Inductive Rehearsal

Brecht’s preferred method of rehearsal was to ask actors to engage with each other in the moment of rehearsal without the kind of psychological preparation or table work required by other forms of actor training. Instead, the actors had to arrive with a clear sense of their figure’s social position and proceeded from that position, not directly influenced by material that preceded or succeeded the scene in question. The onstage relationships, derived from the figures’ social position, were initially set out in the form of an Arrangement, itself informed by the scene’s Fabel.

In order to understand this approach to rehearsal, it’s necessary to consider the adjective ‘inductive’. Inductive reasoning is a way of approaching the world that proceeds from observation to the identification of patterns and from there to establishing an understanding of the situation that is being investigating. Clearly, this process doesn’t take place in a formal manner in rehearsal; that would be contrived and would block the actors’ imagination. However, its principles do run through this type of rehearsal.

Rehearsing ‘in the moment’ with a clear conception of a figure’s social position with respect to the other figures on stage promoted the practice of actors making ‘offers’ to each other in the form of a particular way of delivering lines or performing an action. An offer, by its very nature, is tentative – will the partner in a dialogue accept or reject it? The open nature of such a process can also lead to surprises and the chance discovery of an interesting development in the scene. By gathering the cumulative responses to the offers, the rehearsal can develop knowledge of its scenes, not by starting with an idea of what is to happen, but by working through the material the actors generate.

The process clearly requires actors who can work in this way. As many actors in the English-speaking theatre won’t be familiar with this approach and, indeed, may be steeped in more psychological methodologies, the task, initially at least, may fall to the director to organise rehearsals and bring out social details before the actors ‘get the hang’ of the method and start to make productive offers themselves.

The advantages of inductive rehearsal are clear to a Brechtian production:

  1. Actors proceed from a social and not a psychological starting point. That is, they are not limited by a perception of a figure’s imputed ‘characteristics’, but are free to make choices based on their place in society and the situations they encounter. A clear understanding of these factors will help actors experiment with how they will behave.

  2. The practice of actors making ‘offers’ to one another underlines the experimental basis of rehearsal: it is not there to confirm established understandings of characters, but to speculate on the possibilities of figures.

  3. Ignorance is thus the starting point, and the surprises that rehearsal can produce add liveliness and surprise to the twists and turns of the scenes.

  4. Inductive rehearsal treats each scene and each situation separately. This allows an actor to accumulate a broad set of Haltungen over time, offering a fully contradictory figure to the audience. As a result, the audience is able to observe how the situation affects the figure, and to speculate on the relationship.