What happens in the rehearsal room?
A production such as THE TEMPEST takes research, planning and funding. Kate Stafford first talked about the possibility of a Bilimankhwe production of THE TEMPEST in 2014 and it has taken over three years to get the project into production.
The rehearsal room is where all the elements of the play are put together, overseen by the director. The director is supported by the Company Stage Manager or CSM.
On the day I was in rehearsal, 11.09.2017 it was a busy and varied day.
At 10am the cast were ready to begin work with the director.
Stafford was working with Prospero, Miranda, Ferdinand and Ariel. They walked through the scene to get a ‘feel’ for how the scene might work and which positions might feel good to the actors while also looking good to the audience.
They then sat down and read through the scene in detail to make sure that all the actors were clear about what their lines meant. This is very important in a Shakespeare production because there can be different interpretations of what each line means. It is crucial that the actors and directors are all clear and in agreement about what every line means, if they aren’t then the meaning of the line wont be clear to an audience. Bilimankhwe uses annotated copies of Shakespeare plays alongside the edited version of the script to make use of all the scholarship into the meaning of Shakespeare’s plays that has already been published. This is similar to school students using annotated texts to help them with their studies.
Once everyone was clear about their lines the actors stood up and began to ‘work’ the scene. They sketched the scene making sure that different moves were safe and clear and communicated to the audience the intended information about what was happening in the scene and the relationships between the different characters. This can be a very complex process because there are so many different ways of telling a story. The director is useful here because they can make sure that characters are clear, relationships are communicated and that the audience are able to understand what is happening.
When the scene has been worked then the scene is ‘run’, this means that the actors play the scene in character and at the right pace so that the director can tell if the scene will work for an audience. At the end of the scene the actors and director talk about what ‘worked’, what was not working and what could be done differently. This allows a scene to develop depth and nuance and for actors to be able to develop their characters as the rehearsals progress. It also means that actors can give their own ideas, it is not a process where the director tells everyone what to do! It is a collaborative effort. For Bilimankhwe this process of refinement and collaboration is fundamental to their intercultural ethos.