5 Items You’ll Need For A New York City Theatre Trip

5 Items You'll Need For A New York City Theatre Trip

I’m heading to New York City in less than a week with the Original Kids Theatre Company, and I’m so excited! This will be my fifth trip to NYC, and my third with OKTC. I’ve already got tickets for Sleep No More and School of Rock, and I’ve got a list of other shows and adventures I want to explore while I’m there!

Before any trip, it’s important to get your things packed and ready to go ahead of time so you aren’t all stressed out before you leave! If you’re specifically going on a trip to immerse yourself in theatre, here are five items you won’t want to leave home without!

1.  Sharpie markers.

Easy to stick in your pocket or purse, and great for getting autographs on your program at the stagedoor after a show. I recommend having three different colours: basic black, a metallic (gold or silver) in case your program has a mostly black cover, and one random, bright colour like red, fuchsia or purple. Avoid yellow at all cost!

2.  A small notebook and pen.

Useful for taking notes, giving notes, getting autographs, making tiny origami on the subway (why not?). It’s just really handy to have.

3.  A bunch of Broadway deals.

Theatre tickets can be expensive, so arm yourself with deals. Playbill.com and Broadwaybox.com can email you deals that you can print out and take to the box office. There are also deals at TKTS booths, lots of apps to find deals (TodayTix is a great one!) and various student and general rush policies, so do some research and get the best deal possible! (As a general note, Disney theatrical shows in New York City such as The Lion King, Aladdin or Mary Poppins tend to have very few, if any, deals available.)

4.  Comfortable shoes.

Get ready to max out your Fitbit. Every single packing list for NYC will say to bring comfortable shoes, and I will echo it. You will walk SO much in NYC and you don’t want to be suffering. From early mornings in line for rush tickets, to late nights in an immersive theatre experience such as Sleep No More or The Grand Paradise, you will walk more in NYC than you will anywhere else. However, do NOT wear flip-flops in NYC, ever, no matter how hot it is, and you’ll probably want to avoid white shoes, because they’ll get filthy fast.

5.  Cash

Honestly, just pack light and bring cash. You can buy literally anything in New York City. If you forgot something, you can easily replace it there. Cash is easier to manage for budgeting (swipe your credit card too much and you’ll just end up crying when you get home), and it’s the most convenient way of buying show swag if you want to buy it!

Leave at home:

  • Enormous suitcases. Just pack less. I’d recommend a duffle bag over a rolling suitcase — you don’t want to be struggling with a massive rolling bag on the subway.
  • Selfie sticks. Gross.
  • Cameras with neck straps. Bring the camera, but leave the strap at home or risk looking like a tourist.
  • Big golf umbrellas. Nobody will be able to walk around you on the sidewalk and you’ll annoy people. If you need an umbrella, get one of those tiny folding ones.
  • Fanny packs. Use a small cross-body purse instead.

What would you put on your NYC packing list?
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Rehearsal Etiquette For Performers (Video Post!)

Rehearsal Etiquette For Performers (Video Post!)

This video is inspired by an older post of mine, Theatre Etiquette: Concerning Rehearsals. My theatre etiquette posts are some of my most popular on this site, so I hope you’ll find this video useful!

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5 Tips To Help Learn Names Quickly

5 Tips To Help Learn Names Quickly

As a director and teacher, one of my first priorities at the beginning of a new session or rehearsal process is to learn everyone’s names as quickly as possible. It makes young actors feel important and that they are a vital part of the team. Here are some tips that I use all the time to help me learn my actors’ names as fast as I can!

1. Take photos at auditions.

At auditions, either ask your actors to submit a photo of themselves, or even better, take photos of each actor holding up a card with their name written on it, police-lineup style. That way you can start putting names to faces.

2. Once your cast is set, study the cast list to familiarize yourself with the names themselves.

If you go into rehearsals knowing that you have, say, Jessica, Kyle, Mary and Stuart, it is less intimidating that trying to remember every name in existence. Granted, most casts have more actors than that, but even learning 30 names is less stressful than trying to recall hundreds of names.

3. At the first rehearsal, have actors introduce themselves, and then you repeat the names out loud.

Muscle memory! At your first rehearsal, have your actors sit in a circle and introduce themselves. Just a simple, “Hi, I’m Amanda,” is all that’s needed. Then you (the teacher/director) will repeat the name out loud to stick it into your brain. After a few people say their names, go back and repeat the names out loud, and then continue around the circle, going back every few actors and repeating the names. For a challenge, after everyone has introduced themselves, go back and try to say all the names in a row. For an even bigger challenge, close your eyes and have your actors change spots in the circle, and then go back and try to identify them again! Like learning lines, repetition is so helpful for memorization.

4. Repeat and use their names.

When answering questions or asking for thoughts, be sure to practice calling on people by name. If you forget their name, get them to say it out loud again before answering, and you repeat it. You could also have them say their name out loud before they answer during the first few classes/rehearsals.

5. Play name games.

Try the ABC Name Game or the Action Name Game, found on this page, or the Silent Line-Up Game, as follows: start by having actors line themselves up across the room WITHOUT SPEAKING from shortest to tallest. See if they can do it in 30 seconds or less. Then, have them repeat the exercise, only this time they must line themselves up in alphabetical order according to first name, again WITHOUT SPEAKING. Once everyone is in place, have each person say their name out loud to check and see if everyone is in the correct spot! Keep a tally between each class you’re teaching or show you’ve directed and see which group is the fastest!

