This may sound a little nuts, since as a stage manager I am at very nearly every (if not actually every) rehearsal from day one through strike, but I am the kind of person who would happily have a ten-week rehearsal process for every show. (I know of at least one director I work with who probably flinched reading that.) Squeezing all the learning and experimenting we want to do into a standard seven- or eight-week rehearsal process always feels like a huge challenge, regardless of how much time it seems like at the beginning. In that span, actors are trying to learn lines (a Herculean task in and of itself) while also exploring new techniques, experimenting with their characters, and working to understand often complex texts. Not to mention that this is all happening around our normal daily schedules – jobs, family responsibilities, remembering to keep food in the fridge and clean clothes in the closet.
I was a little skeptical about the idea of the ensemble at first, since it feels like so much time – nearly a year! – but the more I thought about it and talked it over with the rest of Brass Tacks, I realized that that it gives all that learning and experimentation the space it needs. Casting a group at the beginning of the season means everyone has the time to get to know one another, and develop that trust and understanding that is so helpful while working on shows. It can evolve both during the usual rehearsal processes, but also in our meetings and workshops between shows, where there’s also the time to explore tools and techniques in ways that might otherwise be rushed. With this shared background and well-developed toolkit, rehearsals can be focused on the understanding the text and developing the characters for each production, giving us more time to develop comfort with the show at hand and experiment with different approaches.
Unpaid theater is a labor of love.
Unpaid theater is a labor of love. We pile it on in addition to everything else we need and want to do in our lives because it’s something we find interesting, and we find the effort we put in rewarding. For me, it feels like the ensemble is a chance to expand on the basic structure and routine of the rehearsal process I love – admittedly, as a stage manager I experience it differently than an actor, but I still go through the whole thing right alongside them and I do truly love it – and by expanding on that, we have the opportunity to give those rehearsal processes, the shows that come out of them, and our own experiences more depth, meaning, and understanding. If we’re able to develop the routine we’re used to into something larger and more comprehensive, working across an entire season rather than show by show, we will hopefully give ourselves a deeper appreciation of something we all already care about deeply, and improve the quality of our performances along the way.
Hope to see you at auditions!
Alexa Ducsay is part of the BTE Awesome Force as the Communications and Company Style Coordinator. She’s also stage managed many BTE shows since 2013. And she is a rock star.