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What Really Is Theatre?

gold mask of tragedy and comedy between a red theatre curtain

The world of theatre is so unique and different than any other art form. When you hear the term ‘theatre’, you probably think of Shakespeare or musicals. Although, there is so much more to it than Shakespearean words and fun dance numbers. If you’re someone who doesn’t associate themselves with theatre much, you’re most likely very curious about it.

That being said, I’m here to explain theatre and what it is about. Who knows – after you’re finished reading this, you may have an interest in auditioning for a show at your local theater.

First of all, let’s cover the difference between theater and theatre. A theater is an auditorium or building in which dramatic performances are given. Theatre is the activity or profession of acting in, producing, directing, or writing plays. Take note of when I use which one.

Now, I’m going to list some key terms that people who are involved with theatre use daily – I really mean daily – along with the definitions, just for better understanding.

  • Blocking (the precise staging of actors in every scene/song)
  • Theatre Kid (any actor/actress under 18 that performs plays or musicals at their local theater or school)
  • Striking (the act of taking down something, typically the set, after a show has finished its run)
  • Travelers (curtains behind the front one that allows for different spacing in scenes)
  • Paging (holding the traveler open in order to let the set piece come off stage and clipping the curtains to hide it)
  • Wings (the areas that are a part of the stage deck but offstage – where actors wait to go on stage out of sight from the audience)
  • Green room (the room backstage that the cast members wait in during someone else’s scene – sometimes it’s painted green but not always)
  • Sound booth (the control area for the microphones, sound effects, and speakers)
  • Stage manager (the person in the wings during a show whose job is to keep track of all sound, lighting, actors, props, set pieces, and curtain cues)
  • House manager (the person out in the auditorium floor managing ushers, helping people find their seats, and taking tickets)
  • Orchestra pit [or just ‘pit’] (the place typically in front of the stage, on a lower level, where all instrumentalists play the music)

The basics of theatre are pretty easy to understand. You audition, get cast, rehearse for months, and perform the show. Simple!

Not really.

There are rules to every aspect of theatre.

For an audition, you need to have 16 or 32 bars of a song prepared, music for the accompaniment (if applicable), and clothes you can comfortably dance in. The main rule is: be prepared. It’s unwritten but extremely important. You will not be taken seriously and will definitely not be cast if you’re not prepared.

During the rehearsal process, the number 1 rule for the actors/actresses is to get there early. Early is on time and on time is late. Late means you’re in jeopardy of getting kicked out of the show. Rule #2 is to listen! This is very obvious, but important nevertheless. Your director, music director, and choreographer deserve the utmost respect; it is only common sense to listen to their notes. Don’t disrespect them by ignoring their expertise. They’re trying to make the show better.

Performing the show is putting everything you have worked on all on the stage and for the audience. They want to be entertained, so bring that energy up from a 50 to an 80. The performance is the hour-or-so-long moment of truth. You have to make it count.

Of course, there are superstitions as well. Never say “Macbeth”, and “Good luck!”, these are two superstitions that are considered bad luck. The story behind them is still unknown, but it makes sense to people who do theatre.

All together, theatre may sound intimidating, but it’s one of the most fun things you can do. Being in a cast is like being in a sports team; you always have each others’ backs. After every performance, I guaruntee, someone will come up to you and tell you how great the show was. The feeling is so amazing, you’ll never want to leave theatre behind.

 

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