Do you have a performance or whole run of your solo show coming up?
If so, are you deadened by the thought of having to rehearse that thing…again?
You haven’t performed recently enough to have it “in your pocket”…but the thought of running it over and over until it’s finally polished again is just…blargh.
I feel ya from the very bottom of my soul.
So here are some tips:
1. If it’s been a long time since you performed it, spend at least 3-5 days just running the lines again. Consider recording the lines so you can relearn them aurally.
- Record the lines in a sometimes robotic, sometimes atonal singsong voice, in order to prevent falling into predictable line readings.
- When you play the audio, speak the lines along with it. Stop and rewind when you get to a section you can’t recall verbatim, to repeat it at least once.
- Do this while doing something else that doesn’t require intellectual focus, so you’re completing two tasks at once. I listen to my recording on CD when I’m driving. (Yes, CD. My car is old but mighty.)
2. Once you’re ready to put the show back on its feet, rehearse it in chunks.
- Start with one-thirds. Day 1: Run the first third (1/3) of the show. Day 2: Run the middle third of the show. Day 3: Run the last third of the show.
- Graduate to halves. Day 4: Run the first half (1/2) of the show. Day 5: Run the last half of the show.
- Take a break for two days. By golly you’ve earned it.
- Day 8: Run the whole show, stopping and starting to finesse blocking and characterizations, even if you also did this during days 1-5. (Oh, now you remember, you make that gesture with your left arm, not your right…wow, it’s been a while…and maybe that character’s facial expression could be truer and less broad…etc.)
- Day 9: Repeat the step above.
- From here on: run it nonstop, inasmuch as that’s humanly possible, at least six times. Preferably eight.
3. After you’ve run it all the way through nonstop at least once, are you totally sick of rehearsing it, while also aware that it’s not ready for an audience?
Again: I feel you. Therefore, make it entertaining for yourself. Do the whole shebang with one of these attributes during each run-thru:
- A thick accent that ain’t yours. I tend to gravitate towards Russian, which then weirdly morphs into Scottish. I eventually get bored with that and do French. I don’t question this, I just do it, and by golly I always learn something about a line or a moment when I do this in a run-thru.
- An overwrought soap opera / telenovela acting style. If you don’t take pregnant pauses with flared nostrils and an accusatory glare, or with halting speech and quivering lips and eyes brimming over, then you aren’t committing. Commit and have fun, dammit!
- Consider adding some stereotypical-Tennessee-Williams-play-acting: use a US Southern drawl and move as if you’re wearing a negligee or tank top and jeans in a hot, sultry environment. This can help you to be more over-the-top, which is what we’re going for here.
- A standup-act quality. If your show already has this trait, then do it more like a hokey sitcom.
- An Oscar Wilde / Noel Coward leading-role quality, British RP accent and all.
- Enunciate every consonant as if your life depended on it.
- Hyper-speed through it as fast as possible without injuring yourself.
If you get bored doing it one way, try another. Feel free to mix it up. Just make sure you’re engaged in the process.
The reasons you’re doing the above are threefold:
- It will prevent your falling into the habit of predictable line readings.
- You’ll entertain yourself, which is key to maintaining enthusiasm.
- You’ll learn something new about your show each time. Maybe the soap-operatic version will teach you that a particular moment actually deserves more gravitas. Maybe the thick accent will help you understand a line even better—even if you wrote it and even if it’s about your own life. Maybe doing it all for laughs will highlight new sections that should be played for laughs, or will prove that you need to give other sections the vulnerable poignancy they deserve.
By the last two run-thrus, you may be itching to perform it the way you want to for an audience. Think of those two rehearsals as the dress rehearsal and preview.
- If you’re doing a full run-thru for a tech crew, that counts as the preview. Don’t despair if your energy is low—previews are rarely good, and if you’re performing that same night, you’ll want to conserve your energy anyway.
For more tips on how to keep feeling inspired and ready between bookings, read the section “Between Bookings” in this popular post. (You’ll need to scroll down.)
I hope this helps. Please let me know in the Comments if you have other ways of keeping rehearsals fresh. We all need as much help with this as we can get!
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