Category Archives: Rehearsal

Overcoming The Stress of Tech Week 

The phrase “Tech Week” can cause even the most solid thespian to shudder in fear. The long hours, the fear of failure, and the stress can be enough to send you over the edge. What can you do to make this inevitable week less stressful? Read on to hear from others who have been there before and their suggestions to overcome the stress of the dreaded tech week! 

Determine Your Point People

There is nothing worse when things go south on stage during tech week than having too many people add their thoughts and suggestions. Be sure to have one or two people who are level headed, patient, and knowledgeable to handle the hundreds of questions that can come up during the week. Save your sanity and let your actors know who the appropriate person is to handle each type of question. 

TheaterFolk online suggests, for example, who is the most likely person to know where a missing pair of pants might be? Who should be contacted if one of the stage lights burns out? Whom should students check with if they need help reviewing their entrances and exits? (If you answered the costume head, the lighting designer/operator, and the stage manager, then you would be right!) These are your point people and they are worth their weight in gold.

Plan Breaks 

Tech week can be one really long week. It is tempting to try to power through it and get as much done each day as possible but you will see burnout happens. We suggest planned breaks at intervals that are decided upon before you start this crazy week. Encourage your group to get up, stretch, go outside, have a quick bite to eat, and clear their heads. Being inside all week working on lighting, tech, and props can make you feel detached from the rest of the world. Taking even a few minutes of self-care during this busy week can put you in a better place than the one where you are tired, hungry, and losing patience. 

Schedule it Out 

Tech week for professionals means lots of hours doing what you love and getting paid for it. For students, tech week means balancing school work and theater prep. Be sure to schedule out time to get your studying done as well as complete that homework. You may also want to plan your meals and sleep time as well. It may seem ridiculous to plan it out but tech week brings new meaning to marathon lighting sessions and rehearsals. The more you can block out time for other important things in your life, the better. 

Are you crazy during your tech week? How do you handle the stress and balance your life during this time? Give us some suggestions in the comments section and let us know your tips of the trade. 

 

Benefits of Being in a School Play 

Being part of a performance in high school can be amazing and provide memories for a lifetime. It can also build on a skill set that will be needed later in life. Being in the theater industry here at Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart, we may be completely biased, but here are some pretty compelling benefits of being involved in theater during your formative years. 

As a theater kid myself, I know the biggest takeaway from my years acting and, later, directing high school plays and musicals is the lifelong friendships that I made. There is nothing like the long, sometimes stressful hours blocking out a scene and reworking the lighting a million times to bond a group together. Some of my closest friendships have come from my days creating costumes at all hours of the night or painting sets days before the opening show. 

Aside from the friendships, I can tell you that I also learned (and then honed) skills that I used in college, finding a job, and now in my career. Here are just a few of them. 

 

Public Speaking

As a young child, I never wanted to speak in front of a group. I especially had trouble conveying my opinion in class in front of peers. After years in theater and practicing endless hours of productions, monologues, and lines galore, I learned the art of speaking in public. I learned how to deliver a line and use body language to emphasize my point. In short, I mastered the art of selling myself and whatever idea lay before me. 

 

Organization and Time Management

Growing up I was not exactly self-aware or cognizant of the passage of time. That meant that school projects, homework, and assignments were often late or never passed in. After becoming involved in theater, I suddenly was able to practice charting out a schedule such as a rehearsal schedule. The entire production crew was painfully aware of how many days and practices until the big opening night. We learned to do homework before practice and plan for long-term assignments. 

 

Increased Self-Esteem and Confidence

Not many middle school and high school students can claim that they are confident and have high self-esteem. After years in the theater, I was definitely more confident in who I was as a person and I had a really good grip on what my strengths and weaknesses were. I also had acquired the ability to advocate for myself and speak up when needed. 

As you can see, being part of a theater group may have ended when I graduated high school but it certainly left me with some amazing skills and even more amazing memories. 

Maintaining an Organized Prop Space

In our last blog, we discussed creating a safe rehearsal space for all members of your theater group. This week we are discussing something related – organizing and maintaining your prop area. Not only can a well-ordered prop space add to safety, but it can keep your production on track.

Prop Masters or Mistresses have a hugely important job. Think about all of the props, both large and small that need to be used throughout the production. These items need to appear on stage seamlessly in between acts while actors scurry around to either change costumes or switch stage entrances. Here are some ideas on how to maintain an organized prop space for your spring or summer play.

