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  • Writer's pictureNancy Anne Lane


Below is a copy of the theatre Code of Ethics. This is an unedited copy of the traditional code. Of course, it is understandable that if you are a young student you will not always have control over or a voice in each of the rules listed. Your teachers/directors may not even agree with all the rules (especially the circumstances in rule number 2). This post is left in its original form so that you may have an honest academic understanding and never be alarmed or surprised should you come across it again in the future-especially if you have an opportunity to participate in a professional experience. Many community theatres, professional companies and performing arts schools use this traditional code as a basic map to build their guidelines for performers.

Foreword to the Code “A part of the great tradition of the theatre is the code of ethics which belong to every worker in the theatre. This code is not a superstition, nor a dogma, nor a ritual which is enforced by tribunals; it is an attitude toward your vocation, your fellow workers, your audiences and yourself. It is a kind of self-discipline which does not rob you of your invaluable individualism.

The “rules” follow:

1. I shall never miss a performance.

2. I shall play every performance with energy, enthusiasm and to the best of my ability regardless of size of audience, personal illness, bad weather, accident, or even death in my family.

3. I shall forego all social activities which interfere with rehearsals or any other scheduled work at the theatre, and I shall always be on time.

4. I shall never make a curtain late by my failure to be ready on time.

5. I shall never miss an entrance.

6. I shall never leave the theatre building or the stage area until I have completed my performance, unless I am specifically excused by the stage manager; curtain calls are a part of the show.

7. I shall not let the comments of friends, relatives or critics change any phase of my work without proper consultation; I shall not change lines, business, lights, properties, settings or costumes or any phase of the production without consultation with and permission of my director or producer or their agents, and I shall inform all people concerned.

8. I shall forego the gratification of my ego for the demands of the play.

9. I shall remember my business is to create illusion; therefore, I shall not break the illusion by appearing in costume and makeup off-stage or outside the theatre.

10. I shall accept my director’s and producer’s advice and counsel in the spirit in which it is given, for they can see the production as a whole and my work from the front.

11. I shall never “put on an act” while viewing other artists’ work as a member of an audience, nor shall I make caustic criticism from jealousy or for the sake of being smart.

12. I shall respect the play and the playwright and, remembering that “a work of art is not a work of art until it is finished,” I shall not condemn a play while it is in rehearsal.

13. I shall not spread rumor or gossip which is malicious and tends to reflect discredit on my show, the theatre, or any personnel connected with them-either to people inside or outside the group.

14. Since I respect the theatre in which I work, I shall do my best to keep it looking clean, orderly and attractive regardless of whether I am specifically assigned to such work or not.

15. I shall handle stage properties and costumes with care for I know they are part of the tools of my trade and are a vital part of the physical production.

16. I shall follow rules of courtesy, deportment and common decency applicable in all walks of life (and especially in a business in close contact with the public) when I am in the theatre, and I shall observe the rules and regulations of any specific theatre where I work.

17. I shall never lose my enthusiasm for theatre because of disappointments.

In addition, the document continued:

“I understand that membership in the Theatre entitles me to the privilege of working, when I am so assigned, in any of the phases of a production, including: props, lights, sound, construction, house management, box office, publicity and stage managing-as well as acting. I realize it is possible I may not be cast in a part for many months, but I will not allow this to dampen my enthusiasm or desire to work, since I realize without my willingness to do all other phases of theatre work, there would be no theatre for me to act in.”


Number 17. I shall never lose my enthusiasm for theatre because of disappointments.

This is huge. You will likely have some disappointments if you choose to delve into any aspect of the performing arts. It is also possible that you might believe that your teachers and/or casting directors are the cause of most of your disappointments. They are not; it is the arts. The teachers and casting directors are simply the facilitators of art. Being involved in the arts comes with a natural process of ups and downs that can sometimes be overwhelming and challenging. It is not up to your teacher or any casting directors to hold the responsibility of your continued enthusiasm. It is solely up to you. Teachers and directors cannot create a perfect experience for you. They can only help you navigate your way through it all. You must bring your own grace, determination and passion.


