Gilbert & Sullivan "virtual orchestra"

Randy Bowser

theatre raps

about community theatre

BACK TO BASICS--"Theatre 101"

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 installment compares some common directorial stumbling blocks and suggests some alternative approaches.


There are universally agreed upon rules of "theatre etiquette" which, up until recently, were learned and applied by every student who had even the slightest brush with theatre in school.

In professional theatre, these rules are taken for granted, and as with all professional modes of conduct, they should be emulated by amateurs.

My observation is that the quality of personal discipline, which is The Key quality needed by actors, is something too many theatre students are no longer learning.

The result is amateur theatre too often below the quality it could attain.

Discipline in conduct at rehearsals and in preparing your performance is essential to enjoying the art of acting, and of earning the right to call oneself "An Actor."


For everyone involved in the production of a play, the first and primary concept is that even though theatre is a collaborative art form, it cannot be conducted as a democracy.

This means that The Director calls the shots. She is the sole captain of the ship.

Thinking of a production as a tree, the director is the trunk, and the cast and crew are the branches growing from that trunk.

Discipline as a team member in theatre, therefore, not only involves an individual's focus on his personal tasks, such as line memorization and professional conduct in rehearsals, but in accepting the fact that all his work is under the auspices and approval of the team leader--the director.

Sometimes a community theatre will attempt to produce a show "democractically", with all voices having equal weight. Directors overly concerned about staying popular and liked sometimes try this approach in a misguided attempt to "keep everyone happy." I'm here to tell you, this approach simply doesn't work.

in grade school through High School

if you are approaching theatre as an easy credit and a place to goof off, you are cheating yourself out of many of the potential gifts of the experience. The discipline of focus, learning to stay calm when you need to and consider the good of the whole are considered hallmarks of maturity, which will serve you well in all aspects of your life.

Yet, even some university theatre majors are graduating with little apparent appreciation for the discipline of acting and the most basic essentals of theatre etiquette. Let's be sure you don't become like that!


Here are some things actors have done after I cast them--things they should have known would cause problems:
Yes, I've even had college theatre graduates do things like that! If they go on to become teachers, I shudder to think what they pass on to their students.

Let's go through some of the very basic rules that would avoid problems like those above:


For anyone with any desire to be on stage, let this news item speak to the question of body art:

"What movie hunk regrets his tattoos and os considering removal of them?

"It's Ben Affleck. He complains, "I'm sorry now, of having my tattoos done. But it was a good lesson in decisions that have important and long-term repercussions."

"The problem is, he has to endure hours of heavy make-up to conceal the body art every time a script calls for him to expose some flesh.

"Removal will not be easy because most of his tattoos are so large that they would need to be sliced out of the skin, leaving a visible scar."

My thoughts: An actor needs to be a "blank canvas," ready to adapt her physical appearance for a large variety of roles. How many characters pre-1990's will appropriatly sport body art? Outside of sailors, gypsies, and circus freaks--not toooo many.


Discipline is not a dirty word.

Freedom in creative theatre work, as with freedom in any aspect of life, only comes from structure.

That can be a difficult thing to grasp at times---But you will find it to be true, so may as well learn this fact as soon as possible.

If I want to write a novel on a computer, but haven't learned how to type---I would have difficulty, wouldn't I? I must first go through the discipline of learning the keyboard, and then I can enjoy the freedom of writing creatively.

It's the same with theatre. Without knowing the rules, I would be like the proverbial "loose cannnon" rolling around on a ship's deck, causing all sorts of problems.

Chaos only produces chaos.

When in a show, concern yourself with YOUR job as an actor, and accept the position of your director as leader and "captain of the ship." It's essential for you to be an effective member of a show's acting team, and for you to help create an artistically successful production.

The director won't always be "right," but she must be able to count on your cooperation.

In the end, it's YOU up on the stage. If your director hasn't been much help, trust your instintcts without causing a fuss in rehearsals---Actors survive bad direction all the time.

And remember, there is always competition for roles, and the reality is that your reputation for behavior will weigh in on casting decisions!

~Randy Bowser~

Have more "theatre etiquette" tips you would like to add to the discussion?

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

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