It’s a superstition in the theatrical and musical worlds that a bad dress rehearsal leads to a good show.
I am not one for superstitions, but I understand the logic.
If you have a crummy rehearsal, and know it, you’re going to be focused, determined, and a little on edge when your performance begins.
The reason it works is that most bad rehearsals come not from lack of preparation, but from lack of focus.
My problem with this formula is that, for me, there are two kinds of focused performances:
- Relaxed focus – confidence and preparedness allows performers to remain focused but also in the moment, connecting with their audience and reacting musically to each moment.
- Determined focus – apprehension from a bad rehearsal leads to a frontal cortex crouched with a baseball bat, ready to hit “the moment” in the head.
Which would you rather hear?
Can we recover from bad rehearsals? Of course.
Can we make our most musical performances when we’re apprehensive? Of course not.
Maybe it’s best to amend the superstition in this way:
Bad dress, good show. Good dress, great show.