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My First Five Rules

December 12, 2012

I’ve learned a lot in my first year as a stage actor, and I’ve come up with a few rules that help me succeed. I’m sure I’ll come up with more in time, but here are my first five rules:

1. Show up on time. Most directors and producers would rather have someone good and reliable than great and irresponsible. If you’re running late, let them know, and make every effort to not make a habit of it.

2. Respect your director. I wrote more about this in my last post. It is quite all right to have questions for your director, and even to disagree with her/him, but take up these matters one-on-one, not in front of the company. And once the director makes a decision, accept it. If you find you don’t like the director or her/his style, you don’t have to work with that person again, but honor your commitment and do your best work until the show is done.

3. Be willing to do anything (within reason). You should never force yourself to do things you are not comfortable with, particularly if they are somehow threatening. But stretch your limits as far as you can, and don’t be a prima donna. I worked on one community theater production where one castmate said she “didn’t do” scene changing and set-up. But it was a no budget show and everyone knew from the start that cast would be crew. Guess who I haven’t seen get any roles since then?

My second role was in a Sixties-set “Lysistrata” where the suffering men’s penises were played by actors in very silly penis costumes. I happily volunteered to take on one of those roles in addition to the small role I had been cast in. Besides it being great fun, I also developed a reputation as someone who would do potentially embarrassing roles with gusto and who was a team player.

4. Whatever show you are doing at the moment is your most important show. One of my best improv performances was in front of an audience of two — the parents of another troupe member. We worked just as hard as if we had been in front of 200, and it showed. It’s tempting to want to slack off for a small audience or late-in-the-run performance of a show that hasn’t been going well, but at that moment, you owe it to yourself, and whatever audience you have, to do your best work.

5. Acting is fun! It’s also work. I am a community theater actor (so far). I do what I do for love of it, and work with people who feel the same way. It makes us happy and fulfilled. And it’s just fun to get up and play with like-minded creative folks. Messing around in rehearsal or backstage is part of it all.

But when it’s time to work, it’s time to work. Even the silliest show requires seriousness from the performers to get dialogue, cues, and blocking right. (There’s nothing less funny than a joke done sloppily.) Even actors working for no financial compensation can act professionally, and owe it to the audience and their fellow cast members to do so.

Peter Sig

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 12, 2012 4:16 pm

    I definitely agree with all of your rules. Great post, and keep enjoying this awesome career!

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