Rehearsal vs Performance

I was pretty curious when I went to the Buffalo Bills training camp last month. I’m a recent football convert and it’s downright cool to have a NFL team just across the way AND you can go watch them train just down the road. It was… interesting. They didn’t seem too intent on practicing. There was a lot of standing around. There was a lot of five minutes here, five minutes there, whoops that five minutes didn’t go so well, too bad on to the next.

Now, I only watched the one session and I don’t know their plan and frankly I have no idea how professional teams practice. But my overriding thought was…. so that’s why they don’t win. There was an ennui and a tone of we’ll do it later. There’s always later. We’ll bring it in performance.

This happens quite a bit in theatre too, and I see it more often in professionals than amateurs. That, ‘I’ll do it later. I’ll bring it performance. I don’t need to be 100% in rehearsal, in fact if I’m 100% now how will I recapture it in front of an audience? Later.’

Why do you need to ‘give it’ in rehearsal? Why is later not a viable rehearsal strategy?

One actor is only part of the picture. Unless it’s a one man show, to say ‘I’ll try later’ means that one actor isn’t thinking of others. They’re not thinking about the play as a whole. The rhythm of the dialogue at full speed. The amount of time an actor has to make a costume change. The emotional roller coaster. That one ‘later’ attitude can screw up a lot of things for the bigger picture, for the other actors and the director. Directors need to be able to assess the big picture and that means all the little pictures have to play their part. Right then, right there.

And what about the whole aspect of ‘play?’ Rehearsals can be a wonderful playground for actors. A place to try something new, to play with action, movement, voice. To play with the other actors. If one actor is ‘meh, later’ they may run out of time.

A director told me a story once about a choreographer who was rehearsing a dance and made a hand gesture in rehearsal to represent a certain spin they would do during performance. They were so into that ‘later’ attitude that when it came time to perform, the dancer did the hand gesture instead of the actual move…..

Don’t be a ‘later’ actor. Or football player.

About the author

Lindsay Price