turn up with ideas, not decisions.
Related to the above, your preparation should enrich, rather than diminish, the options you have for your performance. The better you know a translation, the more possibilities you have for interpreting the text; the more comfortable a role is musically in your body, the bigger risks you can take in expressing emotion through the voice whilst remaining vocally healthy; the more you consider the nuances of your character and their motivation, the more prepared you will be to explore these in a rehearsal room.
3. Prepare your text like you would a play.
If you're able to do this – creating emotion, character and intention without the support or interference of music – you will have much greater ownership over the dramatic aspects of your performance, and you'll enhance your understanding of what part the music has to play in relation to the words when you add it back in.
4. Dress appropriately.
Comfort and the ability to move are paramount. In addition to this, though, I'm fascinated that so many singers turn up to the rehearsal room having made an inordinate amount of effort with their appearance (you know who you are!); conversely, actors will often deliberately rehearse in neutral clothing a world apart from their personal style. Consider this for a moment: clothing plays a big part in how we express our own identity; think of that transformational feeling you get when you put on a costume for the first time! If you show up to the rehearsal room in an outfit which is 100% an expression of you, are you making it harder for yourself to shed your own character and take on another?
5. Know your process.
Take responsibility for knowing yourself, and your needs, as an artist during the creative process. Whether you thrive upon clear, specific instructions to form the base of your work, or prefer to refine a performance out of improvisation, the more familiar you are with what makes you tick, the better you can use your time in a rehearsal room.
6. Don't be afraid to ask for help or clarification.
While you are there to realise the vision of the director and conductor, by the same token the director and conductor are there to facilitate and support your performance. The best directors will adapt the way they work with you – and how they express instructions – as they see how you respond in the rehearsal room. However, they're not psychic: referring back to point 5, if a director has asked you for something that isn't hitting home, or feels uncomfortable, tell them. Helpful ways to do this are 'Could you help me better understand what you want from me here?' or 'Do you mean like this, or perhaps like this?'
7. Try things at least once.
Having said the above, this isn't an excuse to refuse to try something because it's outside of your comfort zone, or goes against your particular character interpretation (if it's potentially dangerous or physically/vocally harmful, of course, this is a different matter!). A rehearsal process is a space to experiment and to explore, and the best interpretation can take a few attempts to find or refine. Just give it a go: a director may well discover that they don't like the idea after all, and try another; alternatively, you might discover it's a better idea than you anticipated! You won't know until you try.
8. Consolidate, consolidate, consolidate.
This is as important as initial preparation. It's the most frustrating thing as a director to have to go backwards in a rehearsal process if someone turns up and has forgotten what they did last time. Again, know your process: know what you need to do in between rehearsals to back things up on your mental hard drive. That way you can maximise the progress you make in subsequent rehearsals, towards your best performance.
Want to find out more about your own process as a performer, challenge yourself, or approach your craft in a new way? Join me at one of the upcoming workshops for performers with my company, And So Forth.
Laura Attridge is a dynamic maker of opera and theatre, and founder of And So Forth (ASF), a company dedicated to facilitating dialogue between creative disciplines and practitioners, and supporting the development of emerging artists. This August and September, Laura is curating ASF's second series of workshops and masterclasses for performers: these intense practical sessions address acting, auditioning, and physical characterisation, and are intended to augment standard conservatoire training. Full information on all the workshops can be found on the And So Forth website.