I know a lot of people like to think that the rehearsal room is a laid-back room of creatives organically building beautifully experimental and bold work BUT there is an unspoken hierarchy that must be adhered to, to prevent chaos and confusion.
The Director sets the tone of the room from day one. The first day is very important to set the schedule of what he or she wants to achieve and laying down the ground rules to the cast and stage management team. Despite the image of us being floaty artsy types, we need structure, stability and direction that can only come from a strong leader.
The rehearsal room is a psychologist’s dream, the fine line between fear and friendship, respect and ruthlessness where the balance can shift very quickly if frustration grows from either side of the room. The cast need to feel comfortable to express themselves by throwing new ideas into the mix but then the director must be firm in their vision explaining the process and meaning behind tasks so not to keep veering off in the wrong direction. Schedules are always tight and are becoming even more so with budget cuts so wasting an hour a day over a three-week period equates to 18 hours or 2.5 days of lost time.
You never realise how much influence a strong director has on a room until you encounter one that isn’t and if you have you will know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s hard work on everyone, the actors don’t know what’s going on and why would they if no-one else in the room does, it impacts design and stage management because decisions aren’t being made and therefore knocking on to the creatives who are trying to get kit and designs in without having a show! I believe the term ‘organic’ should be banned from theatre, it is defined as “denoting or characterized by a harmonious relationship between the elements of a whole” or “gradual or natural development”. I may be being old and bitter but ‘harmonious’ is not what the cast or stage management experience when someone refers to the process as organic because it should be as defined without using the word as an excuse for lack of vision.
Fortunately, we, in theatre create a safe environment for talent to flourish with differing levels of experience in a team helping and guiding each other through what is a stressful but joyous experience. I just wish sometimes it was easier….