For many actors, the rehearsal process is one of the best parts of being in a show. Take the time to explore your character, refine your craft, and bond with the rest of the ensemble. In other words, relish it! That said, however, rehearsal is only fun as long as it is constructive, which is why rehearsal etiquette exists. Following these general rules-of-thumb will go a long way towards keeping the rehearsal process running smoothly and efficiently (adapted from numerous sources, including Actors’ Equity, Actors’ Etiquette).
Attendance and Punctuality:
Attendance is not optional. When you miss a rehearsal, the rest of the cast has to work around your absence. When you return, the director has to take extra time to brief you on what you missed, and the cast has to re-adjust to accommodate your presence in the scene. Arrive 10-15 minutes early to give yourself time to relax, focus, and get into character. If for some reason, you must be late or you cannot avoid missing a rehearsal, let the Stage Manager know well in advance.
Bring a pencil to write notes in your script. Review your lines and music before you come to rehearsal, and memorize your material as early in the rehearsal process as possible. Make sure you are getting enough to eat and getting plenty of rest. Your voice, your body, and your show needs you to be in the best health possible. Be very careful of sunburn and dehydration . . . drink lots of water and use lots of sunscreen! Outdoor theater can zap your energy and resources very quickly. If you have any health issues [pregnancy, blood sugar, etc.] make sure that the staff is aware and come prepared with proper medications, food, etc.
Always bring a coat or jacket . . . a blanket can be very handy! The weather changes very quickly and you will get chilled. We don’t want you to get sick! Wear comfortable clothing and shoes that you can move freely in… avoid flip-flops or sandals. Shoes must be worn at all times in the amphitheater! NO BARE FEET! There are screws and nails in the grass. If you have shoes or unusual costume elements for your character, start wearing them as early in the rehearsal process as possible. If you have costume changes in the show and actual costumes are not available for your use yet, bring some extra clothes from home, change into those other clothes when called for in the script and you will easily get the change and the timing down well before actual costumes are ready for the show. Believe it or not, few things are worse for breaking you out of character than having to change the way you move to accommodate costume elements.
Safety is extremely important.
We expect everyone to act in a safe manner at all times . . . endangering neither themselves or anyone else in the cast, crew or audience. Please don’t take chances or show off for your friends. There are many hazards in theater and they are multiplied in outdoor theater.
If guns and ammunition will be used in this show. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER touch one of the guns or any ammunition unless you are specifically assigned by the stage manager or director . . . serious injury or death could occur if anyone takes this warning lightly. No “outside” firearms, ammunition or explosives of any kind are to be brought at any time to rehearsals, performances or onto the grounds at Western Park without the express permission of the Stage Manager or the Director.
Respect the Rehearsal Process:
When rehearsal is on-going, please be quiet and attentive. If the director has to focus on something or someone other than you, use this down time to review your lines, and be ready to jump back in when needed. If there is a long break between your scenes, you may wait quietly just outside of the rehearsal area. However, please do not enter and exit unnecessarily while other actors are rehearsing, because you may distract them. Wait until a break in the scene.
Getting Them. Be gracious about receiving advice and notes from your director, even when you disagree. The director’s vision is what drives a production, and the way you portray your character is an integral part of that vision. Please understand that the notes session is not personal therapy. The director has a limited amount of time, and s/he needs to make corrections as quickly as possible. If you need clarification or have concerns that affect only you or your character, talk with the director privately.
Giving Them. NEVER give another actor or crew member notes or advice that undermines the director’s authority or vision. Sharing general techniques or tips with other actors is acceptable, although even this can be perceived as overbearing and patronizing. Furthermore, giving contrary instructions or advice, or questioning the director’s decisions or sanity is a major no-no. Focus your efforts on your own character’s development.
It’s okay to experiment with your character in the early phases of the rehearsal process. This is a normal part of character development! However, discuss your ideas with your director BEFORE implementing them during a rehearsal. Changes in blocking or characterization can really throw your fellow actors off, and they need to be aware not only that these changes are taking place, but also the motivation behind them.
