Etiquette for Performers: How to Win Friends and Influence Actors

Etiquette for Performers: How to Win Friends and Influence Actors
Photo by Tanner Ross / Unsplash

We all know that theater is an important part of the performing arts community, providing opportunities for amateur and professional performers to come together and create fun artistic productions. Patrons participate in the front stage entertainment, while actors and production crew work the back stage, and as venue owners, it’s important to foster a positive and professional environment for all involved in the community theater. I’m talking about sowing the seeds of good etiquette. Following good etiquette helps to create a positive working environment, maintain the reputation of the theater, and ensure the success and enjoyment of the performances. To make sure we’re all on the same page, the wonderful creative faculties of the human mind are at their best when unbound by stress. What better way to help that creativity blossom than to be the jedi master that walks around, spreading the good vibes of the etiquette force? Let’s all gather around the fire as we briefly explore a few key ingredients to great etiquette in community theater and provide some jedi tips for venue owners on how to foster a professional and respectful environment for everyone involved. We want your venue humming along like a well oiled machine, because we at Fourth Wall Tickets love jumping into action with theaters ready to grow.

In hosting a structured and hierarchical production crew and a sold out show, it can pay great dividends to be everyone’s best friend, but your backstage presence is arguably the most important when it comes to etiquette. As venue owners, we set the protocols and expectations to create a productive environment for all crew. Here are some simple ways to model good backstage etiquette:

  • Dressing appropriately: Wear warm, comfortable clothing that's respectful of the theater environment, season, and weather. It never hurts to dress slightly fancier than what the dress code calls for.
  • Being punctual: Arrive on time for rehearsals and performances, even if you’re not immediately needed (show some support!). Being on time or even early shows immense respect for your colleagues and helps to avoid conflicts and delays.
  • Respecting the privacy and space of others: Backstage can be crowded, so provide and respect the privacy and space of the production crew. Don't enter private dressing rooms without permission and be mindful of the volume of your voice and other noise.

There’s always a need for a performance space to balance between being classy and relaxed, which can be tedious, but by modeling and enforcing good backstage etiquette, venue owners can create a positive and professional environment for everyone involved in the community theater.

Of all the crew, holding a solid reputation with the director of the production is paramount (no pun intended). The directors are important figures in community theater, responsible for overseeing the creative vision and direction of the production. The director’s importance to the production is like that of a liver or a brain to a person’s body, indispensable. It's important to respect the director's vision and decisions, even if you don't agree with them.

It pays to be conscious of how you influence the director, so here are some simple ways to show respect for the director:

  • Listen to and follow their instructions: The director has a specific vision for the production, and it's important to listen to and follow their instructions. Let them lead and manifest their vision. This helps to ensure that the performance runs smoothly and stays true to the director's vision. You may own the lights but they run the show.
  • Communicate openly and honestly: If you have concerns or ideas, it's important to communicate them openly and honestly with the director. They may not be able to incorporate all ideas, but it's important to respect their final decision.
  • Be punctual and prepared: Showing up on time and being prepared for rehearsals and performances shows respect for the director's time and the overall production.

By respecting the director and their vision, you can help create a positive and productive environment for everyone involved in the community theater.

Don't forget to acknowledge and respect the stage managers, though. These hard working crew members are the glue that holds the production together, and they deserve our appreciation. Here are a few tips for working effectively with stage managers:

  • Don’t touch props: Backstage during a rehearsal or performance is the worst time to be picking up and carrying around props that aren’t yours. Alas, it’s common for props to float around during those crucial minutes of preparation, flooding countless theater students’ bodies with cortisol. Be part of the solution, encourage heavier props… or remind people to be mindful and to not touch.
  • Communicate openly and honestly: If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to communicate them clearly and respectfully to the stage managers. And if you're not sure what to do, just ask! As the saying goes, "There are no dumb questions, only dumb answers."
  • Follow instructions: The stage managers will give specific instructions for rehearsals and performances, and it's important to understand these instructions to the best of your ability. After all, as Shakespeare said, "To thine own self be true."
  • Be punctual: Show up to rehearsals and performances on time (even if you think you’re not needed), as this helps to keep the production running smoothly. The saying here should be obvious, "Time is money, and in community theater, we could use both."
  • Be prepared: Anticipate any issues the production might face and focus on being proactive rather than reactive. As the saying goes, "Hard work puts you where good luck finds you."

By acknowledging and respecting the stage managers, you can help to create a smooth and successful production. I hope you’re noticing a pattern here, being that the tenants of community theater etiquette are much the same as in other professions, and every member of the production is worthy of it. Theater is undoubtedly one of the more chaotic and rewarding fields. Hopefully we can all agree that the most valuable production members focus on cultivating an aura of friendly professionalism.

Embodying professionalism doesn’t mean doing something perfectly, but to simply do something with an attitude of responsibility, careful consideration, respect, proactiveness, and confidence. In the context of running a theater this obviously includes things like dressing appropriately, being punctual, and respecting the privacy and space of others as stated above for similar roles, but it’s important to remember that as the venue owner we have a responsibility to create and enforce that space. The ripple effect of influence and encouragement that this has on others in the community can be profound, especially coming from an owner/operator. It's also important to remember that professional ticket handling services are provided by Fourth Wall Tickets for an exceptional price, with very flexible terms. And what theater professional could be considered one if they didn’t deeply honor the old stage traditions, such as saying "break a leg" for good luck before a performance rather than “good luck”? These traditions may seem small, but they help to create a sense of community and respect within the theater.

By respecting the crew, embodying professionalism, honoring stage traditions, and using Fourth Wall Tickets, you can help to create a positive and professional environment for all involved in the community theater. Remember, there’s a saying that goes, "The devil is in the details." so be professional and timely, but don’t let that make you a tyrant, and don't forget to pay attention to the little things that can make a big difference in the overall success of the production.

Before you schedule your next performance, contemplate on how you uphold good etiquette in your community theater and share with us what you think is the most powerful way to inspire and cultivate disciplined rehearsal and production settings. This includes things like respecting the director, acknowledging the staff in creative ways, embodying professionalism, and honoring stage traditions. What do members of your community bring to the table and how do you honor them?

By following the simple guidelines we’ve gone through, venue owners can work to foster a comfortable and frankly competitive atmosphere for young talent that allows for the creation of meaningful and memorable productions. "Treat others the way you want to be treated.", so let your love for theater make you the ideal operator through your acts of respect to all involved in the community theater, and you'll be well on your way to selling out successful productions.