Entrances and Exits

Preparing Plays for Touring

King and Prince

A scene from Famous Victories.
(Click to Enlarge)

The problems presented by performing in different spaces and different configurations night after night was an additional challenge for our modern actors, who were already expected to prepare three plays for performance in the time it would usually take them to prepare two.

Blocking Different Venues

As the company director/facilitator, I was concerned about the amount of new information and new techniques I was asking the actors to learn in a short space of time. I needed to find a way to make the actors comfortable when approaching the constantly changing conditions of performance. I initially created a blocking plot for each play, marking characters' entrances and exits on in little diagrams on my script. The technique was laborious and complex and it became clear that however well I managed the traffic on the stage for the first productions, problems would arise when we started to move the show from venue to venue. I started to wonder how Elizabethan companies would have solved this problem.

Research

Book Cover

Rehearsal
by Tiffany Stern
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Tiffany Stern's analysis of evidence on early modern rehearsal practice suggests the actors prepared for performance alone, studying their parts to learn their lines and cues. Once the lines were learnt the evidence implies that the full company would meet only once and rehearse for a maximum of four hours before performing the play in front of a live audience .

Prompt Books & Staging

The theatre companies kept track of movement on and off the stage in a prompt book. Several of these prompt books have survived but none of them indicate which door the characters should enter through except when two characters or groups of characters are entering the stage simultaneously through different doors.

Given the time constraints and the fact that specific doors were not recorded for entrances and exits, I felt that early modern theatre professionals must have had some shorthand or protocol actors could follow for every play. I decided to experiment with the possibility that characters always entered through one door and exited through another. I chose stage left for entrances and stage right for exits. The advantage of this simple system is that it avoids the possibility of collision and traffic problems as the characters get on and off the stage, since they will never try to enter and exit through the same door/curtain. This basic protocol proved to be very effective in practice and is one of the premises for the following exploration of the staging of the central King/Prince scenes in Famous Victories.

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