Theatre Thursday

An Actor’s Rules to Enlighten and Inspire

School starts next week.  I am not convinced the kids at school are ready for the start of a new year.  We are now in week 2 for our fall production of Addams Family the Musical at school and I am noticing that some of the students are not as enthusiastic as I would hope 7 weeks out from opening night.

I thought Theatre Thursday would be a good time to remind our student actors of a few tips to help us all create a great creative environment and a successful production.

  • Come to EVERY scheduled rehearsal and BE ON TIME!  Give yourself plenty of travel time… warm up… and be ready to start rehearsal as soon as it is time to start.
  • Bring a pencil EVERYDAY!  You are responsible for taking your own blocking notes and then rehearse them.  You are responsible to write down notes that the director gives you and to review them before the next rehearsal.
  • Bring you script to every rehearsal.  Have a place in your script that you can record character thoughts, facts about the show and your character, notes of what other characters say about you, the circumstances of each scene, questions, and notes from the director.  The process of writing aids your memory.
  • Keep your character flexible.  The director may steer you in a different direction than you thought.  Try it!  If you aren’t “feeling it,” use your reading and research to support your case in a private conversation.  If you don’t understand a note, ask for clarification one-on-one rather than in the presence of the entire cast and crew. Performance is a collaborative process, however, always remember that the Director has the final say.  Accept ALL director’s notes graciously. Also, remember all direction is the responsibility of the directing team.  Refrain from giving other actor’s notes and accepting notes for fellow actors.  It is ok to say, “Thanks for the idea.  Let’s see what the directing team thinks.”
  • Highlight lines outside of rehearsal.  While in rehearsal, LISTEN.  Listen to what the director is saying to everyone.  You may just learn more valuable insight into your own character.
  • Research!  Look up definitions and pronunciation of words or references you are not familiar with.  Create an activity for each scene you are in.  People rarely sit and stare when they talk.  Each activity will lead you to appropriate behavior for the scene.  Look for the sense of urgency in your character.  Find what motivates them.  find the different tactics they can use to move forward.
  • PRACTICE!  I have seen some actors “brag” about the fact that they don’t practice.  That is a little like a musician not practicing their instrument or a painter not sketching.  It is your responsibility to put your all into your craft.  Continue train your voice, honor your instrument (body) and study (characters, scenes, playwrights).  Know your lines!  ON TIME!  Learn as much as you can about yourself and the world.
  • Take chances.  Get out of your comfort zone.
  • Respect others.  Keep the chatter down.  Put the cell phones away. The show and your fellow artists deserve your full attention.  Be patient.  When you are not on stage you are invisible.  Walk quietly, keep whispering out of the wings ind into the green room.  Even the green room and the back halls need to be quiet to keep distractions from the stage and the audience. NEVER talk when he director is talking.
  • Remember, no matter the size of the role you have been assigned, you are all part of the big picture.  If you feel the role is beneath you, you can be replaced.
  • Never miss an entrance… even if you don’t remember your lines or are not full dressed.  A scene can happen with a body on stage to interact with.  Panic happens on stage when there is nothing to go off of.
  • Take care of our space.  You will be living in it for the next few weeks.  There is nothing more terrifying than losing a costume piece or a prop because backstage, the green room, and the dressing rooms look like a war zone.  While we are at it, leave other’s props alone. Be careful not to touch scenery, legs, etc as you enter, exit, or wait backstage.
  • While waiting in the wings, remember that it is not a place for you to “watch” the show. Backstage areas are tight and the crew and other actors need to work in this small space.  Pay attention to the monitors to understand where we are in the show.  When needing to wait in the wing, remember that if you can see a seat, the seat can see you; if you aren’t in the scene, you shouldn’t be seen.
  • As we get closer to performance, remember that it is not your job to add or remove things from your costume.  Take care of your costume and props.  Treat them with respect.  return them to the correct storage space when not in use.  Hang up your costume.  Avoid food and drink while in costume (water is acceptable).  Be patient during tech rehearsals.  They can be stressful. The crew needs respect as they learn their cues to perfection in a few short rehearsals.  Check your props before the house is open.  You are responsible for your own props.   Keep the production consistent.  Perform the script as it was rehearsed.
  • Always give your best.  Every audience paid the same price for their ticket.  There is no excuse for giving less than 100%!  FOCUS!

So, there are just a few thoughts to help us through the next few weeks.  The theatre experience plays a great role in improving the world.  As artists, we have a responsibility to enlighten and to inspire. Now, LET’S DO IT!

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