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TOPIC: Seeking advice on making a rehearsal schedule

Seeking advice on making a rehearsal schedule 2 years 9 months ago #6871

  • TheGhostofOphelia
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So, I've been reading up on working with actors and everyone else in rehearsals, going over my old rehearsal notes in shows I've acted in, etc. But this question is more for the nuts and bolts I guess. Any advice or resources in making the rehearsal schedule itself? Such as, how long of a rehearsal period for a production of Hamlet that's about 2 and a half hours long, what scenes you should devote more time to, how soon you should have the fight coordinator, etc.

In my past rehearsal schedules from shows I've acted in pages are divided and separated by letter so on a schedule it'd say you're working on B or something to that effect. Any help appreciated.

What think you on't? :silly:
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Seeking advice on making a rehearsal schedule 2 years 9 months ago #6872

  • Russell Slater
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In a rush at moment and will send more detailed ideas but one huge thing jumped out at me - start fight training (even if it isn't final routine) right from the start - it's often left too late and scenes are cut back as too dangerous or not realistic.
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Seeking advice on making a rehearsal schedule 2 years 9 months ago #6873

  • Marshall
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Many thoughts! I'm currently a graduate student studying Shakespeare, but I've directed 5 productions of Shakespeare in non-academic environments.

First, I absolutely concur with the first responder's note that you should do fights right away. Your Hamlet has a lot of lines to learn, but he also kills three people onstage. The less your actor has to worry about that, the better.

Next, make sure to give adequate time for table work. The text isn't easy, and a lot of people have preconceived notions about it. I would give this a week, minimum. No less than 15% of your rehearsal time should be spent talking about the text, and I'd plan some late table rehearsals just to check in and have a chance to talk about the lines.

A good rule of thumb for staging rehearsals is 100 lines/hour. That's about 5 minutes of stage time. You may go faster in some scenes, slower in others, and you can feel that out. But use this as your baseline.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was to do 3 run throughs before tech. No more, no less. Give each one at least one work session in between. I like to do the first run immediately after I finish staging, before getting into the detail work. This doesn't include act runs, just full runs. It's enough to give ownership and a sense of flow, but not too much running without actively working the beats. Also with runs, if you don't require them to be off book from the beginning or before you stage, I like to allow actors their scripts until after that first stumble through.

Work in sequence as best you can, and don't neglect the transitions! Conflicts don't always allow this, but cut it up too much and they won't have a sense of the play.

I also recommend you break your script into beats (it seems you've already done that) and make sure not to interrupt your actors in mid beat. They don't even have to know about them, but giving them the chance to work through a problem is more helpful than fixing it immediately. I'm bad at this one, which is how I know it's so important.

So, to break it down, based on my advice:

Hamlet (2500 lines- assumed based on your 2.5 hour run time). This is also based on a 5 rehearsals/week, 4 hours/rehearsal schedule that I'm used to.
1.5 weeks - table work, including a read through, scansion, discussion of the text
Start fight rehearsals week 1, have 1 a week, minimum, as well as running a fight call any time all actors involved and a fight captain are present.
7 rehearsals - staging. This gives you a 3 rehearsal hour buffer on the 100 lines/hour rate I quoted. You'll need them!
Stumble through of the play. May be as many as 10 since it is a difficult play
Possible return to table for a rehearsal or two
Work through play again - 7-10 rehearsals, depending on how long you have your actors, and how long they have had their scripts. These should be off book
(Performance) act runs, with time at the beginning or end to work moments
Run show
work performance acts
Run show
Tech
Opening

Based on this, it is 27-33 4 hour rehearsals before tech begins, not counting fight rehearsals, so a 5-7 week process, before tech. I'd do off book after the stumble through, but that's my own preference.
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Seeking advice on making a rehearsal schedule 2 years 9 months ago #6875

  • TheGhostofOphelia
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What about an 8 week rehearsal schedule with rehearsals 5 days a week and 2 and a half to three hours long?
Also adding Saturdays later in the run. All this with your notes applied.

Is that feasible?

:dry:
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Seeking advice on making a rehearsal schedule 2 years 9 months ago #6876

  • Marshall
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It tightens things up a bit, but I think it is doable. I would push it towards the 3 hour if you can, simply because it is such a dense play.

