So you’ve poured your heart into a show. You have a wonderful cast, a beautiful story to tell, and all the hope in the world that you can touch at least a few people through your upcoming performance. But if you’re here, I’m guessing that you’re trying to recover from a bad rehearsal that has left you a bit down in the dumps. Well depending on the timeline of where you are in the rehearsal process, there are many ways that you can approach this problem. And here are a few of the most effective ones!
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1. Shake it off.
Sometimes a bad rehearsal just happens. And if this is a one-off type of occurrence, it might be best to simply get a good night of sleep and come back fresh the next day. That said, if the rehearsal was particularly awful, or if you’ve now had a couple of bad rehearsals, it might be best to try out one or two of the following ideas on the list.
2. Take and give notes.
If you’re an actor in the show, make sure to be present and receive your director’s notes once the rehearsal is over. Take some time to work on these and to think everything over before going to bed, and do the same first thing the next morning. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Just soak in the notes and keep moving forward!
3. Encourage “mental rehearsals”.
Give your actors a bit of homework. Have them mentally run through the whole show later that night. Have them imagine every last piece of the show going phenomenally. Encourage them to imagine a huge standing ovation at the end, intense chemistry between them and their castmates, and everything else that can possibly go excellently!
4. Try out a “speed run”.
If your rehearsals are stuck in the “start and stop” phase, a “speed run” can be a powerful way to move forward. In this speed run, it’s probably best to not include tech. Just have your actors go through the entire play as fast as possible – no stopping allowed.
5. Sing it out.
This is a particularly fun option if you happen to be rehearsing a straight play. If so, give your actors the challenge of running through the show, but this time, every single line must be sung! This will help loosen things up a bit, which will in turn encourage your actors to lighten up for the following rehearsal.
6. Go over-the-top!
This is another fun way to break out of a funk and recover from a bad rehearsal. Run through the show again, but this time, have all of your actors go over the top with all of their acting. Have them overact like crazy, and allow them to have fun with the process!
7. Make it even worse.
This might sound a bit counter intuitive, but run through the show again. And this time, allow your actors to put on the worst show ever. This is a particularly good trick to combine with #3 on the list. By making things worse, you’re going to get all of the worries out of your system. And by following that up with the nice visualization of #3, it will allow you all to move into a state of progress.
8. Watch the video.
If you have a bit of time before opening night, it could be beneficial to take a video of rehearsal. And then, follow that up with a watching party. Just make sure to create a productive-casual environment for the watching party – meaning popcorn, soft drinks, notebooks, sharpened pencils, and no talking until it’s over.
9. Bring in a test audience.
Round up a few friends or acquaintances who may be interested in seeing a free preview of your show, and bring them in as a test audience! This is an easy way to snap everyone out of their funk and into performance mode really quickly.
10. Lighten the mood.
Sometimes, in the midst of trying to recover from a bad rehearsal, the mood can easily darken. Everyone is tense. Everything is serious. And nobody is in a positive place of growth and improvement. But studies have shown that happy people perform WAY better than stressed-out people. So lighten the mood with some brand-new theatre games or a super fun freeze-dance party!
11. Give meditation a try.
This is an especially good idea to try in the case that you’re in the final stage of rehearsals. Before your next rehearsal, try the free trial of Headspace➝. Then set aside ten minutes to have everyone find a comfortable spot and clear their minds with one of the meditation exercises. Sometimes, all that’s standing in the way is a ginormous mental block in one or more of the people involved.
12. Don’t sweat it.
Have a pep talk with your cast and crew, and remind them all that this is a normal part of the process. Not all rehearsals are going to be great. That’s why we have them in the first place! And even if this bad rehearsal happened to be your very last rehearsal, just remember the old saying. If you have a bad dress rehearsal, you’re going to have a great opening night!
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Author: Stacy Karyn
Stacy Karyn is the founder of Theatre Trip, author of The Thespian’s Bucket List, and creator of The Cast Album List. She has a TESOL drama certificate, a BA in theatre, and has worked and interned with Broadway and Off-Broadway theaters.