I have two big direction shows coming up in the next few months.
As I look ahead to them, I have a thousand thoughts spinning in my head. Mostly, I want my actors to get the most out of the experience. I know my first show will deal a lot more with product (I have 2.5 weeks of rehearsal for it) than with process. My goals for that show are to have a lot of character work meetings with my actors before the ‘rehearsal’ period starts.
The second show will leave me a month and a week of overall rehearsal time, which is nice, because I want intense but fun rehearsals that, above all, help my actors grow.
I remember the first Second Season I did at the College made me very vulnerable in the process, I had to work like hell to find my character. But I kept going, and I kept working through technique and character and old habits and reworking over and over. And time and again, I had these revelations about the character. And the experience was wonderful.
I want to give that to my actors. What I think will do it more than anything else is structure. Art is freeform, it is chaotic and divine and organic. But it acts as a reaction to structure. Deadlines, time constraints, and limitations create artisitc impulses and creativity. Necessity is, after all, the mother of invention.
So, here’s my rehearsal structure for my later show:
Warm Ups: These will always vary day to day depending on problems from the day before, and will bring in a number of excercises to help develop character, technique, and relationships onstage.
Blocking: Give the actors end points, let them go, and fix as time goes on. Tweak issues and go largely off of character based impulses. This part will greatly focus on actor technique.
Character: Round tables that will focus on the text: what it says, what it implies, what could make it say more. Also, character backstories and histories, using dramaturgical notes for each character to help actors discover more to build on. Also, excercises that devalue the text in favor of character improv and the character mindset. This part will focus more on mental and emotional aspects of build.
Vocal Fixes: These will include text based scene and character work, where actors will be asked to bring in focus words, ladders, work on patterns of physical technique layered onto vocal technique with text.
The Three Rehearsal Rule: Scene by Scene: First rehearsal block. Second Rehearsal Fix (semi off book). Third Rehearsal Run (Off Book). This should help actors get off book faster.
Body Fixes: These will be part of warm ups and character work. What ticks are the actor? What gestures are the character? What are the character’s ticks? Lead points? Relations? Emotions? Triggers? Where does the character’s power come from? Where does the actor’s power come from? Helping actors differentiate themselves from the character so they can make choices rather than fall into comfortable habits.
For the first show, many of these character elements will be worked on before the rehearsal process so that actors can review themselves before they get into the rather intense rehearsal process.
The first show will also be much more pre-blocked than the second show, of necessity, so character work will have to come before it so that the blocking can flow from work with the actors rather than be imposed on them.
These are just initial acting ideas. As I work on my thesis for my second show, I’ll have more direction excercises to help the actors build scenes and characters. I’m really looking forward to directing again. I really like seeing a scene build up from the ground and evolve in ways that are unexpected but still fit in with my overall concept.
What will be excellent in both cases is that the shows will both be comedies. That means that each show will, of necessity, give off a good vibe. Of course, comedy, like tragedy, needs a limit. I’ll need to pick and choose comic and straight bits in each show in order to avoid sloppiness, but I think that will be part of the process with the actors (although doing my homework ahead of time couldn’t hurt)