Knowing how to behave in rehearsal can get you hired (or fired). Don’t know where to start? Read below for some tips.
Are you entering a professional rehearsal room for the first time? Or are you a seasoned actor that has had to take a break before returning to the stage? No matter what stage you are at in your career, it’s important to keep rehearsal room etiquette a priority. Remember, each person you meet could hire you for (or fire you from) your next gig! Here are 8 ways to to behave in a rehearsal room (according to me). Remember rehearsal rooms vary greatly from company to company, and place to place, so be sure to check in with your company or team to ensure you are putting your best forward.
Tip 1: Arrive early
In this industry (like most) time is expensive. The larger the team, the more expensive each hour of work is costing the producers. For example, if you are working on an equity project (this means a project that is being regulated by the actors union in Canada), each hour for an actor comes down to approximately $17.00/hour. Multiply this by the 5 actors involved, and then include the fee for the director, designers, stage managers and technicians, and you’ve got yourself an expensive day. I’ve heard the saying, ’10 minutes early is on time, and on time is late.’ It’s simply respectful of everyone’s time to arrive early. Plus it means you can be calm and collected when work is starting, as opposed to running into the door and rushing to get to your scene. There are few things you can control about your career in theatre, being on time is one of them.
Tip 2: Be prepared
Don’t be clueless on day one. You should know about the playwright, the play, the context in which it was written, and have read the play at least 3 times in its entirety before starting any project. Begin to understand your relationships with other characters, and identify descriptors and clues in the text that describe your character.Your job as an actor is to be the character, you best be getting to know that character as well as you know yourself. Once you have been hired for a project, don’t hesitate to reach out for a copy of the script, and to ask questions to the director or playwright. They will let you know if the questions you are asking can wait until the start of the contract.
Tip 3: GET OFF YOUR PHONE
I sincerely hope this does not need to be said, but when you are in rehearsal, you are at work. Put your phone away, and turn it off if need be, to ensure you are not distracted during your “shift” (because that is what rehearsals are for actors). Would you use your phone during an important class at school, or during a busy shift at another job? If you want to make theatre your career, you need to take it even more seriously than all of those other things going on in your life. Remain focused on the scene at hand, and if you get some down time, use it to prepare for the next scene/rehearsal, and save yourself some time later on.
Tip 4: Be quiet when you’re not part of the active rehearsal
An actor’s most important skill is listening. Practice that skill every day everywhere you go, but especially during rehearsals by ensuring the actors who are rehearsing are the focus of the room. It is not your job to give input on other artists work, unless it has been explicitly specified. Don’t take away from their time, and remember how expensive that time is when you feel the need to make a comment, or ask an unrelated question while everyone else is working.
Tip 5: Trust the director
As the actor, you are the paint being used to create the piece of art that is the play. Be flexible, and easy going, listen to the director and bring ideas, suggestions, bold choices to the space, and trust that the director will guide the piece in a way that makes sense. If they don’t, well, that’s not up to you, you should have become a director! Every experience you have is a useful one. See what I did there, I didn’t say a good one. It’s important to remember that not everyone will always work well together. This is not a reason to act out, or act badly when you disagree with the director’s choice. You are likely only working on this project short term, and you will soon not be around anyone from the team anymore. Instead of focusing on the negatives, focus on the positives, and remember that you never know who will be hiring for another project soon.
Tip 6: Believe in yourself
You were selected to play this part because you showed something to the director that caught their eye. They already believe that you are the person that should play this role, you may as well believe it yourself as well. It can be difficult as an actor to continuously have to build yourself up, and put your best foot forward, while constantly facing rejection. Remember that you should only compare yourself to you, and that each person is on their own journey. Keep setting clear goals for yourself, and continue measuring how you are doing in reference to those goals.
Tip 7: It’s not about you
Now that your ego is slightly fluffed from tip number 6, remember IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU. This play could and would happen without you, so remember how lucky you are to be there. Do not take it for granted, and enjoy every moment. Take it seriously and remember how many others would love to be in that room. Let that be a motivation for you to act professionally, in all settings.
Tip 8: Be respectful
Each person in that room has the potential to be your boss one day, how many actors become agents and casting directors? How many designers team up with directors and work on multiple shows together? Who knows where that costume assistant you met once will end up? Remember that also many actors work in the food service industry, and in other customer service jobs to help them pay their bills, especially in their early career. I once heard a story of an actor who helped someone very generously with directions to a restaurant one day, and when they went into an audition the next day, they found that the person they had helped was sitting behind the table as the casting director. You never know who you will meet, and they could be in a position to hire you or fire you in the future, so remember that everyone deserves to be treated with respect, dignity and integrity.
All in all, the main thing to remember from all of this is to be respectful. It’s okay to make mistakes, and to not always be the perfect professional artist you strive to be. Most people are understanding and willing to listen if you are having an issue. Just make sure to be proactive, and remember that the career you’ve chosen is extremely competitive, and any step forward is an important one, no matter how small.