We have finally wrapped up the season with last week’s production of our spring mainstage, Under the Big Top! Our spring show is our most intensive event and has an intensive devising process that makes it very different from a typical show. So here’s a look at what Under the Big Top’s rehearsal process was like!
We started every rehearsal with a physical warm-up that the ensemble created our first day together, followed by “flocking” – an exercise that looks a lot like a group dance, with the movements changing as different people were struck by inspiration. Typically, a game to warm up our imaginations would follow.
Our first week in rehearsal focused in on world-building – we did a lot of work involving creating moments in a circus and playing with sensory experiences. We did a lot of partner work where we would have a set amount of time to come up with a brief scene or set of experiences, helping us produce a lot of material just in that first week. This was as simple as playing with a prop in the space and talking about what we liked about it to devising a scene around clowning. We were visited by our lovely set designer, lighting designer, and props designer and got to talk a little about what our playing space would look like, as well as getting to physically work with pieces they had brought in to show us to see how they might fit into the show.
Week Two introduced us to research hours! The ensemble worked in small teams to research the different senses – taste, sight, sound, smell, touch, and the kinesthetic sense – and present them to the rest of the group in a variety of ways. We did everything from a “sight walk” (one person with their eyes shut being led around outside by a partner) to trying to identify objects by touch to guessing the ingredients in different perfumes! In between, we started devising more specifically, going for scenes that were directly related to our characters for the show rather than the general circus experience. We also discovered what our circus animal was meant to be – a Loodle (lion-poodle mix)!
By the start of week three, we were devising and finalizing the “scenes” we had with Concessions Lad, the Loodle, and our acrobat, Dizzy Lizzy. Team Music, our wonderful composition and song-writing team, also came in to teach us some songs and talk to us about what our other songs might be like, with the storylines we were building. We started doing stumble-throughs of the show, too, to work out any kinks in the sensory experiences we wanted to offer and cement our understanding of the show. We also did a little extra team-building to strengthen the ensemble. At the tail end of the week, we filmed our social story (video that explains the Seesaw experience for our audience members), learned our last songs, and had a lesson in ASL!
Week four started out with a recording session for our songs, and quickly led us into proxy runs. Proxy runs are a very important part of Seesaw shows in which friends of Seesaw come in to experience the show as audience members and give Adventure Guides and cast members a chance to practice. While proxies may be asked to adopt certain likes or dislikes (being sensitive to noise or being particularly active, for example), we generally just ask them to be themselves and simply follow any impulses they feel in the space. Proxies are especially helpful in identifying parts of the show that don’t translate well or that might be overwhelming, and are a very important part of polishing the show. AGs also practice on each other.
Week five was tech week, the week that we got to move into our performance venue and work with the set and final props. We spent some time getting to know the space, had more proxy runs, and started performances!
Seesaw’s rehearsal process is a busy one, but so much fun – and definitely not something we could do without the wonderful Seesaw community. We will see you next year!