The rehearsal process is often challenging for a director (and the cast). In the early days, the director is just trying to get everyone moving to the right spots on stage. Then they’re talking about how to convey a character’s purpose with the voice, or the body, or maybe just an expressive face. Of course, a director has to bring all of the actors together and make sure the focus is on the right moment at the right time. It’s exhausting and wonderful and frustrating and rewarding. But imagine for a minute if the director wasn’t in the same room as the actors? According to this article from Theater Mania, the three founders of Belarus Free Theatre (Natalia Kaliada, her husband Nicolai Khalezin, and director Vladimir Shcherban) conduct their rehearsals from London via Skype because they’re under the threat of long prison sentences if they return to Belarus.
“We have a twice-a-year residency in Falmouth [England] and we spent the last three weeks with our students from Belarus,” Kaliada explains, adding, “We knew them for a year through Skype, but we had never met face-to-face.” The three directors in London rehearse with the actors in Minsk almost entirely via Skype, a thorny task made even more challenging by frequent technical difficulties. “It’s exhausting and sometimes the Internet is a disaster,” Kaliada admits. “Connections in Belarus are very bad. When you manage to get a good connection, it’s very expensive. We pay around five hundred euros a month for the type of Internet we need for these video connections.” Even then, stable video and audio are not always assured. The actors have a running joke about this. “When Vladimir or Nicolai direct a show, there are times when they’re not happy with the performance they’re seeing. They’ll be giving direction and the actors will respond, ‘We don’t hear you…very bad connection.’ I always wonder, is it really a bad connection or are they just pretending?” Kaliada is sanguine about the necessity of these practical jokes, insisting, “It’s part of our way to exist: to continue to laugh and make jokes out of that hell.”
Fifteen years ago, this wouldn’t have even been a consideration. It’s amazing to think of the impact technology has had on everything in our society, even theatre. Read the whole article, which also discusses collaborating on the writing of musicals, here.