Auditions for all four shows in the 35th season took place in March, but rehearsal for Ideal Husband didn’t begin until the end of June. This long break gave us time to finish cutting Oscar Wilde’s script and further flesh out other aspects of Philip’s vision. Mostly, though, three months of waiting meant that by the time the first rehearsal came around, we were all itching to get to work.
The first day consisted of introductions and a read through. First rehearsals are fun because there are so many new people and ideas to absorb, and since there was such a buildup leading to this one, it felt particularly exciting. I found myself somewhat nervous to hear, for the first time, the complete cast reading the entire script; I hadn’t realized how simultaneously relieving and invigorating it would be to feel assured that these talented people fit together well and know that the production would only get better with time and work.
The general outline of the rehearsal process is, chronologically, as follows: read through, table work, blocking (when and to where the actors move), scene work, tech, dress, performance. Accordingly, after the first read through, we broke the script into smaller chunks and read through it, occasionally stopping to talk about a particular relationship or motivation. Mostly, though, there weren’t a lot of interruptions; Philip explained to me that this early on in rehearsal, giving too much direction can cause the actors to feel claustrophobic and prevent them from taking creative risks. For example, Wilde’s writing contains an abundance of witty asides, many of which are possible to make into comic bits. It was tempting to stop rehearsal and tell the actors to try it a certain way so that joke would play, but it turns out that it’s far more effective to leave it alone and let it develop organically as rehearsals progress. Throughout the table work and blocking phases, it is more beneficial to let the actors to get to know the script and and their characters, with occasional gentle nudges in a certain direction.