Report by Toria Banks, 8 June 2015

For the first ten minutes nobody showed up for this conversation (except me), and then two very different useful chats happened.

So, Jim Manganello came and…

We thought that people might not want to talk about this subject because most of them are powerless to change the amount of rehearsal time available, and it's quite depressing. However we reached two useful (and connected) conclusions about what we could do as youngish directors:

1. We can NOT enter an arms race about out ability to achieve infinite things in ridiculous time frames. Getting a show up on a tight schedule requires competencies and skills which are important (and sometimes underrated in other sectors) but we felt that we don't help ourselves or others by seeking the status of miracle workers, and disregarding everything we have to offer except getting it done fast.

2. We also thought about the nature of the compromises that we need to make in short rehearsal times, and what might be better compromises than others. We both felt that sometimes in opera preserving the aura of completeness so a production ‘smells like a good show’ can take precedence over vitality and communication in performance. This seemed to us like a bad deal.

Then Jim had to go, and some more people joined me for a second discussion, which investigated this second point much more. Thanks to Edwina Strobl, Caroline Wilkins, David Edward, Charlotte Valori and Larry Coke.

David's contribution was really useful, as it was a bit of surprise to hear that he didn't think short rehearsal times were a problem, which lead us to what were, for me, really helpful insights. He spoke persuasively about thinking about ‘musical time’ rather than ‘clock time’, and about his refusal/inability to formulate an equation for how much time a show needed for rehearsal.

We agreed that the forging of a ‘company’ and the sharing of responsibility for the task in hand, could perhaps happen quickly as easily as slowly, and that they were key.

Again, we also felt that perhaps it wasn't time itself that was the problem, but expectations about sequence - expecting fully committed ‘acting’ to arrive at the end of a process never worked, but it is possible to work with the stuff of embodied performance from the start.

The quality of time needed was felt to be more threatened by the NA system than by tight schedules per se. Although we didn't manage to find a path round that other than not working in companies where NAs would inevitably be part of the process.

I think we agreed that the work of rehearsal had to be at the core of the whole process, (and that sometimes the imbalance between the years a director might have to prepare and formulate a response to a score, and the days they might spend with the performers who would actually do the work was too apparent in productions). This became the question we were left with: how can the work of rehearsal be at the centre of everything?


NAs, schedule, rehearsal time, directors, NA, scheduling, Rehearsal, Process, process, Opera, rehearsal, Directors, opera, rehearsal room