2 Weeks table work (you can reduce this to the 1.5 in the original post, but you might regret that later)
2 Weeks staging
Week 5 - Stumble through, return to table work for 2 rehearsals, if needed, work trouble spots for 2 rehearsals
Week 6 - work a (Shakespeare) act per day. I think the acts in HAMLET are close enough to even to do that. I would also work a soliloquy/day with your Hamlet
Week 7 - alternate runs with work days - work your notes from the day before.
Alternate week 7- Day 1- work performance act 1, and then run it. Day 2- same for performance act 2. Day 3- Run show. Day 4/5- work notes from the run. Day 6- run show. (I'm assuming by week 7 you've added Saturdays)
Week 8 - tech (assuming you have one)

If you don't have a tech, do week 7 for 2 weeks, with 2 work days between each run, and culminate with 2-3 runs in a row before opening. Have a fight rehearsal every week in addition to the above, or, depending on your company and space, incorporate a fight rehearsal while other scenes are being worked anytime you have enough people to do the whole fight.

Anything is feasible, the more so if your actors are more skilled and dedicated to the process. The hours you have to rehearse are pretty close to the hours I assumed you had, just distributed differently. Don't allow yourself to feel such a time pressure that you don't let your actors play. And, of course, adjust as needed.
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Seeking advice on making a rehearsal schedule 1 year 8 months ago #7023

  • Gary
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As someone looking to run a production myself, I'd like to thank Marshall for those words as they are extremely useful!

I am looking to run a 5 act play myself, which has been compiled, adapted and created personally from the works of Shakespeare. This will be my first production also, but after doing some acting classes on Shakespeare's texts only six months ago I noticed a key point which seems to differ from a point made.

I know everyone does these differently, but 100 lines being only 5 minutes of stage time, can seem to be somewhat rushed in places. My piece has been created to approximately 1300 lines in total, and still plan to have this as a 2 to 2.5hr play in total.

I guess what I am saying, is to not neglect dramatic pauses, and although the plays were originally written for what I like to call "radio" style, as the text should speak for itself - there is still much with blocking that can be done, and to make use of various ways this can be incorporated. After all, when following scripts, it is the movement and the way that the lines are said which make this your own production. A tool that I anticipate on using to my advantage as when the lights go up, it will be a good 2 minutes, at least, before the first word is uttered...this is after the actor on stage at the start has left!

With this in mind, you can easily cut a fair amount from Hamlet (my Complete Works book has almost 2 full, lengthy scenes cut out from my actual script copy! I discovered this myself when reading along while watching a version on TV) and still keep it over 2 hours long - or not cut much and make it a four hour production!

Broken down more, it may also be easier for the actors to get to grips with their lines. Also, I would argue that after two sessions of table work to understand the play and read through, it might be worth staging sooner, working with some of the more complex in terms of script, and with particular stage directions earlier as an actor can associate what they are saying with the action/position they are in which makes it a bit easier to take on board.

Doing this, though, I would work with different groups at different times giving i.e Hamlet a chance to practise what he has done before the next session with him, so upon a revision of that section you can already see vast improvements.

I also like the ideas of keeping a 5 act production as per the original scripts. For one, it goes back to the original traditions...and secondly you can make more money on the bar!!! I suppose another good reason for it would be for those either younger viewers, or new to Shakespeare, it gives them a chance to break it down and take more in. Especially if they are with someone that can explain what they have just seen, but you can't control that!

These are just my own personal, untried, opinions so quite possibly I could just not know what I'm talking about - but as a bit of an experimentalist, I like to differ from the conventional and give a different take.

Any comments / suggestions on what I've said would be useful as I haven't done this before, and will hopefully very soon start to work on my own project...I just need to find a suitable cast first..!
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Seeking advice on making a rehearsal schedule 1 year 8 months ago #7026

  • Marshall
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Hi Gary,

A couple of thoughts that I think will help you out on this venture (I am a year older and half a year wiser since writing my previous post). 20 lines a minute is indeed ambitious, as I learned this year. It can be done, and done well, but there is very little time for anything else. That said, I think your 1300 might be an overcorrection for a 2.5 hour play. I'm currently working on an early modern play (not by Shakespeare) that is written in fourteeners, that is iambic heptameter, 14 syllables per line, or 40% longer than an iambic line. We cut to about 1250 lines in hopes of a 90 minute run time, and even with a couple of my actors being serial pausers, we came in at 84 minutes at the read through. Dramatic pauses are all well and good, but 1300 lines in 150 minutes, there's going to be a lot of air on the stage. I do have an aesthetic preference for relatively quick delivery, so I guess there's the grain of salt. I think you could have plenty of dramatic pauses in an 1800 line cut (and you've kept more of the words).

