Amateur Plays - Rehearsing II
( Originally Published 1923 )
THE dress rehearsal usually takes place on the night before the regular performance.
Every effort must be made on this occasion to have conditions, on the stage and behind it, as nearly as possible like those under which the play is to be given. Scenery, lighting, costumes, must all be ready, and the performance carried through with as few interruptions as the director can afford to make. The director should be in the back of the " house ", and stop the players only when they do something absolutely wrong. It is very unwise to change lines or " business " at this eleventh hour. The stage manager and his assistants must be in their assigned places, the lights manipulated, actors " called "the curtain rung up and down on schedule. The director watches the general effects, sees that the stage is not crowded, that the lights are in order, and above all, watches the tempo of the performance.
The actors must be informed that on the occasion of the performance the audience is likely to distract them by applause, laughter, etc., and that they, the actors, must pause for a moment when there is any such interruption. A little advice as to resting, not worrying about lines, etc., will not be out of place.
Besides the acting dress rehearsal, there should be a scene and light rehearsal. This is merely for the assistants behind the stage. The different scenes (if there is more than one) should be set and struck " (taken down), furniture and " props " stationed, lights worked, exactly as they are to be on the following night. Everything should go according to clockwork, the stage manager " holding the book " on all his assistants.
The performance should begin on time.
Every one knows the irksome delay usually incident to amateur performances, and it ought to be the object of every director to remedy a defect which is inherent in our usual slipshod method of reproducing plays. Promptness is the prime requisite of efficiency, and the production of plays is successful only when the component elements are organized on a sort of military basis. The actors must be in the theater on time, and made-up " in costume, at least half an hour before the curtain rises. It is well for each actor to see the property man and make sure that all the " props " necessary to his part are in readiness. The property man himself must also check up his list for the last time, in order to avoid confusion during the performance.
When everything is in order, there is little more to be done. The director might make a few general remarks to the cast, endeavor to inspire them with confidence and impress upon them the necessity of playing together harmoniously, and so on, but if his work has been well done during rehearsals, this will not- be necessary.
The prompter must follow the play line for line and be ready to prompt any actor who forgets his part. It is well for the stage manager to be near the prompter, in order that every eue for lighting, " business " off-stage — like ringing bells, shooting, etc. — may be acted upon as required.