01 Lawrence, A., & Hormess, M. (2012). “Beyond Roleplay: Better Techniques to Steal from Theater.” Touchpoint 3(3).
02 Forum Theater is a well-known technique from the “Theater of the Oppressed” by influential Brazilian theater director Augusto Boal; see, for example, Boal, A. (2000). Theater of the Oppressed. Pluto Press. Investigative rehearsal uses participants’ own experiences, ideas, or prototypes as a starting point, and goes beyond Forum’s focus on behavioral strategies to also examine and challenge the basic process, the architectural setting, support tools, and more.
03 See #TiSDD chapter 10, Facilitating workshops, for more on safe space and an example workshop plan using investigative rehearsal.
04 Oulasvirta, A., Kurvinen, E., & Kankainen, T. (2003). “Understanding Contexts by Being There: Case Studies in Bodystorming.” Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, 7(2), 125–134.
05 Or singing rehearsal, as the Sitzprobe originates from musical theater, where singers would sit next to the orchestra to rehearse. In service design, singing is very much niche and rarely used, unfortunately.
Rehearsal is a key theatrical technique in service design. Unfortunately, most people misunderstand the word, and think it means doing something over and over again until it is perfect and unvarying. In theater, we call that “practice,” and save the term “rehearsal” for the far more interesting explorative process of developing and trying many options, experimenting with different ways of working together, investigating different types of timing and rhythm. To emphasize this explorative aspect, we use the phrase investigative rehearsal.  Similar techniques include bodystorming, service walkthrough, service simulation, and role-play.
Investigative rehearsal is a structured, constructive, full-body way to examine interactions and develop new strategies. It is a powerful technique based on Forum Theater , and can be used to examine, understand, and try out behavior or processes. It clarifies the emotional side of an experience and can reveal many practicalities of the use of physical space, language, and tone of voice.
It can be used at many stages of the design process – to design the research questions or even as an approximation of real research (using frontline staff, for example). It can also be used for ideation, prototyping, and testing, and even for training the staff for rollout of a new service system, helping the staff find their own interpretation of the process.
- Decide or reflect on purpose and prototyping or research questions: Before you start, decide or reflect on the purpose and the prototyping or research questions. What do you want to learn? Do you want to test the whole or just a part of the experience? Which part are you most interested in? How detailed do you need or want to get?
- Create safe space: An investigative rehearsal is an unusual tool, so it needs to take place in a situation of safe space. For a newer team, you will need some time to create that mental and physical setting. Consider doing some warm-up activity (see #TiSDD chapter 10, Facilitating workshops, for examples) and establish the Rules of Rehearsal (see textbox) to agree on how to work.
- Find a starting point: The rehearsal will also need a starting point – and finding that starting point can be part of creating the safe space.  For a project based on existing services or experiences, the starting point might be a set of stories generated from research or assumptions by the workshop participants (e.g., created through storytelling games). Extreme stories of emotional customers or difficult situations are most productive. You can quickly turn these into storyboards to help people get them straight and to act as a reference during the rehearsal. For a very new service, you can start with some future-state customer journey maps instead.
- Set up teams, room, and initial story: Depending on the group size, divide the room into several teams of about 4–7 people each. Each team starts with one story or one version of the prototype journey. They will need a little time to prepare a (key) scene of the story, but don’t give them too long – the longer they have, the more nervous they will be. Tell them you only expect a rough draft as a starting point and give them no more than a few minutes. If anyone in the team was part of the original story being played, they should not play themselves in this re-creation.