Create a Master Prop List

One of the best ways for keeping track of what is needed (and when) is to create a prop list. Draft a list that names each item and for which act or scene it is needed on stage. This will not only give you a good sense of how long the item should be out on the stage but from what side (stage right or left) it will need to enter or exit.

 

Arrange the Props

This is, by far, the most challenging part of maintaining the items that are needed on stage, especially given that there is little light backstage to guide the crew. Whether you use a locker system, a prop table, or another method, arrange the props in a way that makes sense and still allows for movement to and from the stage. Take into account the size of each item, where they will be entering, and how long they will be out on the stage.

Small Props

Small props such as rings, coins, or anything smaller than a hand should be kept separate from the other props. These items are notoriously known for going missing right before they are needed on stage. Don’t be caught scurrying around searching for the items at the last second. Instead, keep them in a resealable, zipper bag pinned up right near the stage entrance.

Do you have any tricks that you use to keep your props organized? We’d love to hear from prop masters and mistresses. Tell us in the comments below what you do to keep things organized.

 

Creating a Safe Rehearsal Space

Being a part of a theater production can be exciting and somewhat demanding. As a backdrop company, we at Charles H. Stewart understand how easy it is to get caught up in the excitement of a new production. One thing we also understand is that a safe rehearsal space is paramount to any production.

Let’s take a look at both the physical space and emotional space that can provide safety and comfort for actors no matter if it is at a community theater or under the bright lights of a Broadway production.

 

Physical Safety

First and foremost, the physical safety of a rehearsal space should be considered to keep all actors, directors, producers, and crew out of harm’s way during a production. One of the biggest threats to injury is keeping walkways and stage entrance/exit areas clean of debris. This means that props that could be bumped into or tripped over should be kept in specially marked areas. Keeping the floor clean, even down to small things like an errant nail on the floor is important since most actors must find their way in the dark when a production is underway.

Along with having props put in safe places, it is important to communicate with each team member about potential issues with staging, curtains, backgrounds and other large items that could fall or hurt an actor if things do not go as planned. Always have a first aid kit well-stocked backstage and an emergency exit to ensure that, if something does go wrong, it can be dealt with appropriately.

 

Emotional Safety

Acting means taking risks with your emotions and your level of confidence. That is why we are including emotional safety as a category for this particular blog. Have the members of your theater group come up with a code of conduct that can rule what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Many plays and musicals have physical encounters that could make for uneasy moments. Talk through these scenes prior to blocking them out so that everyone knows what to expect. Encourage a positive environment where every voice is heard and people feel comfortable enough to do so.

At Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart we know the importance of safety of all who are taking part in a production. Talk to our specialists about how our backdrops can be used safely in your production.

 

The Power of Student Theater Productions

Were you ever a part of a student production during middle or high school? If you were, just the mention of it probably brings back some fantastic memories of plays and musicals that your school presented. Friendships are formed, lines are memorized, and the group bonds over the excitement and anxiety of opening night!

Musical theater is a powerful art form that can transform the lives of those who take part in it, but its power is often overlooked. Many students who take part are often not aware of its impact until years later. Even students who don’t aspire to perform on Broadway can learn new skills and hone skills they already have. Compassion, problem-solving, and self-confidence are just a few of the powerful characteristics that students can improve upon during their time in theater classes or productions.

Think about the concept of playing a part in a school play. A student must not only learn the role but learn the motivation and inner thinking behind the character. This means that students learn empathy and compassion for the person they are portraying, even if that character is the antagonist.

In addition, students need to work with the entire theater group to “block out” movements on the stage, know when and where props are to be placed, and how actors should move on and off the stage. This all takes cooperation and problem-solving. These two skills will serve students well into their careers and family life later.

Improving self-confidence is another spin-off of working on the stage. Students learn to trust themselves and how to conduct themselves on stage. This definitely spills over into school life and eventually career life.

One area that we have not touched upon, and which is vital to learn, is how to accept criticism or feedback in a positive manner. In today’s social media world where it is far too easy to block people who disagree with you, learning how to take feedback from a producer or director is a critical life lesson.

The power of theater can be felt by students in so many facets of their lives. How has theater improved your life? Did it help you hone a skill or get over a fear? Tell us in the comments below.

 

What Should I Bring to Rehearsal?

