As a performer, it can be easy to think that all that matters is your time onstage. However, your behavior behind the scenes - how you act, how you treat others, what you talk about, and how you spend your downtime - can have a large impact on your chances of getting re-hired. Professionalism backstage is extremely important when it comes to building your reputation and network, especially if you are just starting your career. Audience members are not the only people watching you, so here are a few dos and don’ts for when you are off the stage but still on the job:
DO Treat everyone with kindness and respect.
This point includes not just the director and conductor, but also the stagehands, non-singing extras, and everyone in between. It can be easy to snap at others when you are stressed by a fast costume change or unexpected mistakes, but rudeness is the best way to alienate your colleagues. You may not like every person you encounter, but take the high road and show respect throughout the entire performance process.
DO Stay attentive to your responsibilities.
While your time backstage can be enjoyable and relaxing, remember that your attention should still be focused on your job. Act responsibly in your downtime so you are always prepared to go onstage at a moment’s notice, especially during rehearsals. Don’t let conversations distract you from arriving on time for your call. Stay quiet and alert while others are working, even if you are done with your scene. Professional performing etiquette involves being constantly aware that your first obligation is your work.
DO Be mindful of others’ space.
Every performer has different comfort levels. Try to read cues and be considerate. Maintain appropriate physical distance during social downtime, and be conscious of how much space your belongings take up in the dressing room; those makeup and hair supplies sprawl out quickly! Be aware of the boundaries others set in interactions, too. You may very well end up meeting your new best friend in the cast, but never pressure anyone to be on close terms with you. Finally, be sure to give your fellow singers space to get “in the zone” before they go onstage.
DON'T Engage in gossip.
It can be tempting to bond with your fellow cast members over a piece of information, especially when everyone seems to be sharing their opinions without consequence. Resist this urge. Spreading rumors is extremely unprofessional, regardless of whether the stories are true or not. Assume the best of others, deflect invitations to gossip, and find other ways to entertain yourself and connect with your castmates.
DON'T Complain about your staging, costumes, or other production directives.
If you have a serious issue with something the creative team is asking you to do, tell them directly, in a private setting. Grumbling to your fellow performers behind the scenes does nothing to change the situation and can make you look arrogant. Make the best out of what you’re given, and contribute your own ideas when applicable. Try to focus on the positives of the production when talking with others.
DON'T Be insincere or hypocritical.
Strive for integrity in your words and actions. It’s telling to see how people act when they think no one is looking versus how they behave in front of others. The backstage environment highlights your real self, for better or worse. Choose communication over backstabbing. Assume that you are always being observed at any given time when you are on the job. Be genuine and intentional in your behavior, both on and off the stage.
Whether you realize it or not, your backstage behavior speaks volumes about you as a collaborator, artist, and person. Conducting yourself maturely behind the scenes is the best way to showcase your professionalism, forge positive relationships, and become the kind of person everyone wants to work with. In doing so, you help foster a constructive working environment where creativity can flourish.