picture of puppets on a stage

A guest post by Emily Belt.

As we know, lots of things can go wrong with live acting because there is no “from the top!” like in film or television. Some are rare but most are things any amateur or experienced actor has come across. Either way I hope I can help you with ways to avoid or deal with these situations.

The Disastrous Event  

These sorts of happenings are rare but should be mentioned. On some infrequent occasions, audience or cast members can drop dead or have a serious injury. In these times you should get a medical professional to see to them. Other serious instances could include having a fire in the building, lighting setups falling and similar. You can’t anticipate these so all you can do is make sure there are stewards who can stay calm and make sure everyone is safe.

The Temptation To Laugh

If you or a fellow actor mess up your lines, there is a massive temptation to laugh. Yes, laughing is fun. But on the other hand, you are onstage with people watching you. Would it be good to be seen being unprofessional? No. To avoid looking silly, you could try thinking about something like dead animals or a sad memory. Also try concentrating on your lines or where you’re putting down your prop and get back your composure.

Terrible Improvising

Some practised actors like to use improvisation to give the show a bit more drama or comedy than the script allowed. If you are on stage in a scene and somebody starts to improvise their lines but didn’t give any prior warning, just go with it! Think about your lines and the topics they cover and just talk like you’re having a regular conversation with the other actor.

The Daunting Audience

If an audience member shouts something out, falls off their chair or coughs a lot, you can choose to ignore it and carry on or you can react, depending on what kind of production you are in. Unfortunately this can distract you from your lines. To avoid being this try to concentrate hard on your lines or when your next line is coming up. However, if you concentrate too much this can lead to missing your next line because your mind was elsewhere.

Working with Children

Working with children can bring something fresh to the production however they can cause complications such as forgetting their lines or generally being a disruption onstage. To avoid these the best you can, try to make sure that the child understands the importance of staying quiet onstage until it is their turn to speak. Also make sure you have a prompt who sits out of view with a script to help anyone who gets lost with their lines.

Plays are carefully crafted but because there are so many elements involved (e.g. cast, audience, props and scenery) things tend to go wrong. Don’t worry, it’s probably not as bad as you think (except the dying bit). Just make sure you’re prepared and remember to stay calm.