The Final Push – the last few days of rehearsals

It’s the last week of rehearsals and we’re making a final push to finish the production elements before we bump into the theatre on Monday.

In the rehearsal room, the Director is layering detail into the scenes while the cast continues to make discoveries about their characters.

I’m making sure the prompt copy is accurate and up to date so we’ll have all the information we need in the theatre next week. I’m also starting to insert the cues as the design team provide me with synopses, so we can save time in the plots.

A key task at this stage is creation of running plots for the show crew. These detail all the cues they have during the show, including any relevant information that might help them. Ideally, a crew plot is succinct enough to not be overwhelming, but contains enough information that someone could pick it up and do the show with minimal explanation (but more about that in a future post).

We are also having a lot of conversations about how we can make best use of the brief period we have in the theatre before opening night. We bump in on Monday, with our first audience on Friday, so finding creative solutions to maximise this time benefits everyone.

This is made particularly complex by the fact that there are so many competing variables in the theatre. The sound team need a certain amount of quiet time; the lighting team need some dark time; the cast members need some time with the set, sound and lights; and workshop need some time where they can have the set to themselves, make noise and have light. It’s a juggling act and each show comes with its own demands. Thankfully, Tartuffe is not technically difficult, so we may be able to afford the cast some more time onstage, without stealing time from any of the other departments.

As we make the final efforts to be as prepared as possible for bump in, the important thing to remember is that we are all making something together. Although we all have different priorities to make sure we each deliver our elements on time, if we don’t lose sight of the fact that we’re all working towards the same outcome, we will get there.

Playing

It’s the end of week 2, rehearsals are now well underway and the production of Tartuffe is slowly accruing the attributes that will, at some point, coalesce and take on a life of its own.

The actors are immersed in the exploration of their characters, while the Director is constructing the world they inhabit. Alongside this, the set and costumes are being made, and all the while I’m busy keeping things on track – recording the blocking and props notes, scheduling the production and liaising with the Company’s other departments (Workshop, Sound, Lighting, Wardrobe, Publicity, Administration) about the show’s requirements.

img_3859

Back in the rehearsal room, at this stage everything that happens is an experiment. Damis needs to overhear a conversation between Tartuffe and Elmire. Will he hide in a cupboard, will he hide in plain sight or will he hide in somewhere in the architecture of the theatre?

While this debate takes place, I’m making sure that the cast members and Director have everything they need to keep experimenting and, at the same time, I’m keeping the production departments up to date as the show evolves. It’s a balancing act between keeping things outside the room moving forward, in terms of sourcing props and building the set, but not moving too far in case the parameters shift when an idea doesn’t take hold. It’s about finding the fulcrum that allows creative expression within a finite deadline.

At this point in the production, it’s important for Stage Management to remain flexible, because things are always being added, changed or cut at short notice. We have to allow the Creative team to play. However, it’s also critical that we have everything finished by opening night. Balancing the competing interests is not always easy, however if you are clear on exactly how long things will take, and know the latest point at which you really need a decision made, you can work out when the experimentation needs to move into something more solid.

For now, it doesn’t matter where Damis hides, but I know exactly when we need to start pushing for a decision. So until that crucial moment, I’ll give them the opportunity to play.