Friday, September 20, 2013

My Three Big Pet Peeves in the Theater

My youngest's first rehearsal for her current play brought to mind my three big pet peeves in theater. (Yes, that's because one of these was an issue – I'll let you guess which.)
  1. Wasted rehearsal time. Sometimes, this is unavoidable – particularly when you get to the last week or so and you're polishing up details. Everyone needs to be present, even if they're spending a lot of time just sitting waiting. But at the beginning of the process, when you're doing the blocking, or even at the middle, when you know you're going to be focusing on a particular scene or two, there is no need to have extra people there hanging around needlessly.
    Especially when you are working with kids. Kids are already squirrely – the last thing you need is to get them in the habit of messing around, not focusing, during rehearsal time. You'll never get them back.  When I directed the homeschool plays, I always put out a schedule of what scenes I was rehearsing when and let parents know their kids didn't need to be there if they weren't in the scenes being rehearsed – in fact, I encouraged them not to come. And when it was unavoidable to have kids sitting around, I tried to have other stuff for them to do. Like, one of my assistants would take them in another room to run lines, or try on costumes, or something. Dead time is your enemy when working with with children!
    But even when working with adults, it shows a real lack of respect for people's time if you are well aware that you're not likely to get to any scene they are in but require them to be present for a two-hour rehearsal anyway. Get yourself organized as the director and treat your people right.
  2. Long, boring scene changes. The pacing of a show is so important. When the audience ends up staring at a curtain or a blackout for even just sixty seconds, it breaks the pace and annoys everyone. Ugh. I hate it.
    I  usually write my plays with small scenes during the set changes, scenes that could be done to the side or in front of a curtain (although I never had the luxury of working on a stage with a curtain). We've even done musical interludes with random characters crossing the stage interacting in mime – a great way to increase the stage time of some of your minor characters and still keep the audience's attention and interest.
    And by all means, rehearse your set changes!! They are critical to the show. They need to be as smooth and perfected as possible.
  3. Backstage chatter. This one may be a personal issue. I think I have some hearing problems (they run in the family). When I'm backstage and people are talking, even if they're only whispering, I have a very hard time hearing what is going on on-stage. Then I'm liable to miss cues and such -- and it's pretty certain I'll get really snitty. It only took a couple homeschool plays to learn that I needed to exile myself from backstage if I was going to continue to have positive feelings toward my actors.
    But even without my hearing problems, talking backstage is just plain rude. All too often, actors have no idea how loud they actually are and that they can be heard by the audience. How very disrespectful to steal the audience's attention during the scenes their fellow castmates have been working so hard on.
So there you go. How to do a play with Mrs. K and keep her happy. :)  Break a leg, all.

1 comment:

Becca Nobis said...

thanks so much for being such a wonderful directer! You've been such an amazing drama mama... we miss you and sorry I was the cause for 3/4 the back stage chatter;)-Becca