Wait for it…
As a performer, have you ever been told to “hold” at a really awkward moment while rehearsing? Tell us here!
Dress rehearsal. You’re right in the middle of a pivotal scene. After weeks of preparation, you’re finally up on the stage where the show will take place. You’ve nailed that stunning monologue. You wait for your cue, you take a breath… and then you hear, “Hold!”
When the stage manager or someone else on the production team needs to temporarily halt the action on stage, they call a hold. The actors hear this instruction, fall silent and remain completely still. It doesn’t matter if they were speaking, doing a complex dance move, or even in the middle of a push-up.
A hold allows technicians to make whatever adjustments are necessary so that rehearsal can start again as soon as possible. And then it’s on to the next cue, the rest of the scene or the beginning of the next one. In technical rehearsals, there might be many holds as the company attempts to get all the various production elements working together in harmony.
There’s a good reason the actors freeze in place: safety. A performer might not know what’s happening elsewhere on the stage. For example, a trap door might have opened at the wrong time, or failed to close. The actor is much better off staying put rather than accidentally tumbling in.
If all goes well, the hold is just a brief pause, not long enough for anyone to fall out of character, grab a coffee, or check a smartphone. So a hold is less likely to derail the momentum of the rehearsal than, say, heading out of the room for a five-minute break (“Take 5!”).
Once actual performances begin, the audience seldom hears, “Hold!” — at least not if things are going well. But in rare moments in live theatre, unwelcome gremlins can cause a technical malfunction. Have you ever been at a show when — oops! — a turntable doesn’t turn, or a piece of scenery stubbornly refuses to fly out on cue? If so, you might hear the stage manager call a hold, then let the audience know that mechanical trouble has arisen. Just please be patient while the crew sorts out the glitch. As soon as the work is done and the stage manager lifts the hold, the show can go on as planned.
— Ben Pesner