If you forget someone’s name or feel embarrassed for mixing people up, ask the group to be gentle with you, and remind the group that there are ____ of them and only one of you and you’re trying your best! It happens to everyone. You will get there!

What are your best tips for learning names quickly?
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How to Write a Program Bio

How to Write a Program Bio

Having been on both sides of the artistic desk (actor and crew), I can tell you that program bios seem to be the bane of every theatre person’s existence. The poor crew member in charge of collecting bios (usually the producer or stage manager) begs, pleads, cajoles and threatens, and yet trying to collect those seemingly simple sentences seems like a monumental task.

What is a bio, and why writing one so stressful? A program biography, or bio for short, is a short summary of a theatre person’s previous work, that is included in a booklet distributed to audience members just before a show starts. Bios are included in the program to share a bit about the people whose time and talents went into creating the show the audience is about to sit down and enjoy. It’s a peek into the life of you — a vital member of the show team! They’re generally written in the third person, unless otherwise specified.

So to help you get your bio in top shape, follow these three tips!

Keep it focused.

If you are the director of the show, focus on directing credits. Ditto acting, musical directing, choreographing, fight directing, designing, and so on. There’s no need to list every single show you’ve ever worked on, in every capacity, unless it’s relevant. If you’re a lighting designer, include all your previous lighting credits. Both lighting design and operating would be fine. But don’t bother including your high school performance as Mustardseed in A Midsummer Night’s Dream — in this show you’re not an actor, and honestly, nobody cares!

Think of your bio as a mini cover letter. You never know — someone might read your bio and think, “I want to work with this person in the future!”

Keep it truthful.

If you’re inexperienced, don’t be afraid to say it. It’s your theatrical debut — own it!

Include your credits appropriately. For example, if you were the understudy of a certain role, don’t say that you played that role officially — it’s dishonest. You can certainly list yourself as “Fiddler on the Roof, Ensemble, u/s Tevye” if that’s what you did, but you weren’t actually cast as THE Tevye. If you’ve been in the ensemble for a number of shows, just list the show title.

Don’t forget to include company names in your credits. Designing sound for The Wizard of Oz for Mirvish is a lot different than designing sound for your local public school’s production of The Wizard of Oz.

For younger actors, be sure to include correct versions of the shows you’ve worked on. This could be a Junior or KIDS version (MTI), Young Performers’ Edition or YPE (Tams-Witmark), or Getting To Know or G2K (R&H). This goes for adults too, if you’ve been on the artistic team of one of these shows — Annie Jr. and Annie are two very different shows!

Click here to see some example bios!

Keep it brief.

If you’re performing on Broadway or the West End, go ahead and list everything you’ve done to get yourself to where you are. But in the community theatre and school theatre world, 75-100 words is pretty standard. Most programs are fairly short (to keep copying costs low) and honestly, super-long bios just look pretentious. Your last three credits should suffice.

If you have previous credits with the company you’re currently working with, be sure to include those ones, even if they’re in a different capacity than the project you’re currently working on.

If you’re trying to shave words off your bio count, cut out anything that resembles “(Your name) is thrilled to be working on (insert title of show here).” The audience should assume that you’re thrilled to be working on this show… otherwise, why would you be in the show in the first place?

Certain familiar show titles can also be shortened if needed. Most people will understand shortened show titles like Phantom (The Phantom of the Opera) and Joseph (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat).

Keep any special thanks succinct and to the point. You really can say a lot with only a few words!

Bonus Tip – Get your bio in on time!

When you are given a due date to submit your bio, do yourself and the artistic staff a huge favour — get it done and hand it in, preferably before the due date! Don’t make them chase you for it! Be sure to proofread for spelling errors too!

What are your best tips for writing a bio? Tell me all about it!
Share your stories with me on Facebook, Twitter, or in the comments below!

Need more help?
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Tiny Theatre Tips #3: Educate Yourself

Welcome to Tiny Theatre Tips, a series of brief posts sharing tips and advice for your theatre life! Enjoy!

Tiny Theatre Tips #3: Educate Yourself

Tiny Theatre Tips #3: Educate Yourself

The nature of art is that it’s always changing. What’s popular and interesting today will be old and moldy faster that you can say “Mamma Mia!” Stay current with what’s new and exciting in the theatre world. Read PlaybillBroadway.com and theatre blogs. Read critics’ reviews (whether or not you agree or abide them is totally up to you!). Follow actors, directors, playwrights and companies on Twitter. Sign up for emails from theatrical licensing sites to see what shows are now available to purchase the rights for. Listen to new cast recordings and go see new productions as often as you can.

At the same time, the classics are always there. They’re called classics for a reason, right? So school yourself in the classics. Explore Shakespeare, Molière, Sophocles, Euripides, Chekhov, Beckett, Ibsen, Pinter, O’Neill, Brecht, Stoppard, Mamet… the list goes on and on. Discover Gilbert & Sullivan, Cole Porter, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Kander & Ebb, Leonard Bernstein, and join in the discussion.

Educate yourself. Stay current. Know your basics and learn from the past so you can contribute to the future of theatre!

For more Tiny Theatre Tips, click here.
Photo Credit: Death to the Stock Photo

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