Theatre Etiquette 101


A lot is said to audience members about how they are to behave when they come to see a play--in fact they are often reminded of these do's and don'ts at the beginning of every show in the curtain speech. But I think very little is said about etiquette on the actor's side. So here's a list of do's and don'ts for every actor that I've collected from experience and observation.

AT THE AUDITION:

Do: Go over your material and make sure you are prepared. Auditions should never be half-assed. That's a waste of your and the casting director's time.

Don't: Belt your song or practice your monologue at full volume in the waiting room. You aren't the only one in there, and other people are trying to stay focused. Also, we all can tell you are just showing off to try and intimidate the "competition." But you aren't intimidating. You just look foolish. So stop it.

Do: Act like a decent human being and feel free to converse with your fellow actors, or politely decline if you are like me and find idle chatter to wreak havoc on your nerves.

Don't: Act superior and be unwilling to speak to others outside your little clique, especially if they are younger than you. It makes you look like a diva, and no one wants to work with one of those no matter how talented you are.

Do: Say thank you when you've finished your piece, and promptly leave.

Don't: APOLOGIZE FOR ANYTHING. Also, don't ask the casting directors how you did or wait for them to tell you to leave. Start to leave, and if they want to hear or see more from you, they'll call you back.

AT REHEARSALS:

Do: Be friendly and chit chat with your castmates. You guys have to work together as an ensemble after all, so why not get to know each other?

Don't: Chit chat while the musical director is leading warm ups or the director is giving notes or blocking a scene. You are distracting and everyone needs to be focused.

Do: Feel free to bring your mobile device to keep track of rehearsal dates, notes, record music, etc.

Don't: Pull it out on stage in the middle of blocking/rehearsing a scene. Come on.

Do: Bring your own ideas to the table, even if they are different from the director's. Voice them because they might spark more brilliant genius ideas!

Don't: Be a whiny bitch when the director tells you that you need to stick to their original direction. They are the director and at the end of the day their word is the final say. Be professional, and don't complain about it backstage to your castmates or on social media. You think that shit won't get back to the director? Also, you are creating a negative environment and no one needs that in their life. So cut it out.

BACKSTAGE:

Do: Tell your stage hands, stage manager, and other crew members, "Thank you," often and sincerely. They are working really hard to make sure you look good.

Don't: Be a diva and treat them like your servants. If they ask you to be somewhere or do something, understand that it is for YOUR benefit. So don't complain or tell them to "Fuck off," or argue with them. That's more negativity, and you're slowly killing the reputation of your work ethic. People don't cast people who are hard to work with.

Do: Find out how many audience members are coming to see the show. Nothing wrong with finding out if you're sold out or if you're playing to a smaller crowd.

Don't: Complain about the members of your audience, especially on social media. They came. They PAID for a fucking ticket. Whether they are laughing their asses off and hanging on every word, or sitting grumpily because their ancient grandmother dragged them there is not your concern. They gave you their money. You worry about you. Of course we all want everyone to fall in love with our performances, but you're a dumbass if you think you can complain about someone (without knowing who they are) on a public forum like Facebook and it NOT come back to bite you.

Don't: Complain in general. Yes, voice your concerns if they are an actual problem that is affecting your performance or the health and safety of those around you. But otherwise it is negative white noise. Again, negativity=bad.

Do: Wear deoderant. Every performance. Period.

ON STAGE:

Do: Keep the scenes fresh. Whatever that may mean to you.

Don't: Change your blocking or lines without first clearing it with your director and fellow castmates. You've spent anywhere from one to three months rehearsing this play/musical to perfection. It is one of the most unprofessional moves you can make if you change it mid-performance. Lights have been constructed and queues set around what has already been created. Don't change it. Don't do it.

Do: Break the fourth wall if the play calls for it, or you are in a specific setting that allows for that type of audience interaction. This is a rare occurence in most plays and should not be done without the director's permission.

Don't: Break the fourth wall to call out an audience member if it is not warranted or you aren't in a Renaissance Faire where you are literally entertaining a mob of hecklers. Now, people disagree on this point, but I am of the opinion that it is the ushers and ultimately the House Manager's job to address disrupting patrons and escort them out of the theatre if they are a continuous problem. It is the actor's job to alert the house manager of said patron when off-stage and stay in character in the scene on-stage, because chances are that unless this person is yelling at you, they are only bothering a small group around them and the majority of the house (unless you're in a really tiny theatre) doesn't even know they are being disruptive. When you break, you take EVERYONE in the room out of the world you've just spent so much time creating, and now it is twice as hard to get them back in it. Again, people will disagree with me on this point, but this is just my personal opinion.

Do: Relish the moments when you get to shine!

Don't: Upstage your fellow actors. That's just unprofessional and uncool. You are not in a competition. You are in an ensemble. Support each other, dammit!

I know that I constantly have to check myself and make sure I'm not breaking any of these, because it can be so tempting sometimes. But I think this is a pretty good foundation for professionalim in the theatrical realm. What it all really boils down to is respect and kindness. Those two things are like honey on a sore throat. So stock up now :)


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