Drama Rehearsal Techniques

by Derek M. Kwait, Demand Media

    Part of the success of a drama is that it looks spontaneous as if the events are actually occurring to the actors on stage and not scripted ahead of time. Ironically, this effect is only possible through hours of rehearsal. One of the ways to keep the drama fresh for the cast is through incorporating techniques into rehearsals that help actors explore their characters, bodies and peers in new and exciting ways.

    Character Development

    One of the most important jobs of rehearsal is to make sure everybody knows both their own and others' characters. Effective exercises for helping the cast get into their characters include having each actor get up in front of the cast and explain in detail who his character is, how he connects with him, what his motivations are, and the character's role in the wider production. Another idea is Collective Role, assigning different aspects of a single character's personality to different actors and having them interact with each other as a way of communally exploring the character.

    Vocal Warm-Ups

    As the essence of drama is the spoken (or sung) word, properly preparing your voice is essential for success. There are three aspects to the voice which must be warmed-up during rehearsals: the breath, larynx and resonance. Exercise the breath by controlling exactly where your breaths begin and end. Gently making small consonant and vowel sounds like "nn, mm, ah, eh and ee" ensures your mouth is open and helps remove any breaks in your voice. Making these sounds very softly then taking them up and down in pitch and volume further helps open the larynx. Resonance can be improved by working through tongue-twisters to fine-tune diction and vowel sounds.

    Ice-Breakers

    According to actor Dent Holden, when a cast is first rehearses together, ice breaker games get the cast comfortable with one another, loosen everyone up, and introduce everyone to the others' acting styles and personalities. There are many books of warm-up games available, but an example of a good one is "Follow the Leader," where the cast forms a circle and someone leaves the room while the group chooses a leader. Once the leader is chosen, the person outside comes back into the room. The leader will then begin performing different actions that will be mimicked by the rest of the cast while the person in the middle tries to guess who the leader is.

    Improv

    According to Holden, playing improv games as rehearsals continue helps the actors stay fresh and respond naturally to things happening on stage. Good improv games include Freeze, where two or three actors begin acting a scene and other actors can shout "Freeze!" at any point to jump in and change it; Two Up, One Down, where three actors improvise a scene wherein two must always be sitting and one standing; and Story Circle, where the cast sits in a circle and makes up a story one sentence at a time.

    About the Author

    Derek M. Kwait has a Bachelor of Arts in English writing from the University of Pittsburgh and has been writing for most of his life in various capacities. He has worked as a staff writer and videographer for the "Jewish Chronicle of Pittsburgh" and also has training writing fiction, nonfiction, stage-plays and screenplays.

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