Last week we started our first rehearsal for our production of A Christmas Carol. We began with blocking. Today and tomorrow are two more rehearsals dedicated to blocking the rest of our play for both casts. This year we have a lot of new families joining us for the first time and almost all of them have asked me, "What does blocking mean?". For those of you who are wondering the same thing, this is the blog post for you.
Blocking is an essential element of the director's and the actor's work. The director maps it all out, choreographing it in a way, and the actor writes it down (in pencil of course) in their script, practices it, perfects it, and finally performs it. During blocking rehearsals I tell my actors when to enter, when to exit, when to move, and also when I want them to experiment with some improvisational movements. It sounds simplistic, but it can be quite complicated to make sure that each actor is seen (or hidden if the need arises), that there is a aesthetic relationship between the positions of the actors and the right look created by the various lines and shapes formed by bodies and furniture. Then of course you have to make sure that the movement on the stage isn't static, but also that it isn't random and meaningless.
Figuring out blocking has been one of my weaknesses as a director. For a long time I was very uncomfortable with blocking, because I didn't know how to navigate my actors across the stage in a meaningful way. I was afraid of messing the blocking up, because I knew how important it is. I knew that movement must always have motivation!
Fortunately, last summer I got to have some directorial mentoring with Bill Mutimer from Northampton Community College who helped me understand some more of the basic rules and gave me the confidence I needed to block. That instruction has made blocking much more enjoyable for me. I think that this may be the first blocking period of any show that I've directed that I haven't dreaded. Thank you, Bill!
So that in a nutshell is blocking. I get to tell the actors when to move at what times, and as long as the actors write their blocking down, everything usually works out fine.