We’re a cell phone society. In an amazingly short period, cell phones have entwined themselves in most components of our lives: they wake us up, keep our schedules, capture life moments, monitor our sleep. And yet, although our culture has become pro-cell phone, the theater’s relationship with the device is still a little sensitive.
Audiences are constantly being reminded to turn their phones off before they witness a performance—there’s nothing more enraging to fellow audience members and actors than to see a face lit up with a phone’s blue light or (god forbid) a phone rings during a performance! It seems the theater is one of the last true cell phone-free zones or where cell phone use can elicit anti-screen rage.
But what about the rehearsal hall?
Let’s review the different ways actors use cellphones and go over some suggested behaviors when it comes to an actor’s cell phone use:
One of the most convenient tools a cell phone can provide is the voice memo (or audio recording) function. This feature allows actors in musicals to record the music director when music is being taught and chords are being plucked out on the piano. It has long been encouraged by music directors that actors record their music in early rehearsals—especially in short processes like for summer stock seasons—so the actor can practice their work outside of the rehearsal hall.
If you use your phone to record music, make sure the device is in airplane mode—you don’t want to have your phone go off or buzz during your recording. And dismantle notifications so you don’t get distracted if a message pops up.
Marketing departments have embraced actor photos of the rehearsal process for productions as audiences love to watch the process of putting on a show. When marketers can feature the photographs and videos of an actor in the process, it accomplishes a few things: It gives the audience a backstage glimpse, introduces the audience to the actors in a more informal and personal way, and provides marketers free assets.
Some marketing departments encourage actors to post photos and videos of the process as long the theater is tagged, a show-specific hashtag is used, and a link for tickets is provided.
That said, make sure you consider the following stipulations if you decide to take photos and videos:
Make sure you’re not violating copyright: Another artist wrote the words, lyrics, and music you’re performing. Unless it’s in the public domain, that’s their property. Don’t put their property online without permission.
Make sure you’re not taking photos of the rehearsal itself: When actors are working onstage in a rehearsal, it’s a sacred time when artists should be able to feel safe to explore and make vulnerable choices. When actors feel like someone could be creating social media material out of their work, it removes a sense of privacy and care from the work environment. This also violates union practices for Equity: if you photograph a union member while they’re working, without their knowledge, you and your producing theater could face some questions.
Be careful in dressing rooms: Posting photographs and videos of backstage and dressing room life is fun but review every photo and video very carefully before you post. You never know what a picture might capture. You do not want to compromise a fellow actor’s safety or privacy by accidentally posting a photo while they’re changing. Always double check your photo and make sure you have direct permission from any other actor who is featured in the photo before you post it.
Always credit designers and ask their permission: An actor can always count on getting a lot of “likes” by posing in their costume or striking a stance on set. Make sure you give credit to a designer whose work you feature and check with the designer before you post to ask permission; you don’t want to post a work-in-progress the designer might not be content with.
For production photos, credit the photographer: If you repost a photograph that’s taken for marketing purposes, credit the professional photographer who took the photo. Theater photographers are freelance artists, they deserve to have their hard work, time, and skill credited.
Check back next week for part two of this list to get the full scoop on how and when to use your phone in the theater.
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