Gaff Tape Fixes Everything and Other Advice for New Theatre Performers.

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Dear New Theatre Performer,

Welcome to the mad and wonderful world of community theatre. We’re glad you’re here to put your own mark on the stage. Your enthusiasm reminds us of our own beginnings –

  • the first time an audience laughed at our lines.
  • Sitzprobe with a 20 piece orchestra.
  • Nerves that made your body shake involuntarily as you waited in the wings for your very first entrance.
  • the euphoria you felt when the final curtain closed on opening night.
  • the fear you experience when you forget your lines on stage or part of your costume falls off or you choke during your big song or … wait a minute … what? Excuse me …

So many wonderful memories.

We’ve been here a long time, dear new friend, and have seen many actors come and go. Theatre can be tough. We will stand by you and encourage you to do what you never thought possible but there are some things we want you to know. Things that will carry you through many shows and will go with you well after you have walked through our stage door and into the big wide world.

Keep these things in your makeup box, your rehearsal bag, in your dance shoes. They have been tried and tested by many who have left their mark on many theatres and lives. Heed them well, dear New Theatre Performer for they will determine what sort of player you will be.

  1. You are here because someone else is not. Your position in this cast was hard-fought and you deserve it but never forget that many equally talented people missed out. Walk humbly and remember that pride always comes just before you fall on your face.
  2. We’re not your parents. We will love you like a brother/sister but we expect you to be responsible for your own performance. Learn your stuff and come to rehearsal prepared. Be where you’re supposed to be, when you’re supposed to be.
  3. You have two ears and one mouth. You’re new and your brain needs filling with all the good stuff. That’s not going to happen if you’re not listening to others that actually know stuff.
  4. You don’t know what you don’t know. Oh, the things that you’ll learn. Exciting things like gaff tape fixes anything; makeup isn’t just for girls; and you can change a complete set of clothes in 30 seconds.
  5. Manners are not dead! “Please” is worth more than silver and “thank you” is worth more than gold.
  6. It’s not about you – it’s about all of us together. We will walk on stage with you and cover your dropped lines, improvised blocking and forgotten choreography because we know you’re nervous. Know that we will always be there to share your bad days and celebrate your good but we expect the same from you. Here, in this theatre, we support each other as we step onto the stage and do what most of the population avoid – performing in front of hundreds of people. It takes guts, dear friend, but we do it because we know you are standing there to catch us if we fall. Don’t be an ass and only look out for yourself. Make sure your decisions reflect your understanding that we are all working together to create something greater than ourselves.
  7. The technical people in our production never get to take a bow for all their work. Respect them and never be rude to them. It’s also good to remember that they have the power to have you sing your solo line in the dark or trap you behind a piece of scenery (only joking).
  8. We will ruin your experience of singing Happy Birthday for every party you ever attend. No one can beat 45 people singing this song in 30 part harmony. That’s right! We’re a little competitive!

Dear New Theatre Performer, we want you to know that we’re a team and we look after each other. Mr and Ms Diva don’t really last long around us because we don’t take no crap. We will pick you up off the floor, boost you up the ladder, share your load, and any other team building cliché you can come up with.

Just know that we’re glad you’re here – and you’ve brought lollies.

Cheers, Sher.

An Idiot On Stage exists to equip and encourage community theatre to expect more and be extraordinary.




Why Won’t You Sell Me Tickets To Your Show?

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“I’m performing with XYZ Theatre Company. Come and support us and enjoy a great concert.”

Oh, the potential in those words. What could go wrong?

We’ve all received this call to action from a theatre friend and, like me, you probably make the effort to show your support. After all, the tickets won’t cost more than your weekly grocery budget. You click the link on the Facebook event invitation to ‘purchase now’ and the fun begins …

I ended up on a website that looked like it had been created as a child’s IT project. Side note – we’re in a creative industry, folks. It’s important that our websites are creative, attractive and functional as they’re your first impression on potential audiences. My first impression of this one said “you will drink much bad wine and enjoy a poorly rehearsed rendition of Memory from Cats.”

As I clicked through the small site, I eventually found a logo for the show and rang the mobile listed beside it. I was connected with ‘Mitch’ who didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. I found an email address on the website and sent a request for information – I still haven’t had a response. Returning to the Facebook event, I sent a text to a different mobile contact.

24 hours later I received a phone call from someone asking me what I wanted. About now I was wondering why I was trying so hard to buy tickets to a show that had drastically gone down in my expectations and the only reason I could come up with was because my friend had asked me to. I was going to have serious words with said friend when next we saw each other.

I eventually got my ticket and quite enjoyed the concert – although I did have to sit through “Memory” from Cats.

Get this – PLEASE – the average person would have given up after seeing the website and definitely after finding that the listed mobile contact lead them to ‘Mitch’.

