Navigating the Rehearsal Process: Strategies for New Performers

Navigating the Rehearsal Process: Strategies for New Performers

Surviving and Thriving in the Orchestra Cycle

As a new performer, stepping into the rehearsal process for the first time can be a daunting experience. Just ask my friend, the Juilliard freshman violinist. When they told her she’d be rehearsing Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra from 9:30 AM to 12:15 PM on Mondays and Thursdays, she was less than thrilled. “His music sounds weird and it even just looks wrong on paper from across the room,” she lamented.

But you know what they say – don’t judge a book by its cover (or a musical score by its squiggles). By the end of that first rehearsal, my pal was wide awake and raving about the piece. “I fell in love with the Concerto for Orchestra after the first rehearsal,” she gushed. “I had started listening to recordings to prepare for orchestra, but I loved it so much that I’ve had it on my playlist nonstop throughout the day.”

Now, don’t get me wrong – those long, early rehearsals were no walk in the park. My friend had to be extra diligent about managing her time, making sure to prioritize her other classes, chamber music practice, and private lessons amidst the demands of the orchestra cycle. “It was more difficult to keep up with my solo repertoire during the rehearsal process,” she admitted. “Even when I thought I was being methodical and useful with my time, I still found that there were more tasks to complete than the time I had.”

At times, the only way she could get it all done was by sacrificing precious sleep. “My new standard nightmare consists of me sleeping through orchestra but then waking up to find out that it’s only 6:30 AM,” she confessed. “Should I stay awake? Or should I sleep some more and risk oversleeping?” Luckily, she learned that waking up earlier meant going to bed earlier, which actually made her more relaxed and productive throughout the day.

Despite the challenges, my friend remained inspired and grateful. “I truly enjoyed playing every piece in the cycle as well as working with my incredibly talented and hardworking colleagues – it’s been one of the best experiences of my life,” she said. “I will be forever inspired by my amazing peers, conductor, and mentors throughout this cycle.”

Personalization and the Art of Problem-Solving

As a new performer, the rehearsal process isn’t just about perfecting your lines and choreography – it’s about finding your own unique way to interpret and inhabit the role. According to acting teacher Michael Hayden, the goal isn’t to be “natural,” but rather to personalize the material in a way that reveals your own humanity.

“Whats important is a process – how you use rehearsal to explore your options as you strive to move and change your partner,” Hayden explains. “This discovery process requires diligence in your beat analysis, but sometimes non-traditional approaches and exercises are needed to shake you out of your predictable patterns.”

I can attest to this from my own experience. When I took Hayden’s Intermediate Scene Study class, I was expecting the standard critique and advice model – you know, the kind where the teacher tells you what you’re doing wrong and how to fix it. But Hayden had a different approach.

“He stresses that what he’s teaching is a method of problem-solving and critiquing yourself – so that you’re not dependent on what teachers or directors think,” I recalled. “The important question is: Where are you in the process? Is the scene different from how you and your partner did it a week ago?”

Rather than judge or approve, Hayden encouraged us to focus on the gradual evolution of the scene. “He makes the distinction between being natural and personalizing – ultimately connecting with the role in such a way that you reveal your own humanity,” I explained. “As a teacher, he does not criticize or judge – and neither should you.”

This fostered a refreshingly positive learning environment, where I felt empowered to experiment and take risks. “The best one can do is take baby steps in a process that will evolve during every rehearsal,” Hayden advised, “and that should keep evolving through each and every performance.”

Navigating the Rehearsal Room

Now, let’s say you’ve landed your first big Broadway role. Congratulations! But before you can step out on that stage, you’ve got to navigate the rehearsal process. And trust me, it’s a whole different ballgame once you’re working with a professional director and cast.

According to the Reddit thread I stumbled across, when a new performer – especially a lead – joins a long-running show like Hadestown, it can create quite a ripple effect. “The performers are already doing 8 shows a week and even if they’ve got it down pat, that’s still a lot of work,” one Redditor pointed out. “When they onboard a new performer…how much more do the other performers take on? Or is it just a few rehearsals and the new performer gets thrown into the fire?”

The thread also mentioned the potential need to redo choreography between the lead roles of Orpheus and Eurydice due to height differences between the actors. Yikes! Talk about a logistical challenge.

As a new performer in this situation, the key is to be adaptable, observant, and proactive. Don’t just sit back and expect the rest of the cast to carry you – dive in, ask questions, and do your part to make the transition as smooth as possible. Offer to run extra rehearsals with your scene partners, be open to adjustments, and don’t be afraid to speak up if you’re struggling with something.

And remember, the other performers aren’t your competition – they’re your teammates. Approach the process with a spirit of collaboration and camaraderie. As one Redditor noted, “Esp[ecially] curious after reading someone’s review about the possibility of needing to redo choreography between Orpheus and Eurydice because of the new height differences.” That’s a challenge, for sure, but it’s one you can tackle together.

So, take a deep breath, put on your game face, and get ready to navigate the rehearsal room like a pro. Who knows, you might just find that the process is as rewarding as the final performance. After all, as my friend the Juilliard violinist discovered, sometimes the “weird” stuff turns out to be the most wonderful.

Conclusion: Embrace the Journey

The rehearsal process can be intense, exhausting, and downright nerve-wracking, especially for new performers. But if you approach it with the right mindset and strategies, it can also be an incredibly rewarding and transformative experience.

Whether you’re tackling a daunting musical score, exploring the depths of a complex character, or adjusting to a new cast dynamic, the key is to stay adaptable, curious, and committed to your own growth. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone, experiment with new techniques, and collaborate with your fellow performers.

And remember, the rehearsal room is just the first step on your journey as a performer. As you continue to hone your craft and take on new challenges, the skills and lessons you learn here will serve you well, both on the stage and in life.

So embrace the process, trust the journey, and know that with each new rehearsal, you’re one step closer to becoming the performer you’re meant to be. Who knows, you might just surprise yourself – and the audience – with what you’re capable of.

After all, as the Musical Theater Center likes to say, “The stage is where you belong.” So get out there, give it your all, and enjoy the ride.

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