Theatre - The Dos and Don'ts for the New Performer

Theatre Dos & Don’ts For The New Performer

Theater Etiquette can separate the amateurs from the pros

Most blunders in Theater Etiquette are made simply because actors are not sure what is expected of them. This article will take you from rehearsals to the closing night party and give you the dos, the don’ts and the whys.

Come prepared: Learn your lines, have your script and a pencil to write down blocking. Arrive early enough to warm up & get focused prior to call time. Cover mistakes and stay in character. Listen closely and follow directions pleasantly. Avoid walking between the Director and the stage when a rehearsal is in progress.

Tech week is called ‘Hell week’ because the Rehearsals are 12 hour days and often tedious. Hang in there while the crew fine-tunes cues and equipment! It can be exhausting, so YOU can HELP the process by paying attention, staying quiet and being ready & available to jump from scene to scene. The tech crew typically arrives before everyone else and leaves after everyone else. They work crazy-hard AND they make you look and sound great! SO, Give them your focus AND the respect they deserve while they are doing their jobs.

Never change anything about your costume. Don’t add or remove anything. Everyone in a production has a specific job and it is the costume designer’s job to put you in something that works for the show. If you have suggestions or problems with a part of your costume, politely take them to the costumer or the director.

Keep the dressing room neat and clean. This is your second home. Keep it organized and you’ll avoid the stress & panic that comes from losing a piece of your costume amid the mess, right before you go on stage. Take care of your things and the costumer will love you.

Once the house is open, stay off the stage and out of the theater, especially in costume. Avoid peeking thru the curtains. Don’t mingle with a waiting audience; it will spoil the surprise.

When you step off the stage…..vanish. Walk quietly backstage. Avoid noise in the dressing room and talking or even whispering in the wings. Once in awhile, an actor’s mic may accidentally get left on back stage, in which case, the audience hears everything you say & do. For example, we were doing a musical and one actor made his exit and ran to the bathroom. He didn’t realize that his mic was still on, SO, the audience heard: tinkle, tinkle, tinkle, flush at full volume. Always assume there is a mic on somewhere and stay very quiet.

Don’t hang out in the wings to watch the show. Backstage areas can be tight and the crew and your fellow actors have to get to where they need to be. It’s also a safety issue, as sets are being moved on and off stage. Hang out in the dressing room or green room. Pay attention to the monitors so you know what’s happening. There is no excuse for missing a cue. Never miss an entrance! If you’re not going on-stage for a while, be respectful of those who are: stay out of the way of costume changes, don’t make noise backstage that prevents the other actors from hearing their cues, and stay out of the wings. Be aware and be respectful of others and the process. When waiting in the wings for an entrance, watch your sight lines. Make sure you cannot be seen. When walking behind the cyc or back curtain, walk slowly and as far away from the curtain as possible so that it does not wiggle & create a distraction on stage. When entering and exiting, try to avoid bumping into scenery & backdrops. Things break AND all the movement is distracting for the audience.

Pay attention to the stage manager. He or she will be telling you important things to keep the show running smoothly. When the stage manager gives a call, thank them. For example: They say “10 minutes to places !” you say: “Thank you 10!”. That’s so the stage manager knows that you heard the call and are ready to go.

Respect the props, sets, costumes, theatrical equipment, electronic equipment & the belongings of others. Never touch anyone else’s prop, even if you think it’s out of place. They may have moved it there on purpose. If you think something is out of place, just mention it to the stage manager. Always check your own props before curtain. Things happen, props get bumped or moved or broken. It’s also comforting to know that everything is where you expect it to be before the show begins. Remember, props belong to the theatre, not the actors. Treat them with respect. Return props to their designated place immediately after use. If you’d like to practice with a prop at home, DON’T. Find an alternate or make arrangements with the director or stage manager to come in and rehearse at some other time. It’s just too great a risk to have props leave the building. Avoid touching anything that is not yours unless you have permission.

