As we began our rehearsals for My Robot today I found myself wondering, yet again, what it is that makes a great rehearsal room.
Earlier this year, I heard a wonderful answer to this question from director Anne Bogart. She was giving a lecture titled What the %@#! are we doing? A question I’m sure many directors asked themselves in countless rehearsal rooms over the years, not always with an easy answer.
Anne proposed a number of things that we are doing when making theatre, but the first was the most compelling for me: we are creating a model society. A theatre audience comes to see a play, but they in fact witness two plays. One is the scripted work: Hedda Gabler, My Robot, Hamlet etc. The other is the way that the actors behave towards one another.
This second ‘performance’ infuses the first. It is felt in every moment. It is subliminal but powerful. The brutal truth is that you can’t hide a bad rehearsal – how you make something will always show in what you make. The culture of the rehearsal room will be patently clear in the way the actors interact onstage.
So how do we do we create that model society? What are the practical steps to take? Honestly, I don’t pretend to have a perfect answer and I don’t think there is one. My working theory is that the most powerful thing a director can contribute to this culture is their curiosity and attention. A room that values openness and curiosity is an inspiring place to be. And an inspired group of artists have the potential to make something truly great together and have enormous fun as they do it.
It feels good to be back in the room, making art with this incredible creative team. The work has begun and ideas are flowing. And tomorrow we meet our brand new robot Olivetti. I’m looking forward to the next four weeks together and to sharing our model society with you all.