If your communication with potential audience is not simple and clear, you will lose ticket sales. Don’t make the mistake of believing that the public think like you, because I guarantee, you will always be wrong.

You can convince your family and maybe even some friends to buy tickets but the general public are selective about where they spend their money in this crowded theatre community. They don’t think about your show at all, they don’t really want to buy tickets and generally, theatre companies don’t do much to show them why they should other than constantly scream, “BUY TICKETS”.

One contact phone and email that is managed extremely well is all you need to improve this situation [and to save ‘Mitch’ from receiving calls from irate theatre goers]. Get a decent website which offers potential ticket buyers a clear and simple ticketing process and respond to their communications within 12 hours.

This, along with decent branding of your company [another post; another day] will help you make headway through the crowded waters of community theatre.

Cheers, Sher.

Read how to improve communications within your theatre company here.

An Idiot On Stage exists to equip and encourage community theatre to expect more and be extraordinary.



2 Reasons You Can’t Do Without a Communications Manager in Your Theatre Company.

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“You didn’t have to come to rehearsal tonight. Didn’t anyone let you know?” No, but I enjoy travelling for 90 minutes on a train to get to a rehearsal I didn’t have to be here for, so don’t worry about it!

It doesn’t matter whether your theatre production has 6 people involved or 150, a good communications system is going to make everyone’s job easier and help you avoid some of the challenges you find yourself facing over and over again.

I see two common mistakes made by all sorts of organisations:

1.  Private information shared without permission.

Did you know that you must have my permission to share my private contact with others? When I filled out my audition form, I didn’t expect to have my email and mobile contacts extracted from it and then shared with the rest of the cast. This is NOT how you create ‘community’. This is how you P*** me off. I may choose to share this information when I have built rapport with my fellow cast members but I will probably just friend them on Facebook.

When you collect private information on audition forms it is expected that only those within the governance of the company will see it.

I’ve also signed up for information from smaller companies and found that they are still using Gmail for their eNews distribution. Instead of blind copying all addresses, my email address is included with everyone else in an ‘open address’ email. So now a bunch of complete strangers have my email address without my permission. Companies that do this are opening themselves up to a whole lot of legal pain if someone decides to take them to task. Use Mailchimp for your eNews distribution. It’s free [up to 2000 subscribers], prettier, more professional and helps you follow the privacy laws that, as governance, you have a responsibility to be aware of.

2. Multiple points of communication within the company.

The most effective way to communicate with everyone within a production is to have a central communications point.

One mobile and one email address that everyone uses. This means that one person receives all the late/absent notices from cast, distributes all notices and is generally the go to person for information. This doesn’t mean they can or should answer every question but they know who to go to for the answer. Your Communications Manager should be an organised person with access to a good mobile phone plan and email service.

If you can set up a general email address under your company domain, for example, all the better but a simple will work. It is preferable to using the persons personal address as your Communications Manager may change. Simply redirect the corporate address to the Communication Manager’s personal address for convenience.

When the show has been cast, the Communications Manager enters all email and mobile details into their phone contacts and creates a ‘group’. At the first rehearsal they introduce themselves as the central communications person and inform cast that they will receive an email and text within the next 24 hours.

Set up a group in your email contacts so that you’re not adding individual addresses every time, and send out your first cast email containing any information they need for the production. At the top of the email include the instruction – “Please hit REPLY now so that I know you have received this important email.” As replies come in, tick each person off an excel sheet containing columns for ’email’, ‘text’, etc. Anyone who doesn’t respond or whose address bounces back can be checked personally at the next rehearsal.

Do the same for texts with the following instruction – “You have an important email in your inbox. Please REPLY to this text now so that I know you have received it.” Manage each reply as you do the emails.

Once you have set up communications with the cast, you can now be sure that 99% of your notices will get through. Your ‘secret’ cast and crew Facebook group is not a secure form of communication as not everyone uses it the same way. I always upload any documents I email to the Facebook group but it has never been a good primary communications point.

Communicating with production team members is different. You have to leave the email address line ‘open’ so that everyone can see who has received the email. This way, they can make sure the right people in their teams are getting the information.

Any important documents or information that goes to the cast should then be sent to the production team to keep them informed. The key to being an effective Communications Manager is to COMMUNICATE. Make sure those who need to know, do know and in good time.

I have found this a fun role as you will generally be aware of everything that is going on, making you more helpful to those in the production and you get to know everyone. You should be a good problem solver, have a ‘can do’, positive attitude and be willing to go the extra mile for everyone.

If you are not willing to be positive and serve others, then don’t be a Communications Manager.

A Communications Manager can have a major impact on your theatre company in ways that will make you more efficient, professional and respectful of your volunteers’ time.

Contact me at if you have any questions about creating this role within your company.

Have a great week.

Cheers, Sher.

An Idiot On Stage exists to equip and encourage community theatre to expect more and be extraordinary.