Technical Theatre

Safety First: Creating a Safe Rehearsal Space

Safety First - Creating a Safe Rehearsal Space
Written by Kerry Hishon

In the drama classroom and rehearsal space, drama teachers work with students to express themselves in a variety of ways. We encourage our students to push their boundaries, to explore new thoughts, characters, and situations, to move their bodies differently, and to share their stories. To do this, we must establish an atmosphere of safety and trust. And that begins with creating a safe rehearsal space. By considering both the physical and emotional safety of students, teachers can get their classes and rehearsals started out right, as soon as students walk through the door. Here are some tips and ideas for making your rehearsal space a safe one.

Physical Safety
  • Ensure the floors are mopped and swept clean and are free of any debris (such as staples, nails/screws, safety pins).
  • Be aware of “secondary targets.” That’s a stage combat term for anything that could pose an inadvertent threat, such as furniture in the room, curtains, set pieces, other nearby students, dangly or flowy costume items, wayward props, and personal items that may be on the floor.
  • Ensure that risk-associated props (such as stage weapons), set-building tools, and cleaning supplies are securely stored when not in use. And make sure they are only used while in class or in rehearsal and under the supervision of the teacher in charge.
  • Have a first aid kit easily accessible and fully stocked in case of an emergency, as well as incident reporting sheets available. Be sure to know where the nearest washroom, smoke detector, and fire extinguisher are located, and the nearest exit should you need to evacuate.
  • Have appropriate garbage and recycling containers available to keep the space tidy and free of junk.
Emotional Safety
  • With your class/cast, come up with your classroom code of conduct and share ideas on how to treat everyone with respect and dignity.
  • Always have at least two artistic staff members present during rehearsals, for the safety and comfort of both the students and the staff. If you must rehearse with only one student, ensure that the door to the room is kept open at all times.
  • For sensitive scenes (such as scenes with kissing) or emotionally charged scenes, schedule those rehearsals first for only the students who are actually in the scenes. That way they don’t have to rehearse these scenes for the first time in front of the rest of the cast, which could be awkward or uncomfortable.
  • Consent is crucial. Explain what needs to happen in the scene and break it down into easy-to-digest chunks. For example: “George approaches Lucy and places his hand on her waist.” Then check with the students playing these roles and ask, “Are you okay with this?” You never know if what you are asking your students to do may cause them concern or stress. Encourage them to ask questions and work up to the moment in question. While it is important for your students to push themselves outside of their comfort zones, it is also important for them to not be agonizing internally. Nerves are okay; anxiety is not.
  • Check in with your students frequently to see how they’re doing. Working on a scene over and over can be physically and emotionally taxing.
  • Take breaks, both for your students to recharge and refocus, but also to give your own brain a rest.

Work with your students to include their ideas and suggestions into how to create a safe rehearsal space. Include them in the process of creating their space and encourage them to take ownership and pride in their surroundings. When the students feel safe within their rehearsal space, they are free to create, explore, discover, and push boundaries – which is exactly what theatre is meant to do.

Click here for a free Reflection sheet.

Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage combatant from London, Ontario, Canada. She blogs at www.kerryhishon.com.

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About the author

Kerry Hishon

Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage combatant from London, Ontario, Canada. View her blog at www.kerryhishon.com.