People often think that once they get through the rehearsal process the hardest part is over. It is now time to start enjoying the performances. For many productions, however, there is still one more important step between the studio rehearsals and the actual performances. The install process is a crucial part of many theatrical productions. As the install process is often less discussed than the regular rehearsal process, we wanted to provide you with some information on what to expect if you are a part of a show that has an install process.
The first thing to note about installs is that they are most often in a different location than where the rehearsals are held. Therefore, just before the install begins you are asked to travel. Sometimes this travel will include busses, hotels, planes, and even time zone changes. Because of this, you are often starting the install tired and at a sleep disadvantage. To add to this, it can be hard to get your sleep schedule back on track after arrival as often times your scheduled times in the theater will be scheduled around theater “off-times”. This means when nobody else is currently using the theater (read when you should be sleeping). Unfortunately, there is no time for a groggy tired brain, however, as more often than not some of the more important information will be imparted to you at the very start of the install.
An important cornerstone of any install process will be that of blocking. While you may have learned rough staging while in the rehearsal process, it is during the install that you will get specifics regarding numbers, physical theater checkpoints, and traffic patterns. While this process can be tedious, it is very important for a clean overall look of a production. It is suggested that you keep scrupulous notes during this process so that you have something to refer to when questions arise later in the contract. Note taking is also great during this time to counteract the previously mentioned groggy tired brain.
You need to be prepared for changes and to be flexible during an install process. Sometimes things that are taught in a rehearsal studio will need to be adjusted once they are seen in the theater setting. If this is a new show being installed for the first time, changes tend to be bigger and more frequent. It is not even uncommon for entire numbers to be cut. You may be asked to learn an entire new song or set of choreography during this period.
A large portion of an install process is spent adding in technical elements. Even if you’ve had a mock set in the rehearsal studio this will be a whole new experience. If your set has automation and moving pieces you are often taken on a cue to cue through the show so that you can see how each set piece will move and when. This will not always be the case, however, you may just be thrown into a run with the set. In any case, it is very important that you be on your toes during these first few runs as it can be easy to injure yourself during these runs where automation is beginning to be added. Be aware that you may need to change paths that you were using in rehearsal to allow for set movement. This is not the time to be on autopilot. Another important technical element to be added during installs is lighting. You are sometimes asked to do a cue to cue where you go stand on stage in your different positions throughout the show so that lights can be set and focused. This can be time consuming and tedious, but its important to be accurate in each placement as this will be where the lights will be set for your performances.
Depending on the production you are in, you may be going into an existing set of costumes. If this is the case, you will often be scheduled for costume fittings during your install process. It’s important that you remember to bring proper shoes and under garments to your fittings as the costumers will be fitting your costumes with these specifications in mind. The first time you will wear your costumes will also likely be during the install. This can affect your partnering so be sure to try any lifts with your partners in the costumes before the actual run. Often times costumes can be cumbersome and affect your timing that you have gotten used to in your studio rehearsals. This can also be a great time as, once in costume, it is often times easier to fully get in touch with the characters you are trying to portray. If you will be having a lot of quick changes within your production you will want to take time aside for yourself before the first dress run to think about where you will preset all of your costumes and accessories for your changes.