Can we do rehearsals sat in various geometric shapes other than the time honoured, but widely overrated circle in future, please. It helps develop my neck muscles!
— jeff levy (@JeffMakorman) January 21, 2020
The age-old tradition of ‘sitting in a circle’ dates back to when Cameron Mackintosh invented theatre in 220AD.
If we step back in time and look at the original Greek theatres, they were all circular in shape – with the audience lovingly semi-circled around the stage. This was eventually taken from outdoor venues to the rehearsal room, and is now the first thing students learn on RADA’s prestigious directing course (the ‘Circle-sitting and its virtues’ module).
Sitting in a circle is a marvellous device. It means everyone can see each other, and allows the company to quickly decide who they fancy. It also puts performers in a vulnerable position, as they have no table to hide behind. Terrifying.
I do, however, agree that sitting in circles is overrated and it’s time for a change. We should try octagonal shapes, or stars, or perhaps even the Olympic symbol – with lots of little chair circles weaving in and out of each other. That would also make an excellent ‘first day of rehearsal’ shot in the £25 souvenir brochure.
However, when sitting in a circle, there are important rules that need to be followed. One should avoid being the first to sit next to the director – this makes everyone think that they’re the company brown-nose. In fact, you should actually sit as far away from the director as possible, as this proves you’re not needy.
Bag placement is of paramount importance. In front of your feet, it can pose a serious trip hazard. This is to be avoided, unless you’re trying to hospitalise the actor that you’re understudying. I recommend putting your bag discreetly under your chair, making sure it’s neatly zipped up.
I will never forget the time we all spotted a well-established actor’s bag wide open, displaying a lovely collection of multicoloured butt plugs. I mean, I don’t have a problem with butt plugs, but you should never bring them to Annie rehearsals, dear.
The way you sit is also vital. Please don’t sit like an American president with your legs wide open. Nobody should be forced to look at your jockstrap. However, if you are too closed-off – arms folded, legs crossed, bottom tight – then it can appear you don’t want anyone to communicate with you. Adopt a friendly, relaxed pose, with your arms cradling a 5-litre water bottle.
Some other thoughts:
And finally, if the director insists the chairs have to be in a circle, I recommend they are facing outwards. That way, nobody needs to look at anyone else, and people will really listen during the read-through. Good idea, hey?