As to 5 acts, I actually experimented with this last summer - not full intermissions at the act breaks as I think you are suggesting, but breaking up the action. This was a production of TWELFTH NIGHT, and we took the intermission (as I think most do) right after act 2. Between acts 1 & 2, 3 & 4, and 4 & 5, we took musical interludes. We had kind of a pop-folk rock musical aesthetic, so we did some live performance of some original songs, some using Shakespeare's lines or folk songs. Taking full breaks, I think, would break up the action too much and you'd lose focus, but if you try it, I want to know how it works out.
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Seeking advice on making a rehearsal schedule 1 year 8 months ago #7027

  • Gary
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Thanks for that, it is helpful.

I have double checked my script, and it is actually over 1600 lines. I have compiled a Complete Works play, where, in one perceived chronological order, a specific scene / mix of scenes / monologue etc. gives the audience an insight into the Complete Works...including Cardenio, Edward III and others to make 42 scenes over the 5 acts.

I had initially thought of approximately 2 to 5 minutes per play on average, so with using some of the more powerful moments, I believe there is some extra room for this than your standard production.

I like the idea of having a musical interlude between acts to break them up, as a 10 minute interval for each act (giving time for the toilet and to top up a drink) will still mean that 40 minutes of the theatre time is spent in intermission!

Did you put the house lights on during musical interludes? I might try a 10-15 minute break before acts 3 and 5, and have a traditional music interlude before acts 2 & 4 (or whichever acts are the shortest upon reflection).

As the nature of the production would be jumping around, separated into differing styles for acts, and a real challenge for the actors to mix characters, I feel that something should separate the two from each other. Perhaps a full intermission is a bit too long, and offers more opportunity for an audience to leave part way through, which would be quite disheartening!

I have designed these, also, to be done in 5 stand-alone plays, so for 20-30 minute productions, these can be taken to schools to offer a larger understanding of Shakespeare across several plays rather than the sole focus on one that you tend to learn in school.
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Seeking advice on making a rehearsal schedule 1 year 8 months ago #7056

  • Katy
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Hi there!

I am directing a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream and haven't got a clue where to start with making my rehearsal schedule! Midsummer has 2290 lines in total - I will have 2 rehearsals a week, totalling 6 hours.

My concern with Midsummer is that the scenes are quite long, with several groups of characters coming off and on-stage all within one scene - and I want to make the most of my rehearsal time and not have anyone sat around waiting to be used onstage, if I can help it, if that makes sense!

There's 9 "scenes" in total - but like I said, they're incredibly long, especially the scene in Act 3 with the lovers! There's 5 acts overall - I'm not sure the "100 lines" a minute approach will work for my cast, we're only a small am-dram society and I think it'd just confuse people!

Do you think it would work best to just try and do one "scene" per rehearsal? My thoughts are that I would have, for example, the actors playing the lovers to rehearse on Monday, the fairies on Wednesdays etc - I'm just a bit stuck with where to start really - I just want it as simple and straightforward as possible but I also want to try and make sure I make the most of the time I have. Our production will be performed the 14-16 May, so I have just over 4 months in total, so probably around 17/18 weeks.

Any help would be hugely appreciated!

Katy
Last Edit: 1 year 8 months ago by Katy.
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Seeking advice on making a rehearsal schedule 1 year 8 months ago #7067

  • Gary
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My initial thought would be to separate each scene into their own scenes, depending on where the cast is used. As rehearsals progress you could then work with the same groups to do a few of their sections in one rehearsal.

Maybe try to aim towards full run throughs in mid-late April...?

I would still agree with the full cast to do a couple of table reads first, to make sure everyone understands what is happening and what their goals are for the performance.
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