Blog series One

by Nancy Sears

Casting experiences most often present the greatest challenge in holding your enthusiasm, determination, passion and positive attitude toward the telling of the story.

To begin to accept the difficulty in casting you must understand that casting is NEVER an assessment tool! It is not a test! If you want to know how you are progressing, or if you feel you need an assessment of your talents, never seek the answer through casting or lack of casting opportunities. If you are a student, look at your report card or ask your performing arts teacher. If you are seeking professional film, theatre or even community theatre opportunities and you want to assess your progress—jump back into a class! Please do not ever make the mistake of believing that casting has anything to do with your level of talent, your capabilities, or your worth as an artist or value as a person.

A performance in a full production can certainly show the fruits of your work, but the role you are called to play is not a reliable or fair assessment your overall abilities. If anyone ever suggests that you should give up or try something else because you “never get a lead” that person does not know your passion or understand your journey. If you love putting on a play or performing in any aspect, you must learn to love to tell the story above all things- especially your ego. You must commit to doing the best job at whatever you are assigned to do. In the meantime, even if you have to wait months, years or centuries, you must continue to believe that your time will come.

So, why not create your own opportunities along the way by signing up for performances in acting classes, variety showcases or thespian competitions. In these types of arenas, you can choose the leading roles that you desire. In many classroom situations you will be given several opportunities to try on various roles. Do not take these projects lightly! You are fulfilling your dreams. All the world is a stage- including your classroom, bedroom and heck even the shower! In the spaces where you learn, grow and practice- you can cast yourself into all the opportunities your heart desires! Outside of the learning environment lives a very different world! It is a world that is generally out of your control.

Casting is not something you can depend on, however, the classroom is generally a level playing field with equal opportunities to learn and grow. Do your best to take advantage of every educational learning experience and opportunity to expand your skills so that when you do get a break you are ready. When you step outside of the classroom arena to audition for a play you are taking on an extra opportunity. Nobody owes you anything and you must keep in mind that your success in landing a role is not a fair evaluation of what you have or have not learned in the classroom. Casting does not fairly reflect your overall talent or competitive ranking in any group. It is a living breathing beast in which every artist should ask; do I even want to play with this beast? Another words, do I even want to audition?

Beasts are wild and unpredictable, yet they can be fun and exciting. If you don’t know what you are getting into and you are not properly prepared, a beast can make you cry! The casting beast can harm your heart and even make some actors jealous and ugly. However, a strong and well-prepared actor with proper training and the right attitude will never allow the casting beast to change their heart or destroy their passion.

So, who is this casting beast? Your teacher, the director or anyone who has any influence over the casting? NO! The beast is not your teacher, the director or anyone else. The beast is the nature of the business. It is what it is. It is a tough and often highly unpredictable business. It is not only tough on the talent, but is also tough on those assigned to present the opportunities. Every good teacher or director will acknowledge that they must deal with the beast. They must pick up their swords and separate themselves from the emotions of all the players, their friends, family and all outside influences. Casting directors are required to take a strong objective stance in order to determine how to best tell each story within the limits of the artists that choose to audition. They must remove their own personal emotional barriers and prejudices in order to make difficult and ethical casting decisions. They are trained to do just that.

There is an enormous range of variables that motivate most casting choices. These variables are unique to the requirements of each production and those who are auditioning. A good director looks at each cast with a fresh eye and decides the cast based on what is best for the telling of the story and each of the players involved. In doing so, the director does not factor in what is fair. Why? Because it is not possible! If anyone were to ask a potential cast of thirty girls, who wants to play Cinderella? Thirty hands would instantly fly into the air. There just isn’t have enough time, space or opportunity for thirty productions. Do you see the impossibility of it? However, all thirty girls can benefit from the valuable lessons, life skills and talent growth that the production experience has to offer. Everyone will sing, dance, act and create! Fair or not, it is certainly worth slaying the beast and choosing a cast that will help everyone find the rewards that a successful production can bring to an entire community of artists and audience members alike.

