If you’re riding the struggle bus at rehearsals and scenes are looking stagnant, dull, or flat-out boring, you and your students may be suffering from a case of rehearsal rut. Rehearsal rut tends to occur in the mid-to-late stages of the rehearsal process, when the newness and excitement have worn off, the costumes, props, and sets aren’t done yet, and your students are not quite ready for an audience. Students may feel like they’re going through the motions while working on their scenes, and you might be wondering if the show is ever going to come together.
Sometimes, the best way to solidify a scene is to approach it in a new manner, outside the standard rehearsal process. Here are a few exercises to try:
Divide the scene you are working on into four sections. Give each section a defined emotion. Don’t worry about making sure it matches the dialogue, just come up with four different emotions. You may even draw them out of a hat. Then play the scene switching from emotion to emotion. How does the scene change when a specific emotion is forced upon it?
Play your scene but switch parts. What do you learn about the other character? What do you learn about your character when you see them played by another actor?
Do the scene without speaking. What happens? Is the blocking easy or difficult to remember? Do you find yourself sitting in the same spot for a long time? Does the blocking help tell the story? Do this exercise in front of an audience. What does the audience get out of the scene when they don’t have the dialogue to rely on? How do your characters come across?
Play the scene, but instead of doing the blocking, play a game. It has to be a game that doesn’t require a lot of talking (e.g., Plinko, Jenga, Snakes and Ladders). Stay in character and keep the conflict and tension in the scene as you play. If you end the scene before you end the game, just start back from the beginning.
Play the scene with the actors standing back to back. How does the scene change without eye contact?