Thursday, January 22, 2015

Director's Corner: Rehearsal Scheduling aka How to Create an Awesome Rehearsal Schedule for your Students!

Planning out a rehearsal schedule is perhaps one of the hardest parts of preparing a play. There is no one size fits all for  planning a rehearsal schedule. A simple but detailed plan is vital to the success of the play. You want to make sure you plan on when you will rehearse every part of the play. You also want to make sure that your schedule is flexible enough to handle any craziness that might come up (we had a freak snow storm the week before our show a few years ago, we had to condense tech week into two days.) you never know what can happen with schools and after school rehearsals, you want enough flexibility to be able to handle any surprises.

There are several things to take into consideration when planning your schedule. First you want to block off any dates that are already booked for your school or any school holidays that you are unable to get into the school for. You also want to talk to your musical director and choreographer to see of they have any conflicts you need to take into consideration. Once you know the dates you can't rehearse, it is now time to figure out what days you can rehearse and what you are doing on those days.

Start with the end in mind.

Ideally I like to have two and a half weeks at minimum to run through the play from start to finish before tech week. This sometimes doesn't happen but if I have this as a goal in mind it helps set me up for the weeks before. Let's say that you have three months from the time you post the cast list to the time the curtain rises that means you have approximately 12 weeks to get your kids ready. You want to have taught the kids everything they need to know in 9 weeks so that they can review and add technical elements in the last 3 weeks.

For each of those 9 weeks I try to keep the weekly schedule about the same. Depending on your and your teams personal schedules the day of the week you choose for each section doesn't really matter. My team set up our weeks like this: 
Monday: choral rehearsals- this is for company numbers to learn the words to the song. You can typically get through 1 full song or 2-3 reprises.
Tuesday: solo/duet rehearsal- this is where you can focus on helping your soloist shine. These should be small rehearsals where you can focus on just a few students really learning the words and songs. You can typically get through 2 full songs or all reprises. 
Wednesday: blocking rehearsals- this is where you help students go over lines. You help students figure out where they will stand and how they should enter and exit the stage. This is the hardest to schedule. You could go quickly or slowly depending on your kids. I start off by dividing the scripts lines into 8 parts and saying that's what's we are going to try to get through that day. It gives us a good goal. Some days we get through that and more some days we don't get all the way through, it all evens out that way though.
Thursday: choreography. Teach the kids to dance. Most of your students will not be dancers so this will be the hardest part for many kids. Plan on learning only 1/2 to 1 song a rehearsal. Once they learn the dances, use this day to rehearse and prefect all the pieces.
Friday: DO NOT REHEARSE ON FRIDAY! It sucks to do, the kids don't want to be there, you don't want to be there. Seriously unless it is a true rehearsal emergency (freak snow storm stopped all the rehearsals) do not rehearse on this day. Your kids need a break and you do too!
Saturday: at most only rehearse one to two Saturdays a month. I like to do a four hour rehearsal  in the performance space if possible. I work mainly on choreography and blocking on these days. You do not have to do these but they are really very nice. 
Sunday: Do not rehearse on Sundays. I have found there are two many family and religous conflicts to make these rehearsals worth while. 

Once you have a basic plan, simply plug in the songs and pages for your rehearsals each week. If you have done it correctly you should have taught your material in 9 weeks. This will give you two weeks to do runthroughs and one week to add in your technical elements. 

Tips and tricks
- try to teach the lyrics of the song before you teach the choreography. Most kids don't count their music they move based on the words.
-only give out one month rehearsal schedule at a time. Also make sure parents know that the schedule is flexible and can change at any point.
-keep rehearsals as short as possible, 2 hours max after school. Kids still have homework and jobs they have to do as well.
-if possible give kids fewer rehearsals or cancel rehearsals on really tough school weeks. Kids can get burned out if you rehearse too much. You want to keep the show fresh.

- feel free to look at my rehearsal schedule for Aladdin as an example . If you would like me to create a custom schedule visit my teacherspayteachers store.

Good luck if you have any questions or need any advice leave me a comment! I am more than happy to help!

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