Here are a few hints on basic stagecraft. Observing them is essential to a good performance and if you follow all of them you will have done your part to increase the professionalism of the show.
Read these carefully, think about them, practice them and you will find yourself doing them automatically when you perform.
Never fiddle, scratch, look around, alter your hair or costume, or do anything that will bring unwanted attention to yourself. Remember the theatre is tiered and each member of the audience can see everywhere on the stage, even right to the back of the set.
The Stage Manager is in charge of the whole stage area, including the wings and fly floor and makes the final decision in all circumstances when the show is running.
The stage crew has a very important job to do, please stay out of their way and do not hinder them. Silence is golden… the only persons who are permitted to talk in the stage area are the performers on stage and the stage manager. Of you, the cast, absolute silence is required at all times when you are waiting in the wings for your cue.
Sketch characters should always make sure that the last words of each piece of dialogue you have are absolutely correct. These words form the “cue” for your fellow performers, orchestra, lighting change or special effect to begin.
Maintain a good posture. Why not try to improve your lung capacity and oxygen intake with the following simple exercise (it’s also a good way to relax)
Sit or stand upright
Breathe out all excess breath
Take a slow, very deep breath through your nose (mouth closed)
Start counting one, two etc., letting your breath out very slowly. See how far you get.
Repeat the exercise, trying to obtain a higher number each time.
Face The Audience:
Make sure your face is turned to the audience when singing or delivering your lines. Even if you need to move across the stage, as part of a dance item for example, try to keep your face to the audience. A good tip here is this, our sound control desk is at the back of the auditorium around about the middle. If you can clearly see the operator at all times then you will be about right.
If you need to indicate something on stage, face the front and use your body, arm and hands to indicate what you are talking about. If you turn your head away the audience will not be able to hear your words. Never stretch your arm across your body or in front of your face unless the item requires it.
Sketch characters, your words must be spoken clearly and slightly slower than you would normally talk as they have a way to travel before the audience gets to hear them. Keep your face to the audience when you are delivering your lines.
This means to state clearly, pronounce each syllable distinctly. You know the words, we know the words, but the audience don’t and they have paid to hear them. Don’t rush, and keep up the volume as human beings tend to drop the volume at the ends of each line. Try to overcome this.
Never have anything in your mouth, when singing or speaking. Keep your head up when you are singing or delivering dialogue. If you have to look sad and lonely use facial expression and a slump in your body posture to show you are “down” Straighten up and smile when your mood changes. This way the audience can always see your face.
Use of Mics (microphones):
Some of the sketch characters and most certainly any solo or duet singers will be fitted with a lapel radio mic so they can be heard clearly over the rest of the onstage vocals.
These are remote controlled and it is important that once they have been fitted to you, you do not play with them or adjust the switches or knobs in any way. The settings on these mics will have been arranged specifically for you.
The mics that we use are very sensitive and will pick up all the sounds that surround you, so try to avoid heavy breathing in the wings, whispered asides while on stage or heavy footsteps as you move around as these will be picked up and carried out to the audience as part of your performance.
The mics will be fitted to you just prior to your starring performance and will be removed by our back stage sound tech’s after you come off again.
Act Your Part:
Whether in a play or a song, you must act your part. Songs tell a story too. Your audience should feel that they are really there, where it’s all happening. You can help create this by sustaining your part, (keeping in character) all the way through the item. You can help sustain the characters of others by doing this and the audience will start to believe in the story you are trying to portray. It will give life to the item and lift the whole performance of the show.
Do not mouth the words of others or count during choreography. If however you forget the words during a bulk item listen closely to those around you and pick them up. A little mouthing here can cover up the mistake and you won’t look too out of place.
“Help” – When Something Goes Wrong:
If there should be a mistake or something goes wrong – keep cool and don’t panic. The secret is to not let the audience know that anything has gone wrong. Pretend it is all a part of the act, the audience haven’t read the script. A little ad-libbing can frequently cover a minor problem or add a little humor to a boo boo.
If scenery falls over or something unexpectedly goes “CRASH” whether on stage or in the wings, just keep going and do your job as if nothing ever happened. The audience will quickly forget it ever happened if you don’t turn it into the focus of the scene. The stage crew will fix it.
In sketches, start thinking of your first lines in the wings, tune into the part you are playing, keep up with what is happening around you and don’t get distracted.
Collect any props in plenty of time and always return them to where you got them. Do not take them from the stage area or play with them while waiting for your cue.
Leaving the Stage:
*** DO NOT TRY TO MOVE IN THE DARK***
In all items, especially when large groups of people are on stage, you must remain in place until the stage manager turns on the working lights and tells you to go. This is for your safety.
Move quickly and quietly out of the way of the stage crew who will be trying to set the stage for the next item.