by, Bianca Morrison Dillard – Dramaturg
At one of our first rehearsals for Holiday, Becca Ingram (Linda Seton) came to make her first entrance. As she entered, she puzzled as to where to put her coat in the scene. She pointed to a chair next to the “door” and said, “What is this, is this a coat rack?” to which the rest of us replied, “No, it’s a chair.” The funny thing is, it was a chair. Not funny? Let me see if I can explain. This story isn’t funny because Becca doesn’t know what a chair is, it’s funny because in rehearsal things are not always what they seem. A chair can sometimes actually “be” a coat rack.
Some might see a play and only imagine the actors rehearsing on the ornate set complete with furniture, props, costumes, and fantastic lighting. Not so. Rehearsals almost exclusively take place in an entirely different location and lack most of the trappings you see in performance. The actors rely heavily on imagination and pantomime.
This week will be the first time the actors have had access to the stage, set, props, costumes. As we move into this new stage of rehearsal, I thought it would be nice to share what the bulk of our rehearsal has looked like.
Our rehearsal space is in a large room where the floor has been outlined with colored tape to delineate where the walls, doors, and furniture will be, with different colors for each room of the set. The “set” is then furnished with chairs, tables, and theatre blocks–this gives the actors a sense of where things will be once they get on stage.
In production, the actors will have real props, including liquid to drink and sandwiches to eat. Now they employ pantomime, or use “hand props” (props that they use in place of their real props).
Often times, actors & actresses will wear shoes similar in feel to the shoes they will use in performance. This allows them to get used to the walk of their character. The color of the shoe is less important.
In our rehearsal rooms there are no real walls to separate off stage from on.
I hope that gives you a better idea of why a chair being a chair might be funny in the right context–in a world, strange though it may be, where chairs are sometimes coat racks and thin air can be anything you like.