Thursday, January 10, 2013

Don't Rehearse -- Simulate

[NOTE:  This is another draft that has been sitting around forever.  I'm not sure why I never published this one.  What more could I have added?  It's almost as if I like the sound of my own voice so much, if something I write lacks capacious verbosity I get discouraged and hit "save" instead of "publish."  Oh well.]

I love directing, but I'm a tinkerer.  My casts are lucky if I let them get to the end of a page before jumping in and tweaking things.  I like to think I've gotten better about this, but I really do like to roll up my sleeves and work stuff out with the actors.  When we are into dress rehearsals, I stuff the tinkering side of my directoral personality into a mental broom closet and bar the door.  Those final runs before the audience appears are sacred.

Musician Alex Starapoli blogged some months back: "The Best Ways To Rehearse With Your Band" at the Tom Hess website.  If you're new to Mad Theatrics, I often look to other artforms for fresh ideas on how to approach what we do in live theatre.  This is a perfect example of why I do this:
Think of your band’s rehearsals as a ‘simulator’ not as a time when you ‘practice’ playing your songs. ‘Practicing’ is what you do when you are trying to improve a skill. A ‘simulation’ is what you are doing when you try to recreate the same conditions as you may face at your next gig. Most inexperienced bands never do this. They practice their songs, but they don’t really try to ‘simulate’ their next gigs. Think about how many possible conditions you might expect to encounter at future concerts you play. Now ask yourself how many of these can we recreate in detail at our next band rehearsal. This is what professional bands do to prepare for a tour.
Back in college, when we had the luxury of time and space, we'd run a good solid week of dress rehearsals and tech rehearsals.  Shit would go wrong, but barring any actual dangerous situations (which would elicit a loudly voiced "HOLD!" and an immediate stop of the rehearsal) we'd barrel through as if it were an actual performance.  Afterwords, we'd have a re-e-e-eally long notes session.  Oftentimes the tech crew would split off from the actors and directors, but occasionally we'd do our notes together.  Every single issue that came up -- no matter how minor -- would get addressed.  Loose screw on the upstage platform?  On it.  Stitching coming loose on the sleeve of the lead's act two jacket?  Done.

Light cues didn't time out right?  Sound system failed?  Well, we know what we'll do if that happens again.  But it's not going to happen again.

You shouldn't scrimp on tech and dress rehearsals, although many of us do.

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