An Open Letter to Community Theatre Groups...

Liz Chirico 

OnStage Massachusetts Columnist

A lot has been written about actors behaviors. How they should behave towards one another, in green room spaces, what not to do on auditions, etc. As someone who’s auditioned for and performed with a fair number of companies, here are some tips I feel those companies should keep in mind for the actors’ sake from auditions to set strike.

Many theater companies already follow all or most of my “rules” and if that’s you, thanks. If not, it’s all about baby steps in the right direction.

1.    Don’t treat us like cattle even at a cattle call.

I know some shows just don’t lend themselves well to time slot auditions. (But if there’s a way to utilize time slots by God do it. It’s so much easier for everyone.) If there has be a cattle call style situation try to respect my time the way I respect yours by showing up the required 15 min early. Be realistic with your evening. Don’t tell me the audition will take an hour tops and 3 hours later I’m still waiting to read. 

2.    If the answer is no, tell me. I’m a big girl, I promise.

So if there’s no space in this show for me, please tell me in a timely manner and using a semi-personal form of communication. I took the time to prepare for your audition, put myself on the line and shared a bit of me with you. That deserves more than you posting the cast list on Facebook and assuming I’ll get the hint.

3.    Feedback please!

When hundreds of people show up for an audition I realize you can’t possibly provide feedback to each of us. But try, please. All through life we’re told you learn from your mistakes and here I am asking, begging for notes so I can learn and I get nothing. Or worse I’m told simply, “we went another way”. How can I learn and improve if I’m not given the chance to understand what it is I need to work on? Your feedback will make me a better actor for one of your future shows. It’s a win-win.

4.    You are not my number one. #sorrynotsorry.

I’m ready and more than willing to dedicate a huge chunk of my life for the next few weeks/months to this endeavor. Please remember though that I have other things in my life besides your show. I have a job, I have a family, and I have responsibilities wholly unconnected to your theater group. So be upfront with your expectations of me. If you require me to attend a set build day, tell me in advance. And then please, have a plan of attack and stick with it as best as possible so I make sure to come on the day there will painting not power tools. (True story, I followed someone around one set strike to helpfully pick up the nails she nail-gunned out of set pieces. No one told me they would be hot.)

5.    I am a person.

Don’t yell at me. Don’t belittle me. Don’t play favorites. Invite everyone out for cast bonding (you know unless cast bonding is taking place at the bar in which case its bad form to invite those under 21). Part of why I’m here is to feel connected to others, to something bigger than myself.

If you treat me with the respect I deserve (and will always show you), in return I’ll work my butt off for you, the show and your company.

Photo: Ashville Community Theatre