Back to the Basics

There’s a famous story of Coach Vince Lombardi addressing his team after an inexcusable loss, holding up a familiar object he said, “Gentlemen, today we go back to the basics. This, is a football.” He then proceeded to run a practice focused on drilling the fundamentals.

What would you say are the fundamentals of working in the theatre? What are the absolute essentials, the irreducible minimums someone needs to know before stepping into a theater and onto a stage?

I asked this question to a number of artists, actors, and directors. Here are some of their answers:


“Show up on time, be prepared, and be polite to everyone.”

“Make yourself heard.”

“Keep the darn ego out on the street.”

“Be present in the moment. Listen. Really listen to what is happening .”

“Listening. Listening to the director, choreographer, music director, stage manager, and crew. Listen to your fellow actors on stage. Listen to the audience. And then shut up, so you can listen.”

“Be willing and eager to collaborate. Nothing is achieved by an individual—only the collective work of everyone assembled to create the art.”

“Learn to be comfortably uncomfortable in the vulnerability it takes to be truly and simply present.”

“Always know why you are telling the story.”

“Don’t worry about being interesting. The material is interesting enough. Your responsibility is to be interested.”

“Be prepared.”

“React honestly within the character to what your fellow actors are giving you. Listen, be bold, and trust.”

“Listen. Breathe. Speak clearly.”

“Know the story you are telling and your part in it.”

“Make sure your fly is up before your entrance.”

“Commitment. Take the stage because you have to, because nothing else will do.”

“Know your call time. Get off book as quickly as possible. Don’t be a jerk.”

“Play for the sake of playing, but not to win.”

“You should probably learn the whole upstage/downstage, stage right/stage left thing at some point.”

“The audience wants you to succeed.”

“Preparation and work ethic. Read and research, stretch and warm up, stay hydrated. Preparing the mind and body to focus its energy is vital. Be prepared to work hard because it’s not easy. It takes dedication and guts…and lots of coffee.”

Did any of these ring true to you?

What do you think? What are the fundamentals of the theatre?


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