Bouncing and Shaking Into Show Week

This being show week, I thought it would be good to share some of the final process and terms used in the run-up to a show opening.

These are rehearsals dedicated entirely to running the entire script verbally and without movement. Often they are run as fast as possible. The benefit of line-runs is that they help clarify the order and structure of lines, as well as the continuity without the 'hindrance' of movement. Due to the speed, they also show very quickly who doesn't know their script!

All of the costumes, props, set, make-up, etc. are usually moved into the performance theatre at the same time. The stage is then prepared, set installed, lights set, sound prepared. This is the 'get-in' and is usually done just before the Technical Rehearsal.

Technical Rehearsal
This is a rehearsal primarily for the stage crew, bit also helpful for the cast. It is usually the first time the cast and crew have been in the performance theatre and is run after the 'get-in'. The 'Tech' is often a very stressful number of hours for the crew due to the amount of work they have to do within a short space of time. It is usually a very boring time for the cast due to the amount of sitting/standing about doing nothing. Although the audience rarely notice the crew sat at the sound and light desks during a show, they play a crucial role. During the Tech they have to clarify all of the sound and lighting cues with the director and stage manager. These cues need to be programmed into lighting systems and lights adjusted if they aren't quite right with the cast on stage. The sound levels also need to be adjusted so as not to deafen the audience and to give a good balance with the spoken lines. All of this is co-ordinated by the director with the assistance of the stage manager. The stage manager runs the entire show from the first night. Technical Rehearsals have a reputation for being the longest rehearsal of the entire show. This is a justified reputation! They very rarely start on time and consist of constant stops and starts and re-runs until everything is right. We had our Technical Rehearsal last night and it took four hours. I have been in five hours Techs.

Dress Rehearsal
This is the rehearsal before opening night. It is run as if there is an audience. Cast are in full costume and make-up (hence 'dress'), if radio microphones are being used, they are fitted and switched-on, if it is a musical, the full orchestra will be in attendance. In practice, there are invariably last minute adjustments to lighting, sound and stage. There is an old belief in the theatre that if the Dress Rehearsal is bad, the First Night will go well. I think this came about because most Dress Rehearsals are appalling!

First Night
Nerves are high, excitement is bursting out of costume seams and the first audience take their seats. The running of the show has been passed from the hands of the director into those of the stage manager, crew and actors. It is actually considered extremely bad form for the director to continue directing after the Dress Rehearsal. Not only does it cause confusion to all involved, it is quite de-motivating. Directors often only watch one or two performances (my personal experience of 20+ years of shows) and, if they comment, it should be to complement the actors. Criticism is very bad at this stage. Actors are usually fully-aware of their failings during a performance and feel bad enough without having it reinforced. I have known of one actor’s confidence being shattered for the remainder of a show thanks to a director's in-show criticism.

Last Night
Quite often the best show thanks to the number of 'rehearsals' over the preceding days! It is often, unfortunately, followed by the 'get-out' (clearing the theatre). The cast and crew frequently have their show party after the performance and copious amounts of alcohol are consumed (in addition to the copious amounts consumed following most performances)!

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