10 Theatrical Pet Peeves

Brad Pontius

Theatre Folk have… a very unique set of pet peeves. Some of it's stuff that is just common workplace etiquette for ANY job. But there are a few that specifically bother thespians. Because goddammit Mary how many times do we have to tell you that your spotlight is LITERALLY THREE FEET TO STAGE RIGHT. Obviously they happen enough that it’s a running gag with many actors and crew. But for those of you new to our little profession (hopefully you don’t do these if you’ve been in the process a while) here’s a few tips about what NOT to do after you’ve booked the job.


I am still observing this little mistake even in the professional world. There is a small but wonderful selection from Stanislavski’s book “An Actor Prepares”, in which the main character arrives late for his acting class… and is not only scolded thoroughly, but is also dismissed entirely for the day because of it. Never let this lesson go: Early is on time, on time is late, late is fired. Showing up for rehearsal, acting class or – Dionysus forbid – a show is not only disrespectful to your fellow actors, but it is also putting yourself at a severe disservice. You need time to drop outside emotions at the door, to warm up, to find a place to set your things down, to talk with the Director if they need to discuss something… But most importantly, coming in late potentially puts everything behind schedule. They really can’t start rehearsal if one of the characters in the show has mysteriously vanished. Don’t come in late; you’re better than that.

2.)    Put that thing back where it came from or so help me…

Don’t touch the props. Unless you have been specifically designated to utilize one of the properties, you do not get to play with it. No, you can’t duel each other with the fake swords during rehearsal. You can’t use Joe’s rehearsal cane to practice your Fosse number. Don’t touch them! Not only because they’re going to either break or get misplaced into the wrong area and everyone’s going to have a small panic trying to find it again… But it’s also just super annoying to see someone messing with the really expensive prop that isn’t there. It conveys that you are not respecting the time or the person who found/bought/made the prop in the first place.

3.)    I Can’t Breeeeathe…

Okay, this one goes mostly for the ladies. Everyone realizes you have to do your hair for the part. What we do not need is you to spray a thick, strangulating fog of your hairspray in our faces. Either do it before you get to the Theatre, find a more secluded spot in the dressing room, go to the bathroom, go over by the window, just try not to make it difficult for others to get dressed and ready too. Obviously, there are situations where this is hard to get by, but it’s super annoying when you’re applying stage make-up and you get sprayed. Guys have it a bit easier because, let’s face it, we usually don’t have to do much with our hair. But the same thing goes for you, fellas.

4.)    Warm-up. Just Don’t Do It Next To Me.

Warming up is important. You need to make sure your voice and your instrument is ready for the small marathon you’re about to put them through. A massive pet peeve, however, is when you have to be in an audition holding room or dressing room… And there’s that one guy who thinks they have the room to themselves. I’m sorry, I don’t want to hear your monologue/solo right now because I have to prep too. Everyone in the show needs to go through their own rituals and get ready and run their lines to themselves, whatever. You take part of that concentration away when you’re shouting “The big black bug bit the big black bear” into my ear. Do it, again, before you get to the space or find a more secluded area.

5.)    The ASM/SM Is Not Your Assistant.

This is pretty much a no-brainer. The Stage Manager and Assistant Stage Manager are not there to serve you. They are there to run the rehearsal, organize between a dozen different people, write the paperwork, oversee basically everything. In my experience most will help you to the best of their ability, because they are fabulous individuals who know how to multi-task really well. If they are currently not doing anything (they usually are), let them have their break. Don’t ask them to run down the street to grab a frappe or what have you. If it’s totally essential that you need something or need to know something; by all means. But it’s really annoying to have actors begging for the already busy SM to go do or grab something for them.

6.)    Glitter… Just… Just Glitter.

I’ve met people who love glitter. I’ve met people who hate glitter. I personally love seeing it on a set… But Dionysus help me after we leave for the day. It never comes out. Ever. I still have glitter from my college production of Pippin occasionally falling off my jacket. What did I do to you, Theatre Herpes? Why must you cling to me?

7.)    That One Dude in the Audience

You know who you are. Nothing the actors or crew can do about it, but there’s inevitably that one jerk on at least one performance day who sings every song from the show from their seat, or has a super distracting laugh, or has their cell phone out during the dramatic climax, or hounds the stage door to get an autograph and tries to strike up a conversation. Or they brought their baby and it won’t stop crying. Or they get up to go to the bathroom during your solo/monologue, or they come back into the Theatre from the bathroom. I can’t ask you to leave, I can’t say anything about it… But know that you are on my naughty list, sir.

8.)    “I can’t believe I have to wear this…”

And you know who YOU are. This one is a little more rare, but they still crop up from time to time. Seeing an actor with a bloated ego is already annoying. But it’s when they constantly complain about their costume – loudly – that they become insufferable. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the costume either, it might be a clumsy prop or complaining about their lines (extra points for complaining about how many or how little they have.) The point is that you can complain about it after or before the show. There’s already a lot of stress on actors during a show, please don’t add to it by being negative in the room. You’re harshing my mellow, man.

9.)    Please Be Clean…

Twofold meaning with this one. Walking into a trash heap of a dressing room – with bits of costume flung over chairs or laying on the floor, food wraps cluttered around and empty water bottles/tea packets left all over – is… It’s just so rude. Other people should not have to circumnavigate a shared space to get ready. Moreso, the Stage Manager is probably gonna get chewed out for it or have to clean it up themselves. But it’s also really annoying to be around a smelly or dirty actor. Take care of yourself and your clothes because you are going to already be under hot stage lights and moving. It’s only gonna get worse. And take pity on the one who has to have a stage kiss with someone who has a paralyzing fear of brushing their teeth. Just take the initiative and remember that you’re not the only one in the room.

10.)  Standing in LINES!!!

My own personal pet peeve, however, the one I hate more than anything else, is… well, it’s a silly one. But it looks sloppy. If you are on stage, usually during rehearsal… Unless you have been specifically blocked to stand in a straight line with other actors… Do not stand in a perfectly straight damn line with the other actors! It looks so awful! I can’t even really describe why it looks awful; other than that people just usually don’t really stand in lines in natural conversation. You can’t give the other actors your energy, you’re probably upstaging yourself if you turn to give them your energy, and if you don’t you have to stare out at the audience… And they aren’t the ones acting with you. If the Director blocks you to be that way, it’s for an artistic reason (one hopes) that lends to the show… But doing it automatically is just bothersome.

So there are ten pet peeves in Theatre! There are more that we’ve probably missed or ones that you have that we don’t. So why not share what you hate to see in the Theatre? And which would you prefer to see next; Pet Peeves about Non-Thespians or Pet Peeves about Auditions? Let us know!