Image courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress
When you get right down to it, the Dress Rehearsal process is a time for fine tuning the technical elements of the show that were added during the Tech Rehearsal. There’s a reason it’s called Tech Week, after all!
During the dress rehearsals, the actors will be working out the technical aspects of their performances. They’ll be adjusting their movement to the full set as it exists on the stage, since it always seems as though something or other on the completed stage is just a little different than it was in rehearsal space. We aren’t talking about changes to blocking here, although the director may also make some of those during tech week. Rather, an actor may need to remember to turn 210 degrees instead of just 180 because the door she’s about to storm out of is a little bit upstage from where it was in rehearsals. Adjustments, not changes.
Depending on the complexity of the hair and make up designs, there may be multiple dress rehearsals with full hair and make up, or these elements may only be added during final dress. For some shows, actors will be responsible for styling their own hair and doing their own make up, while for other shows there may be hair stylists and/or make up artists. One way or the the other, figuring out the timing on hair and make up is a key component for the cast members.
Actors will also very likely find themselves tweaking how their character moves or carries themselves in their full costumes. And they will find out just how much time they really have (or don’t have!) to make costume changes between scenes. The costumer will be there, too, as part of the technical crew. They may make last minute adjustments to costumes, sometimes for fit, but more often for presentation now that they can see how the costumes look on stage under stage lighting and in concert with the rest of the costumes.
The technical crew will be refining the look and feel of the show. The stage manager will be coordinating the efforts of the light board operator or operators, the sound technician, the spotlight operators, the stage hands and the fly system operator or operators so that everyone hits their cues. The props master will be making sure that props are where they need to be when they need to be there. The technical director will be backstage making any last minute fixes or adjustments to set pieces. And the director will be somewhere in the dark reaches of the house having an aneurism.
At the end of it all, though, everything will change. After weeks or months of work, countless hours of building and studying and rehearsing and going back and doing it again, suddenly, rehearsals will be over. The show will take on a life of it’s own.
House lights down.
Cue the main curtain.