We hope you had the opportunity to read our previous Stage Etiquette blog post, which focused on proper etiquette during rehearsals and costume fittings. Moving forward to your actual performances, we’ll now focus on proper stage etiquette in the theater (backstage, in the dressing room, and during the show).
Check Your Props
Check all of your props before curtain. If you find another performer’s props in the section assigned to you, or you think one of your props is in the wrong location, or one of your props is damaged, bring it to the attention of the stage manager. Never touch, borrow, or play with props that are not your own.
Check Your Costumes
Make sure your costumes are preset in areas where traffic flow is very minimal. You don’t want your costumes to be in the way of someone else’s quick change or stage entrance and exit. Do not move costumes that are not your own. If yours or someone else’s costume is out of place, inform the stage manager.
Keep Backstage Clear
Backstage areas are tight with scenic elements, costume change set ups, props, and cast and crew members moving about to get into their positions, therefore cannot accommodate people hanging in the wings to watch the show. If you want to see the show, inquire about getting a DVD or wait until a new cast presents the same show in a theater near you. Otherwise, remain in the dressing room, green room, or another area close to the stage, until your next entrance.
Keep Backstage Quiet
There should be no talking or whispering once you have exited the stage. You should respect the backstage crew who need to hear their calls from the stage manager, the performers who are still on stage, and the audience who have paid their money to see the performance.
The Stage Crew is Part of The Team
The backstage crew should be treated as your colleagues, not your assistants. They should be shown the same respect you would give to your fellow cast mates and production personnel. Do not address your concerns to the stage staff about how you feel things should be done backstage. Notify the stage manager and allow them to instruct the stage staff accordingly.
Stay in Your Space
Respect each performer’s space and keep your things within your allotted area. Do not touch anything that does not belong to you without permission.
Some people are sensitive to scents and it is important to check in with your dressing room mates to see if anyone might take offense. Be courteous and limit the amount of perfume, after shave, and hair spray that are used in small areas. If you decide to wear perfume–which shouldn’t be worn on costumes that don’t belong to you because it can damage the fabric–spray yourself before you arrive to the theater or in a location that is not too close to the dressing room. Hairspray is also an item that can be overzealously applied and should not be sprayed in the dressing room.
Keep the Dressing Room Quiet
Keep the noise down, especially in theaters that have good acoustics where the sound can filter onto the stage and into the house. Also, many performers tend to utilize their time in the dressing room to focus and silently prep before going on stage. If you are a singer, warm-up before you arrive to the theater or find a sound proof area away from the dressing room to vocalize.
Hang up Your Costume
Unless it is a crew assisted quick change, always hang up your costume. Once again, the stage crew are not your assistants and are not required to ensure all of your costumes are hung and present after each performance.
Keep the Dressing Room Clean
Please keep the dressing room clean and presentable because it will serve as your second home for the duration of your contract. Be considerate to those you are sharing a space with and pick up after yourself.
Be On Time
Always arrive to your call ON TIME. If you are going to be late, contact the stage manager right away. Do not ask one of your cast mates to sign in for you.
Pay Attention to Stage Monitors
Listen intently to the monitors so you know your cue to enter. If it takes a while before your entrance, stay clear of the backstage area and wait patiently in the dressing room, green room, or other area that does not affect the traffic of the crew and performers.
Turn Off Your Cell Phone
The production deserves your undivided attention and cell phones should not be used anytime during the show. Your focus should be on paying attention to your next cue and being attentive to any safety warnings that are called backstage.
Watch Your Sight Lines
Watch your sight lines when waiting in the wing for an entrance. If you can see the audience, the audience can see you.
Pay Attention to Stage Scenery
Be mindful of moving the curtain or brushing against the scenery and backdrops when you exit the stage. It can be distracting to the audience to see shaky facades and ripples in the scrim where there shouldn’t be.
Leave the Practical Jokes at Home
Practical jokes, pranks, and improvisational liberties that were not directed, are absolutely unacceptable and not professional. Unless otherwise told, you should always stick to the exact blocking, choreography, dialogue, etc. because some of the alternate choices you make may be inconsistent with the era, and the changes may throw off other cast members. You have a responsibility to maintain the integrity of the shows as intended and perform your best by giving the audience the show they paid to see. Not to mention, you never know who might be in the audience that can determine your fate for future work. Breaking stage etiquette in the theater can cost you your job and even your career.
Be Ready to Help Other Performers
While all performers aren’t masters of improvisation, it helps to be able to save your scene partner in the event they genuinely forget their line. Hopefully, the listening skills you displayed in rehearsal during your scene can prompt you to think of a way to get your partner back on track without drawing too much focus.
No Personal Drama
Keeping personal drama out of the theater is an important part of stage etiquette in the theater. The audience should never know if you’re having a bad day or an outside conflict with one of your co-cast members.
Always Give 100%
Always give 100% toward your performance at all times whether it’s an evening show, afternoon matinee, a full house, or a house of 10 people. As hard as it may seem to give the same energy to a small crowd as you would a more energetic and lively packed house, you can’t fault the 10 people for coming to the show where ticket sales weren’t so great. They, too, have paid to see the production and it would be unfair to give them anything less than what they paid for.
Now that you are equipped with the tools to help amp up your level of professionalism when it comes to stage etiquette, don’t forget to wish your fellow performers well before each show with the age-old sayings, “break a leg” or “merde”!