Gary Race  

Getting The Show On The Road, Part III: Rehearsal and Performance

Gary Race
July 26, 2019

Editor's Abstract (Click to Hide)

Now that you've written the script, and selected and rehearsed all the musical selections, what do you need to know about actually performing your presentation in front of the students? In the third installment in his series, Gary Race takes you through the final process, step by step.

Three sessions will get your presentation polished. The first involves practicing the script itself, and getting all the details in place (where did I put that garden hose??). The second involves blocking the show - getting the stage directions figured out. Gary recommends making a diagram and even using a rubber ball (in rehearsal) to identify who has focus during different parts of the show. Now you're ready for the dress rehearsal, preferably with a test audience of real children!

Finally, Gary discusses all aspects of the performance itself: how to set up your space, how to introduce yourselves, what to wear, and how to handle Q & A sessions. And of course, it's important to constantly assess your own performance from all angles.

If you follow all of Gary's suggestions in this series, you should be able to develop and present a first-class instrumental educational experience, while thoroughly enjoying yourself in the process. Educational ensemble performances should be fun for both you and the students!

- Ann Drinan


To start, I should say “rehearsals.” This will be more like putting together Penderecki than Purcell.I am assuming that the group will spend sufficient time rehearsing the music for the program. Again, a reminder: the music is the core of your program – the single most important element. (It may help to consider that you are most likely to be responsible for initiating your audience’s taste in music! I encourage you to set a high standard for them and for you!) Perhaps someone in your group has experience with the theatrical rehearsal process. If not, here are some guidelines for the next phase of your work.

Rehearsal Preparation

  1. Everyone should have a copy of the script and all music and, need I say, a pencil!

  2. Plan on at least three sessions. Each session should be about three hours.
    • The goal of the first session is to bring the script out into the open; that is, to speak it out loud and integrate the music with the text. If there are still unassigned segments or uncertain repertoire selections, this is the time to settle everything. By the end of this first rehearsal, all edits, changes, and ambiguities should be settled and clear. Everyone should make notes and compare notes at the end of the session.

    • The second session is to establish the “staging” or the movement patterns for the program. I will address the details of this later. But, unless you are used to alternating between moving and sitting and talking and playing, this is the toughest rehearsal.

    • The third session is a dress rehearsal and should run as if you were performing it for an audience in every way. Details are below, but it is often best to plan for two runs within the time. The first run would be only the dialogue and staging, starting each piece and then cutting to the last few bars. The second run would be with all the music selections played completely.
  1. As the three sessions progress, you will be making decisions on how to set up – where music stands and other props will be placed. Be prepared to make a diagram of these details as they are decided. This diagram will be as important as the sheet music.

  2. The atmosphere at these sessions is important.This is new and perhaps challenging territory for some. If you play in a chamber ensemble, you know that the first encounter with a new piece of material can be either an exciting exploration or a disastrous journey. The former is obviously better. Snacks help!

  3. The rehearsal space will become more important as things progress. By your second session you should be in a space that is large enough for you to set up as you would ideally for performance, and can imagine an audience in front of you.

Formatting the Script and Music This seems deceptively simple. A copy machine, scissors, a glue stick, and tape should be available at each session. Each member of the group should be responsible for organizing and formatting this material. Your ultimate goal is to make the transitions in and out of music as smooth and unflustered as possible.

  • Memorizing the script is always best. But some will need their words to be printed in full form and large type; others will want an outline on 3 x 5 cards.

    Note: As you rehearse and perform, it is likely that the script will become more familiar and printed material can be set aside. However, it is always best to begin within people’s comfort zone.
  • To accomplish a flow of words and music, you may need to copy, cut, and paste music so that transitions are simple. Fumbling around and flipping back and forth with sheets of music or script can be very disruptive to a program. Each person should create a version of the program that allows for flow. Think also about where this information will be placed – in a book? Clipped to a music stand? You may need to experiment to find the right solution.

  • By the end of the first rehearsal, everyone should know how to format their script and music for the next rehearsal. Everyone should come to the second rehearsal with this work accomplished, and ready for revisions. The same holds for the following rehearsals. By the final dress, everything must be in order.

Note: In the theater, there is a hard and fast rule: no new items can be added into or after the final dress – not even a hat or a fan or a lace trim! The reason is simple. Unless you are very skilled at integrating foreign objects into established patterns, these additions become distractions and can diminish the level of the entire performance. Last minute inspirations can be added after the first performance!

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