restricted access Rehearsal Reviews: Introduction
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Rehearsal Reviews: Introduction

This issue of Shakespeare Bulletin contains something that the journal has never before attempted: a collection of reviews that endeavor to capture the work done on the Shakespearean play-text by a number of companies of actors and directors during isolated sessions of rehearsal. The reviews were commissioned from both scholars and theatre makers in a variety of global contexts with a view to providing accounts of what transpired during any single session in which the scholar/practitioner-author was present as an observer, and during which a particularly interesting aspect of process emerged (with a particular emphasis requested in elucidation of the methodologies employed, and their successes in soliciting changes and developments in the crafting of performances, individual and/or collective).

Often the most significant moments of insight and the most pivotal decisions in performance come in the early- to middle- periods of a rehearsal process, when many risks are being taken, and the number of new ideas and experiments is therefore at its highest. Obviously, given the necessary issues of trust and the difficulties that pertain in establishing a supportive ensemble feeling that is conducive to producing and maintaining an atmosphere of risk-taking that supports actors and directors in their “right to fail” during such experiments, many companies are reluctant to accept “strangers” into the rehearsal room during these important phases of developmental collaboration. I therefore sought contributions from scholar/practitioners who already had well-developed relationships with the directors and companies they sought to observe. Happily, this is largely the case.

Documenting rehearsal, like documenting performance, is a difficult task and, if it is done well, it requires sustained passages of “thick description” in order to present accurately what is actually going on. I was [End Page 535] therefore interested in (and asked my authors to provide) concise writing that documented and critically contextualised through performance theory the work undertaken in just one rehearsal session for a current production of a Shakespeare play. Authors were explicitly asked not to trace in their reviews an over-arching arc of a company’s general rehearsal methods, or of the work of a particular director or actor; there was also no requirement that reviews of a rehearsal juxtapose what happened in that particular session against how the strategy employed finally emerged in “finished” public performances. I simply wanted smart accounts of any interesting events that transpired in a specific rehearsal room, on a particular day.

The results are disparate, but all are, I think, interesting: Stephanie Bauerocshe documents a rehearsal of Das Wintermärchen [The Winter’s Tale] undertaken in preparation for the première of Frank Günther’s translation, rehearsed by the Stadttheater Ingolstadt, Ingolstadt, Germany; Colette Gordon reports on a session for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, rehearsed by Abrahamse and Meyer Productions at the Artscape Theatre, Cape Town; Aneta Mancewicz provides an account of a full day of rehearsals for Mercuzio non vuole morire [Mercutio does not want to die], directed by Armando Punzo for the Compagnia della Fortezza in Volterra, Italy; Kevin A. Quarmby recounts a session leading towards a production of King John, rehearsed by Claire Evans, in association with The Steam Industry at the Union Theatre, Southwark, London; Jami Rogers provides an account of Macbeth; rehearsed by David Thacker at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton; Penelope Woods considers work done on A Midsummer Night’s Dream undertaken by the education team at Shakespeare’s Globe; and lastly, Jan Wozniak considers a student production of Twelfth Night; rehearsed by Bristol Old Vic Theatre School at Subud Hall, Bristol.

The selection is deliberately eclectic and reveals the sometimes very different approaches taken to text and action in a variety of international contexts. The reviews also reveal the intensely human nature of rehearsal and support the notion of embodied, collective process that is outlined in the general introduction to this volume. In what follows, we see brief glimpses of people working towards performed outcomes, actors who are often not yet fully subsumed by role, directors giving instructions or questioning and probing their actors in order to push the boundaries of what is being developed. Often this happens in ways that...