Theater (or any venue really) Etiquette for Performers
I recently had the honor of traveling and performing at The Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas as part of “Flow, the show”. And I absolutely mean that. I am honored to be part of a group of such giving, talented, and tenacious people. I learned some things and I got to teach some things. I learned that there are more unbelievably kind, patient and phenomenally skilled theatrical technicians besides my husband. I really mean this - I have worked with a lot of techs and this team takes the cake. Our experience was absolutely elevated because of this particular group of people. Thank you to the wonderful team at the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
During my flight home from this show, I was listening to the Leading Creative Podcast by Rob Lott. In Episode 3, the conversation touches on respect in a theater and the rules and expectations that used to be taught that rarely seem to be shared now. This was an echo of my experience in Arkansas since a portion of our cast had some performers that were new to the stage, particularly to a proper theater. Since the Universe thought to bring these experiences together, I thought I would share some things I've learned along the way and that have brought me to be absolutely enthralled with an empty stage before a show goes in.
It’s one of my favorite places. To me, an empty stage is full of possibility. It is full of the energy that comes from hundreds of people pouring their hearts out, of living out their purpose, of creating experiences, of stories being told. It is filled with anticipation for the future, of the hopes and dreams that are created between performers and their audiences. It is so much more that an empty building. And just like there are different rules in caring for historic sites, the theater has rules set up to create mutual respect between techs, costumers, stage managers, hospitality staff, performers and show producers. Below are what I think are the most important:
1. Know Your Show
This is SO important. Your show means everything that you are responsible for. Your lines, setting your props, your blocking, your cues, your call times. You are 100% responsible for these things. If someone didn’t give them to you or you don’t remember, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure you have them and that you are clear on them. Take notes and don’t make your director or choreographer tell you more than once. Don’t expect someone to come find you when your scene is coming up. Be in the wings or backstage at least 5 minutes before you are expected on stage.
2. Food and Drink
No open containers on stage. Period. Do not eat or drink anything (except water) while in costume. Occasionally you’ll have the option of putting on a smock or other garment to cover your costume in the case that it’s time consuming to take off and on. Do not sit on the floor (or maybe at all) in your costume. Even if you sit on the floor during your show as part of your role, this does not give you permission to do so off stage. Respect the work done by your techs and costumers.
3. No Phones On Stage
Or in a rehearsal room. No excuses. I cannot stress this enough. Leave them in your bag, on silent mode. Vibrate mode still makes a sound. Quite recently, during a blocking rehearsal on stage, a girl had her phone in her hand, on stage, and it was not on silent. If there is a family emergency of some sort, often someone on your production team will be more than happy to hold on to your phone for you or accept calls for you to their phones so that you can remain focused onstage without distracting everyone else.
4. Be Ready for Anything
When your rehearsal time or show time starts, be warmed up and attentive. If you need to leave the theater to use the restroom, or to get water, let someone else know you’ll be right back. And come directly back to the theater. Don’t leave until you have officially been released. They’re might be a transition to go over or a change to the cues that you’ll need to know.
5. Don’t create more work for someone else
This really sums up everything else I’ve written above. When you don’t know your show, or aren’t paying attention, you take time away from everyone else in the building. When you spill food or drink anywhere, you are impacting the space where other people work or adding cleaning work to your costumers already growing list of things to do. Your phone interrupts a scene or notes, and makes it appear as though you have something more important to do. If that’s the case, go do that thing. When you aren’t as ready as possible, you leave your cast, your techs and your production team waiting for you, or searching for you. This extends rehearsal times and pushes back meal times, which makes everyone cranky.