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  • Writer's pictureleodoulton

Rehearsal Friends

Updated: Aug 7, 2023

An observation I suspect I’ve made before, but might as well repeat.


There’s this weird thing in opera, theatre, and similar where we befriend people on shows, and then either never meet them again, or speak only via mutual acquaintances heading into shared rehearsal rooms, or meet years later.


When we do, in my experience seeing others do so, or being able to do myself, we pick up where we left off, because there’s little other way to manage this experience.


Nobody can manage to maintain the web of relationships actively, so when in the port of Rehearsal Room 2, we meet as old friends, like sailors in the tales of Dumas.


People need companionship. Therefore we provide it to one another. We microdose on interaction.


Then we leave.


As I’ve reached higher up the ladder, I’ve also seen something else: an understanding across a company that yes, we are going to assume we are all friends here.


Guarded, perhaps, but we must be friends here, because we need friends to function and be able to be vulnerable in the ways we need to be vulnerable when exposed to the pressures and social risks of a rehearsal room.


In other parts of my life, I’d not expect people to be so open so quickly.


But people realise in the arts that for eight weeks or less, we need to be friends.


Yet friends we must hold lightly, because they will leave. Friends we must not ask much of, because we cannot pretend we are friends if we then excessively call on the obligations of a friend and expose the pretence in many of these relationships. Friends where we need to be aware of their strangeness to us.


Yet, every now and again, we meet them a second, a third time.


We meet as old friends, fellow sailors in a distant port, and see each others’ new wrinkles, share episodes and tales, then leave again.


We need them; therefore we let it work.


Not less than the other kinds of friendship, but different.


Two people in white shirts hold hands; between them, a figure in a black suit reads from a folder.
Friendship! (Or a wedding scene in an early version of Man & God)


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