What a director should do before a performance: a pre-show checklist

A nice short one, but hopefully it will make your pre-show life a little less stressful. The following are general tips for what to bring to and what to do before a show if you are directing or producing it. Of course, your show may have additional, specific needs, so please use this only as a guideline and let your expertise and good judgment do the rest.

What should you bring?

  • Cash box
  • Tickets
  • Cash – These first three items apply if you aren’t using a box office or other ticketing service that requires advance purchase, that is (companies such as Eventbrite offer this service, for a small fee). I like to bring $100 in singles to have in the box for change.
  • Reserved ticket envelopes – Doing it yourself? Stick them in envelopes, put the recipient’s name on it. Keep it organized.
  • PayPal swipe – The greatest, most convenient invention for payment – stick the swipe in your phone or tablet and take credit cards. Amazing. Or, if you use something else, don’t forget your other payment methods.
  • Any signage – …and easels to put them on
  • Merchandise – Tshirts, etc. – extra money is good money.
  • Contact information for your company/organization/production – Email list sign up sheet, Facebook address, Twitter handle, and Web print outs so they know where to find you
  • Script(s) – Just in case this wasn’t obvious
  • Spreadsheet with paid attendees and totals – For convenience and bookkeeping
  • Blank check or credit/debit card – If you’re the one in charge of the money – things come up
  • Duct tape – For everything

What should you tell your performers?

  • First, get them to do some warm ups. Physical warm ups, definitely – stretch, push-ups, etc. Mental warm ups – get into character, focus, and conserve energy. Of course, vocal warm ups. I wrote something on this in an earlier post. I adapted these from a Shakespeare voice teacher, so they should work for most situations. The key is to be gentle and warm up without straining. Tongue twisters are phenomenal warm ups also: http://theaterific.com/2013/05/20/quick-vocal-warm-ups-you-can-do-in-your-car/
  • At your final rehearsal remind the actors to avoid eating heavy meals on performance days. Stick to protein, keep it light and healthy, and stay hydrated. Performers should  definitely be a little hungry when they perform (but not to the point that they’re starving and dizzy). That allows the blood to go to the head rather than to the stomach (to digest the food). It’ll keep them light and focused.
  • It’s really important to reinforce how hard everyone worked on the show. Remind them that the audience, no matter the size, deserves to see their best and they should be excited to do just that. Be relaxed and energetic, warm up properly, and make sure they are focused and ready to have a lot of fun. They may be nervous before the show, but some nerves are good as it releases adrenaline and creates excitement. Not enough nervous energy and they may be sluggish. Too much nervous energy and they may panic (that’s commonly referred to as “stage fright”). Take it seriously, but not too seriously.
  • This is optional, but may help with creating a sense of teamwork. Pre-show rituals, from giving each member of the company (cast AND crew) the same small token (like a coin), to just standing together and giving some final words of inspiration, give that last-minute dose of inspiration and energy that can take the performance to the next level. Is it necessary? No. But it’s a classy move. Age and level doesn’t matter – everyone likes to hear how they’re appreciated.

What should you do?

  • Make sure your cast arrives. You should set a call time (90 minutes to 2 hours before curtain).
  • Run all tech. Make sure lights, sounds, and microphones are all operational. Check and change batteries.
  • Do you have enough ushers? Ticket sellers? Concession workers? Has your entire crew arrived?
  • Double check the list above and your own list. Physically cross things off as they’re accomplished.
  • Make sure house, stage, lobby, and backstage areas are in show condition.
  • Inform cast and crew when to be backstage and tell everyone involved when doors are opening (usually 30 to 45 minutes before curtain, depending on your level of preparedness). That is a good indication of when they should seriously begin getting ready to perform. The experience begins as soon as the audience enters.

Good luck.