My whole summer has been about theatre, and it's been awesome. Between rehearsals and meetings and infinite fires to put out (mostly metaphorical), I've been reminded how much theatre has done for me as a person, and I've heard the conversations about what it means in theatre again, and somehow, they were more impactful this time around. I'm pretty sure having kids in theatre would solve about half of our education problems. This list isn't comprehensive (it's not even close) and the items aren't exhaustive (because I want to be able to expand it later). These are just some of the things about life that theatre makes ultra-clear.
Leave everything on the floor. There's no point in holding back onstage or in life. Invest full energy into everything - even silence.
Your words matter more if you are selective in speaking. Talking backstage can be the death knell of a show - it means that actors aren't focused and that the audience (in a smaller theatre) can hear far too much of the real world to concentrate on the story. In life, speaking when you have something to say, rather than adding a voice to the babble, can give the words you speak power.
There is a difference between upstaging and stealing the show. Upstaging is when an actor employs out-of-place and/or out-of-character grabs for attention. It's distracting and sort of obnoxious (especially if its intentional). Stealing the show involves being all in. When an actor steals the show, they are so engrossed in the world of the play that they, to some extent, become the play that the story revolves around. Not everyone can be a lead (and no one is a lead in every show), but anyone can steal the show. In life, anyone can be that person who throws their whole self at a project and makes it better.
Comedy runs in triplets. Seriously, everything's funny three times.
Stillness is strength; quietness is power. Watch how strong characters don't move much, and how they are allowed to wait to speak. Being "buzzy" (like a human bumblebee) wastes authority in a room. Allow your energy to draw others in.
Talent doesn't go as far as work. Frankly, hyper-talented people who don't put in the work are significantly harder to work with than those who work hard with less talent. Natural gifting is useful in auditions/interviews, and it's helpful. However, I've seen way more meltdowns from people who are naturally gifted than those who worked hard to get where they are. Gifted people live with the fear that their gift will be gone one morning and they'll have to get by one what they've learned. Those who put in the time and trusted their mentors (read: directors) don't have that fear - they know every single step along the way to success.
Prep work is everything. Seriously, there is no detail too small to check on, no harmony too insignificant to learn, no line unimportant. Likewise, it's absolutely critical to make sure that everything (all the objects) you need are ready to go. Life has moments of quiet before the plunge - spend that time checking your list.
Say "thank you." There's almost never a time in theatre where "thank you" is the wrong answer. Life is much the same. Likewise, accept a "thank you" reflected back. That is what bows are: "thank you for letting me tell the story," the actor says by bowing; "thank you for telling it," the audience says by applauding.
What did I miss? Let me know in the comments!