Theatrical productions, such as plays, musicals and operas, typically go through a considerably detailed rehearsal process before being presented to an audience. Rehearsals of many different kinds help prepare the performers and technicians for possible problems, as well as promote memorization through repetitious practices of the performance. One important type of rehearsal is the sitzprobe, which is often the first time that an entire company works in concert.
The term sitzprobe comes to common usage from German, and is believed to have originated in opera. Originally, the term referred to the first run-through of a performance in which both the singers and the orchestra performed together. Often, the sitzprobe is not performed on stage and does not use elements such as costumes, props or scenery. Instead, the singers simply sit or stand and run through the music and dialogue in order with the orchestra attending.
Since its original usage, the term has migrated into many different types of theatrical performance, including those with no musical component. Often, a sitzprobe rehearsal serves as the transition between regular rehearsals between the director and actors, and staged run-throughs of the entire performance. Oftentimes, costume, lighting, makeup, and technical directors attend the sitzprobe to gain an idea of where the actors are in their rehearsals process, and to collaborate on ideas and suggestions that will become part of the final design for the performance.
Although each theatrical performance will feature a somewhat unique rehearsal process, many are broken into two sections of preparation. In the first, actors and designers are hired and rehearsals begin. Early rehearsals usually include only the actors and director and focus on understanding the script and memorization of lines. These rehearsals also determine blocking, which is a term that describes where the actors stand in each scene, how they move about the stage, and when they exit or enter. Simultaneously with these early rehearsals, the director works out design elements of the performance with the sound, lighting, costume, makeup, and set designers.
After the initial rehearsal period, the company often begins a series of run-throughs, where the performance is done from beginning to end, adding design elements along the way. The sitzprobe rehearsal is sometimes considered the first run-through; actors may wear partial costumes, use stand-in or real props, and may have some set elements to interact with. However, the sitzprobe may also remain true to its original origins, and in musical theater or opera remains the preferred term for the first rehearsal that combines both the vocal performers and the orchestra or band.