The Fall Fellows have officially arrived! After a summer filled with individual projects and adventures, we all regrouped for a packed few days of shows and meetings in the city before heading off to our Retreat in the Berkshires.
We were incredibly lucky to have Mark Brokaw as our master teacher while there. The first evening, our entire group of actors, directors, and Drama League staff gathered for a master class and discussion about the rehearsal process. As Mark pointed out, it is so rare to have the opportunity to observe other directors’ rehearsal techniques, and our time together was a perfect opportunity to break into the mystery of what goes on in the room. Every director has their own process, but Mark posited that across the board, rehearsal encompasses some or all of the following “Six Rehearsal Methods”: Discussion, Instruction, Coaching, Critique, Experimentation, and Problem Solving. He challenged us to try to think of something that didn’t fit into one of these categories, but sure enough, none of us could.
As we found out, the key to successfully employing the six methods is to not mix them at any given time. We got to experiment with this as each director rehearsed a different scene from Uncle Vanya over three days, including a short open rehearsal in which we tried out one of the methods in front of the rest of the group. Getting to try things and receive feedback, as well as observing each other, was incredibly useful to me. I am constantly striving to improve my clarity as I communicate in rehearsal, and I’ve realized that in many of the instances when I’m not being clear it’s because I’m inadvertently mixing some of the methods above. The more focused I can keep a task and set it up succinctly and actively for the actors, the more successful it’ll be in helping us make discoveries.
The experimentation we did at the retreat was also possible because of one simple rule Mark challenged all of us – directors and actors- to follow as we worked: saying yes. I’ve always thought of myself as someone who says yes in rehearsal and encourages an open environment, but being tasked with saying it consciously every single time made me realize there are in fact times when I do say no, whether outright or by not giving an idea as much weight or space as it needs for a fair try-out.
The very day we returned from the retreat I went into rehearsals for my first assistant directing assignment of the fall, working with Rachel Chavkin on IPHIGENIA AT AULIS at Classic Stage Company. With thoughts swirling fresh in my mind about rehearsal methods, director-actor communication, and the role of “yes” in the room, I have never been in a better position to take full advantage of the opportunity to be in someone else’s rehearsal room. Rachel has a natural way of creating a process that is simultaneously joyful and highly efficient, and it has been thrilling to watch the work evolve. More on that next time…