• Sherryl-Lee Secomb

Gaff tape fixes everything and other advice for new theatre players.

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 twenty 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?

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 thirty 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 arse 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.

  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 harmonies you never knew existed.

Dear New Theatre Performer, we want you to know that we’re a team and we look after each other. 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.

Sherryl-Lee Secomb is An Idiot On Stage. The Idiot exists to encourage and equip community theatre to expect more and be extraordinary.

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© 2020 by Sherryl-Lee Secomb

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