What do you bring to rehearsal?  Well, be prepared.  You don’t want to forget something you know you need or even something that might be nice to have…

So, before you head out, make sure your bag is packed with all of the essentials that you will definitely need.  If you bring the “definites”, then you should be ready.

  1. Script

Obvious, right?  Guess what?  Sometimes you forget the most obvious things.  It happens to everyone.  Not a bad idea to check for the script before you leave the house.

  1. Notebook

Don’t forget a pencil and/or highlighter too.  It’s a good idea to write down notes from the director, any schedule changes, steps for choreography, and even your own lines (they say you remember what you write more than what you read).  Blocking will inevitably change.  Your lines might change.  A highlighter will help with this too.

  1. Flashlight

You’re sitting there.  Waiting.  Wishing you could rehearse your lines or check out your notes because you remembered your script and a notebook.  But it’s so dark and you forgot your bleeping flashlight!

  1. Sweater

Theaters and rehearsal studios are known to be chilly.  Just sayin’.

  1. Recorder

Now I mentioned earlier that people usually remember more what they write than what they read.  Hearing is the same thing.  During some down time, record your cue lines so that you can respond to the correct characters.  Recording your own lines as you would perform them can also help with dialect, accents, intonation, etc

  1. Water bottle

Duh!  Very important to hydrate especially if you’re involved in very intense dance routines, fight scenes, etc.  Plus, water fountains are gross, and no one wants to share with you!

  1. Snack

Who knows how long you’ll be?  Rehearsal could go through lunch or dinner.  Bring something with protein and healthy fats to help keep you energized.  Because like water, no one wants to share with you.  You don’t want anything sugary either where you’ll crash in the middle of rehearsal.  Nuts, food bars, and fruit salads are good choice for snacks.

  1. Towel

No one wants to perform or rehearse through a puddle of sweat on stage.  No one wants to give you a sweaty hug or high five.  Your cast mates will appreciate that you brought a towel.

  1. Shoes

The shoes make the man…or woman…or character.  Don’t start rehearsing in say high heel shoes or work boots even if your character calls for them.  Start out in flats or tennis shoes or any other stage shoe so that you get comfortable with the routines and staging.  Once you get into the rehearsals and the costume department provides you with your character shoes or recommends what you should wear for your character should you start rehearsing in them.  Once you have this info, then you can bring them to rehearsal and start “becoming” you character.

  1. Rehearsal Outfit “Blacks”

There’s no need to stand out at rehearsal.  Save it for your character and performance.  Bring rehearsal blacks or darker colors that are easy to move in.  Jeans and dresses are not recommended unless the director has specifically instructed you to do so.

Ethos, Logos, and Pathos

Ethos Pathos Logos Chart

Aristotle coined the terms ethos, logos, and pathos as the three main modes of persuasion. These are used in theatre, in literature, and tons of other practices. When actors are learning acting styles and methods, they learn about the three modes of persuasion to better their skills and create a more authentic production.

When an actor is on stage, they have the responsibility of being believable or credible. Their goal is to convince the audience of their credibility, and these three forms of persuasion are important tools actors use to do so.

To successfully persuade, you look to the three appeals. These are Ethos, Logos, and Pathos. Read on to learn more about the three modes of persuasion.

Ethos Appeal: Appealing to Ethics

Ethos is the ethical appeal, and it means to convince an audience of the author’s credibility or character. An actor would use ethos to prove to his audience that he’s credible and worth listening to. An actor appealing to ethos would use the same language as their character, and try to dress exactly like them.

Actor in Wig with Glasses and bandana

Logos Appeal: Appealing to Logic

Logos is the appeal to logic, meaning to convince the audience by using logic or reason. An actor may cite facts or statistics. An actor may appeal to logos by presenting logical or well rounded points, may cite important information, or may refer to historical analogies for explanations and proof.

Pathos Appeal: Appealing to Emotion

Pathos is the emotional appeal, meaning to convince an audience through appealing on emotional levels. Actors may evoke sympathy to try make the audience feel how the author intended for them to feel. They aim to get a certain emotion out of their actions when appealing to pathos. Pathos can be expressed by actors through language, emotional tones, or emotional events or implications.

These forms of persuasion immensely help actors sell their character. Persuasion helps the audience to believe and understand the plot and action of the production. Strong productions rely on the effective use of these persuasion techniques. By studying each mode, actors can learn how to better their styles and increase their overall credibility while on stage.

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