Monday, August 3, 2009

A Rehearsal Etiquette Guide

Monday musings...

A twitter follower suggested this and I am taking it!  Sad we have to even talk about this, but the query was this  "wish there was a good rehearsal etiquette guide we could hand to certain colleagues".  These so-called colleagues probably need a swift kick or smack upside the head, or perhaps need to be doing something else,  but in lieu of that let's create that rehearsal etiquette guide shall we???

I am seeing that what I have always considered common sense, isn't all that common anymore. So those of you who have it, none of these suggestions will be earth-shattering!

1.  Come to rehearsal with your music learned.  If you get the gig, have the courtesy to learn the music please!  It is disrespectful to your colleagues and to the process to come in ill-prepared.  It gives the impression you don't care, and if you don't care, then don't take the gig. There are many other singers who would be happy to have that gig!

2.  Treat your colleagues as you would like to be treated!  Leave your ego at the door.  Take your coat off your shoulders.  This isn't about you, it's about the work and about the project.  Get over yourself.  

3.  DO NOT take it upon yourself to correct a colleague or give technical advice.  This is not your role.  You are hired to SING a role not be a pedagogue or a coach.  Leave that to the coaches and the conductor.  DO YOUR WORK.  Let everybody else do theirs.

4. BE ON TIME. Are you kidding me?!  If the call is at 10 a.m. - be READY in your chair for the downbeat. Don't wander in at 10 a.m.  

5.  Don't ask stupid questions.  Don't get into debate with a conductor or challenge a conductor during rehearsal.  Make notes and ask questions on your own time.  (what is a stupid question? anything that takes time away from the rehearsal, that causes sighs from ANYONE in the room, rolling eyes, shuffling of music or feet..PAY ATTENTION!)

6.  Dress appropriately. COME ON!!! Understand the gig, and dress accordingly.  You aren't at the gym or at the club.  You are not at a performance.  Be comfortable, be YOU but the dress code also reflects your respect of the event.  If you aren't sure, ask.  If it's an orchestra rehearsal you might want to dress "up" a bit, if it's a staging rehearsal, you might be asked to dress "down" in order to move comfortably etc.  Know what you are walking into.

7.  EVERYBODY is a human being and deserves RESPECT!  Every player, every coach, every singer, conductor, stage director, stage manager - EVERYBODY.  Even if you feel disrespected, it does not give you the right to give that back.  It is amazing how a smile, a positive acknowledgement, a simple "good morning" can go a long, long way!  And guess, what - the opposite is also true, and is remembered even LONGER.

8.  Keep your own counsel.  This is a rehearsal, not a luncheon or a gossip-fest or the like.  Be there to do the work and do it.  Be pleasant, be collegial, be pliable and open to suggestion and changes.  This is an opportunity to create your reputation as a singer, as a musician, as a colleague and frankly, as a human being!  

9. When someone else is working - SHUT THE FUCK UP!  Do not talk while another singer is working! This is disrespectful and rude.  THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU!  (added from a singer's comment: If you are double-cast or covering and it's not your rehearsal but the other cast's rehearsal - be discreet and unobtrusive!  You don't need to mouth words, self-conduct or take any second for yourself - you will get your turn!  Pay attention, make notes, and recognize what is going on.  Trying to draw attention will NOT draw the attention you want!)

Your reputation develops and follows you very closely.  Your work and how you approach your work and how you treat your colleagues all matters.  It is all carefully watched.  Nothing you do in rehearsal is in isolation but is always in relationship to others, and should be treated that way.

If singing is important to you, then the PROCESS of rehearsal must be respected and delivered with authenticity and commitment.  If it is not, in my opinion, you have no business being there.  That simple.  You either commit and do the work, or do something else.

If each singer, player and conductor commits to the process of rehearsal together, magic happens and something is discovered!  If they don't, and the process of rehearsal becomes about ego and self,  hell ensues.  

I'd rather find the magic.  


  1. Great list! I'd add to #5; there is a chain of command in a theatre, find out what it is. Often, your question should be directed to the Stage Manager or someone else further down the chain; not the conductor/director. This becomes more and more important as the show gets ready to open. In a tech/dress rehearsal, there are almost NO situations where stopping the show to ask a question is OK.

  2. thanks for that addition!!! You are absolutely correct!

  3. This is great! I teach middle school chorus, so obviously this wouldn't be super appropriate for them, but I used your ideas as I was creating an activity for them about rehearsal etiquette. Thanks for sharing!

  4. One more...if you are double cast or covering, learn your staging and all the detaisl of the character you are covering/playing during their reversals.
    Don't expect to be blocked from scratch at the cover rehearsal and also don't try to convince the conductor/director to take in account your views of the work.

    1. thanks! Always more to add! Rehearsal etiquette could be a full book!

  5. I absolutely love the above, thank you for taking the time to write it. l SM at our local theatre, and the above applies to actors as well, and in fact, everyone in a production, including myself!

    1. thanks Kathi and thank you for your work! SM'ing is tough work - and often thankless. Let me be one to say thank you for all you do - and all SMs out there. We wouldn't have a production without you!