During the first couple of weeks, rehearsals for A Little Night Music at the Players Guild of Dearborn were devoted to staging or blocking the show. Rehearsals at the Players Guild usually take place in the Clubroom as set construction is taking place on the stage. Most of the floor tiles in the Clubroom are beige, but white tiles outline the acting space available on the stage, in effect, creating a “rehearsal stage.”
At early rehearsals for A Little Night Music, Director Harold Jurkiewicz arranged available Clubroom furniture on the the rehearsal stage to represent the furniture the actors would be using during the production. Harold then described the various entrances and told where the actors were at the opening of the scene. He then staged or blocked the scene.
For example, in the Prologue, Madam Armfeldt, played by Diana Reynolds of Taylor, is in her wheelchair and her butler, Frid, played by Kerry Plague of Canton, wheels her into the scene from up right stopping about center stage. Fredrika, Madam Armfeldt’s teenaged granddaughter, played by Jade Reynolds of Oxford who happens be Diana’s real granddaughter, comes from stage left and stands next to the wheelchair watching her grandmother play cards. On one of her lines, Harold tells Fredrika to kneel next to the wheelchair. On one of Madam Armfeldt’s lines, he tells Fredrika to lean in toward her grandmother. The blocking continues in this fashion until the scene is over.
As Harold is giving the blocking, the actors and one of the assistant directors take it down, copying the directions into a copy of the libretto in a variety of shorthand notes. They might write, “Enter UR X L to C.” This means “Enter from upstage right. Cross to the left. Stop near center stage.” The actors do this so they can learn their lines as well as their blocking. The assistant directors take it down so they can correct blocking errors as the rehearsals move forward. Harold will block a short segment of the scene and have the actors go through it again, and, in some cases, again and again before moving on to the next segment. Needless to say, the blocking rehearsals can become tedious at times, especially those scenes that involve a lot of people.
Both actors and directors are anxious to get “off book,” meaning the actors know their lines and blocking well enough to rehearse the show without having to carry a script around. Not having a book frees up the actors to begin using props and allows the director to begin to polish the scene by making changes to the blocking. For example, in the little scene described above, during the third or fourth time through it, Harold told Madam Armfleldt to reach down to the kneeling Fredrika and touch her chin while delivering one of her lines. These little changes help bring the characters and the play to life.