Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Five Cardinal Rules for Backstage

By • Jul 20th, 2011 • Category: An Actor's Advice

If I received a letter one day bestowing upon me the power to dictate the rules for all actors to follow while off stage of the local theatres around the earth, I’d have Five Cardinal Rules for backstage already prepared for decree:

  1. You shall not in any way interfere with the ability of other actors to hear their cues. It is a green room and not a recreation room. Having fun in a play is important, but only if you derive that fun from the act of being in the play, not from loud games, conversations, or other such distracting activities in the green or dressing rooms. You shall never require anything more than soft voices.
  2. Under no circumstances shall you move by so much as an inch, the script of another actor. Not for an emergency, not for convenience, and certainly not for a prank. You have your own copy. Keep it somewhere safe, or keep it with you at all times. Do not cause strokes in other actors who need them.
  3. You shall not approach for frivolous reasons any actor who has withdrawn from the crowd of people in backstage. They are so withdrawn for a reason. Intrude upon this time only if the betterment of their performance, director/stage manager instructions, or a matter of safety are the topic.
  4. You shall bring nobody into the green room at any time, before, after, or during the show that is not somehow a part of same. You shall find a babysitter before committing to a show, or you shall turn down your role. A green room is not a daycare center, and children that require attention will not be permitted in same.
  5. If your green room has fewer seats than there are actors in the show, you shall not steal the seat from an actor when they are on stage. Especially if their belongings have been left there. Getting up to actually perform a scene is not de facto abandonment of someone’s seat. You shall ask the actor when they return if you may take the seat. Keep this in mind, and stake out a chair early, or otherwise bring your own.

If these decrees were followed, I am willing to say that 90% of what I suggest for ON stage would be twice as easy.

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is a Maryland native and has been acting for nine years, having studied it at Marietta College in Ohio. He has been schooled in Shakespeare, improvisation, public speaking and voice articulation throughout his career. His credits to date include over 30 plays and readings as well as 2 films. You can also read his blogs (for theatre related thoughts) and (for thoughts on personal success from an outcast). Follow him on Twitter @TyUnglebower.

One Response »

  1. just one word — when are you becoming GOD?
    Love it – and thanks!
    I have had actors literally more their costumes and make-up into the shop area or even the prop room – so that they could have a bit of quiet when preparing to go on. And to not have their stuff just moved about! This should be on the first test for every theatre student – middle school through graduate programs!