The Theatre 101 Series is a set of introductory articles meant to explain theatrical concepts and situations to young actors as well as adult theatrical newcomers. View the whole series here.
Getting started in theatre takes a lot of courage.
If you’ve never performed before, you inevitably have a lot of questions about theatre. What does it take to get started? What should I know? What will I learn? The questions can become so daunting that they often prevent would-be performers from ever stepping on stage at all.
In order to help more newcomers make the transition from potential actor to first-time actor, I’m going to explain ten things everyone should know about the art of theatre.
1. The Performing Arts are for Everyone
It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, black or white, rich or poor, straight or gay, introverted or extroverted— If you have any interest in working artistically with others in front of an audience, theatre is the activity for you! As the stereotypes go, theatre people are extremely accepting of each others’ flaws and quirks. As long as you approach the stage with an open mind and open heart, your castmates will welcome you with open arms.
Since theatre also combines many artistic mediums and other diverse skillsets, there’s also a place in theatre for everyone, even if you don’t want to be on stage. You could try playing an instrument in the orchestra, assisting with the run crew, or helping with the design and construction of the set.
2. Performing is Hard Work, and a lot of Fun
In fact, performing is often most fun when it involves the most hard work.
Theatre can be very rewarding. You get in return from theatre what you put into it! If you invest your energy into pulling off a great performance, you’ll receive that same energy back from the audience and the performers around you. Experiencing that energy during your first successful performance is thrilling beyond belief.
Come prepared to do the work, and know that you’ll enjoy yourself all the more for it.
3. Come Willing to Learn
Theatre combines a lot of different skillsets. You might come in feeling confident in your abilities to sing, dance, or act– and that’s awesome! However, always stay humble. The beauty of theatre and working with a cast of other performers is that you’re always surrounded by others who excel in areas you might struggle with. Pay attention to what your directors teach you, and look to the talented performers around you to see what more you can learn. You’ll be surprised by how quickly your skills improve when you put your mind to it!
4. You WILL Make Some new Friends
It’s impossible to spend weeks or months rehearsing with your cast without making a few lasting friendships! Singing, dancing, and acting side-by-side creates the perfect environment for getting to know each other. You might be surprised by how easy it gets to relate to those around you after spending a whole rehearsal process working together.
5. Auditions are Scary, but Totally Worth It
I know many actors who have performed for upwards of ten, twenty, and even thirty years, and they all still get nervous over big auditions. Getting scared before auditions is natural! Many say that their fear can prove helpful, as it forces them to prepare better and stay energized during the audition itself. Embrace your fear– remember all the fun waiting for you once you get past this one scary situation!
6. Don’t Stress About Casting
It’s best if you learn not get too stressed out over the cast list. Trust that the director will cast you in a role where you can perform best, where you can grow all the while. Above all, remember to never respond to a casting decision you don’t like by being rude or negative about it to your fellow castmembers or your directors. Consider, also, how badmouthing your role to your friends or family in private might get back to your director. Directors don’t like to work with divas who whine about their roles. Especially when you’re a new actor, remember there’s no such thing as a small role and that every role, whether it’s the one you wanted or not, can be a ton of fun.
7. Your Directors Work Harder Than you Realize
Too often, young and new actors fail to recognize the amount of work their directors, choreographers, music directors, and other show staff put into the show. Making a production happen takes a ton of work. Remember to never disrespect any of your show’s staff and try to help out or make things easy for them when possible.
8. Everyone Wants you to do Your Best
For those who are self-conscious, the performing arts can seem like a downright nightmare– having to perform in front of other people? Ahhh!
Remember that both in rehearsal and on stage, everyone wants to see you succeed. I’ve been in many shows, and the following Dr. Seuss quote always holds true: In regards to your talent, the mistakes you make, and all the times you try and fail, “those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” Those who matter will support you in all your performance endeavors. Surround yourself with them and those who don’t matter will never be able to bother you again!
9. You Have to do Your Homework
Remember how I said performing was a lot of work? This is one example of that.
When you sign up to be in a show you are agreeing to be responsible for your own learning and success in that production. Therefore, you will have to do some work for yourself, on your own time at home. This may include listening to music recordings, watching choreography videos, reviewing and memorizing lines, practicing or writing blocking, and coming up with interesting character choices to play on stage. If you’re not ready to accept responsibility to try these things on your own, you’re not ready to perform.
10. Your First Performance Will be Magical… And Addictive
Like I said, there’s nothing like feeling the energy of your very first audience. At your first show, you’ll experience firsthand the magical completion of your rehearsal process. You find that side by side with your supportive new friends, you’ve used all the new skills you’ve acquired and hard work you’ve put into your role to create a performance you are proud of. You’ve conquered the fears of auditions, insecurity, and stage fright, and now you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor– a real, live, adoring audience! Enjoy it… and don’t be surprised when you find yourself craving it again and again!