The rehearsal process can be labourious. It can be lengthy. It can be mind numbing and involve hours and hours of “hurry up and wait”, followed by frantically throwing yourself through your paces at maximum energy. You leave with your muscles aching, your voice stretched and knowing that tomorrow is probably a day of vocal rest, your eyes are sore, your head is pounding, and you are soaked head to toe in sweat. At least this has been the experience for me from time to time.
So many actors I work with hate rehearsals. Or at least seem to view them with disdain. They treat them like the optional part of the process. Turn up, or not. Prepare for them or not. So long as it all is ok by the time it gets to stage that’s fine right?
Especially in community theatre.
I have to say though, despite the highs and lows, working with people who don’t seem to want to be there, with directors who might not be as prepared as they should be, whose process you don’t agree with, people of varying levels of skill, who treat it as everything from a stepping stone to a hobby. I love it just as much as I love stepping out onto the stage in front of an audience.
This weekend I had an an intensive rehearsal for the production of R&H’s Carousel with Queensland Musical Theatre. I am lucky enough to be playing the lead role of Billy Bigelow, a tragically flawed man who sings what is arguably some of the best music ever written for the male voice (I am still surprised every time I sing Soliloquy that they’re letting me sing it – but that’s the subject of another post).
Photo Credit: Stacie Hobbs
For those of you who haven’t experienced an intensive weekend, it’s the closest that community or pro-am theatrecan get to a professional process, we turn up at 9 and leave at 5. We have sitzprobe (a sitting rehearsal where we get to sing through the show’s score with the orchestra for the first time – it’s magical and is my favourite moment of them all), we stagger through a full run of the show, we go through photoshoots and we begin to rapidly fix all of the small technical pieces of the show that are not quite right. It’s a long process, and it is exhilirating.
Usually an intensive weekend will come just at the point in the rehearsal process where you are starting to find yourself falling out of love with the show. You’ve heard all the jokes a thousand times, you’re a little over the music, you’ve sung about clams until you’d throw up at the sight of them, and you’ve run lines with as many people as you humanly can, and the script is starting to feel like gloop in your head. then you have sitzprobe, and you run the show, and you stagger your way through and it’s wonderful.
You defy the odds and you make it through. It may sound like a cliche but you will know more about the show, your character, and oddly enough – yourself – by the end of it.
Waking up Tuesday morning, I was sore, dehydrated, and I regretted collapsing into bed without doing a physical and vocal warm down the night before. It told me a lot about where I am at as a performer. How stage ready I am. How mentally prepared I am (for those of you who don’t know the story of Carousel, it delves into some pretty heavy topics including domestic violence, depression, suicide, and what lies beyond this life. Which is a lot for a musical written in the 1940’s). How physically ready I am to perform this titan of a role. Most importantly though – I was reminded how much I loved what I do. Why I keep striving to be better. Why I push myself harder and harder to find my peak.
There are so many things to love about rehearsing. If done right, it can be an artform that is breathtaking and challenging and motivates me to go beyond my boundaries. I love the smell that almost all rehearsal spaces I’ve ever been in have. I love meeting new people, working together with them to create something, striving to have a single moment of realness on the stage. Missing the hours pass easily as I lose myself in the work. The families I build that last years. The trust that I have in those people to be there to catch me every time I fall. Every single part of the blood, sweat, and tears is wonderful if I just give myself over to it.
It’s also easy for me to forget all of this. I find myself at least once a show struggling to get up off of the couch to trudge back out into the night to a rehearsal. I owe myself more than that. I love this craft beyond anything. I couldn’t stop doing it, it’s like air to me. But once a show, around the 8 – 10 week mark for rehearsals it will happen. I’ll struggle with it. Kick myself a little that I signed up to do another one. Get lost in the process of creating and I won’t be able to see the end point just yet. But then there it will be, and I’ll lie in bed at night after a rehearsal grinning to myself about what an incredile world I get to be a part of.
Speaking of which – I have a rehearsal I should be getting ready for.