Author Topic: POLICIES: Pranks  (Read 2468 times)

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« on: Sep 08, 2009, 08:33 am »
So many of us have probably encountered the situation where actors get bored, or its near closing, so they decide to "have some fun" and mess with someone else's prop, or some other so-called innocent prank during a show.  I'm curious how other people have handled these situations.   Any horror stories or examples of how you handled discipline after a prank happened?

Also, what is your threshold for acceptable / unacceptable behavior?  I ask this question because, on a show I just closed, it seemed that the PSM and I had different opinions about what was ok.  She was of the mind that, if the actors were goofing off behind a set piece where the audience and the actors onstage couldn't see them, it wasn't ideal, but what can you do (sort of the boys-will-be-boys mentality).  I'm of the mind that turning a blind eye to minor pranks will lead to bigger pranks, which ultimately can impact the show.  

« Last Edit: Dec 15, 2009, 01:25 am by Rebbe »


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Re: Pranks
« Reply #1 on: Sep 08, 2009, 08:48 am »
There are two huge schools of thought on this and you sort of have to gauge your cast.  I have always dealt with this with a grain of salt, and when confronted by someone pulling pranks I pretty much give the following speech “I understand that you are getting bored playing your role, but although this maybe you 50th time (100 th time, 200th time, 1000th time) playing this role, it’s the audience’s first time and they are paying quite a bit of money.  If you feel you need to do something back stage to help keep your performance fresh and exciting, then by all means go ahead – here’s the thing . . . it can not affect the product at all and it can not affect an unwilling participant.”

I worked recently with an amazing actor, big Broadway, West End type . . . he was great with little pranks . . . but only SM and he knew about it – like what sort of silly prop was in his pocket or hand.  But it never affected the final production, it only gave him the rush of knowing something was afoot.

Now, you say small pranks lead to bigger pranks.  Well, it can be that way . . . but in my history, small pranks release the pressure.  When you come down hard with the "Zero Prank" mentality, they begin to become more covert – and wouldn’t you rather be in on the pranks and able to put your foot down and tell them what is acceptable or not, then kept in the dark?

Let the pressure be released in an acceptable manner - keep the energy and performance up.  Remember, that can be some fun in theater, as long as it never makes it on stage, and the final product is not affected.
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Anything posted here as in my own personal opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of my employer - whomever they be at a given moment in time.


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Re: Pranks
« Reply #2 on: Sep 08, 2009, 02:02 pm »
Very wise comments by MatthewShiner.

I also believe small pranks are harmless and can be moral boosting.  It is VERY important to gauge your cast and crew appropriately and always be ready for an over-reaction.  I have had actors play "pass-the-object" during a performance just to keep them on their toes, only to pass it to the wrong individual who happened to rant about it when they were offstage.  Apologies were made from the parties involved and that was that.  Doesn't seem like much, but it all depends.

I can tolerate a lot and generally am collected and relaxed, so a prank doesn't phase me.  But if it affects the overall performance and relationships between member of the company, then that's too far.


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Re: Pranks
« Reply #3 on: Sep 09, 2009, 01:13 am »
I also agree with Matthew.  During a long run especially you and the cast are going to need to find a way to keep a show from becoming monotonous.  My rule, like Matthew's, is that whatever method is used it can't affect the show in a way that the audience can tell what's going on.

The production of A Christmas Carol that I used to work on in Cleveland had some great backstage antics, as any long running production of that show needs.  Some of the things were downright expected and would be passed on each year from crew to crew and cast to cast (positioning the dolls and bears into naughty tableaus on the prop table, making horribly lewd gestures at Fezziwig during the Fezziwig Party, and so much more). 


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