The Theatre 101 Series is a set of introductory articles meant to explain theatrical concepts and situations to young actors as well as adult theatrical newcomers. View the whole series here.
Once auditions are over, the rest of the production process can begin. Woohoo!
Normally one of the first documents a cast receives is the production schedule, which contains all of the information on what is to come. In this article, I’ll quickly explain some unfamiliar terms you may come across.
- Readthrough or Table read
Usually, the first rehearsal involves a readthrough or table read of the script. These both essentially mean the same thing: the cast, crew, and staff of the show sit and read or listen to the entire show. This way, everyone can get to know the show, the songs, and the actors they will be performing alongside.
- Call or Call time
This is the time on the schedule at which everyone involved in the production is expected to be at the theater or rehearsal venue. If your call time for rehearsal is 6:30, rehearsal will begin at 6:30. Before a performance, the call time is typically one to two hours before curtain (the time the curtain rises, ie, the start of the show!) to give the cast time to prepare.
- Cleanup or Cleanup day
This usually refers to the rehearsal wherein dances, scenes, or songs will be “cleaned.” On these days, you’ll likely run the material several times to fix the nitty-gritty and address small details to ensure everyone is on the same page. Cleanup days can be a little boring, but they are a necessary step to creating an impressive performance.
- Set builds
If actors are expected to aid in the construction of the set for your production, the schedule will likely contain multiple “build days.” These are times dedicated to building and painting sets, and may also involve other technical and creative tasks like hanging or configuring lights and gathering props and costumes. Even if you lack carpentry or painting skills, many hands make light work! Show up ready to work and help where you can, and your staff will appreciate your positive attitude. I’ve written a guide on being useful at set builds with no prior experience which you can read here!
The “off-book day” is the day every actor is expected to know their lines so they no longer have to carry their scripts around on stage– ie, be “on book.” There may be several off-book deadlines throughout the rehearsal process. Some directors require actors to be off-book for a scene by the next rehearsal after the scene has been blocked. Others designate one day in the production schedule by which the entire cast must be off-book. Either way, keep a close eye on this deadline. Don’t let it sneak up on you!
- Runthrough or Full run
These terms both refer to running the whole show, from start to finish. Typically rehearsal before this point involves working on scenes and pieces of the show in a disjointed, seemingly random manner. The first runthrough is an exciting rehearsal because it helps you conceptualize what the show will really look like during performances. Runthroughs may be done with or without costumes, lights, mics, and other technical elements, and might be done in sections rather than all at once (for example, running only act one or act two in a rehearsal and restarting from the beginning of the act when complete).
- Tech week or Production week
This is the week before the show. Tech week usually involves daily rehearsal and the integration of technical elements such as lights and microphones into runthroughs. In most theaters, tech week is mandatory and rehearsals during this week are not to be missed for any reason.
- Costume parade
This refers to a chunk of time in the schedule set aside for everyone in the cast to try on costumes and get them checked and approved by the production staff. There may be more than one costume parade in the schedule, and costume parades may not always involve complete costumes for every castmember. These are often your first exposure to the costumes you’ll be wearing in the show, so they can be a lot of fun!
- Dry tech
If you’re an actor, you may not find a “dry tech” listed in your schedule. Dry tech is a rehearsal without actors, where technicians can set up and rehearse various technical elements, such as lighting sequences, difficult set changes, or sound and music cues. Dry tech is usually followed by…
- Wet tech
“Wet tech” is the term for a rehearsal that incorporates all of the technical elements of the show into a runthrough. This day can be long and boring, as it often involves a lot of starts and stops to account for problems and technical questions. Try your best to keep a positive attitude and stay on task! The easier you make wet tech for all of the technicians working around you, the smoother your show will run.
A German word meaning “seated rehearsal.” This term comes from the Opera tradition. In a musical, this is the rehearsal where the orchestra and the cast integrate for the first time and practice performing alongside each other. While this day can be difficult, it’s also exciting to see the show come together!
- Dress rehearsal
This word can mean a few things. According to the dictionary, this is “the final rehearsal of a live show, in which everything is done as it would be in a real performance,” though it is in reality used in a variety of settings. Some theatre departments refer to every tech rehearsal as a “dress rehearsal,” sometimes “dress rehearsals” don’t involve technical elements that will be involved in the final show. In essence, this word simply means “an important rehearsal you shouldn’t miss!”
Not every production schedule will include this term. A “preview” or “preview performance” is basically a rehearsal in front of a limited audience. This audience usually contains theatre administration, department patrons or guests of honor, school alumni or faculty, or other important people.
- Opening night
The first night of your show! Yay!
This is a performance that takes place during the day rather than at night.
- Two-Show day
Exactly as it sounds: this is a day that includes two performances. There may be a matinee at 2:00 and a later show at 7:00, for example. Two-show days can be very strenuous, so keeping yourself in proper working condition is a necessity. Remember to get plenty of sleep and prepare accordingly!
This refers to tearing down the set after the production. Usually, strike is either immediately following the final performance or the next day after closing. Strike is typically mandatory and not to be skipped for any reason. If you have limited technical skills and worry about keeping busy during strike, here’s a guide from my blog on the subject!
- Cast party
A gathering of everyone involved in the production to celebrate the run of the show. The cast party is usually sometime following the show’s closing and allows everyone a chance to say goodbye to the show and each other. You’ve worked hard to put on a good show– now it’s time to party hard!
Every theatre department may use its own colloquial terms for various parts of production. If you come across an unfamiliar word in your schedule, don’t be afraid to ask! Always remember to pay close attention to the schedule so that you’re where you need to be, physically and mentally, for each rehearsal. Your cast and production staff will thank you for it!