When people think of etiquette the first thing that tends to come to mind is the behavior in which you are to conduct yourself in a formal setting. What most people don’t understand is etiquette extends beyond having knowledge of which utensil to use for what course, the type of outfit to wear for a specific occasion, and saying “please” and “thank you”. Etiquette plays a huge role in the work place and how you present yourself to others speaks volumes about your professionalism, but for those who are in the business of entertaining, more emphasis seems to be placed on the presentation of your craft to an audience rather than stage etiquette – the professional protocol in the rehearsal process, backstage areas, and during performance.
In the world of what is deemed “professional theater” it is assumed the performer is knowledgeable of theater and stage etiquette based on school training and/or experience from involvement in previous theatrical productions. Rarely do directors and producers spend time teaching the dos and don’ts of the expectations of how performers should treat their fellow artists and technical staff.
Luckily, we have some tips that will enhance your level of professionalism on and off the stage. There are many circumstances in which you need to exercise proper etiquette in the theatre, so we’ve broken this Stage Etiquette blog into two separate posts. Our first Stage Etiquette post will focus on rehearsals and costume fittings.
Be On Time
Whether it’s a rehearsal or a production evening, ALWAYS arrive early, focused, and prepared to work. If you’re going to be late or you’re unable to attend rehearsal, inform the stage manager or director right away to allow enough time to make revisions to the schedule, if necessary.
The rehearsal process is limited to an allotted time frame to get an entire show performance ready. Do your homework by reviewing what was staged / choreographed after each rehearsal and be off-book by the deadline. It is disrespectful to delay the rehearsal process because of your inability to take and review notes that were given.
Pay Attention and Take Notes
Never talk when the director is talking. Once a note is given, be courteous and reply with, “thank you”. If you don’t understand a note that was given, for the interest of time, reserve a moment away from the cast to ask the director for clarification.
You are Not the Director
The director and stage manager are the only ones who should be giving notes to maintain the integrity of the production. Do not offer your artistic vision or accept notes from other performers. If you find yourself in a position where your fellow cast mate offers you notes, kindly thank them and advise they direct their concerns to the director or stage manager, especially for matters where safety is an issue.
Learn the Lingo
You should acknowledge all director / stage manager calls with a “thank you”. In most cases, “thank you” is followed by the call the director / stage manager made. For example, if your call is 10 minutes to places, the response that should follow is, “Thank you, 10.” By doing so, you are confirming that you heard your places call, or the amount of time given for your break, or your call time to appear at your next rehearsal, and once you move into the performance space, you are acknowledging safety warnings for moving sets.
Understand that Theater Tech is a Tedious Process
Tech rehearsals can be long and tedious but you are required to bring your patience and focus. It is the only opportunity for the technicians, stage manager, and director to set the sound, lighting, and audio-visual cues with the performers before the production. Be available and prepared to jump from section to section and run scenes more than once. The technicians are not trying to torture you they just want to make sure you are seen and heard in the best way possible and it is only right to give them the respect and attention they deserve.
Be On Time
Always arrive promptly for costume fittings. The costumers have the responsibility of constructing / altering costumes for a full cast and cannot afford to lose any time because you failed to arrive as scheduled. If you are unable to make your costume fitting, inform the stage manager or director right away to allow enough time to make revisions to the fitting schedule, if necessary.
Please be respectful to the costumers by showering before your fitting, especially if you engaged in physical activities prior.
Arrive to your fitting wearing the appropriate undergarments and shoes that will be worn with each costume in the show.
Do Not Alter Your Costume
Never add, remove, or alter items from your costume. If you have concerns, please address them to the director or the costume designer because in most cases, the costumer that was assigned to construct / alter your costumes are given directives from the director / costume designer and will not be able to accommodate your request without approval.
Do Not Alter Yourself
Once your measurements are taken and the costumers begin working on your costumes, it is important to remain the same size. There is nothing worse than a costumer spending hours on your costume and at the final fitting, the costume doesn’t fit. If you are planning to lose or gain weight over the course of your contract, inform the director or costume designer so they can prepare accordingly.
You are Not the Costume Designer
Do not reject a costume because you don’t like the way it looks. There is a specific vision for how the costumes should be and it is not your place to make revisions that suit your taste.
Take Care of your Costume
Do not eat, drink colored liquids, or smoke in costume. Sometimes you are provided with a smock or large coat to wear over your costume if you decide to do one or all of the above but in case a smock is not provided, take off your costume completely.
Help the Costumers Take Care of your Costume
Immediately inform your costumer / wardrobe supervisor if something happens to your costume (i.e. buttons fall off, zipper breaks, etc.) The sooner they are notified the sooner it can be fixed.
With the above points in mind, you can feel confident heading into the rehearsal period that you know what’s expected of you etiquette-wise to ensure a smooth rehearsal process. Please check back for the second installment of our Stage Etiquette blog, where we’ll provide information on proper etiquette backstage, in the dressing room, and finally during your actual performance onstage.