How is an Opening Doors rehearsal any different from ones I have experienced?
On the 11/04/2018 I attended my first Ensemble rehearsal for Opening Doors’ upcoming show. I wasn’t quite sure what I would experience, what the level of dedication would be and how far along they are in preparation for their show, which is taking place on the 26th and 27th of April at Teatru Salesjan in Sliema.
Coming in without much experience or background knowledge, I thought that since we would be working with performers with disabilities, the session would be slower paced and a little loud and chaotic.
WELL, WAS I WRONG?
The Ensemble cast is made up of 13 Opening Doors’ dancers, musicians and actors. They have been rehearsing the performance titled “The Secret”, which is inspired by the popular story “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, since November and will be touring their production in Leeds, UK this year. How amazing is this opportunity to go to another country to perform! A privilege I would love to attain one day too!
Under the watchful eye of Sandra, Opening Doors’ Artistic Director, I was introduced to the tutors (teachers from each discipline of dance, music and theatre) and took my place in the Valletta venue – St Albert the Great College. I was greeted by many actors and dancers I had worked with before, who outstretched their kindness to engage in conversation with me and what I had been up to. I couldn’t help but notice how close everyone was. Not ‘we have to work with each other so will be polite’, but everyone genuinely respected one another and supported their peers whenever they could. There was no discipline divide of who was in what profession, but a unity found within the arts. I am amazed, as my last personal ensemble experience was the exact opposite – the competition and segregation of dancers, actors and musicians.
Rarely do you see artists of one discipline joining in warm ups of another, unless of course you are a triple threat! Each musician, dancer, actor and director warmed up their body, mind and vocals seeing the importance in the unity.
Rehearsals begin. The room was buzzing with excitement as everyone was told to start from act two, people taking their places- musicians at the instruments and actors and dancers off stage. Almost immediately lines started flowing and every warm and heartfelt conversation dissolved as the concentration focused solely on this show. The passion and love to do what they are doing showed through every movement and word, every drum beat or piano key. How skilled are the Ensemble cast at delivering a cohesive story!
It was a stop-start rehearsal, meaning as soon as something arose that needed fixing everything was stopped. A general note would be given to explain what needed altering and then the tutor in charge of that discipline would give a note and demonstrate. The most interesting aspect for me was that of timing. I would expect everything to be done with musical queuing, for example ‘when X happens in the music, Y happens’ however a counting technique was used and not just with the dancers. The musicians play in response to what is happening on stage, allowing a flexibility for the natural variations that happen between performances. This meant that on stage, the performers were more in tune with one another and what was happening and knew each other’s moves and cues to begin to count when their entrance would be. As a result, we have a tight working team.
If a note was given about a line, it would always be encouraging, knowing that we can push for even more and the response to this positive reinforcement technique was remarkable (in a nut shell positive reinforcement is praising what has been done well to encourage it to grow more).
Actors would ask how it was coming across, and pay close attention to the emotion in even a relatively small line that I would probably over look if I was doing the same thing. The attention to detail, the continuous care after such a long time rehearsing was amazing. Of course we all know the stress with a show around the corner, lines getting stuck on the tip of our tongue or memory blank. Let alone being bilingual and switching between two languages to deliver an English-speaking performance. This stress was dealt with effectively by the care in the smaller details. By going over two lines a couple of times, confidence grew again and delivery became clearer. This meant that by taking away the time pressure, everyone could focus on the present moment.
After a busy run of two acts, the rehearsal came to a close as everyone prepared for a long week of everyday rehearsals. The sheer dedication to not burn out practising for so long and keep the excitement for an audience, is a skill I’m confident will be retained in the last leg of time before their first show.
For more information about the performances at Teatru Salesjan on the 26th and 27th of April visit the Opening Doors Malta Facebook page
The Opening Doors’ Ensemble is supported by Valletta 2018 through a collaborative called (In)Visibility