Your first production rehearsal typically comes with butterflies, plenty of excitement and anticipation, and lofty goals for the months ahead. While you may be wrapped up in all the exhilaration, remember that setting the right tone during your first gathering is key to the success of your show. If you’re not sure where to start, On The Stage can help.

The Importance of the First Rehearsal 

  1. It sets the tone – First impressions are paramount, no matter the situation. So, if you enter your first rehearsal with hesitancy or self-doubt, you’re already off on the wrong foot. The first rehearsal is your chance to establish yourself as the confident, prepared leader of the ship. 
  2. It establishes a routine – While you won’t be doing the exact same thing every time you meet with your cast and crew, the first rehearsal should give your team a good idea of how rehearsals will run generally. 
  3. It conveys general expectations – The first rehearsal should let your team know what’s OK to do and what isn’t, whether that’s checking a cell phone between scenes, arriving ten minutes late, messing around in the wings, or snacking backstage. It’s also the time to let your team know the general timeline of your show, benchmarks you should be hitting, and when. 

Planning the First Rehearsal 

Before your cast and crew walk in for the first rehearsal, you should be locked and loaded – prepared for any variables. The best way to achieve that is by planning way ahead. A few things to do before rehearsal one include: 

  1. Knowing your script – Read for detail. Read for specificity. Read to find questions. You should know the script of your show backward and forwards and be ready to explore it with your cast. 
  2. Talking to your team – Whether you’re a small but mighty group of two or are flanked by stage managers, lighting techs, costume experts, marketing pros, and the like, you need to have a good rhythm going with back-of-housers before your cast and crew enter the picture. 
  3. Preparing your space – It could be a massive, Broadway-style theatre, a black box, or even an outdoor stage. No matter – just make sure your rehearsal space is clean, safe, and ready to be used. 
  4. Handling your paperwork – From licensing to grant applications, fundraising details, or financial statements, ensure you’ve got everything mailed in, sealed up, and in its proper place. 
  5. Creating your schedule – You should know your rehearsal schedule, production timelines, and general benchmarks before rehearsal. Convey those to your team and get to work! 

Executing the First Rehearsal 

Remove distractions

You want your team solely focused on the success of your show. To accomplish that, ensure everyone has their cell phone on silent. You’ll want to ensure all other distractions are covered, turned off, or removed from the space. It’s all about the art today! 

Break the ice

There’s absolutely no shame in feeling nervous, anxious, or shy on the day of your first rehearsal … but as the leader, you should work to break the ice. Whether it’s improv games, silly icebreakers, quick intros, or something else entirely, loosening up your team before the real work begins will lead to greater performances down the road. 

Convey your timelines and goals

Your first meeting is the time to let your team know what you expect and when you expect it. Go over your schedule, lay ground rules, and set goals. 

Establish a safe atmosphere

Since you’re the ship’s captain, it’s also your responsibility to ensure your team feels safe, uplifted, and set up for success. Ensure the team knows they can come to you with any questions or concerns; you should be, after all, a safe haven for everyone involved in your production. 


After goals are laid out, ice breakers are played, and your team is ready to move forward, ensure their voices and bodies are ready to rehearse. Vocal and body warm-ups will get the blood flowing. 

Do a table read

While you may not have time to go through your entire show, do a quick table read of a few pivotal scenes to ensure your cast gets their footing. This first read can establish cast chemistry and excite people for the coming months.

Take questions – Before you release your team for the day, ensure they feel confident and ready to move forward. Open the floor, and remember, there are no silly questions on day one! 

Reflecting and Moving Forward

In the entirety of theatre’s storied history, there’s probably never been a rehearsal that went off without a hitch. So, take some time after your cast and crew have left to reflect on the day and move forward. You can ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What went right today?
  2. What went wrong today?
  3. After meeting with my cast and crew, are my timelines realistic? 
  4. Which cast members may need extra support?
  5. What are some strengths I noticed in my cast today?
  6. What are some weaknesses I noticed in my cast today?
  7. In reflecting on cast and crew questions, how can I better support my team moving forward?

You can’t – and shouldn’t – restructure your rehearsal timelines after one meeting. But it’s always a good idea to remain flexible and listen to the people around you. This is a group effort, after all! 

How On The Stage Can Help

On The Stage can assist with every facet of your show – from the first rehearsal to tech week, performances, and your postmortem after the curtain close. 

Excited to get started? Explore the latest updates to our Patron Manager, and chat with our team today to see how these tools can take your theatre to new heights!