10 Things to Expect from the Dress Rehearsal

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  • Holly Lucas

Frantically muttering your lines under your breath? Getting your head stuck in the arm of your dress as you try your quick change for the first time? Fighting your way ever so politely through the cast and crew to try to get to the stage on time? It must be the dress rehearsal!

You finally make it to show week and one of the most exciting final moments; the dress rehearsal. You know your lines, your staging, your props (mostly) and everyone comes together in the theatre to admire the set, the lighting and the innate ability people have to hold it together when things go a bit pear-shaped. Here are 10 things you can look forward to experiencing at your first dress rehearsal.

1. Sardines

Did you ever use play that game of hide and seek called Sardines? One person hides whilst the others look and if you find them you have to hide with them. It gets cozy. This is what the wings are like. Some theatres are lucky enough to have an enormous amount of space, but others are not, and when 50 of you need to all go onstage at the same time, plus set and crew, you get used to touching each other. You’re going to become very close…

2. The Costume Fail

You’ve planned every quick change in the show (sort of), you know what costume you should be wearing and when (maybe), the only thing you forgot to think about was the logistics. You vastly underestimate just how long it takes for you to get that leotard, feather bustle and headdress on, leaving your baffled co-stars on stage sharing wide-eyed, confused glances with each other until you barrel onto the stage breathless and yanking up your tights. Although it might feel like a lifetime when it goes wrong, in reality, it’s only about 10 seconds. Take a look at our top tips for solo costume changes.

3. The Other Costume Fail

You’re leisurely getting your costume on thinking, “This is great, I’ll be ready in plenty of time,” when suddenly over the stage speakers you hear a scene playing out that you completely forgot about. A scene that you’re in. There’s no time to change back so you simply have to go onstage for that casual daytime scene dressed in a ballgown. True story.

4. The Prop Debacle

With your brain going a hundred miles an hour, it’s easy to forget things, and the most common thing people forget are props. Not the big ones that a scene relies on, but little things like cigarettes and money. There will undoubtedly be a moment when you reach in your pocket to grab a bill and realise it’s still sat on the props table. The question will be, should you continue the scene by miming the prop or just not bother?

5. Where’s my light?

It’s always said that you can feel the light on your face when you’re on stage, so if you have a solo moment in the spotlight it should be easy for you to find your light. Whilst this might be true, when you’re onstage in the dress rehearsal you tend to find your focus is on your lines and your endearing performance. The last thing you’re thinking about is the fact that you should be two steps further forward. So the audience can only see you from the shoulders down? At least your performance was passionate.

6. Testing, 1, 2…

Whilst the sound crew are figuring out their own cues, chances are there will be times in the dress rehearsal when your microphones will not be turned up. You’ll share looks of confusion with other cast members, maybe start projecting loudly so you can be heard, and then your mic will suddenly be turned on and you’ll be shouting. I’m sure it will all be sorted for the show, but everyone will make sure you know your microphone wasn’t turned on for that scene.

7. The Accidental Gossip

This always happens. You’ll leave the stage and start having a nice chat about how that scene went, or you’ll charge off muttering expletives because you’ve got a quick change to do or something went wrong, and it turns out your microphone is still turned on. The people in the auditorium will probably find it hilarious, but let’s just hope you don’t start gossiping about someone else…

8. The Mind Blank

You’ve rehearsed the show for months and you’ve scoured that script from cover to cover in preparation for the week ahead, so why is it when those lights hit your face you suddenly go completely blank? It happens to the best of us, and usually in moments that have never gone wrong before. This could be lines, dance moves, entrances - you name it, something will completely slip your mind. It’ll be really annoying and then you’ll practice that part more than normal to make sure you definitely know it for every show.

9. SFX

You finally get to practice with the real sound effects, but let me tell you, if you use a gun or answer a telephone at any point, there will be a delay on that thing. The favourite and almost certain to come up is when you answer the phone but then it does another ring. “Hello...oh, uh, err...hello…”

10. Meeting the crew

These guys are going to help bring the show together, but in reality meeting the crew is never as exciting as it sounds. They’re busy trying to figure out when the scene changes happen, you’re busy trying to hold it together and make it on to the stage on time, so cast and crew rarely speak to each other unless it’s to say ‘excuse me’. Our only advice is to listen to them. You might need to be on stage but they might need to get a huge staircase off first and safety is more important than ‘the show must go on’. Take a look at our blog; 5 ways to keep your stage manager happy.

If you have a second dress rehearsal you are very lucky, and they tend to go a lot smoother as you know what to expect and what not to do the second time around. If you only have that one dress rehearsal, you get the privilege of going into your first show with THE FEAR. The fear is good, and you should know that a bad dress run usually means a good show - or so they say... 

Have fun!