Types of Theater Rehearsals

By Robert Vaux
Rehearsals give the company a chance to perfect the play.

Rehearsals are a part of every theater production. Usually taking place over six to eight weeks, they give the cast the opportunity to learn their lines, refine their movements and find the emotional truth of the play. The director guides the cast during rehearsals, ensuring that all the actors and technical aspects of the production (lights, sound, sets) mesh together into a unified and consistent whole. Rehearsals for most shows break down into five different types.

Readthroughs

Readthroughs, usually one or two, take place at the very beginning of the rehearsal process. The cast and director sit down at a table and read through the entire script. Cast members read their parts aloud. Readthroughs help everyone get a feel for the flow of the play and give the director the opportunity to explain how his ideas will come to fruition on stage. The cast has the chance to ask basic questions and get to know each other before serious rehearsals begin.

Blocking Rehearsals

Blocking rehearsals follow the readthroughs. The actors start to shape the play scene by scene. Under the guidance of the director, they work out the general shape of the movements and begin to discover the emotional underpinnings of the play. Blocking rehearsals usually take place with the actors in street clothes, with general lighting and only a rudimentary set.

Polishing Rehearsals

Polishing rehearsals consist of refining and perfecting the overall flow of the play. The actors start to master the delivery of their lines and their physical actions, the director tweaks the play’s pace and tempo, and everyone delves into the subtler moments of the play.

Technical Rehearsals

Technical rehearsals are usually only two or three days. These rehearsals focus on the technical elements of the production, including lighting placement and cues, proper set changes and sound cues.

Dress Rehearsals

Dress rehearsals take place in full costume and make-up. Dress rehearsals take place in the days immediately prior to opening the show. These rehearsals try to duplicate an actual performance. Sometimes, invited guests attend these rehearsals to give the actors a feel for performing in front of an actual audience. Reviewers often attend one of these late rehearsals and write their reviews based on it.