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Have you ever seen a person “freeze up” during a casting call? Or, perhaps, you’ve watched someone on America’s Got Talent who clearly didn’t rehearse. If you’ve ever watched someone truly flop, it’s often crystal clear that no preparation was done.

The truth is that most people who make it big in Hollywood are those who rehearse, prepare and continually brush up on scripts. Let’s talk about acting preparation, acting rehearsal and why it’s so crucial to make sure you prepare before a casting call.

What’s the difference between preparation and rehearsal?

While preparation and rehearsal are often terms used interchangeably, they are not the same.

Preparation happens before rehearsal. This is the moment where you read the script, get to know the character and try to get into the character’s mind. Rehearsal is when you take time to memorize the script, act out the script and figure out what works.

Preparation is the foundation of a realistic character. Rehearsal makes sure that you have that chemistry you need on-set and also ensures that you don’t end up forgetting your lines at the worst possible time.

Setting the stage for success: The importance of rehearsal and preparation in acting

Even great improv actors do not skip on rehearsal and preparation when they are working with a script. And before we get into the basics of preparation and rehearsal, let’s talk about the why.

Why is it important to prepare before the rehearsal?

Every single script is a story with characters that rely on actors to come alive. An actor who takes the time to study the script and learn the character’s motivations will do far better than an actor who doesn’t take the time to prepare.

Let’s take a look at the six most important perks of preparation:

1. Character research. You can’t just go in and expect to fall into the character’s mind. You have to think like them, think about how they came to be and understand their motivations for a truly multifaceted approach.

2. Building backstory. A script can only go so far in helping a character become “real.” Top actors will have their inner ideas on the backstory of the character they play for a more realistic outcome.

3. Memorization techniques. Everyone has their own memorization techniques they use, whether it’s waiting for key cues or writing down the lines. It’s good to know how you best internalize lines.

4. Costume and prop considerations. Once you read the script, you get a feeling of what your character would wear, hold and use in the scene. For example, would Tony Soprano be as iconic without his white bathrobe or his cigar? Probably not. Preparation means you get into character costume, too.

5. Mental and physical readiness. No one tells you how physically exhausting acting can be, nor the toll it can take on your mind. Preparation means that you can brace yourself for the emotional impact of getting in your character’s head.

6. Time management and professionalism. If you are applying for a job, you don’t want to be late for the interview. Preparation includes getting to your rehearsals and casting calls on time!

Why is it important to rehearse before a performance?

Rehearsal isn’t just about memorizing your lines—although that is the backbone of being able to deliver any type of performance. After all, how can you recite lines if you don’t even remember them?

There are more reasons to rehearse than you might expect, and the following are just some of the benefits you will get from the time you put in:

  • Enhancing performance. Love it or hate it, a well-rehearsed play (or film) often leads to a good performance. The more you can snap out those lines, the better and more real it’ll sound.
  • Building chemistry with co-stars. Rehearsing with your castmates is not just good for the play, it lets you get a better understanding of their process and how they want to work their characters.
  • Perfect timing and delivery. Being able to time a joke perfectly is an art that requires a lot of rehearsal.
  • Boosting confidence. Practice makes perfect, and it also fends off stage fright. When you rehearse your lines regularly, you gain the confidence you need to work the stage.
  • Adapting to unexpected challenges. Weird things and mishaps can happen when you’re onstage. Those same things can happen during rehearsal. Finding out what can happen before you have to perform can give you the time and space you need to come up with a solution.
    • Now that we’ve gone into the importance of it, let’s talk about prep and rehearsal techniques.

      Practical tips for effective preparation

      Preparing is the first step to take before rehearsal—especially before the first one. These tips can help:

      • Read the script through and ask why your character would act the way they do. Think of how you’d act in that scenario. Would you be angry? Scared? What’s going on in your (their) mind?
      • Try to memorize as much as you can before you do a live rehearsal. This counts as one of the best acting preparation techniques, as well as one of the best acting rehearsal techniques. It speeds things along immensely.
      • Visualize your character. If you can, think of your character in a storybook. What do they look like in your mind?
      • Get yourself into “character” mode. In that time, you have to remember that you are not you. You are your character. Act like they do, think like they do and immerse yourself in it.
      • Learn stress reduction techniques. Characters can come with a lot of baggage. Be prepared to be stressed out when you get into their minds. It’s good to ground yourself and remind yourself that it’s not real after your performance is done.
      • Pencil in your rehearsal times and make a point of getting there early. Timeliness is a must for anyone in entertainment. Casting directors will drop you if they think you’re a flake.

