De-mystifying the rehearsal process

Haley Elizabeth Bollinger, Features Editor

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Dealing with life and love is complicated enough; recreating it on stage is a whole other feat.

Santa Rosa Junior College’s rehearsals for the first fall theater production, “Almost Maine,” had a brief rehearsal window. The cast assumed their characters at the end of August and spent the entirety of September perfecting scenes, costumes and set designs.

Director John Shillington said toward the end of rehearsals he lets students take the lead role in their practice. “They all know their characters and they are all willing to fight for their characters and what their characters believe they need. It’s my time to let go,” said Shillington. “Rehearsals were really intense so that we create an atmosphere of love and support and trust.”

SRJC theater student Andrea Rosales Jacinto, 21, is enthusiastic about rehearsals and performing.

“Rehearsals are important. In the beginning stages it was a lot of just don’t worry about saying the lines, it was more about try and relate with the character and who they are and where they are coming from,” Jacinto said. “I feel like with a lot of those rehearsals a bunch of characters got tapped into.”

Jacinto hopes students can relate their lives to the play. The entire show goes through couples dealing with their own stages of love, being out of love, falling in love and realizing maybe they should be apart. She said there is at least one scene in the show everyone can relate to and take personally their own life experience.

“Almost Maine” is a widely performed play. A North Carolina high school banned it due to a same-sex scene, but SRJC theater decided to leave the scene in. Theater student Danny J. Banales, 19, plays the role of Chad, a country guy who falls in love with another character, Randy.

“I think something has been lost in pop culture today and that’s love for humanity. Love for another individual, not necessarily focusing on sexual orientation or what they identify as,” Banales said. “I play a character who falls in love with a man and it really opened my eyes to how lost folks are these days, and how judgmental they can be.”

During rehearsal Banales said he connected with his character and learned new things about himself. He and his scene partner built more confidence together.

SRJC theater student Miranda Jane Williams, 19, thinks SRJC theater is a good place to challenge yourself and create new experiences with a group of people who are motivated to get quality theater done. “There is no such thing as mediocre theater here at SRJC. We really go full out,” Williams said.

She said rehearsals are the most important part. “The scene itself is pretty personal for me. So a lot of the rehearsal space is just me getting things out and exploring with what my limits are. We have worked a lot, so it better be going well,” Williams said.

Shillington said SRJC theater is about creating a community and seeing the students bond together. He created a space in rehearsals where students feel they can take risks and are safe to be truthful.

Shillington paused and took a moment to ground himself before expressing what he hopes the audiences take from “Almost Maine.”

“I think to look beyond the ordinary; to wake ourselves up to this miraculous moment that we have right now. And it’s every moment,” Shillington said. “A miracle for me is a shift in perception. These characters all go through a shift in perception. I hope the audience also has a shift in perception. The way they see the world, in that moment, thinking every moment. Right now,” Shillington said. 

SRJC theater rehearsal will continue this semester as students bring to life plays “Mary Poppins,” “Emotional Creature” and Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.”

“Almost, Maine,” runs until October 4.