- noun a practice session or series of sessions for a production that is going to be filmed or performed live later
- noun an act of rehearsing
- A session in which the director, cast, and staff of a playprepare for a performance. Usually, the first rehearsals are read-throughsin which the cast simply read aloud from the script. Entrances, exits,movements, and gestures are added next, usually by blocking.Technical rehearsals are also held for the stage crew, lighting technicians,etc. The final run-through before the opening night is the dressrehearsal.
Except in rare cases of improvisation, rehearsal is now regardedas essential in the Western theater. This has not always been thecase; rehearsals were virtually unknown to medieval performers. ThatElizabethan actors met to practice is shown by Shakespeare's AMidsummer Night's Dream (1595), which includes a scene in whicha group of amateur players rehearse. Organized rehearsals had becomestandard practice by the 19th century, when they were directed bythe stage manager. The standard of rehearsals is often no indicationof how well a performance will go. Terence Rattigan's firstplay, French Without Tears (1936), had disastrous rehearsalsbut ran for 1000 performances in the West End.
Rehearsals are often intense and stressful, providing a battlegroundfor egos and temperaments. Sir Alec Guinness was fired twiceduring rehearsals in the early part of his career. Madge Kendal,who managed St James's Theatre in the 1880s, once gathered her castround and insisted that they kneel to pray, "Oh Lord, we prayThee out of Thy infinite mercy that Thou will cause some notion ofthe rudiments of acting to be vouchsafed to this company for JesusChrist's sake, Amen." She then stood up and growled, "Well,now we'll see what that will do!"
Horror stories about never-ending rehearsals abound. The longestrehearsal period at the Royal National Theatre was for Marlowe's Tamburlainethe Great in 1976; owing to construction work the original 10-weekschedule was extended to nearly six months. The ancient Greek choruswould rehearse full time for at least three months before giving theirsingle performance. The record-holder, however, is Stanislavskywho once spent two years rehearsing the Moscow Art Theatre's productionof Hamlet, which finally opened in 1912.