      Practical tips for effective rehearsal

      Now that you’ve gotten a better idea of preparation, let’s talk about rehearsal. These tips can help:

      • Write your lines down repeatedly. This is sometimes called a “silent rehearsal.” It’s a simple way to learn your lines without having to speak them over and over again.
      • Watch yourself in the mirror as you rehearse. If you can’t do that, then tape yourself rehearsing. A self tape is a great way to see how your performance carries.
      • Call a rehearsal buddy. Get your castmate’s phone number so that you can rehearse over the phone or Zoom—at least during those early stages.
      • Book a rehearsal space. Ideally, this would be the stage where you are performing. However, if you can’t do that, try to get an indoor place with a similar setup.
      • Take notes on your weak points. Whether it’s a particular line you forgot or a critique you got from the director, jotting down notes post-rehearsal is a smart idea. It will help you hone in on what you need to change.

      Utilizing rehearsal spaces

      Rehearsal spaces are special areas where professional actors and stage crews can work on their performances together. Most colleges and theater areas will have one for you, complete with a schedule for your particular performance.

      If you are rehearsing for a casting call, it may be best to have your own home rehearsal space. This would be an empty room (minus a chair and maybe a lighting/camera setup) where you can work on your craft in peace.

      Rehearsal spaces are great for people who need to focus. If you cannot find a rehearsal space near you, book a private room at the library. Many libraries have private, soundproofed rooms that work well for this purpose.

      The five stages of rehearsals

      Many music and acting coaches note that rehearsals tend to happen in a series of stages. Knowing where you are can tell you how much more you have to rehearse, and where you are at the stage of the production. Here’s one way of seeing it, according to Sage Journals:

      1. Early rehearsals. This is the stage where you might feel daunted by all the demands of learning the script, nailing a character and getting cozy with colleagues. Most of the time, these rehearsals are shaky and you may forget your lines.

      2. Late rehearsals. Assuming you continue to rehearse, this is the point where you already memorized your lines and are more comfortable in character. This stage is more about “fine-tuning” your performance and getting better chemistry with your colleagues.

      3. The performance. This is show time! You will probably have multiple performances, so this will be part of the show.

      4. The immediate aftermath. Once a show is done, most actors and musicians recalibrate. They look at how they felt performing and see if there’s anything they learned about their skillset.

      5. Moving on. After a wrap-up, actors and musicians will take what they learned from that performance and use it in their next show. This can include methods of rehearsing and performance tips, as well as acknowledging potential problems.

      Nailing the first day of rehearsal

      Your first day of a group acting rehearsal is usually going to be the hardest. Even the most elite actors hate that first day because they don’t know what to expect. Here’s what you should do to nail it:

      • Memorize as much of your lines as possible beforehand. Memorization of your lines ahead of the rehearsal is crucial. Even if you need to keep writing down those lines or repeat them to yourself, keep at it. Your castmates will appreciate it.
      • Make a point of introducing yourself to the cast. You want to have their contact information and encourage them to give you advice. When you work together, everyone wins.
      • Show up on time. This is a must regardless of whether it’s your first rehearsal or your last rehearsal. If you want to work in entertainment, the only time that you should ever expect to be late is if you get into an accident, get injured or are sick.
      • Do not be a diva. Professional acting troupes have plenty of talent to choose from. The easiest way to get blackballed in the entertainment industry is to become a diva on stage, make demands and get cocky with people. No one wants to work with a bully!
      • When in doubt, ask. There is never any harm in asking a crew member or director about a mishap or problem. Communication is key.

      Collaborative stage rehearsals

      Collaborative stage rehearsals happen at rehearsal spaces and involve all the members of the cast. It’s meant to be a rehearsal style that involves open input and discourse over how the production should go.

      During this style, you will often hear suggestions from castmates and crew members. You also may end up offering advice to your fellow castmates. Embrace it, but remember to keep things polite. Feelings can get hurt in this field.

      Closing summary

      • Preparation and rehearsal are what make a performance great.
      • The more prepared you are, the more professional you will appear to castmates and casting directors.
      • Preparation is the work before the rehearsal, while rehearsal involves the memorization and practice of the script.
      • Rehearsal improves confidence, hones your craft and bolsters set chemistry.
      • Preparation involves script analysis, planning, character mentality exercises and readiness.
      • Using effective techniques is a must for any professional actor.

      No two things are more important to an actor than preparation and rehearsal. These two elements are what can turn a performance into a masterpiece. They also are a cornerstone of your acting life.

      Being able to nail your preparation and rehearsals will make or break your career. Are you ready to take the next step to stardom? Sign up or log in to Casting Frontier and start applying these tips to your auditions today.

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      Written by Ossiana Tepfenhart