Return microphones & other equipment to the designated crew member backstage. Do not put them down anywhere else, even for a minute.

Unless you’re doing improv, stick to the script. The authors and playwrights wrote the lines that way for a reason. It’s the actor’s job to bring the playwright’s words and the director’s vision to life.

Consume food & drinks in the Green Room. Nothing should be taken into the theatre, backstage or in the dressing room unless it is bottled water with a top on it. Things spill and ruin costumes and props or create a trip hazard. Consult the stage manager for the particular rules of that theatre. Never put food, drinks or any object on a piano, prop table or backstage.

At the end of a rehearsal, director’s typically give notes. Have something easily accessible to write your notes: paper & pen, I-pad etc. Accept all notes from the director graciously and say, “Thank you.” (Nothing else) Write down your notes and come back the next day having made the adjustments that were given. The Director should never need to give you the same note twice. Never disagree with the director in front of the cast and if you don’t understand the note or disagree, discuss it with the Director privately.

Here’s a biggy!! Never, ever, ever, ever ‘direct’ your fellow cast members. This offends them and is unprofessional. Notes are given by the Director and Stage manager only. If someone does offer you notes, say “Thank you but we should take that through the director.” Imagine how confusing it would be to get conflicting directions and suggestions from several different people. All changes to the production must go through the director.

Never talk when the director is talking! Do respond and follow directions Quickly to help create a professional atmosphere.

No mobile phones, especially in the wings! The show deserves all of your attention. Put the phone away and save the texting and tweeting for after rehearsal or after the night’s show.

Whether it’s a rehearsal or production night, don’t miss a call time. There’s a very good reason that the director made a call for 6:00pm even if you don’t know what it is. And if you’re going to be late or miss a rehearsal, let the stage manager or director know as soon as possible so that they have plenty of time to make allowances. Be on time even after breaks, so that the rehearsal may resume promptly.

Always give your best! Whether it’s a 1pm matinee with an audience full of kids or an 8pm curtain in front of the critics, the audience paid to come see you become somebody else. Always give 100%! Leave your personal life challenges outside the theatre so you can focus on the job at hand…….you can always pick up your personal things again when you leave the building.

Be respectful of everyone you work with: the staff, the crew, the directors, the designers, the other actors, and yourself! Avoid gossip—unless you’re gossiping about all the great things people have done. The emotional wellbeing of the cast and crew are of utmost importance. The show will be much better if you work together as a team. SO, Your job as an actor is to make everyone look good. Support everyone. If you have any problems or concerns, go to the Director to discuss in private.

This is the time to celebrate a collaborative job well done. Focus on the positive, avoid complaints, thank everybody!

Be prepared, dedicated, dependable, positive, enthusiastic, supportive, self sufficient and always give 100% without complaint. If you do these things, you will make everyone’s job easier and more pleasant, you’ll be a stellar cast member……the Director’s Dream! AND….they will want to hire you over & over again!!

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Producer Suzanne Lyons – An Inspiring Force!

If you ever have the opportunity to sit down with Suzanne Lyons, you will quickly realize that you are in the company of a powerhouse. She is as passionate about producing feature films as she is life, and she has the essential ability to bring the most joy to both. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to interview her for my acting class recently and was honored that she opened up and shared about her illness as a child. Despite countless surgeries and losing the sight in one eye, she has gone on to produce nine movies with more on the way. Suzanne Lyons accomplishes because of her positive attitude, fearlessness, and business savvy.

Why I chose to highlight Suzanne Lyons in the Actors section of Master Talent Teachers is because much of life is about overcoming. Her story of triumph against all odds is what life is made of when you go after something that matters deeply to you. Actors must be passionate about the study of being human and what motivates and drives us on. All great acting touches on the parts of us that make us who we are.

Videos from Suzanne Lyons on Career can be found on the career page of

Filmmaking is very much about overcoming odds. It’s a miracle productions get completed, especially small films.

