Notes are what the director gives the actors once run-throughs begin. He takes written notes during the run-through and comments on the actors’ performances either after the run-through or at the beginning of the next rehearsal.
The purpose of notes is twofold. First, it allows you to run scenes or acts without interruption. Second, it is intended to be an efficient way of communicating what is necessary. Once you get to run-throughs, there is usually less time for the director to talk because so much time has been spent actually rehearsing. So the idea is: convey the information and get the hell out of Dodge.
If your director gives notes at the end of the night (which is usually more profitable, since you’re more apt to remember what he’s talking about than you will at the next rehearsal), remember that everyone is tired and wants to go home. This means that it’s not the time to get into a long discussion about anything. Listen to the director, acknowledge what he is telling you, answer his questions briefly and clearly, ask questions succinctly if you are confused.
And leave it at that. If you have a bone to pick, do it after the rehearsal has ended and people are free to head to their cars.
As I’ve talked about elsewhere, bones are best picked after you’ve had the chance to sleep on it. It’s late. You may feel differently in the morning. And believe me, the director is tired, too.
It’s usually a good idea to write the notes down and review them before the next rehearsal. No matter how good your memory is, it’s easy to forget a note, because (wait for it!) it’s late and you’re tired.
Notes usually involve fine-tuning issues, things you may need to think about before the next rehearsal, but which are easily fixed. Notes about problem areas will probably be run several times in rehearsals, but if not, don’t be afraid to ask that some general rehearsal time be spent on them.
If you get the same note repeatedly, it means this: “You aren’t paying attention to what I’m telling/asking you, because I keep having to say it. It would be nice if you’d actually do something about the problem before we open.” The first time it’s repeated (because you forgot it since you didn’t write it down), the actors will forgive you. But after that, they are all thinking to themselves, “Would you just do it already, so we don’t have to listen to this note again, because (wait for it!) it’s late and we’re tired and we want to go home.”