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.

Congratulations! You’ve auditioned for and been cast in your very first production. Exciting things are coming– including your first rehearsal. How should you prepare, and what should you expect?

What to Expect in Your First Rehearsal

Your first day of rehearsal will likely feel a bit anticlimactic. Usually this day is reserved for some of the less fun tasks involved in the rehearsal process, such as signing show contracts or release forms, going over theatre rules, and introducing everyone.

For some, the first rehearsal will also involve a read through of the show. Exactly as it sounds, during the read through, the cast sits and reads the entire script so that everyone understands the basic plot and shape of the show. In a musical, the director may play entire songs or clips of songs to give the cast a general idea of what to expect. This process can be rather boring, but try to keep yourself engaged. Committing the flow of your show to memory early in the rehearsal process can save you a lot of confusion later.

Sometimes the director will use the read through to explain their vision of the show. You can learn a lot about the directors’ expectations from this sort of discussion. Ideas on costuming, set design, or choreography may be explained. Pay close attention and you may stand out in rehearsal later.

What should I Bring?

You’ll want to bring the following:

  • Writing utensils. Always bring a pencil- preferably more than one. You may also want highlighters for marking scripts or music. Remember never to mark your script with anything but pencil unless your director says so! 
  • Show materials. This may include your script, music, costumes, props, or other important resources.
  • Proper clothing. Make sure you dress appropriately or bring clothes to change into: comfortable clothing and dance/character shoes as appropriate, for example.
  • Water. Always bring water– not soda! Keeping yourself hydrated is important for singing, dancing, and projecting well.
  • Snacks. If you expect some downtime, bringing some light snacks such as crackers or nuts can be beneficial. This goes double if you have a busy schedule and have to go straight to rehearsal from school or work!
  • Any necessary medication, braces, etc, as appropriate. You may need to check with your director or stage manager if it is okay to use certain medication on the premises, especially in school theatre.

I like to put together a “show bag” that contains everything I may need for rehearsal. This way, I don’t have to worry before I leave the house, because I know I’ll always have what I need.

What is Expected of Me?

  • Be prepared. Check the production schedule or daily call (if applicable) to figure out what show content you will be going over in rehearsal, and review and plan accordingly. For example, if you’re going over a dance in rehearsal, it might be beneficial to review the song so there are no surprises, and don’t forget proper clothing.
  • Be on time. If the schedule says rehearsal is to begin at 6:00, arrive five to ten minutes early so that you have time to change clothes, put on character shoes, stretch, or otherwise prepare accordingly. Learn to live by the motto “if you’re on time, you’re late!”
  • Write everything down! Write your blocking and notes in pencil in your script. This way, the director won’t have to repeat directions over and over when you forget. You’ll also want to write in notes about music and possibly choreography where applicable.
    • A good practice to get in the habit of is to review the notes you’ve taken in your script before you leave the theatre. That way, if you realize something you’ve written doesn’t make sense, you can ask someone for input while the rehearsal is fresh in everyone’s memories.
  • Stay focused. Phones should be kept away and silent during rehearsals. Even if you’re not on stage, use your phone with caution, as they can easily become detrimental distractions. Spend rehearsal downtime reviewing music, lines, or blocking in your script instead.
  • Come with a good attitude. Give the show your best effort, and those around you will, too!

If you have to miss a rehearsal:

Simply let your director or stage manager know, preferably in writing. Even if you mention an upcoming absence in person, it is best to additionally send a “reminder” message to the proper authority. Conversations are easily forgotten, but written reminders can always be referred back to.

Note that some directors have stricter absence policies than others. In certain productions, missing any rehearsals not listed as a conflict on your audition form is a major breach of contract, and you may be dismissed from the show. It’s best to air on the side of caution and avoid missing rehearsal except in cases of emergency.

Other Notes:

  • Remember that directors and staff personnel will notice when actors consistently show up to rehearsal unprepared or with a negative attitude. This may impact your chances of being cast in future productions. No one wants to work with someone who isn’t willing to give 100%!
  • Always have fun with your castmates, but remember that you’re in rehearsal to work first.
  • Don’t be afraid to step out of your shell and try new things. The show may call for all manner of weird or awkward behavior. Go with it! Acting is about creating something fun or interesting, not looking cool!

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