My Experience Directing and Casting

Recently the film I directed, Reign, won the New York International Film Festival. After winning both the Best Short Award and The Audience Award I was asked what I look for in actors. So I thought I would take a moment here and share with you my experience.

When I direct a project, be it film or theatre, there are always roles that are open that need to be cast, and my producing partners and I hold auditions. I love actors who are passionate about the role and bring a perspective that is fresh. I love the collaboration process. I want the shaping of the character to live under the skin of the actor. Often that shaping is about the depth of the life of the character.

Reign can be viewed at

In Reign, I cast a wonderful actress, Sheetal Sheth in the role of Fadwa, an Iraqi woman, who loses her family during a firefight in the middle of the desert. Sheetal and I had many discussions regarding her character and the direness of her situation. What attracted me to cast her was her passion for the role, her experience and training. I knew that Reign was going to be a rigorous shoot. We shot the film 52 miles North East of Palm Springs outside of 29 Palms, in a desolate desert terrain. The conditions were pretty tough. The women had to take a 15-minute ride down to base camp just to go to the bathroom and all the women were such team players, none of them ever complained. It was in February, extremely cold without the sun and hot with it, the wind was harsh and constantly blowing the dry desert sand. Now, I write all of this with a smile because I love directing so much, I was far too involved in the gig to concern myself with any of these challenges.

We had an A-list crew (for our budget) so we were cutting corners anywhere we could. I knew that anyone I cast would have to know how to concentrate and deliver a depth of emotion regardless of the pressure of filmmaking and the challenges of the conditions. It truly was a passion project for myself as well as everyone involved.

We shot Reign on 35 mm film, which is beautiful but expensive. I knew I would have to get all of my performances in one or at the most, two takes. I had a lot of faith in Sheetal. Her process was flawless and her preparation served her in the field. I’ve worked with both non-actors and trained actors. I feel that it is more advantageous to work with the trained actor because they have invested in their skill and understand the process. But the most important part of working with an actor is that we both feel a positive connection and both care about the project. I think my favorite aspects of a great actor is their passion, skill, and desire for perfection within themselves to bring their best to the work. I think all great artists have that.

Kimberly Jentzen

Reign has gone on to win “Best Direction” and “Best Casting Director” from the Actors Film Festival, “Best Short Film” from the Louisville International Film Festival, “Best Short Film” from the New York International Film Festival, “The Audience Award” from both the Louisville International Film Festival and the New York International Film Festival and the “Award of Merit” at the Best Shorts Competition.

Videos from Kimberly Jentzen on Acting can be found in the archives of Actors

Kimberly Jentzen has been teaching actors for more than 20 years, she has won the Backstage “Best Acting Coach Award” and “Favorite Teacher Award” multiple times, and is regarded as one of the top acting coaches and teachers in Los Angeles.

How to Prepare for Your Audition or Performance

by: Kimberly Jentzen

Have a ritual of working out both your body and voice in the early part of the day prior to your audition. You’re body needs to be tuned up and present. Also, by executing a few vocal exercises, you won’t squeeze your throat from nerves or tension, and you will be able to drop that voice into your body.

Next is the mental preparation. Make sure you take a minute to close your eyes and quietly envision your audition from stepping into the building and meeting the casting director’s assistant to walking into the room and meeting the casting director; or if it’s a call back the director or producer. Experience being free from nerves and feeling a sense of confidence and enthusiasm for the project.

Visualize yourself doing your cold reading from beginning, middle, to end. Experience your intention, beats and emotion. (Let the emotion be held within, save the full-out emotion for the audition.) Then experience a sense of satisfaction and gratitude and see yourself leaving the audition room feeling like you did what you set out to do. Open your eyes and write down any realizations you may have about the process.

When you drive to your audition, listen to music that builds your confidence and gives you the added energy of emotion that will relate to your reading. Before you leave your car, take a moment to connect to your surroundings. Breath, relax and say to yourself, “I’m ready.” Even if you don’t believe you are, a part of you actually will.

