From Kingston to California, drama teachers everywhere deal with similar concerns with their drama students and their theatrical productions. Here are five common rehearsal problems, rapid-fire style, with solution suggestions!
1. Constant, never-ending talking (it’s enough to drive you bonkers).
- Give students a minute or two of “talk time” before you get into rehearsal mode.
- Do a warmup that lets students talk (or forces them to talk) to get it out of their systems.
- Only call to rehearsal the students who are in the scene you’re working on, so others aren’t bored.
- Mix up what you’re rehearsing in one session to keep students on their toes. For example: One hour, review vocal music. For the second hour, work on choreography.
- Have a signal or ritual to indicate “quiet down.”
- Sit and stare at the ceiling until students stop talking; then remind them how many rehearsals are left until opening night.
- Take a break–for your sanity and theirs.
- “Let’s practice being quiet in rehearsal so you can prove you’ll be quiet backstage.”
- Have the cast sit onstage, in total silence, for thirty seconds. After the thirty seconds is up, ask them how they felt. Then remind them how long your show is.
2. The dreaded phone issue–students always on their cell phones.
- Rule – Rehearsal is a phone-free zone.
- If phones are found in rehearsal, the teacher/director or stage manager is allowed to take them away until the end of rehearsal.
- Have a hanging shoe pocket rack on the wall for students to put their phones in OR phones get lined up on the director’s table OR have a “phone jail” box where students put their phones in and then retrieve them after rehearsal.
- Optional Addendum – Phones are not permitted in rehearsal but books/magazines or homework are allowed between scenes.
- Alternative – Phones are permitted in rehearsals (kept on silent mode), as they keep students not onstage at that moment quiet and occupied. However, if a student misses a cue or entrance, the phone goes into “phone jail.”
3. Students frequently losing their script or personal items.
- Rule – Scripts and personal items must be labeled with students’ names, and valuables should be left at home.
- Charge a penalty fee for replacement scripts.
- Assign a consequence (like push-ups or cleaning the rehearsal room) to earn back a script or personal item left behind after rehearsal.
4. Students leaving the rehearsal room a mess.
- Rule – Nobody leaves until the rehearsal room is tidy. All students and staff help clean up. Don’t leave it for the director or stage manager to tidy the room.
- Option – Create a rotating clean-up schedule so every student has their assigned day to help tidy.
- End rehearsal five minutes early so there is enough time for students to help put the rehearsal room back the way it was.
- Have clearly labeled areas for rehearsal furniture (chairs, rehearsal blocks, benches, etc.), props, and costumes, so everyone knows where items need to be returned.
5. Never having a full cast in the rehearsal room at once.
- Have a clearly laid out rehearsal schedule in advance, and a strict deadline for giving conflicts.
- Schedule specific rehearsals around known conflicts if you can (i.e. don’t plan to choreograph “Bushel and a Peck” from Guys & Dolls if you know Miss Adelaide and the Hot Box Dancers are absent that day).
- Set a certain number of rehearsals as “blackout” dates that are absolutely mandatory (not being able to attend blackout dates prohibits a student from participating).
- Determine your attendance and lateness policy (three strikes?) and stick to it.
- Explain procedures and consequences for missing rehearsal (students must get caught up on missed material on their own time; consequences for a missed rehearsal may include lines being reassigned or removing that student from the choreography/scene).
- Double-cast roles, or assign understudies.
- Give students tips for time management.
Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer, and stage combatant from London, Ontario, Canada. Check out her blog at www.kerryhishon.com.