Rehearsal versus showtime

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Spending a lot of time in rehearsals at present, I’ve had passing conversations with fellow performing artists about various moments in performance process and we tried to pinpoint the parts we enjoy the most. Obviously, preferences will vary for each person. Most of us agreed that the rehearsal room was the primary place of fulfillment, but I wonder if this is due to the exploratory processes that theatre practitioners deal with.

It has taken me years to accept that I am temperamentally unsuited to the type of performance that aims to “give the people what they want”, in the mould of showbiz or party music. Many of my colleagues who work in that idiom seem to regard rehearsing as a chore. They would prefer to be out in front of audiences, encouraging them to “get out of themselves”.

I’m wary of being judgmental about that particular approach to doing things. Some audiences are attracted to performances that take their minds away from the rigours of everyday existence and it is good that there are performers who want to share those experiences with them. And when one attempts to categorise the performance genres, it is simplistic to generalise about what each type of act is doing. James Brown created and performed the ultimate party music, in my humble opinion, but he was also responsible for classics such as “Say it Loud (I’m Black and Proud)”, “King Heroin” and other memorable songs that still make listeners think about tough realities in life.

Probing the psychological impact of communicating with specific gestures – be they aural or visual, is also applicable to any type of great performance, so perhaps there are some of us who are interested in discovering the depth of impact in using symbols on stage, more than others.

The audience’s applause completes the process, and I find it very useful to share the work I do in rehearsal rooms with audiences, because it tells me even more about the nuances of communication, after exploring possibilities in the rehearsal room. Looking for validation from audience members, on the other hand, is something that doesn’t do very much for me at this point on my personal journey.

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