- On Air
- Music News
- Calendar of Events
- Support WERS
- About WERS
Yes, you heard me correctly; Theatre isn’t made on the stage. True, theaters have stages within them, and patrons head to theaters to see theatre. But that doesn’t mean theatre is made on the stage; rather, it is there that theatre happens.
By the time a show reaches a stage, the time for actors and directors to converse at length about characters and motivations, blocking, subtext, and cuing lines has come and passed. Once the show hits the stage about a week before opening, the technical elements are the stars of the show, not the performers. Time is consumed by hours of aiming lights, clipping sound bytes, and programming every cue to perfection. Combined with the addition of costumes and a brand new stage to work with, this week turns the show into what the audience will see and hear.
But none of that was created on the stage. It was merely manifested there, as a collection of separate elements given the time and space to work together.
Theatre starts to take shape in nondescript rehearsal studios, most of which include a wall or two of mirrors, some ballet bars, tables, chairs, and a piano. In here, countless hours of rehearsals take place, starting with beginning blocking and going to deep discussions of text, character, humanity—the heavy stuff that makes theatre real. They are not performance spaces, but laboratories for work to grow and take shape. But even these cannot lay claim to being where theatre is made.
No, theatre begins its creation in the mind of a director, or perhaps in the collective minds of a creative team. There is an idea—some sort of spark—that festers, ferments, and develops until it can no longer be held in and bursts out, seeking support and fellow creators to make something happen. There are phone calls made, meetings schedules, and brainstorms flying. It is an exciting time of conception and development. And it happens in offices, conference rooms, coffeehouses—not on a stage.
Host some auditions, and lo and behold, there are actors. They get their scripts (and scores, if necessary), which are soon scored with highlighted lines and penciled blocking. They come to rehearsal, having read the play, researched the playwright, and spent time with their lines and characters—tasks completed at desks, in bedrooms, at the gym, over meals. They and the director will work, discuss; play. And left after that are ideas and themes—which are also conveyed through blocking and intention choices from the director—that the actor can work with in terms of character. The director doesn’t have time for the actors to sit in a rehearsal studio and wait for revelations. It is the actor’s responsibility, then, to do some homework and make personal choices. By now, it should go without saying that these long processes never take place on or near a glorious venue.
For reasons that may or may not be related to ideas planted by fictional television, there are those that seem to think that by showing up to rehearsal every day, theatre will magically take shape. The professionals make it seem so easy when we seem them on TV, it must work like that for everyone, right?
The truth is nothing could be further from the truth. When anyone comes to rehearsal not having prepared outside, the progress made in that room is backward. It is only when everyone is constantly working on the craft of the character and material that theatrical potential can be realized. When the work develops in the actors’ heads, that effort is reflected to the audience, when they can’t get that work out of their heads. And thus, theatre lives in their minds, their memories of what happened onstage merely launching points for the effect thereafter.
So this week, I am standing for those who don’t need prompting to do work on their own; those who know that theatre can only be as magical as the amount of work that goes into it. It is because of you that this art form is as powerful and unique as it is.