Gilbert & Sullivan "virtual orchestra"

Randy Bowser

theatre raps

about community theatre

a quiz for actors

40 years of intensive involvement with the American community theatre scene have given me many of the peak experiences in my life.

Let me share ideas and observations that I hope will help inspire you in your theatrical endeavors.

The FIRST "theatre rap" in this series touches on some of the challenges of being actors and directors in amateur theatre.

The SECOND "theatre rap" continues with advice and information for actors and directors.

The THIRD installment goes back to basics with "Theatre 101" aimed at newbies and as a brush-up for those with experience.

The Quiz

Let's go to class and explore some issues about working in community theatre.

The answers are in a red font following the list of questions, and are offered as possible answers. Other opinions are of course possible---I can only offer my own, based on my 40 years of experience in theatre.

The questions are hypothetical situations you could encounter as an actor in a community theatre production.

TO BE CONTINUED!---(suggested answers below)

Randy Bowser

Do you have thoughts to share about amateur theatre?

FEEL FREE TO SEND EMAIL to offer your thoughts. The intention is for these pages of "theatre raps" to explore as many topics as possible re: Making community theatre GREAT! ~~Randy Bowser


1--You must accept the role. If you only wanted to accept a particular role, you could have made that note on your audition sheet. Though some directors don't care for actors narrowing their interest to a single role, it is a legitimate thing for an experienced actor to do.

But one must be unwaveringly certain that the play will fit into your schedule before auditioning. Auditioning is a contract which you shouldn't break. back to quiz

2-- You should inform your director that it wasn't fair to not have the rehearsal schedule posted at auditions. If you have to drop out, do so as soon as possible, so the director can replace you expediently.

But at your next audition, if the rehearsal and performance dates are not posted, you must make a point of asking what they are. Since an audition is a binding contract, you must have the opportunity to know the details of the expected commitment. back to quiz

3-- No, unless the director solicits input on the problem from the cast.

Some directors have a working style that involves asking for input often from the cast, but most do not. It would be very bad theatre etiquette to assume your director wants you to offer unsolicited ideas. back to quiz

4-- You should try the costume on without comment. If the costume still distresses you when it's completed, a private conference with the director might be in order (arranged through the assistant director)--but you must be prepared to offer logical, character-based reasons for feeling your costume isn't appropriate. Personal preferences based on what colors or styles you feel are best suited for you are not legitimate complaints. back to quiz

5--Unless it's an extreme emergency, you must tell the visitor that it isn't an appropriate time for you to be distracted. This rule stands even if the visitor is a member of the theatre's governing board, or some other person "high up" in the organization. back to quiz

6--You must use the eraser on the pencil you always use to write down blocking, and make accurate notes about the changes.

As in all things, the director must be permitted to change her mind as often as the creative process causes her to. back to quiz

7--You should say something like, "Thank you, but I only take direction from the director."

If this person persists in giving you notes, a private conference with the director about the problem would be in order. back to quiz

8--Immediately make it clear you're not available for conversation back stage--no matter how "important" the person is who tries to talk with you. back to quiz

9--Keep adjusting your blocking to remain the same distance from the audience as the other actor.

If the director asks why the blocking is being changed, simply say, "I'm just having to adjust so I'm not upstaged." After hearing that, he should fix the situation swiftly.

If the problem persists, or even crops up in performance, stay in your place and don't look at the other actor. Justify a focus away from him. If your fellow actor has any savvy, he should quickly learn to not move upstage of you, since you will have successfully re-established the audience's focus on you. back to quiz

10--Volunteer to help make or gather the missing props. Everyone on a production is a team member. If someone gets behind on his work, it's up to you to offer assistance. back to quiz

11--If your director has forbidden visitors at rehearsals (the way most good directors do) you could try calling ahead of time to explain the situation and to see if an exception can be made.

Or, you could explain the situation to your aunt, if you don't want to risk the conversation with your director.

Under no circumstance, should you bring visitors unannounced to the rehearsal hall. back to quiz

12--You need to try and justify the director's request to the best of your ability. Often, if the direction was truly a mis-fire, the director will see that the idea didn't work, and will change his direction.

But if the director continues to insist that you do something which you feel strongly is contrary to your character (which you must get to know more intimately than even your director) then I would suggest taking the potentially "dangerous" course of being prepared to perform that moment in the way you want, and make the substitution in performance.

The good news is that in my experience, there have been times when I've not followed a direction in performance, and the director was thrilled with my "sudden inspiration." back to quiz

13-- You must let go of the need to please your director. Good performances are never arrived at from pleasing anyone but yourself and your understanding of how to communicate with an audience.

If you're in the unfortunate circumstance of a director who ends up apparently displeased with your work, just remember that it is you on the stage, not her, and if the audience responds well to your work---that's the only "payment" you need. back to quiz

14--Yes, you must do what you can to adjust the pace. Part of being an actor is to always have one level of your concentration on the pulse of the audience. If you sense you're losing them, the only way to give an organic performance which includes the audience's feedback, is to adjust your rehearsed performance.

Beware of directors and actors who advise you to "just go out and do it the way we rehearsed." The advice is well-intentioned, since an actor who fluctuates wildly from night to night can cause real problems, throwing the rest of the cast.

But the truth is that the actor who is completely consistent, never varying an iota in his performance, is an actor who has forgotten that the audience is the final and most important collaborator in the craft of live theatre. back to quiz