Sasha Farmer is one of the student cast members in To Sir, With Love. As a member of our Young Actors' Company and Youth Forum, she has participated in many of the activities that we offer young people at Royal & Derngate. Now working with professional actors for the first time on To Sir, With Love, Sasha provides us with a unique young person's perspective on its rehearsal process.
This week began in a similar way to last week, with all of us practicing the dance in the mornings after our warm-up, and then carrying on exploring scenes from the play. We have been encouraged not to use our scripts, so that we can start to interpret the scenes in depth and practice any necessary movements. This is really helpful as it allows us to explore ways in which we would move in the classroom and any actions we would do as the students. Holding a script can be very restricting, so the sooner that we are all comfortable with our lines, the sooner we can start to explore the scenes in more depth.
One of my favourite parts of the rehearsal process so far has been rehearsing Act 1 Scene 4. In this scene, the students are required to all quietly swap seats whilst the teacher (Ansu Kabia) is writing on the blackboard. When rehearsing this, we have to be as quiet as we can to make sure that we are not seen or heard. The director has requested that, if Ansu Kabia hears or sees us, he is to turn around. Ansu Kabia always turns round at least once during this scene. I guess we just can't keep quiet! It has been incredibly fun rehearsing this scene. It makes me feel like a school child again, playing silly pranks on the teacher!
In the middle of the week we were all called together as a full company to start putting everything together. This is where I properly met the rest of the professional cast. It was really nice to say hello to everyone and to get to know them a little bit. They are all so lovely and I can't wait to work with them some more. We started rehearsing Act 2 on Thursday, and then Act 1 on Friday. We have been spending a lot of time sorting out scene changes. As the ensemble, we are required to move the set on and off to make the scenes flow as smoothly as they can. We have been doing this in character and using movements which have been choreographed by Nick Winston.
Next week I know that we are going to be working on doing a full run through by Friday so it's going to be a pretty intense week, but I can't wait! I am really enjoying this whole experience and I can't wait until opening night.
What a busy week it's been!
Most mornings this week have consisted of a half-hour warm up involving us travelling around the room to a variety of music genres and moving different parts of our bodies to ensure that we have warmed up all of our muscles sufficiently. Anyone is welcome to join in, however, this week it has just been the student cast, Ansu Kabia and Peta Cornish who have taken part. The warm up is important so that we do not injure ourselves whilst acting and are able to move around more freely. Warming up prepares your muscles and heart for any exercise that is to follow. It also helps to increase the oxygen throughout the body, which evidently helps us to keep active for longer. It means we can work more efficiently in the time that we have to rehearse.
Every day this week we have explored a variety of different scenes, and after an initial read through of each one, the director Mark Babych has watched the scenes and made any necessary changes. He allowed us to interpret our characters the way we wanted to at first and then offered us useful suggestions of ways we could play the scene. He also listened to our ideas, making us feel fully included in the rehearsal process. We have rehearsed so many scenes this week and I really feel that we have made a great start to creating a fantastic production. Being able to work with the professional cast has been beneficial as I have learnt how a professional production is rehearsed and have gained much more confidence in my acting ability. I am learning lots of different techniques that can help me to better my own acting, as well as how to conduct myself in a professional manner within rehearsals.
As well as exploring scenes during the day, we have had three intensive dance classes on Tuesday and Friday evening, and Saturday morning. During this time we have had to master the 1940's jive! It has been really challenging because I am not used to this kind of dance and the steps are very fast. However, after Saturday morning, I feel much more confident and have really enjoyed myself whilst learning the steps. The dancing is really important in the play as, back in the 1940s, young people would dance to have fun and socialise with friends. I think the dancing is a really important element within To Sir, With Love.
I can't wait to carry on rehearsing on Monday!