Writing in the “ZONE” – Part II

by Minda Burr

In my last entry, I talked about the difference between the right and left brain and how important it is to give the RIGHT BRAIN FULL REIGN in the first draft of anything because it’s where our intuition, imagination and creative impulses come from! And today we’re going to talk about how you can enhance and stimulate the right brain to allow yourself a more brilliant and joy-filled writing experience. But allow me to digress for a moment for an important reason:

We are all born with “playful” spirits… It’s the ESSENCE of who we are when we come into this world. We don’t even start to develop our critical mind, as well as logic and reason until we are about seven years old. That’s why children’s imaginations are so HUGE and they have so much freedom to play and create. It’s also why they believe in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy and the Easter rabbit because it tickles their imaginations and lets them live in a world of WONDER.

What’s important to be reminded is that our playful spirits never leave! They don’t abandon us when we turn 30 and say, “See you later sucker!” No, they STAY with us for the rest of our lives. But unfortunately, here’s what happens: we start to get conditioned by society’s left brained “logic and reason” and our playful spirits get pushed down with all the “shoulds” and “have tos” of life. We are forced to make responsible, sensible and often times money-making (rather than creatively satisfying) decisions. Then we eventually become hostages of our own left brain -. the so-called logical, rational part of our brain. You know the part of us – who wants to make smart decisions. And our spontaneity gets suppressed, then our playful natures get suppressed, then our imaginations get suppressed and our creative genius gets pushed even further down into our psyche.

And when that happens, it gets pissed. We can literally feel the tension and stress in our bodies because our playful spirit – which is the essence of who we are when we’re born – has been moved to the back of the bus and it is NOT happy. The worst part is, our playful spirits are our IMAGINATIONS greatest ally! They are the best of comrades because they fuel each other… We know nothing works well when we are constricted – not work, not relationships, not sex and most certainly not the “creative process” – whether it’s acting, painting, dancing or writing – you name it.

I am a big believer in Source energy… I believe that we are all conduits of the Creative Intelligence of the Universe, and we are either open conduits or we are painfully CLOSED. Which one has the better chance of accessing brilliance? Which one has a better chance of ENJOYING the process along the way?

So, it’s very important to cultivate being an OPEN VESSEL for the creative energy to FLOW brilliantly to and through us. And when that happens, it is so delicious. And you might ask, what about some of the tortured artists like Hemingway who created such brilliant classics? My answer to that is, he was DRUNK most of the time! His critical mind was out of the way! He let go of his resistance when he was fueled with alcohol. Unfortunately, he probably woke up with a hangover every day. But Hemingway was also a big adventurer and life LIVER. He was a world traveler, lived by his own rules, didn’t give a damn what anybody thought and was a hedonist of the highest order. He had great PASSION for life and women and FUN — all great fuel for freedom of expression.

I am in no way suggesting that we should be drunk when we write, but it leads me to one of the best ways that we can stimulate our right brain: Delighting in our senses is at the top of the list. We literally experience the world through our five senses and they are all right brain stimulators. How can we invite a reader into a vivid story of sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touch – as well as deep feelings – if we are not present with and delighting in our own five senses? How can we immerse anyone into a world we are creating if we can’t even immerse ourselves?

So, how do we do that?? Delighting in your senses means to be fully “present” with them and GRATEFUL for them, whether you’re savoring delicious food, listening to great music, laughing your ass off at something funny, touching and being touched by people you feel love and affection for, singing, dancing, allowing yourself to be in awe of the beauty of nature. Getting out in nature, moving your bodies and paying attention to all there is to experience and enjoy in life. Watch how your creative channels open up, the more you feel ONE with Life… Meditation is also a great right brain stimulator, as well as other creative endeavors. I am also a jewelry designer and I truly believe creativity begets more creativity. Amen.