The rehearsal process is often exciting and often frustrating. Frustrations are worst when they have nothing to do with the play itself.
What do you do when…
The distribution is not understood
It’s inevitable that arguments will break out in your cast. Life gets in the way and it’s natural for struggles to arise.
First, is this an issue of minor or major proportions? A tiff that will explode or a fight that will spill over onto the stage? Talk to each party individually. If you talk to them together, you may not get to the truth. Ask them what they think of the production – can they put the play above their struggle? If not, put the ball in their court. Give them a timeline for change and what will happen if the situation doesn’t change. Then stick to it.
The actors don’t remember their lines
Start working on the problem immediately. Learn how those who struggle learn. Do they learn by repetition? Do they learn by writing their lines? Are you listening to a recorded version of their lyrics? Taking lines out of context? Everyone learns differently, so let them do it their way. Set an earlier deadline to avoid being registered. Use outside drills to prevent actors from falling into a lull as they learn. Don’t encourage paraphrasing—the playwright spent a lot of time with those words. Reward those who remember the lines word for word.
The cast doesn’t get along with me
This requires a group discussion. Not a whimper. Address the situation, let everyone have their say one by one, and then address the future. Maybe the cast is grumpy about the roles they’ve been given, or they don’t like the play, or you’re directing differently than their former teacher, or life in general is getting them down. Usually, all of the above just need to be aired out to be resolved. No need to give ultimatums about stopping the game just yet.
The cast won’t listen to me
I hear this quite a bit from student directors. There’s sometimes a feeling among the cast that if they’re being directed by one of their peers, why should they listen?
This requires a group discussion. In conversation, always bring it back into play. Is the game important to them? If not, why are they involved? How will they feel if they perform an under-rehearsed piece? How would it feel if they worked together? Maybe you’ll find that you weren’t clear about what you want for the play or how you’re directing the actors, and there’s a real reason the cast isn’t listening. The door swings both ways, so don’t rule out that you could be the problem.
Show your own grievances too. Tell the actors how much the play means to you and how upsetting it is that the project isn’t coming together. You may want to leave or cancel the rehearsal. This is only for extreme circumstances. Don’t make it a habit.
I don’t like the set or the costumes
Talk to the designer. Repeat your vision. There has to be a concrete reason why you don’t like it, in direct reference to the piece. Make it a conversation, not an accusation. If the designer can concretely express their feelings about their work, you should listen to them. Negotiate, don’t dictate.
Cast members are late for rehearsal
If you have made it clear in your written expectations that delay will not be tolerated, then you need to deal with the problem immediately. Leave it and everyone will see that you are not serious about the rules and other problems can creep in.
Have a clear outline of what happens after the first, second and third late entry. Do you have a five minute grace period? Do you allow written notes explaining the delay? Do you have a strict no tardy policy where the late actor is not allowed into the rehearsal room? Find out what the consequences are and stick to them.
Cast members are absent from rehearsals
Life gets in the way, obligations arise, people are forgetful. But if you’ve made it clear in your written expectations that they’ve signed that a lack of rehearsals is unacceptable, address the issue immediately.
Have a clear outline of what happens after the first, second and third missed repetitions. Do you allow written notes? Do you have a strict no missed rehearsal policy? Find out what the consequences are and stick to them.
The overall test is terrible
There’s a reason people say, “Bad rehearsal, good opening.” Bad dress rehearsals happen all the time! Can you tell right away when the cast knows a run has gone awry so you have to hammer it home? Sometimes it’s better to say nothing.
Problems will occur in every rehearsal process. Clear communication is often the way to resolve these issues. Reflect on the problems you had in previous rehearsals and how you responded to them. What you did?
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