Spring Awakening Rehearsal Diary
Before the cast arrive, the set, lighting, sound, video, stage management and costume departments have been working to get the space ready - the ‘get-in’. Designs are programmed into the operating boards, ready for the DSM to practice cueing, the props tables are organized to perfection and name labels are stuck onto the many clothes hangers. It is important not to have too many voices talking at the same time during tech rehearsals, but at the same time, everybody has a different job to do and they often overlap each other. To prevent the ensuing chaos, ‘cans’ (headsets) are used as a way to communicate discreetly with only the people you need to talk to. Kate (Company Stage Manager) is then ready to begin running the tech; telling the actors when to stop and start, from what point and to facilitate the time for the creative team to develop their work.
Particular to this production, is that the elements of theatrical staging are intentionally visible to the audience. The structures onstage from which our lights are hung can be clearly seen, objects that help to frame the stage and not just the practical consequence of creating an optical illusion. The music is also used as a framing devise, cutting in and out at unexpected moments and so never purely used to create emotion, but to comment on and structure the drama. Commonly, work goes into disguising these elements from the audience but, as the week goes on, we all begin to relish the opportunity to not have to do this and to challenge our audiences expectations.
For Colin (Designer) he can see his stage design coming together and how the actors use it to tell the story. No longer a model-box in 1:25 scale, but a life-size playground. It’s a pleasure to watch him find more and more detail; he notices a seam in a jacket that hasn’t been unpicked (it is new and it shouldn’t be), school bags are Tippex-ed with the characters’ names and stickers are put on bed-frames and doors. It’s astonishing how much of a difference these small details make.
It also becomes clearer throughout the week, how much harder the actors need to work to fill this space. It can feel unnatural to project your voice and over-articulate (especially in a rehearsal room), but here it is absolutely necessary to make sure the words are heard. This is not just about the technical skill of the actor, but how important the ideas are to the characters. If a thought is played with clarity of intention, the audience will hear it. To support this work we do a vocal warm-up before each preview. One of the exercises is about choosing different seats in the audience and landing lines on each one.
By our first preview we are ready for these seats to be filled.
The actors have been saying these lines for the last five weeks and so sharing them with people who have never heard them before is completely refreshing. You often forget that a line is funny so hearing the laughter helps to rediscover the playfulness of Anya’s writing. Through daily notes from Ben, encouraging and defining the work, the show builds in confidence and by the end of the week it feels like we are doing exactly what should be done with a new version of a well known work… Delivering the play to the audience.