Leaving and Entering the Rehearsal Space:
Do not disappear from the rehearsal area once you have checked in. If you need to leave, make sure that you clear it with the Stage Manager or Director.
Do not “handle” each other. Not everyone likes to be touched, and you need to be respectful of each other’s personal space, regardless of the other’s gender or age. Also, a general etiquette note – if someone is getting into character, do not jolt them out of character by calling them by their “real” name, striking up casual conversation, or asking them questions about their “real” lives.
Just because we play dramatic characters onstage does NOT mean that we must be dramatic offstage. Don’t be the stereotypical diva or demanding actor… remember that nothing spreads faster than your reputation. If love should bloom while in a show, great! However, keep it outside of the theatre doors. If you are having personal problems, again – please keep it outside of the theatre. “The show’s the thing”… so true.
Respect the Western Park :
The Outlaw Trail Theater is loaned the rehearsal space and stage from Western Park, and we need to be respectful of other groups that share that space. Please adhere to the following rules:
If you are hanging out in one of the buildings, do not peek into other rooms, run around, use loud voices, or engage in other behaviors that might distract others … who are renting the space. If you cannot hear what is going on in the Rehearsal Space, you and the others around you are probably being too loud.
NEVER enter a space where another group’s rehearsal, performance, or meeting is ongoing… Ever.
Clean up after yourselves. Throw away trash, return furniture to original locations, and report any spills or damage to the Stage Manager immediately so that s/he can take care of it.
No eating or gum-chewing in costume, and for goodness’ sake, no gum-chewing EVER when you are rehearsing or performing. It’s tacky.
Respect Each Other:
By the time this production has ended, over 100 volunteers will have contributed their time to stage this play, many of whom will work hundreds of hours on the show.
Whenever you have the chance, thank the unsung heroes of every production – the crew, the designers, the production assistants… these folks work incredibly hard behind the scenes, but they rarely get the credit that they deserve. Please let them know that you appreciate them!
“Putting yourself out there” is both risky and scary, yet that is what acting is all about. Sometimes, something that a fellow actor does will work well, but other times, that actor may look (and feel) silly. Be encouraging and supportive, regardless. Whether you are a professional actor or an amateur, you are always taking risks and learning, and the best environment for nurturing this creative process is one where there is trust.
Trust the Process, Trust the Process, Trust the Process:
Remember this mantra! Sometimes, the blocking that your director has in mind does not translate well when it is actually staged. Sometimes, actors struggle to grasp characterizations, memorize their lines, or remember their blocking. Sometimes, crew members take a while to get the timing down on set movements, lighting cues, or prop placements. In sum – rehearsal is a process, not a finished product. A production changes, evolves, and adapts, and as tedious as the process can be at times, it is an absolute thrill to be a part of this incredible effort. Don’t lose sight of this, no matter how exhausted or exasperated you may feel at times. Have faith in the dedication and skills of the entire company… be supportive and trust the process.
The Ten Commandments of Theatre
The Director is Deity. Thou shalt not take notes from friends nor family, coaches nor critics.
Thou shalt not take the name of thy producer, thy angel, in vain.
Remember thou keep holy the half-hour; keep in mind that an actor is never on time, an actor is always early.
Honor thy author and thy composer, for in the beginning were the words and the notes.
Thou shalt not kill laughs nor step on lines; still, thou shalt pick up thy cues.
Thou shalt not adulterate thy performance, for thy stage manager is always watching.
Thou shalt not steal scenes nor focus nor props.
Thou shalt not bear false witness in thy bio nor résumé; indeed, thou shalt be truthful in thy entire performance.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s lines; for truly, there are no small parts, only small actors.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s good fortune; for in fact, all actors must pay their dues.
This above all: The Show Must Go On
Mary McTigue, Acting Like a Pro (Cincinnati: Better Way Books, 1992) 119