There are a number of points that you hit in every rehearsal process, and each of them reveals to the actors, the director, sometimes the designers, different aspects of the play, and of the work that still lies ahead. One such point is what we often call the first stumble-through.
The term is particularly apt, as we do just what it suggests: we stumble our way through the play, with our primary goal being simply to get from the beginning to the end. There’s a fair bit of stumbling on multiple fronts, as actors juggle lines, blocking, props (sometimes literally), and ideas about what they’re trying to do in their work.
Often, the single greatest accomplishment of the first stumble-through is simply for the actors and the director (me, in this case) to experience the sequence of events as they occur in the play. No matter what we’ve done before this point, no matter how prepared we feel we are, we are often surprised to learn that two events occur as close together as they do, or that a character keeps beginning scenes asleep, or that this chase scene is so closely followed by that tango.
Usually, when we go through the whole play in rehearsals, we call it a run-through. In this first pass, however, we rarely feel we’re running. It’s more like we’re just learning to walk (a little bit the way the Swan does in the play). At the same time, however, there are also moments of beauty scattered all through that first stumble-through. Now we step back, and begin to take everything apart again, so we can put it back together–a little fuller, a little more smoothly. Each point in rehearsals reveals its own truths and surprises. Today, we walked away excited (and a little tired), ready to celebrate the Fourth of July, then return and find the next steps.
Daniel Elihu Kramer