The director or casting panel are often called to make extremely difficult choices. Of course, the results lie heavily in the area of talent but often there are many other factors that are completely out of the control of the actors. Some decisions are based on budget or what would be easiest to deal with. For example, if two actors are somewhat equally talented but one would require a wig to look the part; the actor with the natural desired hair might get the role. If a very talented actor towers over the rest of the cast, a shorter or taller actor may get the complimentary leading role. Great actors, singers and dancers must be placed equally in various roles throughout the ensemble in order to have a strong musical production. If two actors can sing and act in a non-dancing leading role and one is a great dancer as well, the great dancer may be instantly moved to the ensemble. The dancer could loose the leading role simply because they are needed in the ensemble and the non-dancer would fail there. The opposite is also true if the leading role requires dance skills. If a perfectly glorious costume is already in storage, the role may go to the girl that the costume best fits. If it is two o’clock in the morning and the casting panel can’t come to a decision—the coin lands on tails. Are you beginning to get the picture? You may never know why you are cast or not, and it really is none of your business. It simply is what it is. Stay in your lane!

Final casting decisions are considered sacred and should not be discussed. Directors are very careful about the privacy of their decisions because they must protect the integrity, confidence and privacy of all those involved. Therefore, it is breech of theatre etiquette to ask a director to discuss casting. You are only welcome to ask a director what you can do to improve your auditioning skills. The director may answer with something like keep working on your vocal skills, work on your focus and attention, practice your cold reading skills, take dance lessons, or work on your confidence. There are many things you can do to strengthen auditioning skills in order to showcase your talent with a strong audition. If the director suggest you work on something, do your best to focus on the suggestion. If a director simply says your audition was outstanding—it was! Believe it. Don’t ask why you didn’t get the part. It’s none of your business. Just know that your audition was outstanding and celebrate that your director acknowledged it. A flawless audition does not guarantee you a role. There are so many pieces to the puzzle. Your director places you in the perfect spot to help tell the story. Your job is to get busy and own it!

In short, the only test in casting is whether you have enough passion, drive and desire to hang with the storytellers. In order to do so, you must find joy in the work regardless of any role you may or may not be called to play. This is the test of a true artist and a personality that is extremely valuable in our society. Regardless of whether you continue in the arts or not, this quality will serve you well throughout life. Ask yourself, do you love it enough to happily do your best in any role and every job you are called to do in the theatre. If the answer is no, reconsider your desire to audition and certainly do not make the choice to take up a career in this very difficult business. Everyone will respect your decision and by no means will it leave a negative impression. Your teacher or coach will look forward to continuing to work with you on all those wonderful skill sets that a performing arts class has to offer. If the answer is yes, you could be happy in any role and every job- your director will be extremely excited to welcome you to audition for the production!

Finally, if you do join the ranks of the brave storytellers, keep this in mind: your parents, friends and family are not falling in love with the arts; you are. Yes, you are going to need them to help pick you up when you feel frustrated and disappointed. You are also going to need them to support you in your future artistic adventures. It is important to share how much you love to be involved. If your parents, friends and family only see your disappointments they may not understand how or why they should continue to support you along the way. Do your best to share your passion, desire and joy in all the things you love about story telling. Make sure they understand that your disappointments are healthy and fleeting. If you learn to move through both your disappointments and opportunities with grace and gratitude, your support team will follow your lead. Your ability to do so will serve you well throughout life!

Best wishes and break a leg!

You will need this salutation of good fortune because they say: you need ninety-nine percent luck and only one percent talent to get in the door. If you do get in the door—I say, you need one hundred percent talent to stay there. Don’t be fooled by any of it. Be prepared! AND, enjoy the journey of preparation!!!


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