In that enviroment, and as someone who has been performing for decades, since a youngster, and with a Masters in teaching theatre, it is very easy to forget the basics that need explaining to those new to the acting world.
Recently, I had to get a bit strict in some of our rehearsals, about time-keeping, not messing abut loudly and distracting people behind the scenes. Nonbody had done anything malicious but the relaxed atmosphere we like, had got a little *too* relaxed. Unfortunately, I upset some (not all) of our newer performers, and after a conversation where they felt I had been negative towards them, I realised that I had neglected to explain the actual reasons that I have these particular rules.
I am, sadly, very aware that due to a common cultrual devaluing of the arts as something remedial or "just a hobby", many people dont always immediatly see theatre rehearsals as a workplace (although once you go onto bigger sets elsewhere, you wouldn't be able to function without doing so!) and I do make some allowance for that for those newer to the industry, but it also means that misunderstandings can arise when I enforce the fact that in order to become a professional team and put on professional level shows, we have to treat the production as such. To me, that is enough explanation. I started out in the very old-fashioned types of theatre and film, of directors - some who had been directing since the 1950s- who had reputations for shouting at you and tearing you down. Actors going home in tears from those companies was not unknown. Explanations never happened. I learned in the school of hard-knocks.
When I began directing and later started SDP, I swore I wouldn't be like that, but what did work well for me, everyone else, and the final productions, was how strict those sets were. You arrived on time, or early. You didn't play pranks or joke around behind the scenes (usually you had to sit silently waiting for your role), you learned your lines or someone else got handed the role. If you messed around, you were shouted at.
I dont often shout. When I raise my voice as a director, it is rare. It isnt that I dont care about the cast and crew: actually I really do care very deeply about everyone, as well as the company, and I dont want them to inadvertently let themselves, or each other, or the company down. When I see that danger happening, that is when I become annoyed.
What I did neglect, this time, was to remember that what seems obvious to me, the other seasoned performers, and those who are in training, sometimes isnt to others, especially some of the beginners, and I ended up, after a newer cast member raised concerns, explaining to both them in private, and then to the team in general, my reasons for being strict about basic things.
I think, and hope, it has helped.
I am therefore sharing an edited form of the post I made to the rest of the cast here too. Maybe people joining us in the future will see this and find it helpful, or people starting out with other companies will find it helpful. It could be that I will share it to future casts when we take on new people.
Timekeeping, schedules and communications
I was told that I am too strict, with requiring timely attendance at a minimum of 75% of rehearsals, role learning, and people to let us know if they cant make it or will be late.
I have to do this, because at the end of the day we are a group of people who are primarily professionals and otherwise training-as professionals, putting on work to showcase skills, make work, and build a performance company - with shows of a professional quality, and that people are paying good money to us all, to come and see. We can't skimp on this.
People also need to know if the other person is there, in order to work with them. It creates bad feeling if people travel for ages and the person they were expecting to work with isn't there and hasn't let us know, as not only just lines and blocking, but also character-interactions need practicing intensely.
I have also huffed at "backstage" noise and pranking.
The reason for this is that people performing find it hard to concentrate - and on a personal level, I cant either- if there is a lot of noise going on.
In addition it's practice for show days, like the rest of rehearsals - in the theatres on show days, you need to be able to listen for cues, and if you are making noise side stage, then the audience can also hear you and it detracts from the performance, and you risk distracting your fellow performers.
Getting that quality of show
You want the public to really enjoy the show. They have paid to come , and if they like it, they are more likely to tell their friends and come back in even greater numbers next time....
And remember the more people who come to the shows and enjoy them as being of high-quality, and tell their friends who then also come, the more ticket money comes in to be shared to everyone involved in making the show, and your reputation as a performer grows (and likewise for the others)... Word spreads, you earn more, and your reputation as a good, reliable actor, grows as well - getting you more work.
To do that, the whole experience for the audience had to be good.
Your characterisation has to be excellent, your lines have to be excellent, your stage discipline has to be strict, your timekeeping excellent, and your teamwork has to be excellent, in order to achieve that experience for the audience.
Sharing Internal Communications and "on set selfies".
We have locked communications for a reason. In the locked cast and crew group, we can discuss things, plan rehearsals, ask questions, and talk about what we need (in a respectful manner), sharing practice videos, training clips, and all sorts of things that are work-in-progress or tested ideas, and not ready for the public yet. I have also been told that it is unfair not to allow these to be shared without permission on public pages.
This has happened a couple of times, as well as "on-stage" selfies. Pulling a silly face on stage for a selfie, in rehearsal, when you think nobody is looking, may seem like a laugh to you, but when shared publicly online, makes the you, and by extension the entire company, look extremely unprofessional - such things are not "done".
Many big film sets, TV shows, and theatre shows, will forbid such things, and fire you on the spot for sharing such images (and there have been many cases of film extras doing this kind of thing, and getting sued for posting "spoilers" from on sets of big films and TV shows).
As an up and coming company, we have to work to those same standards as the companies to which we would like to be comparable, and for our actors to be taken seriously, we all have to adhere to those same standards. So when we say that things from the locked "cast and crew" group cannot be shared publicly, or that you cannot share "on-set-selfies" it is for a good reason. We do get batches of rehearsal photos that are for sharing online, which are provided to the cast and crew, but which are sorted to show the best work in progress.
In conclusion, the strictness is not against anyone or intended to make anyone feel bad. I am frankly mortified to hear that I have made people feel bad- because the intention is for rehearsals and shows to be a hard-working but happy place where great work is created (and awesome work IS happening).
We have to have the basic ground rules that you would find in any other theatre or film team (or any other job, training, volunteering, or things in any ilk in life where people are relying on others,) in order to create a functional production. They are not intended or desired to cause distress, or to indicate disrespect.
I am aware we have everyone from complete beginners to seasoned professionals in the team, and that is why I am taking time to explain (apologies to anyone who knows all this inside out already).
If you have a question, or I have said something that accidentally upsets, please contact us about it. I do not want a theatre company where things cannot be asked. We may agree and we may disagree - no promises there- but I can guarantee that we WILL listen, and that you WILL receive a full explanation/ discussion/ action (as necessary) but what is non-negotiable is that we have a hard-working, positive, team that can go anywhere from the local church fete, to Hollywood, and maintain top levels of professionalism anywhere, while also be a safe, and fun enviroment.