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The Sacred Doctrine of Tech and Backstage

October 31, 2011

I work with a variety of levels of professionalism.  As a Stage Manager, my projects tend to be higher budget and I work with more established veterans, while as an Artistic Director and Playwright, it’s more common I work with talented “Newbies.”  Because my personal soap-box is to disassociate low budget & low quality, I’d like to share with you what I consider the “Sacred Doctrine of Tech and Backstage.”  Regardless of the budget of show you’re working in [and despite how little – if at all – you’re getting paid] your professionalism directly affects how others see you.  Act as if you’re riding the pressure and prestige of a Broadway opening for every project, and people will be impressed with your attitude and professionalism.  Artists will repeatedly work for you and it will only be a matter of time before you can quit the day job because of the unique and respected impact you make on the community. Act like a pro, and be treated like a pro! Think of these guidelines [note – not rules] as the theatre ten commandments, one for actors, one for ASMs/deckhands.


  1. If it is neither thy prop or thy costume, DON’T TOUCH IT!!!!
  2.  THOU MUST NOT QUARREL AMONGST THE OTHER ACTORS WHILE IN REHEARSAL!!! Talk to thy Stage Manager if one believes there is a problem.  Not comfortable? Go to thy deputy. [No deputy? go to thy company manager/producer/director].
  3. Arrive at the wing for thy entrance at least 5 lines early.  Avoid panicking thy Stage Manager.
  4. If thou brings a prop offstage, always leave the prop in the same place. Do not make the Stage Manager search for it.
  5. Thou shall not wear thy costumes/jewelry home [or leave props in thy pockets].
  6. Thou shall not eat, drink non-clear liquids, or smoke in thy costume.
  7. Thou shall always arrive on time, ready to work [note – rehearsal/brush up call time should not be when thou begins thy warm-up].
  8. Thou shall not give other actors notes.
  10. If thou enjoyed the experience of working with a company, write a personal thank you to the artistic director, director, and/or casting director – THEY ARE THE ONES WHO HIRE YOU AND MAY HIRE YOU BACK!


  1. Thou shall not be caught by an Actor during a performance or rehearsal reading a book or on the phone, one must always appear in full attention of the play and be observant of changes or problems.
  2. Thou must hand the Actor their props unless it is a cup/saucer or liquid hand-off.  Even if the Actor is offstage for a few minutes, offer to hand props to them, it makes everyone more comfortable if you can be relied upon.
  3. If wine glasses w/ liquid must be handed off, thou must hold the stem, and allow the Actor to grab the base of the glass.
  4. If thou goes onstage for any part where the audience will see, thou must wear SOLID black LONG-SLEEVE clothing.  Yes this includes shoes and a sweatshirt over your graphic Ts.
  5. Thou must always show an Actor a changed prop and/or allow them to taste a new perishable before the tech/performance begins.
  6. While Quick Changing an Actor, thou must always talk through the change [i.e. hand, foot, button, tuck]. Even if you’ve done it a thousand times, it sets a comfort level.
  7. Immediately after the exit of Actors from an onstage combat, receive a “thumbs up” from the Actor that no one was injured/the fight went okay.
  8. Thou shall always say “off headset” when doing so to your Production Stage Manager, lest they call your name in vain.
  9. Thou must provide cough drops [sugar-free] & tissues on the prop tables. A handy trick would be labeled dixie cups for the partially used cough drop an Actor may need between scenes.
  10. Thou shall not put dairy onstage. EVER. Lest it will surely curdle under the heat of the lights before it reaches the Actor’s lips.

Hope these guidelines can help you with your backstage etiquette and make your shows run smoothly!!!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. The Reflective Artist permalink
    October 31, 2011 10:11 am

    What a wonderful, direct post. We should print these out and have them handed out on the first day of rehearsal, and posted backstage during every performance!

  2. October 31, 2011 3:23 pm


  3. November 1, 2011 12:50 pm

    These are so great. And the Actors’ #9 made me laugh out loud 😉

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