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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Dress Rehearsal

Greetings ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to theater is a sport.  My name is Bobby Keniston, and this is a little piece of the internet that belongs to me, where I talk about all things theater.

Dress rehearsals are on my mind today, because, well, tonight, I have dress rehearsal for a production of The Jungle Book I have been directing for the last seven weeks or so in my home town of Dover-Foxcroft, Maine, for my home town community theater, The Slightly-Off Center Players.  I have twenty-four kids between the ages of 3 and 17 in the cast, my charges, my students, my actors.  And, after tonight, the show no longer belongs to me--- it belongs to them (and the stage managers, of course).

Dress rehearsals can be painful for a director, and they can be joyous, and they can be stressful, or a huge relief, or all of these feelings and more at once.  It is the last chance for a director to make any major changes through notes.  Theoretically, it is the last time that a director can even stop the rehearsal to make changes if need be...

REALLY TRY NOT TO DO THAT.

I'm going to really try not to stop and make any adjustments tonight.  It's difficult.  There will be moments that my brain is screaming for me to stop, I know this, but my goal is to not do it, to write down whatever I need to say, and maybe run a part after ward if necessary, but to not stop them during the run.

Why?  The cast needs to run the show, and they need to run it in performance mode.  They need a run-through where the safety net isn't so obviously there.  They have to know that, no matter what happens, they must find a way to keep going.

This is particularly tough when you are directing children, believe me.  You have spent all this time being their guide, their teacher, and hopefully a mentor of some sort. It's not easy to watch them up on stage if something goes wrong and they are obviously uncomfortable.  But, hey, it's dress rehearsal.  The time to learn how handle it is now, not when there are over a hundred people in the audience.

When you're a cast member in a play, you might feel a pang of loss when the show reaches its final performance and, alas, you say goodbye to a character.  For a director, the dress rehearsal is kind of like the last night for them.  Certainly I will be there opening night (and, for this show, for every performance), and I will be giving pep talks, and maybe tiny notes for anything glaring that hasn't been fixed, but, essentially once the curtain goes up on opening night, my work is done and over with.  There is nothing more I can do.  Once the show begins in front of an audience, well, I can no longer do anything to help.

And I NEVER go backstage to talk to a cast at intermission.  Well, almost never.

I truly believe that a director has to separate from the show in order to give it wings.  That's why a dress rehearsal is so difficult... you have so much more you want to say, but the time is running out, and, you just have to hope what you do say will sink in, be implemented, and make the show work as best as it can.

As I director, I want a great show.  But I want it to be a great show not for me or my personal glory, but for them.  I want them to be proud of it, feel safe and prepared.  But that will not be up to me tomorrow night when the curtain opens.  Tonight is my last chance, in a three hour rehearsal window, to finish my job up in a way that will help make them shine.

All while not stopping them unless I absolutely have to.

No pressure.

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