Going from an actor, to stage manager, to director, I’ve seen it all.
This article was originally published for The Odyssey on October 2, 2016.
I’ve been involved with theater since my freshman year of high school. I’ve been involved in both acting and behind-the-scenes work and let me tell you, we’re all in this together when it comes to #theaterproblems. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the very beginning stages of a show or standing up there after the final curtain call, these headaches are sure to arise in just about every show you sell your soul to.
Whether you’re waiting to hear back or you’re the one who has to decide how to divvy the parts, casting can be a major headache. There are so many questions that can come up for directors when casting, such as: did enough people audition? What if too many people auditioned? Why do we have more girls than guys? What if they don’t accept their roles? Waiting to hear back is filled with just as many possibilities, like, what if they didn’t like my monologue? What if someone else had the same monologue? What happens if I’m overthinking this? What happens if I’m not thinking about this enough? It’s nerve wracking for both parties, let me tell you.
2. Tech week
3. When someone forgets several lines during the show
As a former actress, I know this can be rough. Especially if you don’t catch on that your castmate has forgotten at first, so then you’re caught off-guard too. Depending on how long they struggle to remember, you may have to jump in and improvise, which then prompts that same character and other characters to improvise too. As a former stage manager, I can confirm that this is terrifying, because if the actors aren’t following the script, how am I supposed to know when to cue the end of the scene?
4. “I’m sorry, I can’t. I have rehearsal.”
5. Quick changes
6. Late nights
Spending all night in the auditorium sounds fun until you have to do it every day of every week for three months. Those late nights aren’t spent just lying around either. You’re rehearsing or you’re costuming or you’re painting. It can be exhausting.
7. Stage makeup
8. Having a blackout when you’re not supposed to
Someone messed up, or maybe it’s the ghost that haunts the theater warning you not to premiere this show. Theater kids will take anything as a bad omen. Regardless, the actors are left on stage wondering who turned out the lights and someone is probably cursing.
9. Missed cues
There were many a time when we had to just keep the lights down and the music going while SOMEONE was apparently DAYDREAMING backstage. This also affects the rest of the cast on stage at that moment and time negatively.
10. When someone catches a cold
11. Mental breakdowns
12. Organizing curtain call
13. Schedule changes
As an actor, this can be super annoying because you’ve cleared your schedule for this show, and if that schedule changes, well, you could have been doing homework or something more important than sitting around. As a director or stage manager, this is a headache because it’s almost always out of our hands. The schedule changed because there was a snow day, or something broke, or for some reason the building is closed. If it is the production team’s hands, know that they are probably just as stressed out as the cast. Try to take it easy on them.
14. That one person in cast who thinks they’re better than everyone else
Look, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter that you’ve been acting since seven years old, that you’ve worked in a community theater, or if you’ve taken eight theater classes. We’re all here for the same purpose and we’re all here to improve; you can never stop improving as a theater kid. So, please, for the love of the Theater Gods, remember that this is not a one-man-show, and put in the work to be a part of the team.
15. When you have to miss rehearsal
Sometimes, ship happens. Maybe you have a test make-up or a job that won’t let you alter your hours, or perhaps a more personal situation. You know that missing rehearsal is a sin because you’re making someone read for you, which can be a hassle, and you’re setting back your stage partners, who aren’t acting with you. If you’re on the production team, you feel ten times worse because you’re making someone else tend to your duties, which are responsibilities you signed up for. Try not to feel too guilty and don’t make missing rehearsal a habit.
16. Having post-show depression
All the breakdowns, the tears, the angry outbursts are almost worth it when you see the cast standing on that stage, taking their final bows and lifting their arms to thank the crew for their assistance. In that moment, everything we sacrificed to make a great show was worth it.