This past week at rehearsal we had a lot going on: songs were learned, costumes were tried on, and improv games were played!
We started off, of course, with handing out scripts and then having a read-thru. Read-thrus are so important. It helps to know the whole story, and not just the scenes that you are in, and even for those, it’s good to read them ahead of time.
I was just reading an interview with Sterling K. Brown, an actor who seems to be everywhere lately, but is most known for his roles in This is Us and Black Panther. He was saying that as someone who comes from the world of theater he really appreciates that the This is Us writers have shared his character’s ending with him. As an actor he likes to have the whole story so that he can use it to help craft his performance, even as he has to pretend to not know information as he plays his character in present day.
For many actors, especially those who’ve had any formal training, knowing a character’s full arc helps them see the whole performance. You can break a script down into beats (or sections) – sometimes each beat is a scene, sometimes it’s a few scenes, sometimes it’s less than one scene. Then you break the beats down as you look for certain things. The most common of these things is objective – what does the character want in this moment? In this scene? Overall? When you know what a character wants, the acting becomes a little easier. Sterling K. Brown is definitely an actor who does this.
So, what does your character want? If you’re playing Mr. or Mrs. Hood, you might say, “My character wants to watch TV” However, it goes deeper than that. That want, or objective, is a very in the moment type of thing. If that’s all the characters want, why would they hire the Evil Queen? This is when having several objectives throughout the script comes in handy.
Now, what does this have to do with the read-thru? Easy, by reading the play out loud together, we are now all familiar with the play and have a full picture of the plot and each individual character. As a result, any of our actors that want to put the work in, can now begin to develop their characters’ arc, their objectives, and of course, their backstories. All things that help to strengthen any performance.
When the read-thru ended we had the cast go to the back room with Will to learn the opening number – which means it’s ready to be choreographed! Yay! Will also taught Fairy Tale Blues and worked with the Princes on their song number. All in all, a good day for music.
In the middle of all that, some actors were sent to the first room, for their first costume fitting – an exciting thing for any actor. After all, the clothes make the man – or so they say. A lot of actors talk about how once they put on their costume the character suddenly appeared for them and made it easier for them to do their job. I’m always a big proponent of rehearsing in your character’s shoes or in any big and important costume pieces (like a hat) that will help actors get the physicality of their characters before tech week. Sometimes at NDW this can be hard to do, but if you ever work in theater in the real world (aka in the professional world) you’ll see that this is not just common, but required. So, although you can’t have a show without blocking/singing/dancing rehearsals, you also need to have costumes to help actors prepare for their roles, which only serves to make all the work in rehearsals come to fruition.
And finally, the actors that weren’t with Will or Pam were with me, assisted by Bella (our production assistant) and Janine (an alum). We played Bippity Bippity Bop for a little while as an ice breaker and then we got serious, forcing our actors to work as a team by doing some mellow word associations and then the human knot. Our old musical director, Jane, whom some of you may remember from the year between Chris and Will (also the musical director when I was a kid in the program), always used to say that acting was a team sport – and she was right! It’s so important to work together when doing a play. I won’t go into the reasons here, but we had a really nice discussion about it in the gym in between playing the latter two games.
With all of this going on we build a great foundation for the start of rehearsals and I can’t wait to start blocking with everyone. I hope all our actors re-read their scripts this week in preparation (you can even start working on your objectives if you want). We have double rehearsal this weekend, so imagine all the things we’ll get done!
See you Saturday,